Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Review: Duke Special At Glastonbury 2015.

One of the highlights for me on Friday at Glastonbury was seeing Duke Special on the Acoustic Stage at 4.25. They had only allocated Duke a short slot of less than an hour but he certainly made the most of it. After Stornaway's performance it began to rain quite heavily so a lot of people took shelter in the huge marquee of the Acoustic Stage so I think Duke was fortunate to have a larger audience than he might have had otherwise and I think a lot of them would have left as fans because his set was great.
                                                                                                                                                    I have seen him twice before, In Bristol and at a friends party and have two of his albums but I wouldn't say I was an expert on his music. I promised a couple of friends who are big fans of Duke that I would write a review of his performance but it was nearly two weeks ago now so you will have to forgive any mistakes or things I have forgotten.The previous occasions I have seen Duke it was just himself and a piano but at Glastonbury he  also had a drummer and a guitarist with him.The drummer looked a really interesting character with the drums adorned with all sorts of strange gadgets on them.

                                                                                              The first song that Duke performed was Going In A Field  by the late great Ivor Cutler. It was originally on Ivor's 1967 album called Ludo.I think Duke must be a huge fan of Ivor because I have heard him sing other songs of his. I remember seeing Ivor myself at a festival in Cornwall called The Elephant Fayre back in the early 80's. That was followed by Nail On The Head from Dukes new album Look Out Machines which I haven't heard yet. The next song was called Hand Of Man and Duke said it was about a train. It is from the album Under The Dark Cloth. An album inspired by the work of pioneering American photographers. One of my own personal favourite songs of Duke followed, Last Night I Nearly Died, But I Woke Up Just In Time. I think Duke was driving home from a gig one night and fell asleep at the wheel which inspired the song. Another song from the new album was next and Duke said it was about Belfast and was called In A Dive.I must get that album because the songs sound great. Next up was Duke's version of Alabama Song also known as Whiskey Bar which was originally a poem by Bertold Brecht and set to music by Kurt Weill. It was originally sung by Lotte Lenya I think and has also been recorded by The Doors and David Bowie. Anyway I really liked Duke's version. Duke then made a little speech about the importance of everyone being creative in what ever way they can. I have certainly took it to heart because I haven't stopped writing since I got home from Glastonbury. Then he sang a song which I think is called Salvation Tambourine. I put in my notebook, " Fecking great", so it must have been good !.The great song Freewheel was next. Then there was a short silly fun song where the drummer came to the front of the stage and played a weird instrument that I suspect he made himself and Duke sang lyrics like 'Glastonbury, Glastonbury, we're so happy to be here' or something like that.

                                  Duke finished his set with the great Digging An Early Grave. At the end of the song he leaned the piano over further and further till it finally crashed to the floor sending his plastic bottle of wine flying. Then he jumped off the stage, climbed the barrier and threw himself into the audience who held him aloft and carried him around until finally returning him to the stage. What a great ending. The set wasn't really long enough but I thought it was brilliant and I'm sure Duke made quite a few new fans after that performance. Hopefully I might get the chance to see Duke again when I go to Belfast in August. I'll look forward to that.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2015, Part 4

When my alarm clock woke me up at 5.00 Sunday morning the urge to just turn over and have another ten minutes sleep was almost overwhelming but I knew I couldn't risk it so I forced myself out of the sleeping bag  and pulled on my wellies. There was light rain on Sunday morning but I didn't mind that because I had my raincoat and I found the rain on my face quite refreshing. It helped to wake me up and the forecast said it would clear by mid-day. Sunday was to turn out to be one of the best days in all the 36 years I have been to Glastonbury.The best litter-picking team of all knew exactly what to do by now and the work went really smoothly. We reached The Glade by 10.30 and Jeremy got the word from HQ that we were to help out cleaning up the roadway known as the old railway track and proceed along there towards the Sacred Space. We knew something special was afoot because the road was closed to all traffic. Then we got the word that His Holiness The Dalai Lama was to speak in the Peace Garden at 11.00. This was brilliant that we had arrived here purely by chance (Or was it karma?) At the entrance to the field they were giving out pictures saying 'I LOVE TIBET' and pictures of The Dalai Lama. Jeremy let us have a quick break to listen while he awaited further instructions. I couldn't see because there was no stage there and the crowd was so big but I could hear what he had to say and he made a speech all about the importance of religious tolerance and other matters. You can't really call it a speech because he doesn't read from notes, he just says whatever comes into his head and he goes off on tangents but it all makes wonderful sense. One thing I like about the Dalai Lama is his great sense of humour and one thing he has in common with me is that he laughs at his own jokes. What a great man he is and there is not one jot of bitterness in him after having his country ransacked and forcing him into exile. That might be karma as well though because it has enabled him to take his message to the whole world. He makes the so-called world political leaders look quite pathetic in comparison.

