thursday June 23

That waking feeling couldn't arrive sooner. We beat the 7.30am wake-up call by a good half hour, springing into life to put the finishing touches to an already bulging ruck-sack. It didn't weigh this much last year, surely? Photo ID—check, ticket—check, money—check, wellies—screw that, who needs wellies, I don't even own wellies.

Famous last words…

Having successfully negotiated train and taxi (via the offie for 32cans of the finest amber nectar) we sidle in next to Mike on a radian tJune morning in preparation for a winding five-hour coach trek to Somerset, taking in some of the finest countryside God has had the pleasure to sow. Worthy Farm arrives surprisingly, and pleasurably early.

The aforementioned rucksack and accompanying assortments do their damnedest to slow us down, but as the beads of sweat turn to rivers we reach Big Ground (overlooking the iconic Pyramid Stage) to be greeted by familiar faces wide-eyed and beaming like the sun above our heads. Devouring a fast-food feast, which after our travelling, ambling, and tent-fixing, tastes like one of Delia's specials, we reacquaint ourselves with Avalon—taking in an selection of acts on and off the band stand ranging from a giant bat-man on stilts, mini-Godspeed post-rockers and crusties with violins—before making our way atop the Stone Circle. Mounting a sacred rock our senses are alive to the sights (dozens of glowing lanterns floating into the darkness), sounds (the frantic beating of drums coalescing with regular cheers of glee), and smells (hemp, hemp, hemp, everywhere!) of the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts—it is truly an honour to be back.

Friday June 24
We awake at around 5 AM to the sound of steady, fast, hard rain before incessant thunder and lightning drum rolls for what seems like hours. Marvelous—seven consecutive days of sunshine, and now this. It’s not until 10 AM, venturing outside the dry haven of our tent for the first time, that the realization of the devastation caused by the storm kicks in—Worthy Farm has effectively been transformed into a muddy lagoon. Its only later we discover two months worth of rain fell inside four hours.

The scene is quite extraordinary: there are hoards of inhabitants struggling around with readymade tents aboard their backs staggering to find new, drier ground, a beer tent has been ripped in half by the lightning and all the stages are running late due to power cuts. By mid-afternoon 2000 people will have left and rumours abound that the festival is off. Thankfully it’s not. There's only one thing to do—lap it up! Rather aptly, on this the year dedicated to the late, great John Peel, The Undertones are the first band to power on to the Pyramid Stage, and it's just what's needed. Raw, fast energy to wipe away the puddles and hovering grey skies. Sadly the same can't be said for The Black Velvets whose stodgy lard-like huffing quickens my pace towards the New Bands tent, (re-named John Peel Stage) for one of 2005's bright young things—Nine Black Alps.

Having negotiated the swamp encircling the tent, the much-laud Mancunians live up to their 'new-Nirvana' tag with a propensity for insanely catchy choruses ('Cosmopolitan') and bite-size riffs ('Get Your Guns') while cleverly avoiding cliché and derivativeness. A hot-dog devoured (the first of many on a weekend strangely devoid of quality food) we spot Howard 'Mr. Nice' Marks enjoying some fast-food cuisine of his own, before heading back to the Peel stage to nod our head with indifference to Maximo Park (why are secondary school blazers a prerequisite for a record deal in 2005?).

Yourcodenameis:milo beguile and amaze for 20 minutes before theirgeometric layers of pandemonium wear thin and for the first time we begin to feel the effects of sodden wet feet. M83's swooning electronica manages to ably distract but it's too early in the day for cataclysmic swathes of cinematic genius so we head back in search of dry land.

Arriving back at base we are pleasantly surprised to catch Elvis Costello's final bursts, which include a buoyant “Oliver's Army” and a surprisingly brilliant cover of the King's “Suspicious Minds.” Upon arrival at camp, we find the mood is distinctly mixed. Expressions tell tales of agony, ecstasy, frustration, and bewilderment. Chris champions the energy and hairdos of Hot Hot Heat. Dave wears the expression of a bull mastiff chewing a nettle while bemoaning the state of his footwear. Dan, on the other hand, is plainly still feeling the effects of Thursday night's excess.
“I've lost me jumper, me shoes, me hat and fackin car keys.”
“I thought it was a hire car?”
“It fackin is”
“What you gonna do - howyou gonna get it home?”
“I don't fackin' know… Push it!”
After an hour of S&M; mud-related torture, (picking caked soil off my legs, which in turn plucks every hair from their follicles), I leave camp in search of 2005's most-hyped band: Bloc Party. Kele and co are never going to rule the airwaves, their brand of post-punk pop-art veers too closely to the dissonance of Gang of Four and PIL to allow them “do a Franz”—but in Silent Alarm they can certainly lay claim to being one of the few N** R**k R********n bands that have every right to be noticed; an LP that unleashes more hidden treasures with each listen and in Matt Tong have one of the finest drummers we’ve ever witnessed. “Like Eating Glass,” “Banquet,” and “Positive Tension” are delivered with breakneck speed and precision while “This Modern Love” is a heart-breaking wreckage of pure pop. They're also the first band of the weekend that make our feet shuffle uncontrollably. If there's any criticism to be had, it's directed at Kele's voice that occasionally lacks the power to drive the songs home.

