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Woke up to the sound of the Glastonbury Town Band. Comforting, like the cooked breakfasts we're downing every morning, but by the time we're heading down the hill, the music is sliding from the Avalonian Free State Choir into Rolf Harris, Glastonbury caricaturing itself. The sun is bright but white; it isn't a golden day. I crawl under my useful hat. We're headed for the Other Stage, to listen to morose Scandinavian rock-gods or somesuch. I've seen them on Brand New but nothing appends to the general favourable impression. And that might well be just because I like the name.

Soundtrack of our Lives

"Sit down, for god's sake, it's festival!" yells the lead singer. Except he's Swedish, so it doesn't sound like he's shouting, it sounds like he's handing out groupwork. Still, a lot of the audience sit down, which suits me as I'm not convinced I'm physically capable of standing up today. Five nights trying to sleep while clinging onto a rock-hard slope is starting to take its toll. In fact, I rapidly graduate to lying down, and once I'm down, I feel a lot like I could stay here all day. The audience ease to their feet again. I give up on looking and concentrate on the shifting sound, the uneven vibration tickling my shoulders. We're in a bad sound spot, but the essential goodness comes through. Chatty, languid, friendly; they're so glad to be here. I'm glad they're here, too.

Heavens. I can walk. Well, limp perhaps. We head on back to the main stage because we've been told by people that we absolutely must see Manu Chao this weekend if we see anyone. Unfortunately, our timing is poor, and what we get is the far end of Rolf Harris, and damn if the audience isn't loving it. I pull my hat down further and skulk to the ground by an ice cream van, trying to pretend it isn't happening. What's original, amusing and kitsch about something if you keep doing it year after year? You can't keep breaking the rules in the same way, it just turns original ideas into the next set of rules.

[Aside: We went to a small gig the following week and the significant band member(s) had also just been to Glastonbury. They're school-leavers, so it might have been their first time. Still riding the high of the festival, they had thrown out their usual gig and replaced it with an enormous (and faintly frightening) prog-out, complete with special guests, bongos and a cover of a Rolf Harris song. Not even two little boys which might have quite suited the band, but (god help us) an obscure Rolf Harris song. The lead singer caught up with Alex, who's good with artistes. "Did you see Rolf, wasn't he just amazing?" he asked, looking breathless and very tiny. I think I preferred him when he was pretending to be David Bowie.]

Rolf Harris finally goes away. Football stutters into life on the screen, just time to see the end of the World Cup final. No sound though. They say sorry, but my guess is that it's deliberate. One by one, strangely positioned speakers around the field start to fire off gouts of sound in unexpected directions. It doesn't sound like something we should be listening to -- some sound engineer trying to track down a particularly thorny problem, forgetting that it's all coming through on the main stage speakers, or maybe he's just fulfilling his dream of playing at Glastonbury. Actually (though at this stage we don't know it) it's quite deliberate. They're testing the complicated surround sound system for Roger Water's gig that evening, where apparently he used it to ... well, I'm not quite sure what happened actually, but it seemed to have been fairly mindblowing. Something about blasting sound into the audience, or possibly the audience into sound. We had a few descriptions, none very coherent.

Manu Chao
World music isn't really my poison, though this lot seem heavier on the melody and lighter on the rhythm than most, which helps. Ever since (for work) I spent an entire afternoon trying to select short yet representative clips of Ghanaian drumming to put on a website, my heart sinks at the sight of serried ranks of djembe drums and stampy dancy people. Manu Chao have a drum kit, electric guitars and a shouty man. They also have the more regular world music stuff too, but who's complaining? The sun's shining, the ground is dry, and we have our twisted penguin for company. They play a marathon set, and I catch the most restful couple of hours I've had all festival.

We sit between shows watching charity adverts drift by on the big screen, followed by the weird words-picture-sound tangle that is One Giant Leap. It's not really a documentary, not exactly music video, not entirely travelogue. What it's most like is an endless advert; interesting images, clever soundbites, snatches of interview, drifting layers of song, fragments of conversation, contrasting tumbles of music and images. Like a good advert it entices, stimulates, interests and then abandons. But here, instead of a substituting a product, it just hurries onto the next wonderful moment, and the next, and the next. Or maybe I just got bored of their holiday snaps. Alex is looking for his friends, doing the classic festival wave -- one arm up in the air, the other clutching his mobile phone to his ear. I sit up and they instantly find us. That's what I meant about the hat being useful.

Badly Drawn Boy

He couldn't find a band, so decided to do a one-man show on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Just him, a shed-sized pile of musical intruments, and a big bunch of flowers. Bless. I wonder if there's a note attached; Dear Badly, sorry, can't make it to Glasto for Sunday. Hope you can manage OK without us, love, your band. He looks scared, or maybe it's just the tea cosy, but no, when he speaks there is an audible tremble in his voice. But when he starts to sing, it's gone. I prop myself up on my elbows to watch the show as he scrambled over the instruments, at one point playing guitar, mouth organ and two keyboards simultaneously. This was no cludge job; every single arrangement had been thought over and over and made perfect. About the only thing he couldn't do was whistle; mouth too dry, I suppose. Too many songs about love, I think; but romcom connections will do that to you. Look at WetWetWet. In fact, yeah, look at them, Damon, look long and hard because some of those new songs are sliding that way, and damn that would be a shame for somebody this good.

[to be continued]


Bit of a good day at work:

Briefly met my new boss, who seems really nice, and can start before the end of August. She apologised for taking so long to turn up, I couldn't believe we had someone in place so soon. On top of that, her hair is #FF9911 and her eyes are #BB6600 (roughly speaking). Lovely!

Bit of an odd day at work:

Wednesday was strike day. I walked to work across a picket line, first time ever. Caught some of the people on the news later that day, but without much fellow feeling. As someone who existed (persisted) for a couple of years on a salary of £7,500 I find it hard to feel very sympathetic towards Benefit officers earning £15,500+ though the binmen did seem to get a pretty raw deal of it; easy to understand why they'd rather work on the buses or at the Mini factory.

Bit of a dull day at work:

Thursday spent looking for bus timetables online. They seem depressingly scattered. I'm doing Explore > Getting around today. I was hoping to get Explore > Your Local Area done too, but this bus problem is thorny. Briefly enlivened by a Cambridge tour bus going by the window. A very parallell universe moment.

Comments

jinty
18th Jul, 2002 15:12 (UTC)
ahhhh
Briefly enlivened by a Cambridge tour bus going by the window. A very parallell universe moment.
I saw that bus too, caught up in the Oxford rush hour traffic -- starting early at 4:15 or thereabouts...