 "They would have to to get The Pope here to top this", I said to Rob, "That wouldn't top this in my book", replied Rob and I had to agree with him. Having the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury is the ultimate. After he finished speaking I was so moved that I bought a TIBET hoody sweat shirt from a stall. It looks great and also kept me warm that night. I was to cross paths with his holiness again three hours later.
                                                                  There was some divine intervention as well because when the Dalai Lama appeared the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was a glorious afternoon. In more ways than one, I might add. After lunch I headed to the Pyramid Stage and caught some of 'Hozier's' set. I have his album at home and have only played it twice. I must give it another spin because he was really good. The previous year he had been on the Acoustic Stage and I hadn't bothered watching because I had never heard of him. Now here he is gracing the Pyramid Stage. What a difference a year makes at Glastonbury. I left after 'Take Me To Church' because we had arranged to meet up at Bread & Roses again. Wayne had his doubts about seeing Patti Smith but I insisted to him that she would be great but even I didn't realise how great her performance would be.

                                                                                    Unlike Kanye West Patti was blown away by appearing on the Pyramid Stage. I think this performance was to be the highlight of her whole illustrious career. Patti had been on tour for six weeks and her voice was shot away but she promised to give the audience every bit of voice she had left, which she did. She only did nine songs because she had given up part of her set for a very special reason. Those nine songs were amongst the best I have every heard on the Pyramid stage. They were, 'Privilege, (Set Me Free)','Redondo Beach','Ain't It Strange','Beneath The Southern Cross','Pissing In A River','People Have The Power','Land', 'Gloria', and 'My Generation'.Not only is Patti a great singer she is also a writer and Poet as well and in the middle of her set she read a poem she had written to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama. "That's nice of her", I thought to myself, not realising what was to happen next. Michael Eavis's daughter Emily led on the Dalai Lama to the cheers of about 80,000 people. He greeted Patti and all the members of her band. Then they wheeled on a birthday cake and the whole crowd sang 'Happy Birthday To You'. Then he spoke for a few minutes and joked that Patti had white hair but she moved with the energy of a teenager and he wished he had her energy. Then he talked about how friendship is the most important thing in the world because we are a social animal and friendship is based on truth and honesty which is very true.
 I think when he left the stage the whole audience felt better for being in his presence. Then Patti carried on with her set. It was great to hear her singing her version of Van Morrison's 'Gloria'. I have seen Van on this stage on Sunday afternoon seven times but not for ten years sadly. Patti finished with a frenzied version of The Who's 'My Generation'. During this she got over-excited and climbed down to be nearer the audience but when she tried to get back on the stage she fell over. She said, " I just fell on my f**king ass at Glastonbury and I don't give a f**king s**t". She said something else as well which was even more outrageous but I won't repeat it here. For me musically Patti stole the whole show at Glasto. She was great. After that we needed a drink and sat outside the bar opposite the Cider bus for a while before going our separate ways. 'Lionel Richie' was on next but for me that would have been a come-down after what I had just witnessed so I wended my weary way back to camp for a rest before the evening. Later on I didn't really care what I saw. The festival had already peaked for me but there was something I had been meaning to do since Tuesday but hadn't got around to and that was to go and visit Sophie in the Green Crafts field. So I went on a slow walk there. On the West Holts stage there was a band on called 'FKA Twigs' who I had never heard of but they sounded really good to me so I listened for a while. Finally, I reached Sophie's place but sadly it was all closed up. I had left it too late. On a stand outside though she had left some leaflets so I took one so I could contact her again.I hope Sophie is here next year.
This whole area was quite deserted. Everyone was down at the main arenas. On a small stage I saw a girl playing to an audience of about 3 people. I felt sorry for her so I listened for a bit and took a picture.
             I have known Donovan's music since 1965 but never seen him so I decided to check him out. That was a mistake. He began his set with about ten minutes tuning up and sound-checking. When he did sing some songs it was alright but in between the songs he kept talking all this quasi-celtic mystical bollix which got on my nerves. After I heard 'Catch The Wind' and 'Colours' I moved on because The Who were on the main stage. I hadn't seen The Who since 1974 when they were at the height of their powers and in those days I thought they were the best live band in the world. I watched at Glastonbury from the top of the hill where the whole view behind the Pyramid Stage looked spectacular. I did get a bit bored at certain points in their show but when they did songs like 'Behind Blue Eyes','Pinball Wizard' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' I thought they were great. Roger Daltry's voice is more restrained these  days and Pete Townshend is the same as ever but overall I thought they were good. I think though over the 40 years since I last saw them my music tastes have changed. While watching The Who I got chatting to this nice police lady who was enjoying the festival as much as anyone else. The police had behaved themselves really well this year and there was no trouble whatsoever. If only every town in Britain was like Glastonbury.

