Friday, July 03, 2015

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2015, Part One.

The sound of rain on the window woke me up on Monday morning. It was that time of year again and I was off to Glastonbury. Even 36 years after my first Glastonbury I still get festival fever when it is time to head to the beautiful Vale Of Avalon. Margaret and Wayne picked me up at 10.00 and we set off. The gates didn't open for another two days but we were going early because we were site crew. They were stewards on the gates and I was recycling crew. The roads were clear and within an hour we were parked up behind the Oxfam compound which was Margaret & Wayne's home for the next week. As soon as we arrived the rain stopped and it didn't rain again for another four days. I arranged to meet them later and headed for the recyclers cabin outside Pedestrian Gate B where I was given my wrist bands and once again I was back on Worthy Farm my spiritual home. It was only a short walk to Tom's Field where I was camping. Tom was actually a horse that used to live in this field. At the office I got registered and given my veterans T-Shirt which is awarded to people who have done this job for 5 years so I was quite proud of that achievement.

                                                                        It didn't take me long to put up my little tent which has been my home at Glasto for over 10 years now. Then I set off on a long walk all over the vast site. It was really nice to stroll about with very few people around to disturb the tranquillity. The grass in front of the Pyramid Stage looked really green and lush. In a few days time it would have 130.000 people walking all over it. I met up with Margaret & Wayne again at the Bread And Roses Saloon in the evening and then we went to the backstage bar at the Acoustic Stage and had a few drinks in there. Later that night I just chilled out round the camp-fire back in Tom's Field. I made some really good friends around this fire over the next few days.

  I didn't have any work to do till Friday but Tuesday morning I was awake at 5.00 because I wanted to get in the habit of getting up early. It was a beautiful sunny day and the birds were singing in the trees as I strolled down what has become known at Glastonbury as 'Muddy Lane'. In the real world I would never dream of getting up at 5 o'clock in the morning and going for a five mile walk but that is exactly what I did. I walked all the way through the Park, past the Ribbon Tower right up to the Glastonbury sign and took in the incredible view over the site.Then I visited the Tipi Field and the Stone Circle and the Field Of Avalon. Kim used to love the Tiny Tea Tent which has been a fixture here since 1992 so I stopped here for a cup of tea for old times sake. I got chatting with a really nice lady called Sophie. She was based in the Green Crafts Field giving lessons in stained glass making. She was beautiful and really friendly. A lot of people who have never been to Glastonbury think it is all about the music and they miss the whole point. People love Glastonbury because they get a community spirit which is lacking in modern society. At Glasto people are really friendly and they talk to each other and communicate. Anyway, I thought Sophie was great,I asked a passer by to take our photo and I resolved to visit her again in Green Crafts.More about Sophie later in part four.

 Later backstage at the Acoustic Bar we bumped into an old friend Barbara and one amusing incident was that we met a man who was painting the base colours for the rubbish bins. He told us that when he got the job he didn't tell them that he was colour blind. They have fifteen artists following him painting designs on the bins and some of them are quite spectacular. They had asked him to paint some bins terracotta and he had painted them pea green because he couldn't tell the difference. After that I returned to Tom's field for lunch and was really pleased to see my friend Odele arriving. She is really nice. I met her here two years ago and we have met since at the Larmer Tree Festival and Glastonbury Abbey. Anyway, I asked Odele if she would be in my quiz team later and we arranged to meet at 8.00.

They had arranged a quiz for the workers in Tom's Bar. Around the campfire I had met this great guy from Bristol called Peter who has also been going to Glasto for over 30 years. Also in the team were Viv & Julie who were the best friends of Kim and I when we worked with them in 2005. Odele has been coming to Glastonbury since 2003 and the other member of the team was called Robin who was a friend of Odele's. All the questions were about the history of the festival and I knew with our combined knowledge we had a chance of winning. We were called 'The Glastafarians' and we smashed it !. We won easily. I was over the moon. I celebrated by getting really drunk but I didn't care. God knows what time I finally crawled into my tent. It had been a great day.

