A flash of white, coming out of a water slide, spinning and... Whhhoooosh! What? Wuh? Oh yeah, I'm at Glastonbury. What on earth is this racket that woke me? "Some shit new band on EMI," says someone in a nearby tent, responding to what I thought was my inner monologue. I whisper "thank you" in case I'm in the wrong tent and slide my hands around the tent floor for anything which rustles and may be my Sainsbury’s bag of Penguins and apples. I find nothing but a bag of apple cores and half a bottle of whisky. Must be my tent. Phew.
Moments later I'm walking back from the loo and some joker-cum-compadre places a pint of cider (wretch… spit!) in my hand and informs me it's gone midday, so "it's okay, apparent-lay”. He clearly hasn't been to bed and mumbles something about sending Donny Tourette off to the Green Fields to buy drugs. Just for a laugh. As you do. Me, I'm tired and confused, so down the cakehole goes some energy drink with guarana and ginseng. Then I decide it's maybe okay to take a few sups o' cider and suddenly my fear of a hangover subsumes like an empty paper cup trodden into the mud. Our flock comes together and skits about last nights highlights ("I got onstage with the Monkehs. Didn’t they sound incredible?" "Srsly! Spiritualized were amaaaazen! Can’t believe you missed them…") and lowlights ("it took me so long to take my wellies off that I fell asleep with my feet hanging out the end of my tent!"). We sit nattering in the grey afternoon, in our sunglasses, on picnic benches, in the rain, wondering who will be first to swap black lenses for shadowy eyes. Thankfully the deluge becomes blistering sunshine and the act of brollies up ‘n’ down, lowering hoods, layers off and back on again, repeats for quite a while. Anyway, there must be some bands on...
We wander through the half-a-foot of slurry to the Other Stage where things sound like this: Duh. Duhnuh. Duh. Dunnnanah. Da. Da. Nana. DAH…!
Oh hello, Biffy Clyro: what're you and your turret enflaming rock doing here? Didn't you get the memo: Glastonbury daytime is a place for blissed-out folk and mediocre major-label indie bands, not boys jousting with stadium riffs, juggling angular melodies and trying to make sense of life in medley-like songs with five choruses and three verses! It's okay, we won't tell anyone; we'll just sing along and stick our fresh beers in the air, feeling like proud younger brothers. They really are on fire today. Simon is singing like his heart’s been tattooed and the twins are dripping amber harmonies all over the stage. The bass bashes rock holes in the sky until the sun comes out and suddenly Biffy - despite being too rock for a muddy hippy fest such as this - become the unexpectedly great way to start the day. Scottish flags mask the remaining clouds and people sing every single word, singing like they truly mean it. Pumpin' the air with their heads and flicking up mud with their heels. Dancing, even! "Mon the Biffy! Biffy! Biffee! Biffeeee!" They play loads of new songs from their chart-bothering new album and sing about strobing and post-life things our heads barely comprehend as the imagery falls into the cracks in our booze-addled brains. A soundbite-lovin' hack to my left remarks: "move over Ash, we have a new trusty favourite rock festival band!" He might just be onto something there.
The rain doesn't hold off for long and we go in hunt of falafel, backstage gossip and beer… but not in that order. Overly optimistic that it won't rain, we plonk ourselves back down at makeshift picnic benches and survey the scene backstage – seemingly one of casualty and fear and probably some loathing, too. You can see some poor sods whose weekend has been ruined by weather. Others seem scarred by girlfriends bitching about not having their hair straighteners, or some guy who took all his pills in an evening and is now suffering from a purple face and ungodly sweats and, worse still, from leaving his tent door open during the downpour, muttering to anyone who'll listen about how his wellies filled up with rain. There's a girl who was on Big Brother with a harsh hangover cradling herself. There's a press officer with a wet phone taking it apart, sucking on it, blowing down it, putting it back together, staring at it and repeating, as if they have a clue what they're doing. There are booking agents making work calls about bands stuck in flood-related traffic and managers asking if anyone's seen [insert artist X], because they're meant to be on live TV in three minutes, totally unaware that they’re here to work and make the most of their Big Breaks. There's Lamacq sipping a cuppa tea in the corner, smiling away to some hopeful indie chancer. There's that demonic kid from The Enemy (Kill! Kill! Kill!), paranoid that some indie kid in a Sonic Youth t-shirt is about to brand him with a hot poker. All this is going on like at any festival, and it's really not backstage glamour. The only bands of any note are a couple of sheepish members of Editors sipping their Carlsberg and, oddly enough, Arctic Monkeys hanging out with loads of their mates. We hear Alex got dressed up as a dinosaur last night and wandered around the site. It turns out to be true.
All the while, whilst people watching, my attention is sucked somewhat by this girl sat opposite me. She's beautiful and I'm sure I recognise her.
"Sean! C'mon, c'mon, come give Klaxons a chance, it'll be a real Glasto' moment... youknowsit..."
