Monday, July 04, 2005

Sunday 26th June

Blue skies! Heat! A pleasantly cooling breeze! The mud is baking dry! Friday’s apocalyptic scenes are all but forgotten, though recorded for posterity in the form of grubby tidemarks on the previously submerged tents at the bottom of Pennard Hill.

On my way to the Pyramid Stage I pass Vernon Kay and, barely twenty seconds later, spot the sweating form of Chris Moyles approaching. They’re stalking me, I swear it!

BELLYDANCE SUPERSTARS & THE DESERT ROSES (Pyramid Stage) are modelling outfits – or, rather, costumes – so extravagant that even Cristina Aguilera might baulk at the thought of being seen in them, and, as Phill had suggested yersterday, presumably the fact that they’re "superstars" marks them out as the cream of the bellydancing profession. Even still, they’re not a patch on the English National Opera from last year. Not that I’ve paid the Pyramid Stage a visit just to check them out, you understand. No, I’ve come to meet up with My Friend From The Sun Online, who’s here in a semi-work capacity. She’s interviewing James Blunt later in the afternoon (it’s OK, Phill - I urged her to ask about his army background…) and had the pleasure of trying to get some sense out of a near-comatose Goldie Lookin Chain yesterday. I imagine that was about as difficult as it was with our Swedish acquaintance Emile last night...

From where we’re sat, just outside the tent, CHRIS T-T (Leftfield Stage) comes across like a younger more pissed-off Billy Bragg, but one with enough of a sense of humour to begin his set with a song about giraffes. Forthcoming album Red Songs should tell you something about whereabouts on the political spectrum he situates himself, as should the track about the Countryside Alliance (or "’cunts’ for short") with the chorus: "I’ve never been in favour of police brutality / But if you see a huntsman on the march give him one from me". He’s evidently not afraid to ruffle a few feathers on the left, either – he introduces ‘Preaching To The Converted’, which has a sly dig at Bragg himself, by saying: "I offended some people when I played this song yesterday, so I’m going to play it again"…

Spotted: a T-shirt which says simply "Meat is dinner".

The great hulking figure ambling past the Hare Krishna stall? Why, that’d be Stephen Frost of ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ fame. We suppress the urge to shout "Readyaimfire!" at him.

I’m sat here while JOOLS HOLLAND (Pyramid Stage) is performing. How the fuck did that happen?!

About this time yesterday I was watching The Rakes. I’ve forgotten everything about them except the fact that they were instantly forgettable. The same cannot be said of THE DRESDEN DOLLS (John Peel Stage). "Brechtian punk cabaret" they label themselves, and who am I to disagree? I’m still desperately struggling to get my bearings, confronted with a sultry gothed-up singer / keyboard player (Amanda Palmer) and a drummer done up like a mime artist who attacks his kit with more ferocity than anyone I’ve seen for a long time (Brian Viglione). Their cover of ‘War Pigs’, the second of the weekend after Hayseed Dixie yesterday, is extraordinary, and ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ is equally striking, not least the section during which they play as though the record has stuck. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. A big thanks to Kenny for the tip-off on this one.

More glamour and glitz, this time courtesy of SONS AND DAUGHTERS (John Peel Stage). How glamorous and glitzy can grubby punk-country be, I hear you wonder. Well, quite, is the answer, when you’ve got Adele Bethel and Ailidh Lennon wearing what look from this distance to be pristine ballgowns. They strike up into ‘Medicine’ from debut full-length LP The Repulsion Box, and follow it with the single ‘Dance Me In’. Ho hum. So far so OK. Time for something from mini-album Love The Cup? No, it’s another new album track. Then another. Then another. Then another. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were as gripping and raw as the earlier material, but they’re not. Disappointed, I wander off to a pressing engagement elsewhere.

I turn to Martin. "This is going to be something special".

