Glastonbury For Geriatrics

Those of you who know how much I love music may be surprised to know that I once wrote a piece which wasn’t all that complimentary. Three years ago today I shared my ‘joy’ with that year’s Glastonbury Festival, which was belatedly saved for me by one of the bands playing there. This year’s version would have been taking place this weekend and, in its absence, the BBC has being going overboard in sharing again some of the highlights from previous years. I challenge you to read the piece and guess how many of these I have watched!

This is the post in question. Answers on a postcard, please:

It is an obvious truth that none of us has ever been older than we are today. But do we always feel our age? Over recent months I’ve been ill a fair bit, and have been feeling way short of my best, but that had never made me feel old. But, last Friday, I did. The reason for that is shown in this post from my Instagram that evening:

For anyone who doesn’t know of it, Glastonbury is the biggest music festival in the UK. It began in 1970, when it was more of a hippy trip than a fully blown extravaganza, but has grown to the point where it sells out 200,000 tickets at around £200 each, within hours, and without having announced any of the acts who will be playing. I guess the punters want to be there so much that they’re happy to take the risk that over six stages and four days there will be something to make the financial investment worthwhile, not to mention the privations of living in a tent in what are usually fields of mud – though not this year, as the weather gods smiled.

In all honesty, I’ve never really been a fan of music in the open air. Call me a boring old traditionalist, but there is something about an indoor venue with good acoustics which I find unbeatable – for me, it isn’t the same when the music just wafts away into the air. The nearest I’ve ever got to a festival was the Isle of Wight in 1970 – the UK’s answer to Woodstock from the previous year. A group of us had planned to ride our motor scooters to the festival but in the end it didn’t happen. I think it was something to do with our mums finding out! In the mid 70s the local council in Harlow, where I lived at the time, ran several free concerts in the Town Park. I remember seeing Thin Lizzy there in 1975, Fairport Convention and (ahem) Mud in 1976 – we only went to see Mud as the DJ between acts was the guy who we’d had at our wedding the previous year, honest! After that, memory is a little hazier, though I think we saw the Glitter Band (without the disgraced one) and the Real Thing, amongst others – my ex-wife’s musical taste was a lot more pop-oriented than mine! There were also rumours that an up and coming band called AC/DC were going to play, but that may be apocryphal and they didn’t show up anyway. It may have been the acts we saw, but for most of the shows I found myself people watching, and as the music was far from memorable my view of open air concerts had been set in stone in the canyons of my mind (bonus points if you get that reference!)

But I digress. Back to Glastonbury last weekend. Although I’ve long felt that the festival has moved miles from its roots and is now no more than a giant moneymaker, paying the bands far less than they would get elsewhere because they know it looks good on their CV, the television coverage by the BBC has expanded too, and I usually enjoy some of what they offer. So, as usual, I tuned in last Friday. My first thought was that the presenters were awful. Firstly, there was Jo Whiley, who was wearing a dress made out of those silver wraps they give marathon runners after a race, set off by a pair of off-white baseball boots and black ankle socks. She’s only 51 after all, so maybe she hasn’t fully developed dress sense yet. And I found her giggly school kid act too much to bear. With her was a guy who looked like the love child of Julianne Moore and Mick Hucknall – to my eyes he was a bearded hipster twat. I couldn’t find a sick bag, but was relieved when they actually stopped gushing and telling us how ‘awesome’ everyone was (how I hate that word!) and played some music. Firstly, Kris Kristoffersen, whose songs I’ve enjoyed for many years. Sadly, he was showing every one of his 81 years, and looked and sounded awful. I tried their other channel, which was showing the band Elbow. To be fair, I’ve never understood their popularity, and this performance did nothing to change that: feeble vocals, over tuneless dirges which all sounded the same and dragged interminably. But Jo and the Bearded Twat told me that Elbow were, you guessed it, awesome – so I began thinking that maybe it was me. It was at that point that I took to Instagram. Maybe you can see how I felt, and there were still two days of potential disappointment to come!

I know, I can hear you saying it was my choice to watch and I could have switched over, but the event promised so much and there is that feeling of not wanting to miss out on the good bits. So, like a hapless victim, I tuned in again on Saturday. I saw some of the sets by the Kaiser Chiefs – always fun – and Katy Perry – one of those pop acts that I think shouldn’t be there. Not really my cup of tea, and not a patch on Lady Gaga when she played there some years ago – she really does know how to put on a show wearing silly clothes! For me, the main attraction was always going to be the Saturday headliners: the Foo Fighters. They aren’t to everyone’s taste, and you need to switch off the swearometer when Dave Grohl speaks, but boy do they put on a show! Two hours twenty minutes flew by in a flash, and suddenly all was right in my Glastonbury world again. Sunday was a bit of a let down, though – Barry Gibb was passable, the Killers a little off par, and as for the headline act – Ed Sheeran – sorry, but I just found him incredibly tedious.