Back at the camp-fire I felt quite sad that the festival was nearly over. As I gazed into the flames I reflected on all the great Glasto's I had been to before. With  Kim in 2005 we had stayed in the very same faithful little tent in Tom's Field that I was still using. "I'm not here all week any more mate", I said wistfully to the lad who had kept the fire going all week.  What nice people they were around that campfire.
                                        Next morning we had one more shift to do before we could head home. We were brilliant as usual and at the end we were drafted in to help Park and Greenfields team. We had one lucky break. The riggers were already dismantling Arcadia so we weren't allowed near that on health & safety grounds. Jeremy sent us in to clean up 'The Rabbit Hole'. This is a venue where normally people have to crawl in on their hands and knees to experience it but today we got in through a gap in the fence at the back. Inside there were lots of revellers who were still partying although it was 11.00 in the morning and the sun was blazing down. " Just ignore them, do the work and get out", advised Jeremy. It was mad in there. One person had appointed himself King of the Rabbit Hole and was wearing a crown. They obviously had no intentions of going home yet. I was glad to get out of there. It was weird.  Finally all the work was done for 2015 and we were all signed out. I walked back to camp with Rob and Alison. It was quite sad to say cheerio. I hope they come back again.

                                                                         Margaret and Wayne were waiting and itching to get home but I had one last thing to do before I took my tent down. I really wanted to say cheerio to Odele. I hadn't seen her since the party on Thursday night. I had just assumed that I would see her again but it hadn't happened. I ran across to where I knew her tent was, tripping over guy-ropes as I went but all I found was a sad little patch of faded grass where her tent used to be. She had already left town. Never mind, she only lives 20 miles from me so hopefully I won't have to wait another year before I see Odele again.

                                                                         We left Tom's Field at about 1.00 and amazingly I was turning the key in my front door in Westbury by 3.00. I had never known it so easy to get out of Glastonbury. Other years I have known it take 5 hours to get home. Meanwhile, back on Worthy Farm the real clean up was about to begin. An army of workers would move in and go over all 700 acres with a fine tooth comb. They even use huge metal detector machines to remove every piece of rubbish.It will take about 6 weeks before Daisy & Buttercup and all the other 398 dairy cows are released from the Mootel once more to munch their way across the lush pastures of Worthy Farm. I hope I am spared to return next year and as Van the Man might say, 'We'll walk down the avenue again and sing all the songs from way back when, and roam across the fields and stay out all night long and listen to the rock n roll because baby you know how it feels when the healing has begun'.
                          There is no need to say another word.
                                                             THE END.  