We stupidly leave early in the vain hope of catching the last half of Secret Machines' set but arrive only in time to hear closing track “Road Leads Where Its Lead”—a monstrous swirling space epic. Damned mud. It’s 8.30pm and it’s MIA time. The anticipation for the too-cool for school Sri-Lankan-come-Londoner is apparent as the heat in the Peel Stage creeps past boiling.

Attempting to break down the music from Miss Maya Arulpragasam's debut Arular is a hopeless task, but similar to DFA 1979 and James Murphy, it’s utterly now. The belligerent “Pull Up The People” dischargers like a grenade while “Bucky Done Gone” is Dizzee Rascal's bastard offspring delivered by Asian Dub Foundation on speed. The pace is relentless while the backdrop and lyrical imagery is of war, terrorism, and oppression, but the atmosphere in the tent is one of unity, togetherness, and good times. It's a rare thing to find a musician that delivers a tune with a riot-police-like approach and a groove fit for the dance hall, but such is the contagious nature of tunes like “Fire Fire” and the samba-like “Sun Showers” it's impossible to resist.

And while encores are usually reserved for the Pyramid headliners such is the roar of approval M.I.A. throws up a triumphant “Galang” finale that sees the entire tent AYE-AYE-AAAAA-WOO-E-OW-E-OWW-OOO-AYE-AYE-YAY-ing in mass approval. More than satisfied with the evening's entertainment we hook up with Gareth for a wander through the masses atop the viewing platform for Las Vegas dandies The Killers. Passing a fresh-as-daisy Abi Harding, who no doubt had been winched in by crane from her Zutons catacombs judging by her spotless summer attire, we reposition ourselves centre stage. Having taken an initial liking to Hot Fuss, it’s fair to say our interest has waned from indifference to mild distain and irritation for the NME poster boys, but tonight there's no doubting The Killers are made for this stage. Big tunes, big presence, and big egos.

Brandon Flowers may be a by-word for pompous twat but there's few able to whip up a crowd with the flicker of an eye or quiver of a lip. He may be as wooden and rigid as my grandma's sideboard but, in his mint-green suit, he's positively electric. The tunes aren't half bad too—each and every one an adopted national anthem, ten times more grandiose than on record and for an hour or more the band that wisely turned down Sunday's Kylie-free headline slot rule Avalonia. Retreating back up to the viewing platform we snug in with Luke and Suzie Sausage for tonight's main course—a red/white, boy/girl affair commonly known as The White Stripes. And they rock. Loudly and defiantly. For this is no passing fans routine. Luke decides to give them a chance—“I know ‘Seven Nation Army,’ that's about it”—and come 11.30 PM he's out of his mind with restless perplexity at the Detroit duo's alluring charm.

He had a point. For to the uninitiated, Friday's set was, for want of a better phrase, all over the shop. There was something old (“Broken Bricks”/“Canon”), something new (“The Nurse”), something borrowed (“Jolene”), and something blue (“Blue Orchid”). Hits set, this was not. Playing in front of a visually stunning mount doom volcano backdrop, Jack and Meg, as always did it their way. The deafening fuzz of “Ball and Biscuit” was offset with the quirky “My Doorbell” while the sinister “I Think I Smell A Rat” saw Jack wig out like a Lucifer-inspired Hank Marvin for what seemed an age leaving Meg to bash away inanely and cock her head in her own inimitable manner. I loved it. Luke clearly did not.

There were of course singles—“Hotel Yorba”'s skiffle pop tossed aside early on while “Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground” cranked up the noise from the off. But for the most part it was xylophones, solos, hoedowns, and marimba madness. Even the one time Jack addressed the crowd he did so using a vocoder apologising for the weather and the band's nationality.

The only predictable moment arrived as they prepared to disappear—a devilish “Seven Nation Army” thudding out for the encore at least awoke Luke as we prepared for a night on the ale.

And drink we did. Wine bars, doughnuts, Lucifer-impersonating stunt shows, acrobats and much laughter concluded an eventful day. Boy, my feet were killing.

