Glastonbury Pop Fest

by Berck

I’m at Jim’s flat in London, and will be headed back to Somerset with Michael tomorrow morning provided all goes well. The following is a detailed, though not necessarily exciting account of the Glastonbury Pop Festival.
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Lloyd, a friend of Dad and the O’Briens, has a friend named Vince who sells food for a living. Lloyd told me that Vince needed some more people to work for him at this Glastonbury Festival, about which I knew nothing at the time, and that I would be doing something relating to the sale of hamburgers. I would be paid 4 pounds/hr, get in free (90 pound/$135 ticket), and eat free, staying at Glastonbury Thursday to Sunday. I said, “Sure, why not…”

Well, as time went on, and I told people I would be working at this festival I got some interesting looks, and people kept dropping hints about the size and insanity of the festival. I began to wonder…

No need, before long, all my questions were answered. Tuesday night I got a message that Vince’s daughter would come by the O’Brien’s and pick me up tomorrow, Wednesday the 22 at 8am. Too bloody early in the morning, but I got ready to go. Lucy showed up at about 8.45 to pick me up. I told the O’Brien’s goodbye, Peter waved at me from his window, I tossed my backpack into the boot, and hopped in. We got to Vince’s house, but no one was there. Lucy says that this guy Simon was supposed to take me to the festival with him, as she had lessons to attend that day. She called various people, and told me that she would take me to Simon’s house in Wells and that Simon would take me to the festival. She handed me piece of paper that said “THE TICKET” on it, and a date and signature and stuff. Didn’t say what THE TICKET was for, I suppose it didn’t have to.

Lucy drove us to the house that was presumably Simon’s, whoever Simon was, and I followed her around the back of the house where she knocked on an unanswered door for some time. Eventually from around the other side of the house, a man yelled “What do you want?” Around the corner stepped a somewhat overweight older man without much of his grey hair left on his head. He smiled at Lucy and we walked around the house and in the front door.

I stood in the kitchen for awhile, and the older man shouted up the stairs. Eventually a short fat guy who looked about 20 stumbled down the stairs, having obviously just woken up. His neck was covered with bruises, to which Lucy pointed at and laughed, saying something about “love bites”. Lucy left and Simon pointed to the couch and told me to watch TV. I took a nap instead.

I woke up when a girl walked in, introduced herself as Simon’s girlfriend, and turned on the TV and proceeded to watch some pointless talk show about men and women and sex with a yelling audience. I don’t remember much more about it, as I didn’t really pay attention but tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

Simon came and he and Kate (I think that was her name…) proceeded to do things that made smacking noises on the other couch. I fell asleep, woke up, and looked at my watch. It was noon. I was somewhat annoyed at having been dragged out of bed so early for nothing. I asked Simon when we were going to go. “When me mate gets here to pick us up.” Simon speaks with a thick cockney accent and I can barely understand him at all. His mate, Butch, showed up around 1pm in an ancient, beat-up VW-Golf, into which the four of us and our luggage barely fit.

Butch dropped Simon and I off, after much prolonged goodbyes between Simon and Kate during which Butch threatened to just leave. Eventually Simon and I trudged toward “Pedestrian Gate 1.”

I should point out at this time that Simon was told several times in my presence that I could only get in at gate 2, because that was the only place I could get a wrist band that signified I was staff. I reminded him of this and he shrugged and said something I didn’t understand. Great, I figured, I’m going to be lost in this festival with a pack on my back and no idea where to go because Simon’s already got a band, and he’ll probably just march right in. I decided not to let it bother me, I’d figure something out.

Simon marched right in through the gate that said “RE-ENTRIES ONLY” and told me to follow him. I did, and handed the person at the gate my ticket. She pointed at a man a few feet away, and told me to give him my ticket. I did, and he handed it to the guy next to him who proceeded to very carefully tear it in half down the middle. The first guy asked for my wrist and he placed a blue band that said “Glastonbury 2000” on it on my wrist. I felt like a cow, and was glad I was merely tagged and not branded. The second bloke handed me the bottom half of my ticket and said I’d need it again. I wondered what for. I never found out, as no one ever asked for it.

Simon and I walked for a good half an hour through a good bit of mud, stopping to let Simon rest. He said that I should be glad the mud wasn’t knee-deep like it was two years ago. I didn’t believe him until I saw pictures from two years ago. And the year before that. Several feet of mud covered many of the festival fields.

Simon and I walked through endless fields of tents and vans and so on. Eventually we got to a trailer that said “British Meat Carvery and Grill”. I met Vince, who gave me an orange band to put on my wrist that would allow me to get into “the compound” where I was to pitch my tent. I walked around with Simon, and found a spot to put my tent in between a truck and another tent.