Monday, July 06, 2015

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2015, Part 3

It was Saturday morning at Glastonbury. Saturday is the peak day at Glastonbury. Everyone who was coming had arrived and nobody had gone home yet. It was the biggest shanty town in the northern hemisphere with about 160,000 people on site. The sun was shining and I was awake at 4.30 even before my alarm clock. Considering I had only four hours sleep I didn't feel too bad at all. I even had time for breakfast today before setting off for work. Our brave band of brothers and sisters had now bonded into a battle hardened fighting unit like the 101st Airborne Division and we tore into the work with gusto. It was a bit muddy at Arcadia after the previous days rain and those gas things had been trodden in and now the mud was drying in the sunshine they were quite difficult to dig out. That was a bit annoying but the morning went really quickly and we helped other teams who weren't as great as us. Rob and Alison sent me a photo they took during a break. (See Photo).

                                                                                         After work, on the way back to base I caught some of the Unthanks set on the Pyramid Stage. They had a full orchestra backing them led by Charles Hazlewood. They are Rachel and Becky Unthank and they combine Northumbrian folk music with other genres of music and the resulting sound is quite mesmerising and mysterious. I must get one of their albums. They couldn't have been that mesmerising though because I was hungry and left after about twenty minutes to get some lunch. The catering company that kept the workers fed was called 'International Eats' I think and as well as the food being really nice the staff were very pleasant. I asked one girl where she came from and she had come all the way from Estonia just to work at Glastonbury. Anyway, after a leisurely lunch I made my way back to the Pyramid Stage to see 'The Waterboys'.

 One of the reasons I wanted to see them was one of my Facebook friends Ralph Salmins plays drums in The Waterboys. He also used to play drums for Van Morrison which is how I first discovered him. The main reason I wanted to see them though is that they are brilliant. I have seen The Waterboys at Glasto going back to the 1980's but I think this incarnation of the band is as good as any that Mike Scott has assembled. I didn't have my notebook on me or I would have written down the set list. It has been nine days now so I can't remember all the songs but one was called 'The Nearest Thing To Hip' which I really liked. It seemed really 'Beat'  with its references to Sun Ra, Miles Davis, John Coltrane etc. The Waterboys were the perfect music for a sunny Saturday afternoon. I also really enjoyed 'Glastonbury Song' which is the best song ever written about this festival. During their set I noticed some loose change on the floor and picked up 90 pence in total. I found more money watching The Waterboys than I did in four days of litter-picking !

                                                                         I met up with my friends again at the Acoustic and enjoyed a set by a duo called 'The Lost Brothers'. I had never heard of them before. They were Irish and they did a great version of Corrina, Corrina, which I really enjoyed. Then I went back to the Pyramid to catch 'George Ezra'. I first realised how good George was when I saw him a year ago supporting Robert Plant. Of all the crop of young British male singers of the last few years such as Jake Bugg and Ed Sheeran I think George is the best. Only time will tell if he has another great album in him. After George it was the legend that is Burt Bacharach with his orchestra and singers but I couldn't be bothered listening and wandered back to camp.

                                                                         In the evening I really wanted to see the legendary 'Mavis Staples' in the bucolic surroundings of the Park Stage but I couldn't bear the thought of the long walk up there again. I was mentally and physically exhausted by now. I had also missed Gregory Porter who like Mavis has also recorded with Van Morrison recently. Instead I opted to see Nick Lowe, Paul Carrick and Andy Fairweather-Lowe. Nick is almost a Glastonbury tradition now. They were all in fine voice and as well as their own individual hits they also did great cover versions of other peoples songs such as 'Things' by Bobby Darin. It was a thoroughly enjoyable set. I needed a bit of a sit down because I was shattered and relaxed with Margaret & Wayne in the Theatre Bar before returning to see 'The Moody Blues'.