We squelch our way through the mud back to the Other Stage and my friend asks me: "So when did you get A-list? How do you know Sienna Miller?"
"She was talking to you earlier, borrowing your list of times, saying she likes your Sonic Youth t-shirt and you leant her my lighter?"
We stumble into Jo Whiley, who introduces us to her dad. I share around Jelly Tots and crank open a tin of Pimm’s. The crowd roars. Looking rather pasty of face, despite being buried behind the facade of Cruise-esque Ray Bans, the London art-school-scenesters straggle on, all frothy booze bottles and Duran Duran poses. They're still wearing the same clothes they were when shuffling in the back rows of London's scuzziest parties. They open with 'The Bouncer', written by that guy who runs XL, who kicked off and made famous The Prodigy: the band the Klaxons will always almost be. "Yer name’s not down, yer'r not coming in!" dum-dum-der-duh-dur-dur-dah and then BLAM: the true believers of hype, ERUPT! A little fluorescence fills the grey afternoon, but they clearly would rather be playing something intimate and special, without the curious strangers and cameras staring up their dusty noses, wishing they were back in some beautiful east London gallery or Brooklyn basement. Throughout the set they covertly wrestle with themselves, with a concept of unifying pop and integrity, with cool, carefree and philosophy, with drunk and fuct, with mythological imagery and ooh-ooohaaahs (not to be confused with farmer ooh-arrs). To be fair, despite tales of members still being up at 9am (though reports suggest the lucky beggar who goes out with Lovefoxxx was snuggled up in their sleeper bus before midnight), they play their gurning hearts out and act thankful as fuck. The set builds and builds, with songs skimming across the crowd - many members of which are still mashed on last night's MDMA, the hyped drug of choice for a generation. Meanwhile, Whiley slips slightly in the cake of mud on my toe as Mark Owen wanders by leaving star-struck gawps in his wake. This clearly isn't your average backstage outing. Are those Take-That-to-play rumours true? We hope so, and text everyone we know.
Back on stage, something is truly happening and that seemingly mythical promise of this band of post-Test-Icicles Liars-fans, skipping in the gap between glitched mash-ups and Queen posturing, gets to the special point during their cover of 'Not Over Yet' where they're meaning something, being something and truly fucking mattering. Nearly. Victory is inches from fruition as they drag their limbs offstage and the crowd reaction sounds like Bon Jovi is about to take the stage. Whether they did 'it', only history will tell...
Having forgotten to eat I march alone in the mud for a few hours in search of flapjack, lost girls and secret gigs. A little sloshed, I'm laughing at silly t-shirts and taking in the ridiculousness of the site, the circus and those who've lost their mind before sundown. You can walk around Glastonbury without seeing any performances and still be rattled and enthralled by the way humanity, no matter how tattered, tries to communicate some kinda message with you. It seems odd so many would come here to escape ‘the real world’ by getting off their faces, whilst having the reality of the troubles of the modern world thrust and preached down unto them - often in a very patronising way. You see people hallucinating on acid or whatever, but with tales of starvation and war ringing in their ears it makes you wonder what kinda abstract turmoil these people are going through as they skid in the mud, attempting to relieve themselves of their little thoughts about mortality and mortgages as they skip beyond all that into the land of hedonism and yonder, into scenes from Apocalypse Now, knee deep in mud, taking shelter from the bullet rain in the arms of strangers.
Worried I might be drugged from breathing, I make my way to meet people I don't usually find time to hang out with and sink some drinks.
Worried I might be drinking more than, er, 'working', I make an effort to catch some more bands, ably assisted by further Irish coffee. All that's left, sadly, is the headliners and tonight has little to offer in comparison to Friday, which undeniably prematurely shot the proverbial Glasto’ load.
Standing at a distance that they sound like a shitty ghetto stereo three tents away, about five times quieter than the band that woke us up this morning (Switches, you're fucking shit, and for waking me up you can stick maggots down your cock!), The Killers fizzle barely audibly through their first song or two, so we dig deeper and deeper into the crowd in the hope of hearing. They use fireworks. People chant "Turn it up! Turn! It! Up!" Other, more excitable people, chant "Killers! Kiiiillerrrs!" The two become one. Palms of hands sound louder than drums. Even from another 100 metres in still the sound is faint, all Talking Heads warblings and shiny woo-woohs. Everyone sings "somebody told me..." louder than the band, or at least we think it's that song. Jesus must be whispering devilish nothings into the minds of drug fiends right now; whispering incantations about the future of pop. Like "a boyfriend, confidential, bad Madonna, bad beats, flat beer, rushing, of February, of last year, aroun' aroun'. Stop. Turn it up. Turn it up! Turn it up!" What the fuck am I doing here wasting my time? I go in search of Iggy... And I get there as the stage invasion is dismounting.
Lead photograph by Richard Poulton