BRIAN WILSON (Pyramid Stage) appears to massive applause. "We’ve brought the Californian weather with us". Just for starters: ‘Then I Kissed Her’.

JESUS H CHRIST THIS IS FUCKING AMAZING! The overlapping vocals of ‘God Only Knows’ (message to The Futureheads: nice try boys, love Brian), the plaintive downbeat beauty of ‘In My Room’ (Martin: "I’ve always wanted to write the alter ego to this song – ‘In My Attic’"), the soaring verse vocal of ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and the splendid incongruity of ‘Little Saint Nick’ (unlike Swiss Toni I don’t have a Santa hat to hand), all wrapped up with ‘California Girls’ and, better still, ‘Good Vibrations’. Throughout it all the legend himself sits there, calm and composed while all around him are losing their heads.

He wasn’t even finished! And what an encore! ‘Do It Again’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Fun Fun Fun’. In glorious sunshine the entire field grooves along as far back as the eye can see. Even my highest expectations have been trashed. My sixth Glastonbury, and that is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever witnessed. The mud may wash off, but this grin won’t be fading any time soon.

Seagulls wheel and circle ominously above the Other Stage. Chris speculates whether they’ve spotted Emile’s corpse.

Following this morning’s bellydancing and The Dresden Dolls this afternoon, the time is ripe for more theatricality. Right on cue, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (Other Stage) appears, clad in a suitably extravagant technicolour suit. As perfect as Brian Wilson was for the early evening sunshine, the prodigiously talented offspring of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle is ideally suited to playing in a slot which sees the sun gradually sinking lower in the sky. There’s a duskiness and smouldering sultriness about his music, and an occasional darkness that recalls Nick Cave. As a frontman he’s voluble and open, effusive in his praise for Jeff Buckley and for his sister Martha (who briefly joins him onstage to duet) and quite prepared to confess that most of his songs are about men he has wanted and failed to sleep with. His voice is his most potent weapon, though - strong and clear rather than unnaturally forced. Want One or Want Two? After that, I want both. ‘Gay Messiah’ indeed.

It’s a happy consequence of Ryan Adams’s cancellation through illness that I get to see LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (John Peel Stage), and indeed hear their punk-funk schtick for the very first time. First impressions? BASSLINES. Lots of them. Insistent and really rather good. It’s testimony to the precision grooves they kick out that even the most jaded and weary festival goer finds his or her limbs twitching and flexing involuntarily. ‘Losing My Edge’ and ‘Yeah’ have me nodding along like a monged Churchill’s dog. Oh, and James Murphy’s white suit is crying out for a few mud pies to be slung in his direction.

It’s all getting rather messy, both in my head – the consequence of wine, numerous pints and no food – and on stage. After last year’s Pyramid Stage triumph, BRIGHT EYES (John Peel Stage) have been handed the honour of closing out the festival in Ryan Adams’s absence. Conor Oberst proceeds to take that honour between his hands and dash it onto the floor with drunkenly malevolent relish. I may have missed Primal Scream, and Bobby Gillespie’s temper tantrum ("Fucking hippies" eh, Bobby? So were you fifteen years ago...), but Oberst is no less petulant, spitting out jibes at the Make Poverty History campaign and at John Peel himself in between unpalatably tuneless mewlings. I walk off in disgust. He may since have apologised, but it’ll need more than that to rebuild the bridges burned.

On the way back to the tents we drop in on 2 MANY DJS (Dance East). It’s a right good old knees-up. Barely five minutes after arriving we’re treated to the Great Lost Track of Glastonbury 2005, ‘Blue Monday’, and we can go home happy.

I’m in quite a state. My sleeping bag calls, but I remain conscious just long enough to hear Rob say how a load of mushrooms made him think Dan was "very aquamarine", then that he was a peanut, then that he was Mr Whippy. And he also thought Mark's head turned into a triangle.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Primal Scream, The Kills, Martha Wainwright, Soulwax, Phil Nichol.

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