Saturday June 25
There are few sights worse than skanky feet—and it's fair to say that upon waking up we’re not impressed when surveying one's own shrivelled mud-encrusted efforts. Squeezing into my boots, which now resemble formless blocks of clay, is agony. With every push I can feel blisters popping—the feeling is akin to scraping your skin along barbed wire.

Sadly the ground still resembles the swamps of Arboria and the painstaking task to reach the toilets and washing facilities doesn't bode well for the rest of the day while the prospect of legging it to catch (much-loved) The Engineers doesn't even enter my head. Instead we decide a leisurely start is a must, and food, drink, banter and the faint strains of a distinctly average KT Tunstall aside it's not until 2.30 PM that we find ourselves returning to the Peel tent to watch the DIY indie of Art Brut.

Sadly their post-modern supposed irony fails to amuse. Cries of 'I formed a band' make me wish I had a gun so that I could join in with a call and response of 'I killed a band,' instead they drag until mid-afternoon before The Rakes enter the fray and guess what it’s another, yes ANOTHER, Wire/Joy-Division/post-punk/new wave ensemble. I close my eyes and think of Explosions (no, I'm not quite ready for acts of terrorism) in the Sky. And just when I'm getting into track five off The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place I'm rudely interrupted by some stout white-bearded announcer dude that resembles an extra off Saturday Afternoon Wrestling. It becomes apparent that Bob Geldoff has been spreading his Gospel over at the Pyramid but in homage to Mr. Peel's disdain of 'hippie shit' a chorus of boo's aimed at the G8 leaders echoes around the tent before (sigh) Wire/Joy-Division/post-punk/new wave ensemble The Departure launch into more of the same.

It's around this time I start fantasising about elevators, lifts, and intergalactic portals in the vain hope that some kind of TARDIS may descend from the heavens to whisk my weather-beaten frame over to The Other Stage to engage in some Futureheads action. It's just not happening, so we rather cheekily steal a garden chair from a nearby unoccupied campsite (they got it back!) and plonk myself centre stage and wait for Canadian country-pop quartet Rilo Kiley.

And thank the Lord, they were worth waiting for. A world away from skinny ties and angular riffs RK are spunky, radiant and, rather ironically, sunny. The brassy squelching of 'It's A Hit' finds me discarding my seat and one look around reveals a mass arse-shaking session (bonus!) while 'I Never' finds the effervescent Jenny Lewis in full vocal swoon. Best of all is killer single 'Portions for Foxes' –a summer anthem if ever there was one, with its horny guitar licks and sultry “Baby, I'm bad news!” kiss off chorus. Phew hot stuff!

With the day finally slipping into second gear we head to the tent for some liquid refreshment passing an animated Coral, (who are in dazzling form—'Skeleton Key,' 'Pass It On,' and 'Dreaming of You' just a handful of aces in their now well-stocked armoury), and catch up with the gang back at HQ. Having removed my sodden boots, and with little hope and no desire to fill them once more, desperate measures are called for—bin-bags, string, and gaffer tape. And a good move it was too. The added mobility gives me plenty of time to scarper just as British music's nadir, Keane take to the Pyramid.

The evening's first nightmare clash—Interpol/New Order/The Earlies—sees us plump for the latter and the move proved just as the 11-pieceMancunian/Texan ensemble pulled off the weekend's finest show. Pigeon-holing is a pointless exercise for a band that boasts three guitars, flute, mellotron, various percussionists, brass and a cello-playing dude in a dress with a blonde bouffant, but on this evidence it’s music that should, albeit probably won’t, appeal to the masses.

It's a spectacle, and the music, taken predominantly from These Were The Earlies, is there to match. The harmony-laden 'One Of Us Is Dead' is an ethereal funeral procession mantra which explodes into epileptic shotgun drones—with trumpets! '25 Easy Pieces' gently glides along before a succession of twinkling crescendos chime around the tent. 'Wayward Song' sees all 11 members 'honey-soaked vocals chorus atop of glistening piano and parping clarinet which climaxes in an aching rush of oozing electronica. Similarly to the likes of Arcade Fire or even the Polyphonic Spree, each song eases into motion before catapulting into orbit—latest single 'Bring It Back Again' a perfect example, with its giddy strings and gargling bass that stutters and thrashes before flute and jet-engine powered guitars release a sonic rush. 'Morning Wonder' and 'The Devil's Country' conclude a remarkable hour of music—the former a Beta Band whirl of kitsch synths and shuffling beats, the latter a triumphant marching stomp with a woozy refrain and mammoth gonging keys. It's a transcendental experience and a true Glastonbury moment to cherish.

