Glastonbury 2011 diary: rain, rumours and Radiohead

Believe what you hear on the grapevine, sometimes it's fruitful

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I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine if I did, the feeling the next morning would be something like this – I’ll level with you, after trudging round Worthy Farm knee-deep in mud until the early hours, my legs (and just about everything else) ache.

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The day began with a sense of relative calm as The Master Musicians of Joujouka kicked off affairs on the Pyramid stage in front of a modest yet appreciative crowd.  As the tented city began to rouse, the central swamp became further populated as Metronomy delivered a textbook (if a little samey) set of electro indie classics.

However, it was at lunchtime that the rumours began in earnest.

Who was going to play the special guest slot on the Park stage at 8pm?  Was it to be Radiohead, could it really be Radiohead? 

“No, it’s Pulp,” said one hack in the press tent.  “Jarvis Cocker’s tweeted a message saying he’s looking forward to playing Glastonbury.”

And as the rains began to fall, just as Her Majesty’s Met Office had predicted, the gossip and speculation on site reached fever pitch.  All manner of names, including the Arctic Monkeys, began circulating – but “official” confirmation was less than forthcoming. 

The bad news was that the Park stage is a long way from the two main stages, a good 20-minute trudge up a landslide, and I knew I was going to have to do it.

A visit to the Other stage for a welcome afternoon dose of English indie rockers, The Vaccines, sugared the pill.

A brief trip past to the Leftfield afforded me a glimpse of lefty legend Billy Bragg, who, by the looks of the schedule, has pretty much set up residence for the weekend in the area billed as “The fightback starts here”.

The dulcet tones of BB King and Bright Eyes fusing in the wind, and having received fairly reliable Radiohead information, I took to the carpets of the Cabaret stage to recharge before battle began again.

Highlights of my half an hour beneath the canvas included a selection of dancing girls, an inexplicable Australian act known as The Birdman (he juggles plastic bags and balances things on his chin) and BBC Radio 4’s Arthur Brown dropping his trousers to reveal a pair of Michelangelo’s David pants.  Ah, Glastonbury, eh?

Of course, in this age of Twitter and 3G, word had spread far and wide that Radiohead were (probably) definitely playing the Park.  And so I forsook Morrissey after a few songs of Fleet Foxes and followed the mad rush up the hill.

Like all good rumours, it turned out to be true – Thom Yorke and company took to the stage and an enormous crowd, most of whom (including me) couldn’t see or hear a great deal ,were vindicated in their decision. 

Far from a greatest hits set, the band played for an hour and a half to a largely appreciative crowd, although it significantly thinned as it became clear Creep / Karma Police etc were off the cards.  Yorke threw a bone to the fair-weather support who’d stood through 90 minutes in the pouring rain with Street Spirit as an encore… but was it enough?  Hmm?

Skidding back through the mud (and now the dark), those foolish enough to camp next to the main walkways saw their homes splattered (and in some cases trampled) as the race was on for U2 and Primal Scream.

Loyalties divided, I headed for the Pyramid for the Irish stadium rockers, acutely aware that something very special was also about to unfold on the Other stage. 

The heavens opened as Bono and band began unleashing a collection of their most popular hits.  Although by this time I’d given up all hope of finding the people I’d arranged to meet in the crowd, I could never have felt alone…

Each and every tune a singalong, tens of thousands of people stood, swayed and jigged their way through One, Where the Streets Have No Name, Elevation, Beautiful Day and With or Without You.  Bono even sang Jerusalem, how about that. 

There had been a lot of talk of protests and dissent towards U2 before the gig – but from where I was standing, dazzled by the elaborate light and video show, in front of one of the greatest stadium rock bands in the world… the Irishmen seemed very welcome indeed down on the farm.

Right, with a rumoured set from Pulp on the Park stage tonight, along with performances from Coldplay, Elbow, Graham Coxon, Chemical Brothers, and many more to look forward to, I’m going to have to run.

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