 I emerged from my tent all bleary eyed and goopy at 8,30 the next morning and decided to see how long it would take to walk to Arcadia which is where I would be working in two days time. It took about half an hour. The gates were now open and tens of thousands of  people were pouring into the site every hour. It was incredible how fast the camping areas were filling up. I had bought some postcards and sat outside a bar writing them. I sent an offensive one to my mate Smithy which must have given his postman a good laugh. One amusing incident took place then. Two young people dressed as condoms came along and they were handing out free condoms to anyone who wanted one to promote safe sex. They gave everyone on the next table to me a condom but when they got to my table they took one look at me and proceeded to the next table. I was most hurt. I felt like saying, "Hey, you ageist little pricks, are you under the impression that people of my age don't have sex?". I decided to let it lie but it would have been nice to be asked though. I went back to base for lunch. The food for the workers was delicious as usual by the way. When I was sitting by my tent two guys came along and asked if I would like a Glastonbury design stencilled on my tent. This is to encourage people to take their tents home because thousands of them get abandoned at Glastonbury every year which is a crying shame. Anyway, I think it looks great (See Photo).

 That evening I took my torch to the Stone Circle because I heard that they were going to create a huge torchlight CND sign in the field to celebrate the long association between Glastonbury and CND (Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament) but I didn't find it. Also I wanted to see a group of Mexicans called The Volodores doing a Meso-American ceremony with dancers on a thirty foot pole but sadly that was ending as I arrived. I did see a choir of about 100 people performing though. God knows where they came from. It was well worth the walk  because I witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen and I noticed a couple of security people guarding an entrance and when I asked what they were doing they told me they were stopping people from pissing in the stream by the dragon.Pissing in the hedges and streams is a real problem because if people do it then it ends up in the river and kills the fishes and plants and I was pleased to see a couple of people who did it being publicly humiliated by other festival goers.
 I went in and found this incredible stone dragon about 30 foot long sitting in the stream. Apparently it has been there since 1992 and I never knew it existed before. I sat outside a bar listening to a man playing an accordion and then walked to Shangri-La and the Unfairground which is really bizarre late at night. We call it 'The Naughty Corner' because all sorts of strange things go on in there. Finally I went home because I was exhausted. I told loads of jokes around the campfire and when I finally said that I had to get to bed one of my friends who had kept the fire going and made the benches etc said, "Don't worry folks, he's here all week", which was nice.

On Thursday I knew I had to be sensible because I was starting work the following day so I laid off the booze on Thursday. I spent a lot of time up the hippy end in Permaculture and Green Futures etc where there were lots of interesting displays to see. Wandering through a market area I got 'Chugged'. Chugging is where you get mugged by a charity. ( Thanks to Dave for explaining that term to me) I was looking at some T-Shirts on a stall and wondering if I should buy one as a present for my friend Jacquie. This very attractive girl approached me and said, "I see you are admiring our T-Shirts". I explained that I was thinking of buying one for a friend and asked how much they were. "Oh, they are free actually, we give them away to supporters of our charity". Ten minutes later I had signed away £4.00 a month to support the RSPB (Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds) I walked away clutching a t-shirt, a book about birds and a magazine and £48.00 per year worse off. I fall for it every time. I must support more charities than Bill Gates. I am the ragged trousers philanthropist. At a bookstall I bought a book about Van Morrison by Griel Marcus which I have owned before but never read and after I had a much needed shower and lunch I sat in the sunshine reading it because all the walking was tiring me out.

                                                                         After dinner that evening it was the Recyclers annual party. They had a really good live band on and there was a great atmosphere. I was sitting outside having a cigarette and who should come strolling along looking lovelier than ever in the evening sunshine but Odele. As we sat there chatting a scruffy old Jeep pulled up only yards from us and the greatest man in Great Britain emerged. It was Glastonbury Festival supremo Michael Eavis whose land we were privileged to be on. Michael always comes to the recyclers party to thank them for the hard work. I have met Michael several times before but this was an opportunity too good to miss. I whipped out my camera and asked Michael if we could have a quick photo and Odele took a photo of me and Michael and I did the same for her. He was very patient and courteous as usual. What a great man he is.

That night I was in my sleeping bag by 10.30 because I was worried about not getting up for work which would be a disaster. I had already been at Glastonbury for four amazing days which had passed in the blink of an eye. Tomorrow the music would begin. As I drifted off into restful slumbers little did I realise what destiny had in store. The real magic was about to begin..............

To be continued in Part 2 Coming Soon............