Next up—Kasabian. After the meditative effects of the Earlies, the Leicester lunatics couldn't have been better timed. "Oi, oi, ya fuckers—how's the fuckin' mud. If anyone gets in your fuckin' way, fuckin' push em over," barks Tom Meighan. True to form, Kasabian are up f'rit and determined to carry Oasis' baton. All the hits are banged out with murderous precision and the light show is up there with anything Pilton Farm has ever had to offer. Newie 'Stunt Man' (an ode to Evil Knievel) is a dead-cert single and the 10-minute kraut-rock odyssey 'Ovary Stripe' is a fitting conclusion to a bombastic set of cocky brilliance.

So to Coldplay. It’s fair to say that the hype, fawning adulation, hyperbole and rhetoric that's gushed in their direction since X&Y; hit the shelves is unmatched since the heady days of Be Here Now. It's also fair to say that, not wishing to miss 'a defining moment in Glastonbury folklore' we wimped out of witnessing (the far more appealing) The Go! Team in favour of The Chris Martin Band. Attempting to find a square inch of room proved a farce so we retreat to the viewing platform and park our behinds on a welcome bench. It seems rather appropriate that we find ourselves sat down to watch the daddies of British MoR and while the weight of expectancy could never be realised we hoped for a set of musical magic and the unexpected.

What we got was neither. From the opening hammering of 'Square One' to the closing beatific 'Fix You,' Coldplay delivered a grand, if formulaic, run through, which could be summed up in one word: Predictable. Sure there was reason to be there—'God Put A Smile On Your Face' rattled with menace (honestly) and 'Everything's Not Lost' melted with tender grace (take note Gary Lightbody et al—you cannot, will not, touch this—not now, not ever) while Martin ad-libbed the lyrics of 'Politik' ('Give me weather that does no harm / Michael Eavis, Worthy Farm') and aimed an aside at the Crazy Frog during 'Speed of Sound.'

But live gems like 'Shiver,' 'Spies,' and 'Trouble' are discarded in favour of forgettable newies ('Swallowed in the Sea') and more forgettable oldies ('Warning Sign'). For all their promise to re-invent the wheel, Coldplay have merely retread the past. If they wish to cement their place in terms of sales figures and global domination they've certainly gone about it the right way. But I doubt that's their intention.

If they wish to 'do a Radiohead' then they've missed their opportunity, and rather ironically it's a Radiohead lyric which sums up Saturday's show – 'no alarms, no surprises.' Coldplay were everything I expected. Nothing more.

Sunday June 26
So to the last hurrah—the final day until 2007. And appropriately the sun decides to put in an appearance. Having finally managed to acquire a pair of wellies (the freedom is near-indescribable) we take in the annual joys of the Yeovil Town Band before the Bellydance Superstars & The Desert Roses spread some colour and vivacious posturing. Brendon Benson and James Blunt please in equal measure—all very Sunday; acoustics, balladry and Supermarket pleasantness—without ever overstretching the ear, while Thirteen Senses contrive to pull off the drabbest show in musical history.

Ambulance Ltd (standing in for Cake) flatter to deceive with a blinding Crazy Horse-esque instrumental to open before strumming monotonous whimsical audio-dishwater for the remainder of their half hour. Having met up with Liverpool Echo music correspondent and all-round good gal, Kate, we decide it's an apt time to take a stroll and take in some of Glastonbury's non-musical delights.

The circus is our first port of call passing mud-divers, an Indian-come-medieval military pageant and ghost train. Highlights in the circus include a violin playing tightrope walker, certifiably-insane stuntmen hurtling around on a giant hamster treadmill device while 60 feet in the air and a colossal football flattening dozens of human skittles in a nearby kids field. We idle away the afternoon to the sound of Zulu-jazz funk Oojami and the uncharacteristically underwhelming The Dears before retreating to the Pyramid for the sun king Brian Wilson. If anyone was in their element at the festival it was the former Beach Boy—not that the great man knew it of course! Shepherded in behind his piano, Wilson looks every bit the cracked and frazzled surf cowboy, but from the opening bars of 'Then I Kissed Her,' Glastonbury is alive with the sound of California.

It's the weekend's second truly magical moment—everyone is bopping away with smiles as wide as the heavens. Every tune is of course a winner and the sight of watching grown men reach for the high notes during the likes of 'Barbara Ann' only adds to the amusement. Like Macca last year, Wilson sticks to the script showering the crowd with hit after hit, from the delirious early days of 'Fun, Fun, Fun' and 'I Get Around' through to the lost classics of 'Heroes and Villains' and 'Our Prayer', backed by a dazzling array of top draw sessionists.