I’ve looked at the BBC’s website to catch up on acts I missed, but there was nothing that really took my fancy. So, that looks like that for another year – well, two actually, as 2018 is one of their ‘fallow’ years when they give the Worthy Farm cows a chance to recover from their deafness. But at least I have the memories of Saturday night. They even played this one, which they don’t always do, and as it is my favourite of theirs that was a real bonus:

As the man says, ‘when the wheels touch ground’ you’re ready for another round in life. And as I’ve often said that music possesses restorative powers, I’m happy to confirm that I’m not feeling quite so old any more 😊

33 thoughts on “Glastonbury For Geriatrics

  1. robertawrites235681907 June 30, 2020 / 6:22 pm

    We were supposed to visit Glastonbury in August, Clive. To see the ruins of the Abbey and visit the Medieval kitchen which is the best preserved in the world. Nice to read a bit about the festival. I hate crowds and mud so would never visit but I like to read about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 30, 2020 / 6:28 pm

      I’m sorry your visit will be off but hopefully you can do it some other time. This probably isn’t the most unbiased ‘critical appraisal’ you can read of the festival, though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • robertawrites235681907 June 30, 2020 / 6:49 pm

        Haha, Clive, I suppose not. Stevie Turner has attended this event and posted about it. She doesn’t mind the mud. I am hoping for next year. We can’t risk August with my son’s health issues.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 30, 2020 / 6:59 pm

        If you scroll down the comments you’ll see that Glastonbury isn’t Stevie’s festival of choice! I think you’re very wise to delay until it is safe to go – hopefully some kind of ‘normal’ will have returned by next year.


  2. endardoo June 30, 2020 / 9:38 am

    I’m not a fan of open air either … sound usually poor, people jostling and lacking intimacy .. give me a small, intimate venue anytime! #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 30, 2020 / 9:59 am

      With you all the way on that, though if the acoustics are good – Royal Albert Hall, Festival Hall – the larger indoor venues can be good too 👍

      Liked by 1 person

      • endardoo June 30, 2020 / 10:09 am

        Our biggest one here, the O2, is really poo I think. And I remember seeing Tom Waits under a big top in our Phoenix Park — for which we shelled out a lot of dosh — and it was was spoiled by the poor sound. I had seen him years earlier in The Olympia, an old-style music hall venue,. and it was phenomenal

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 30, 2020 / 10:18 am

        Those two Tom Waits gigs rather proved your point! You don’t get decent acoustics in a tent, as the televised bits of our Cambridge Folk Festival show.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. watchingthedaisies June 29, 2020 / 10:56 am

    I feel content to watch outdoor festivals on television these days Clive. However, I have seen my share of live bands, and hope to continue doing so. My all time favourite being Thin Lizzy.


  4. Jim Borden June 29, 2020 / 1:07 am

    I have little interest in going to major outdoor music festivals such as this. But I wouldn’t mind seeing The Killers.
    We did see Katy Perry and I was completely unimpressed…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 29, 2020 / 8:25 am

      Likewise, as you may have guessed! I wasn’t impressed with the Killers at Glastonbury but my older daughter saw them some years ago at the Royal Albert Hall, which is known for its acoustics, and said they were superb. As for Katy Perry, the words ‘waste of space’ come to mind…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jim Borden June 29, 2020 / 1:35 pm

        I’ve watched several videos of The Killers at Royal Albert Hall, and it looks like an amazing show. And I do like a couple of Katy Perry songs, since they seem to have an upbeat, positive message. But her show did nothing for me…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 29, 2020 / 2:01 pm

        It was. Katy, my daughter, went as her then boyfriend was a fan but she loved the show. She used to listen to the likes of Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas but came back from that saying she could now see what I saw in rock music. I don’t think I’d have ever wanted to persuade her to listen to Katy Perry.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jim Borden June 30, 2020 / 3:37 am

        so have you gotten her excited about any rock bands in particular?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 30, 2020 / 9:56 am

        Sadly, no. I’ve tried the obvious ones but with little success!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 30, 2020 / 11:54 am

        A small measure of success there, as with Led Zep and a few others. Not so easy to influence when they’ve grown up and don’t live with you any more – you can’t force feed them 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jim Borden June 30, 2020 / 11:59 am

        That’s why we bombarded our kids with rock and roll when they were young…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 30, 2020 / 12:03 pm

        I tried that too. Minimal success – they went from Wheels on the Bus to Eminem.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jim Borden June 30, 2020 / 1:35 pm

        Perhaps the history of rock and roll should be a required course, starting in kindergarten…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 30, 2020 / 1:42 pm

        Do you know anyone in education who could suggest that? 4 year olds rocking out to Led Zep would be good 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jim Borden July 1, 2020 / 4:29 am

        My wife teaches 4-year olds – maybe I’ll suggest she add rock and roll to her curriculum 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Stevie Turner June 28, 2020 / 5:45 pm

    We never fancied going to Glastonbury because the music is not usually to our taste. We much prefer the heavy rock played at Download. The bands on the main stage at the Isle of Wight festival don’t really interest us much now we’re getting older, but we enjoy the atmosphere and the music at the Classic Rock stage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive June 28, 2020 / 8:32 pm

      Good that you’ve found your niche. I think Glastonbury has become a huge corporate juggernaut and has lost its character.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stevie Turner June 29, 2020 / 8:48 am

        You’re probably right. I’ve never been there to compare then to now unfortunately.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive June 29, 2020 / 9:04 am

        Nor have I, but I recall my work days when the ad and promo agencies fell over themselves to get tickets to impress their clients. That was back in the 80s and I doubt it’s improved since then.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. James June 28, 2020 / 12:28 pm

    Went to Glastonbury and Reading in my youth but like you always preferred an indoor gig and frankly camping was never for me. Many years later and I moved to my current home, a mere 10
    minute walk from the Reading festival and I’ve been a couple of times. Acts are always hit and miss but I find the whole thing much more tolerable now I can walk back home to my own bed.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Clive June 28, 2020 / 2:23 pm

      It’s good that you’ve found a way to enjoy the better bits without the inconvenience. Maybe I should move near Glastonbury?

      Liked by 1 person

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