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Christy Moore At Glastonbury 2015

I have been going to Glastonbury Festival since 1979 but I must say that Glasto 2015 rates amongst the best festivals I have ever attended for many reasons which I will explain later. The highlight for me was seeing His Holiness The Dalai Lama twice in one day, once in the Peace Garden in the Sacred Space and later on the Pyramid Stage with the great Patti Smith. Musically one of my absolute favourite performances was seeing Christy Moore when he headlined on the Acoustic Stage on Friday night. I promised my good friend Hilary that I would write a review of Christy's set so this is what happened.
                 It had been a long day. I awoke at 4.30 to begin work on the litter-picking team at 6.00. We finished work at 12.00 and in the afternoon I managed to see Red Sky July, Stornaway and Duke Special and a little bit of JD McPherson and walking back to base caught a little bit of Motorhead's set. Like Christy, Lemmy of Motorhead is 70 this year, quite amazing really. After dinner in the recyclers restaurant I fell asleep in my tent so I would be fit for the evening.When I awoke, "Oh no", it was 9.00. I pulled on my wellingtons and marched down Muddy Lane and turned left heading for the Acoustic Stage. All The Proclaimers fans were leaving.I was disappointed because I had hoped to catch some of their set because my friend Dave had given me a copy of their recent album which is really good. However, it did allow me to walk up the side of the audience right to the front and then weedle my way into the centre right on the front barrier. This is the nearest I have ever been to Christy when he is singing live. While waiting for Christy to begin I got chatting to a nice lady who lives in Glastonbury town and I told her that I would write a review so I hope she likes this.

                                                                         As in Bristol a few weeks ago Christy was assisted by Declan Sinnott on guitar,Jimmy Higgins on percussion and Vicky Keating on backing vocals. Being this near the front I was able to see Jimmy's deft work at close quarters for the first time but I sometimes think maybe Vicky's vocals could be turned up a smidgen in the mix. Declan who I occasionally think looks a bit serious was beaming all over his face tonight and Christy obviously loves Glastonbury and seemed really pleased to be back. The stewards at the front held up signs saying 'No Flash Photography Please' so I had to respect that request but towards the end of the set I did move to the back and took a couple of sneaky ones.They aren't very good so I have only used one.
      The performance began with A Pair Of Brown Eyes' which was great and made me think how nice it would be if Shane McGowan would return to Glastonbury one day. The City Of Chicago was next and was followed by Ride On which the audience sang along with. "You're singing well", said Christy. McIlhatton was next and then Yellow Furze Woman in which I was really impressed with  Declan's great electric guitar playing. Natalie Merchant's beautiful song Motherland followed. The next song was a highlight for me. It was Ewan McColl's Go,Move,Shift. Christy introduced it by saying that this was his fifth Glastonbury and his second was 1985 which coincided with the notorious Battle Of The Bean-field exactly 30 years ago which happened right here in Wiltshire. After the coal miners strike Thatcher was obsessed with 'The Enemy Within' and gave the nod to the police to brutally attack a convoy of New Age Travellers who were trying to get to Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Their vehicles were diverted into a field and then the police went on the rampage. I remember it vividly. There were many low points of Thatcher's regime and that was one of them. It showed to me what a great memory and awareness of the history of Glastonbury that Christy has. The next song was also by Ewan McColl which is the one he wrote to win back Peggy Seeger The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Next up was Missing You and at the end Christy said, "I'm Missing You Baby" which I found quite moving for personal reasons.