And what musicians they are. While Brian, bless him, taps his body in a heads-shoulders-knees-and-toes routine cooing the odd lyric, they hold the fort expertly. 'In My Room' flouts and swoons, 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' shimmers with elegant innocence, 'Sloop John B' is the ultimate pub jukebox anthem, and nothing all weekend receives a bigger cheer than 'Good Vibrations'.

Feeling merry on life (and spicy cider) we catch up on food before soaking up the grandiose showtunes of Rufus Wainwright. Resplendent in a violet and pink floral three-piece suit, he cuts a dashing figure in the evening sun and it's an idyllic way to spend Sunday evening. Feeling in need of more alcoholic stimulation we decamp to a nearby beer tent where who should we stumble across but Steve Beta Band Mason—RESULT! Premiering new material, no doubt from an upcoming King Biscuit Time project, he throws out clattering stoned-out groove armada's and even tossing in the odd Beta tune to boot. An added and most welcome bonus to the weekend—only at Glastonbury! Such was the wealth of talent on show; the next hour became a manic mess of scrambling between stages.

First up: The La's; aka The Why's? That was the question running through my head for the 30 minutes I lasted. Firstly, why had they reformed? Judging by the evidence on show there could be but one reason—filthy lucre. It certainly couldn't be attributed to an abundance of spanking new material or indeed a rejuvenated will to thrill as neither were forthcoming. What was delivered, however, was a skeletal reconstruction of tracks from their one and only 1990 eponymous LP. So, this inevitably brought to mind a question which has often been subject amongst friends. Why is this bunch of rag-tag scallies so revered and eulogised? For their performance on Sunday should surely have heralded some kind of epiphany. Sadly, what materialised was an unremarkable, rather insipid affair that could quite easily have been re-produced in the backroom of any Ormskirk public house.

Sure, there's no doubting the bombast and verve of ‘Son Of A Gun', the timeless beauty of 'There She Goes', the swirling vastness of 'Looking Glass' and the throwaway charm of 'Doledrum,' but, and it is a big but, why is Lee Mavers (and I do mean Mavers, for this was no second coming of the original line-up, save for an understandably bemused-looking John Power, we had a faceless bassist and Maver's chum Jimmy 'The Pig' who adds more comedic value than musical with his standing drumming routine) back? Sadly, it's a question which will remain unanswered. For pockets of the crowd—mainly the alcohol-addled—you'd think Jesus Christ had been reincarnated as a leathery-skinned 40-something. For me, however, the mythical Mavers appeared all too mortal amid a performance which was all-together unnecessary.

Leaving not a moment too soon we sprinted like a pissed lolloping ostrich to catch LCD Soundsystem before racing up the hill to catch the last drunken hissings of the Scream Team. Where James Murphy's disco punk funk represented an invigorating futuristic clatter, Primal Scream's frenzied maulers stuck firmly to an all-out smash n' grab fuck-up with unashamed sniping from an inebriated Bobby Gillespie—everyone from Kylie to Basement Jaxx and the cows in the sheds were on the end of a Glaswegian tongue-lashing before the plugs are pulled just as Mani's bass thumps the intro to 'I Want You Back.' Blasphemous, rock n roll of the highest order.

And so to Ian Brown and 'I Wanna Be Adored'—what a way to bring down the final curtain. Armed with more charisma than ALL the artists witnessed over the course of the festival it's impossible not to be bowled over. Throw into the mix more solo hits than virtually any artist featured all weekend and you have a recipe for total pandemonium. And that's without even mentioning 'Sally Cinnamon', 'Made Of Stone', 'Waterfall', 'Where Angels Play', '(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister' and 'She Bangs The Drums'; tunes which rather than stand out like novelty props to add weight to his set, are instead glistening gems adding decorative effect to an hour and more of rock solid gold.

Critics are always prone to jump on Brown's infamously wayward tones but tonight they aren't given the chance as every note is hit, whether driven home with powerful exactitude or whispered with a soothing ebb and flow. Further, while the renowned relics from his Roses past provide the idyllic swansong of Glastonbury—the finest moments of his set are unquestionably tunes from his present. For all the sludge beneath our feet 'Golden Gaze' still manages to create a bass-induced earthquake underfoot, 'Keep What You Got' is a 22nd Century indie-disco anthem, and 'Longsight M13' is the sound of RZA colliding with Jimmy Page. The finale sees Mani stagger on for Roses Reunited juncture before his crowning glory, 'F.E.A.R.', transports everyone into the cosmos. He swaggers on for one fleeting moment to apologise as the curfew prevents him from going on; it matters not a jot. We're spent and completely fulfilled.

By: Peter Guy
Published on: 2005-10-10
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