Vince gave me an apron and showed me how to make roast pork rolls, roast beef rolls, roast spuds and gravy, bacon rolls, bacon and egg rolls. I worked for 6 hours that day, and ate a good many roast spuds and gravy. “Roast Spuds and Gravy” is something of a misnomer since they’re actually fried, and we made the “gravy” from powder. I think they were actually roasted partly, then frozen before Vince bought them. In any case, we fry them for about 2 minutes at which point they’re done and mighty tasty.

I never want to work in the food service industry again. Actually, working as a bartender or something in a nice place might not be as bad. At the festival I served endless streams of drunks, crack-heads, and generally messed up people. I worked the midnight-6am shift twice, during which time no sober person (who isn’t high) shows up wanting food.

I was amazed by the sheer number of people at the festival. The official estimates that I saw last were 126,000 people. The city council only allowed them to sell 100,000 tickets, so desperate others hopped the fences, bought fake tickets, had someone with a car pass smuggle them in, or some other various means of illegal entry.

I’ve never seen so many people in one place at one time that I can think of. There were 18 official stages, most of which with music, and many other unofficial stages. A few of the artists whose names I either recognized, or saw, or both: Counting Crows, Live, Pet Shop Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Willie Nelson, Macy Gray, Travis, David Bowie, Ocean Colour Scene, Bluetones, and many more. There wasn’t any music I was REALLY excited about, because most of the music I like isn’t popular, so why should I expect it to be at a pop fest?

I think I saw more marijuana there than I did in Amsterdam. The police were everywhere, but in spite of their best efforts there were something like 1000 tent thefts among other crime. I didn’t hear of any violent crime, except for the woman who came up to me at 4am and asked me to find a security guard because there was a man who had been stabbed and was bleeding to death outside her tent. I don’t know if she was being truthful or not, I somehow doubt it.

While Ocean Colour Scene was performing I was in the middle of the field in front of the main stage, reasonably close to the front. While the bands were shifting I worked my way to the front, not at all sure that I wanted to see the next band, but figured I might as well, since I was already at the main stage, and didn’t feel like finding one of the others if I wasn’t going to like the music that came on. Besides, the band after next was going to be Travis, and I knew I wanted to listen to them. The next band was Pet Shop Boys, who were amusing even though they didn’t play any music I liked. Well, the didn’t really play any music. One guy sort of stood in front of a synthesizer wearing silver coveralls, spiked hair, sunglasses and silver headphones. The other guy stood on the front of the stage and sort of danced or strummed an ac acoustic guitar from which I never heard a note. The speakers made synthesized noise that people who like noise that came out of the 80’s call music. His backup singers included a large black woman in a short dress, and two fat black guys in overalls, boots, and baseball caps. They all sort of stomped about and sang falsetto. They weren’t really dancing, it was sort of choreographed silliness to the beat of the music. It was at least a nice variation on the average backup singer group.

By this point I’d gotten pretty close to the front of the stage and it was getting pretty crowded, but I figured that the crowd would thin out a bit after the Pet Shop Boys left, and I could move back a little and breathe. It didn’t, I just got shoved forward, and before I knew it I was a good 15 feet from the front railing that was as far as any spectator could get forward, and about 50 feet from the stage. It was about 60 degrees outside, but I was extremely hot because of the incredible amount of body heat coming from the crowd packed around me. It soon became a challenge to stand up because of the crowd pushing and shoving, as they tried to support the weight of the various people crowd surfing. The security guards at the front were helping people off the tops of the crowds and out. In fact, we just started lifting people who were panicking and tossed them to the security guards who let them down the other side of the railing to calm down. We had a half hour to wait before Travis came on, and I was wondering what I was doing packed with a bunch of people who hadn’t showered in a few days and probably smelled bad anyway. A bunch of guys started passing around a Vodka bottle into which they urinated then tried to get some poor suckers to drink it. A guy next to me asked why I had bands around my wrist, and I told him that it was because I sell food and that’s how I get to where my tent is. He seemed to think I was lying and that I really had a backstage pass and they tried to rip it off my wrist. I stopped them and explained it wouldn’t work unless they actually had them strapped properly around their wrists, as they checked. “If I had a backstage pass, why would I be here, anyway?” I asked them. That didn’t seem to phase them, and they proceeded to steal my hat and long sleeve shirt, I guess because I’m so famous. Luckily I had another shirt on under it…

All in all I’m glad I went, and besides, I got to say “cheers” to several hundred people as I gave them their food…

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