                                                           Somebody in the audience shouted out a request for Joxer Goes To Stuttgart and Christy said "Joxer will be here in about half an hour, he is backstage with Kanye West having the craic", which was hilarious.The great Spanish Civil War song Viva La Quinte Brigade followed which the crowd really enjoyed and Christy said, " This is the biggest Folk Club I've ever played in !". North And South Of The River followed and then Christy said he would like to sing a Scottish song as a tribute to The Proclaimers which was Black Is The Colour Of My True Loves Hair by the late Hamish Imlach. Declan's acoustic guitar was quite outstanding on this one. The audience loved the sing-along Don't Forget Your Shovel. Christy then asked Declan to sing a song which I hope is called Little Light Box. It was really nice and I'm sure if I get any songs wrong then young Colm from Kerry will put me right !. Christy then played the bodran and sang Well Below The Valley which took me right back to seeing him sing this song on the Pyramid Stage in the 1980's. Jackson Brown's great Before The Deluge was next but today I think it was after the deluge because we had two hours rain earlier in the afternoon but the weather was great for the rest of the festival. Declan and Jimmy were both outstanding on this song. Ordinary Man and the very profound Yellow Triangle  followed and then Richard Thompson's fabulous Beeswing. Another sign of Christy's great generosity and humility is that he tells the audience who wrote the songs. A lot of performers don't give the songwriters the credit. I knew that the show was coming to an end when Joxer Goes To Stuttgart finally appeared and the crowd went wild. Some of them were sitting on their friends shoulders and singing along. Christy and his three companeros all took a bow but I knew he still had a couple of tricks up his sleeve and sure enough they returned for the classic Nancy Spain and finally the best song ever written in celebration of a festival Lisdoonvarna. All four took another bow and left the stage in triumph with the applause ringing in their ears.

                                                                                    As I trudged back up the hill I could hear Florence And The Machine playing in the distance but I wasn't interested. Back at base I sat around the camp fire drinking cider and telling jokes with my camp-fire mates and finally crawled into my rancid sleeping bag at 12.30. It had been a 20 hour day and another epic day at Glastonbury was only 4 hours away. Thank you very much Christy Moore for making Friday night so memorable.     

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: Christy Moore & Declan Sinnott. Colston Hall Bristol 10/5/2015

I saw the great Christy Moore again on Sunday night. I went with my friends Jacquie, Pat, Smithy, Judy and Sian. Christy came on stage at the Colston Hall at the early time of 7.30. As usual he was accompanied on guitar by Declan Sinnott. To help out he also had Jimmy Higgins on percussion and Vicky Keating on backing vocals. I had never seen Vicky before so that was a nice addition. The show began with Jackson Browne's great song Before The Deluge  Christy is a great interpreter of other peoples songs as he proved with the next one which was Richard Thompson's beeswing. Jimmy Macarthy's Missing You followed and then the very moving On Morecambe Bay written by Kevin Littlewood. I think Smithy would have really enjoyed this one as it is part of his own repertoire. Christy started singing I'm A Bogman next but it all went wrong and he said to Declan "I'm making a balls of this one", much to the amusement of the audience. This changed into Motherland from his 2003 album Burning Times which was written by Natalie Merchant.

 Then Christy paid tribute to the great Ewan McColl whose 100th anniversary is this year with three songs Go, Move, Shift,The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Companeros. Just what I needed after the election results. City Of Chicago and Shane McGowan's A Pair Of Brown Eyes were followed by a John Spillane song but I don't know how to spell it. (Hilary tells me it is called Gortatogort which is the place in West Cork where his mother came from). I did once read that John Spillane went to Africa and made a documentary with African musicians and wrote in his journal about the evils of the slave trade and I am sure that Christy is aware of the fact that the Colston Hall is named after Edward Colston who made his money from the slave trade. There was a big debate a few years ago about changing the name of the hall but it never happened. Then it was Delirium Tremens, Farmer Michael Hayes, Ride On and Viva Le Quinte Brigade. All great songs. I had to go to the toilet and I missed a song by Declan which was a shame and I might have missed one more as well, North And South Of The River was the first song when I got back in my seat followed by the beautiful ballad Black Is The Colour and the very moving Does This Train Stop On Merseyside. Declan played some great guitar during Smoke And Strong Whiskey. 
Christy then sang a request from somebody right near the front. I don't know what the song was called but it mentioned Hull and Halifax in the lyrics.( Hilary just told me it is The Dalesman's Litany, I should have known that because I have heard Christy sing it before. It is written by Dave Burland). Another request followed for Caitlin or is it Cathleen or Kathleen?, anyway it was very moving and called So Do I. The hilarious Honda 50  was followed by the classic Nancy Spain. A song from the Graffiti Tongue album Yellow Triangle was very sombre and powerful. They all left the stage but returned to sing Ordinary Man, another song with a powerful political message. A great show of two hours ended with Mandolin Mountain/ Water And The Well. 

Thank you very much Christy, Declan, Vicky and Jimmy for a great show and I'll see you again at Glastonbury in a few weeks time.