                                                                        It was seeing The Moody Blues at the Bath Blues Festival in 1970 that gave Michael Eavis the idea to have his own festival at Glastonbury in September that same year when 1,500 people attended. Little did he realise that 45 years later it would be the greatest festival in the world. I must say though at Glasto 2015 I was most disappointed. In the late sixties and early 70's I had lots of their albums. Unfortunately they started their set with four songs I had never heard of. Who wants to hear the Moody Blues new stuff?. Not me that's for sure. They should have started the set with some classics and put the new stuff in the middle and finished with more old classics. I lost interest and left. I regret that now because I have since learned that Michael Eavis joined them on stage and played tambourine during 'Question'. I think I was a bit hasty in leaving.

 I had heard a lot about the controversial decision to book 'Kanye West' to headline on Saturday night so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and judge for myself. Considering it was Saturday night I thought the crowd was small compared to the Rolling Stones two years ago or even Metallica last year. I must say that after two songs (If you can call them songs) I had heard enough. I thought he was crap and not deserving of a headline slot at Glastonbury. The real star of Glastonbury is the audience and great performers understand this. Dolly Parton was a big success last year because she took the audience to her ample bosom. For Kanye West though it was just another gig and he obviously has no understanding of the history of this great festival. My view isn't an age thing because a lot of the youngsters in my team told me that they thought he was rubbish as well. Also, it's not a genre thing either. I saw Cypress Hill here years ago and thought they were good and my friend Fred gave me a hip-hop album called 'Dirty Acres' by The Cunning Linguists which I enjoyed. If they want to book this type of music why don't they get Eminem whose lyrics I find witty and intelligent.
                                                                                           When I got back to camp I felt quite deflated after the disappointment of the Moody Blues and Kanye 'Bleeding' West but my mates around the camp-fire soon cheered me up. I had lots of good chats with Peter and others round that camp-fire, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights.As I fell asleep that night I didn't realise it at the time but the next day Sunday was to be one of the most memorable days in the history of Glastonbury Festival. It was to be absolutely amazing..................

To be continued soon.........................

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2015, Part 2

It was Friday morning at Glastonbury. I had been on Worthy Farm for five days now and finally I had to start work. Also today the music would begin so I knew it was going to be a long exciting day. The queue was too long to get breakfast so I just had a couple of cups of coffee to wake me up. Rain had been forecast so I packed my raincoat in my little back pack. I also pulled on my bright yellow veterans t-shirt to impress the other team members. I didn't wear it for long though, I'll tell you why in a minute. Finally at 5.30 I marched off down Muddy Lane to get to Arcadia. It was quite a long walk and I was knackered by the time I got there. Arcadia is this huge metal structure that looks like a great 3 legged spider. At night it breathes fire which can be seen all over the site and they have lots of performances on it. This morning though it was deserted except the field was covered in rubbish that we had to clear up. I was worried about being late but when I arrived there was just one couple there.They were called Rob and Alison from Chatham in Kent who were there with their daughter and her friend. I had a spare litter-picking stick which I gave to Alison. All of our team were great but it was them who I talked to most over the next four shifts. Gradually all our team arrived and our leader Jeremy arrived pushing the wheelbarrow laden with boxes of rubbish bags. Over the next four days I realised that our team was the best because we had the best leader. Jeremy knew how to motivate people without getting stressed about it. There were 48 of us I think and what I liked about our team was it covered all age groups from teenagers upwards. The previous year I was in a small team where I was the oldest by about 3 decades so I didn't feel out of place this year.

