July 5th, 2002


field of dreams/never be cool

Already the car-parks are filling up, a woozy haze rising above them, smudging the green hill beyond, the Tor jutting weirdly into the whitening sky. The aluminium superfence glistens in the sinking sun, below it a multicoloured rash of tentage spreading across the cowfields; opposite us, the dinky stone circle clearly visible at any hour, stone by day and fire by night. A dry wind blows ashes across my tent; clumsy signing in has left me parked downwind of somebody's fire. No matter, by the end of the week everything will smell of smoke, shit, dope and ashes. Want to walk? Let's walk.

Run the gauntlet of twelve-year-old entrepreneurs (lighters! wax flares! cigarettes!) to the big silent white pyramid. It's only Wednesday, so there aren't even any sound engineers yet, but come Friday, it'll explode with sound. In fact, it's Friday. Called by the sound of the Shibusu-shirazu ("never be cool") Orchestra's MC heckling the crowd in Japanese and fractured English, we head down the hill and through the so-far sparse crowd. We're aimed for Alabama 3, but this lot will do.

Shibusu-Shirazu Orchestra
Fag in one hand, red rag in the other, the most laconic conductor of all signalls in the electric guitars, then the saxes, and then an almost-dressed flautist. Two dancers in eye-destroying fluorescent orange brocade and mask-perfect make-up attempt to stir the audience, while two cheerleaders in pink American football helmets beat up some bald naked painted guy with their pom-poms. The MC's shouting at us again. He wants to teach us a Japanese fisherman's goob. Goob? Chant. Okay, we can do that. His vowels are drowned in a slurred roar. He shakes his head in disgust. A giggling Yoko Ono-alike climbs up on top of the speaker, waving a fairy-wand with a shitfaced grin. They give up on the goob and go back to raising a wall of mind-destroying sound. The naked bald guys start climbing the scaffolding, pursused by cheerleaders. The one they painted blue on stage still looks sticky. The band is a bit of a pile up, a manic mixture of a dozen different genres and media. Looking at it, you can't help wondering what the wanted ad originally read like: "musicians wanted, all instruments/genres/specialities considered, must have partner who is into nudity and interpretive dance" maybe. Some guy dressed in a biohazard/nurse suit starts doing terrible things to a baby doll. The vocalist and the flautist go crazy. The music starts to build to a crescendo. I put my ears back like a cat and grin into the teeth of the noise. This is a good warm-up act.

But of couse, given that it's Wednesday, all we did was look at the stage briefly then head into the market, aka Babylon, the home of the beast. Any beast you damn well care for, in fact, griddled, sauced and shoved in a bun/pitta/baguette or onto a pile of noodles. My tip? Avoid the ostrich and go for the bacon. Half the stalls are under construction or closed, but "Red Veg" calls Mike like a magnet. Unfortunately it turns out to be a statement of style rather than politics of foodstyle, but begins a quest that will last the rest of the weekend. Mike wants to find a Russian food stand. He needs his borscht.

Borschtless, we head uphill, leave Babylon for Avalon. We're headed for the concrete dragon, but we take the scenic route, via cast-bronze death with his plastic tommy gun, the huge shiny-eyed firebird, the mismaze and the willow-withy woman and the forest of wooden stumps carved into screaming faces. Dragon duly saluted, we gravitate to the stone circle and rest on the sacrifice stone. Someone photographs us, snapping at our souls, it's almost empty here, just one person sleeping and another in a state of transcendental meditation so deep it's almost embarassing.

Someone's tied something to the tallest of the stones with baler twine. Alex suggests a maiden sacrifice, I'm inclined towards a message board. Turns out we're both wrong. It's a schedule of events for the circle, starting with blessings and namings this evening, 6 O'Clock sharp. God, hippies are so organised nowadays.

Not sick of Glastonbury yet? Check out this week's strip, The boy with beer in his drum. Recommended soundtrack: Badly Drawn Boy.
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