                                                                        After roll call we all helped ourselves to plastic bags from the wheelbarrow. Black bags for stuff that can't be recycled, blue bags for cans and plastic bottles etc, and white recyclable bags for organic waste like cardboard cups and plates and wooden knives and forks and food etc. 47% of all the waste at Glasto is recycled which is quite an achievement. Then we all formed a line in the corner by the ice-cream van and moved across the field picking up the rubbish. In previous years I had just used my gloves to pick stuff up with but this year I had a litter-picking grabber and I got on really well with it and my back didn't ache like in other years. In areas like Arcadia one of the things you get a lot of is nitrous-oxide containers and balloons. This seems to be the craze these days, squirting the gas into a balloon and inhaling it. It all seems a bit silly to me. Anyway, the gas cylinders are really valuable aluminium material so they went in the blue bag. The time went really quickly and by 9.00 we had Arcadia looking spick and span.
 The sun came out and it started to get really hot and I discovered the problem with my bright yellow veterans t-shirt. It attracted lots of tiny little black flies. I think they were trying to pollinate me. Luckily I had another t-shirt on underneath so I reversed them which solved the problem. After Arcadia we had a welcome break and then carried on towards The Glade. Some of the worse mess was around the litter bins where they had overflowed. There are 2,500 bins at Glasto but even that doesn't seem to be enough. Anyway, our great team soon cleared that mess up. The Glade is the oldest dance area at Glastonbury. I can remember it being there in the 1990's. It is nice and shady in there amongst the trees, hence, chillin' out in the Glade. Today it was relatively easy in that area and we were more or less done by 10.30 but that was too early to go home and Jeremy got instructions that we were to help out the Park team who were struggling. It was quite a gruelling walk up the hill but we didn't mind and we worked our way right up to the Glastonbury sign and were rewarded with the magnificent view. Finally Jeremy got the word from HQ that the work was all done for the day. Jeremy signed us out and gave us our meal tickets. Our first shift was over.

                                                                         When I got back to Tom's field I found  the queue for lunch was too long, it was going out the door. There were 1,800 hungry litter-pickers in our field. I decided not to bother, I had places to go and people to see so after a quick wash at the tap I headed back down the lane and bought a delicious vegetarian Cornish pasty. I didn't eat meat once at Glasto, the vegetarian food was that nice. Then I wandered on and I wanted to hear some music. It was a music festival after all. I went to the Leftfield stage because I had heard that there was a 'Pussy Riot' going on which sounded very exciting but when I got there all I found was some Russian women talking about what a bastard Vladimir Putin is (Joke!)  I got bored after about 20 minutes, I'm sure Vladimir isn't any worse than David Cameron. They are all as bad as each other in my opinion. I carried on to the Theatre field. I love the theatre bar where I stopped for a drink because you only have to sit outside it for a few minutes and something amazing will happen. Sure enough two men dressed as Arctic explorers came by and I had my picture taken with them. Then I saw this man who I had seen last year. He was dressed like a character from Dickens and plays an upright piano but it moves along by him cycling a device underneath. This year he had a girl who was about 8 years old standing in the piano dressed as a cat and singing a song called 'It Ain't Wot You Want, It's Wot You Get'. That is why you don't need drugs at Glasto, reality is amazing enough.

                                                                        I had arranged to meet Margaret and Wayne at the Acoustic Stage bar at 2.00 and as well as them it was great to see my niece Lee and her friends and Neil and his mate Dominic from Westbury. On the stage I saw a nice band called 'Red Sky July' who are a 3 piece band formed of ex members of Texas and Alisha's Attic. I thought they were really good playing Country/Americana type music. After that we watched 'Stornoway' who were great. As you know Stornoway is in Scotland but when the band were formed they had never been to Stornoway, they come from Oxford but they had heard Stornoway on the Shipping Forecast and liked the name.
 I'll tell you the real reason I spent so much time at the Acoustic Stage on Friday afternoon. It was because the predicted rain had started and I had stupidly left my raincoat in my tent so I was trapped in the Acoustic Stage. I didn't mind though because the music was great. I particularly enjoyed the set by 'Duke Special'. I have had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions and some of my friends are big fan's of his and I have promised them I'll write an individual review of his show. I'll do that after I have completed this mammoth review. After Duke I saw a bit of 'J.D.McPherson' which was really good but the rain was easing off and I was determined to get some dinner after missing breakfast and lunch. As I marched back up the lane I could hear 'Motorhead' singing The Ace Of Spades on the Pyramid Stage.

                                                                          After dinner I had a nap in my tent and woke up at 9.00 in time to see a magnificent show by 'Christy Moore' who headlined the Acoustic Stage. It was so great I wrote a whole review of his show and since I published it a few days ago Christy read it himself and sent me a nice message. If you scroll down you can read my Christy review if you want.I finally got in my tent at 12.30. It had been a fabulous day but Glastonbury 2015 was to get even better the following day........................

To be continued soon...............................