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Old 02-27-09, 11:32 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Join Date: Dec 2000
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Lurk My Glastonbury, part one

England.. The land that brings you drizzle, drudgery and an unhealthy disinterest in oral hygiene.

Glastonbury...The festival that gives you more stimulation than any man can stand coupled with the collective blind faith of
130 000 people who mostly plan on it not raining

Day one
a disgruntled stilt panto , a business manager, a ribald magician, a pavement chalk artist, a freakshow circus frontman, the worlds loudest mime and a visiting eccentric melbourne actress......
Hopped into a hired van and went to the supermarket to stock up for a week in the wilds.

Several slabs of beer, multiple milks, oodles of orange juice, various varieties of vegetables, cases of condiments.
This plus duty free single malts of Irish and Scottish origins and other illegal unmentionables.

Then off through the English countryside,
Did the sunlight dapple? ask nick.
Did the meandering hedgerows wind like a well loved scarf towards the neck of our destination? ask nick,
Did the clouds teeter timidly across the face of England's robust sun only to skitter away harmlessly as their shadows ponderously fled over hill and dale? ask nick.

We were in the back of the van sitting on top of a weeks supplies and several tents, windowless, packed like cattle, passive bovine units of entertainment waiting to be unleashed in a meadow.
After a brief unspectacular and minor collision with a family vehicle we got to Shepton Mallet where some of us picked our tickets up from the post office and we all went shopping one more time just to be on the safe side.
Op shopping for silverware, more plates and bowls and I picked up a pessimistic raincoat.

Then on to the Glastonbury site, which, being 2 days prior to the festival proper, it was a doddel to enter (sometimes queues stretch for miles and can take several hours and they close the gates at night so you can have just about made it then have to spend the night in the car before entering the next morning.)

We just sailed in driving behind some christians van,
( Pentecostal amphetamine- addicts for Jesus i think they were, they drove erratically but with unwavering purpose)
Then we were in and made our way to the backstage theatre and circus and cabaret camping area where a prime spot had been reserved for us by Haggis with a big sign.

Haggis is one of the main organizers of the Glastonbury fest and specifically in charge of the theatre/circus/cabaret areas, He always provides just that little extra to us street folk as he’s one himself, be it access to masses of firewood that we can burn for 5/7 days heartily as well as make abundant furniture out of or just popping over with bottles of spirits and slabs of ale from his semi official secret performers-lube cache.

Not that we were short of anything as we circled the wagons and stocked up our larder tent, lit the fire, put the billy on, hyperventilated into inflatable mattresses and generally settled in.

We were right next to “THE FENCE”
THE FENCE is a 5 mile long, final effort to exclude waves of people who have seen breaking into this festival for sport for as long as the festival has existed (something like 30 years)
Youthful mischief and getting something for nothing because you can is a big part of the draw (and bear in mind that this is a country where if you can get into an empty house and change the locks you can live in it for as long as it takes the owners to comply with legal backflips-or send in thugs)(and if you can stay in it for 20 years you own it)

But the festival was canceled last year because the year before 50 000 or 80 000 or 100 000 (depending on various accounts) broke in without paying.
Predominantly people with a sleeping bag and £10 cannot survive a 3 day festival without theft or other acts of desperation and so “THE FENCE” was built.
20 ft high with 4 foot sharp overhang, dug into the ground and with another 20 ft of heavy metal slabs across the ground at its base (to deter diggers) winding 5 miles around the site with towers and spotlights and manned by security THE FENCE did its job and shut out 25 000 people who gathered outside it and unsuccessfully plotted, there was one plan to attach a snowplow to a truck and try to crash through but disagreements among that particular group had one half removing the trucks engine while the other half slept.

I only saw one guy make it over, reports range from 1 to 30 and while some of the older hands commented that the edge with mad max like survivors roaming about was missing I must be getting older myself because personally I see enough fucked up drug addled desperadoes with self justifying political stances among my peer group to not really mourn meeting another 25 000 people who collectively lack a quorum of neurons.
How the fuck are you going to change the world if you can’t even get over a fence?
Anyway the spotlight that shone down from the watchtower made a good reading light for my tent.

I went for a walk and found the main stage, a huge outdoor film theatre, 2 outdoor theatre stages, a cabaret tent, a circus tent, a theatre tent, the hugest tent was the dance tent, a field of tee pees, a field of woodworkers and their produce, an outdoor rave stage, 2 more smaller rave stages and 2 more music stages. Theres also a hospital, a social welfare office and lots and lots and lots of other things.
You end up walking for miles.
I went back to our spot , it had grown with the arrival of the rest of the happy sideshow (aussie freak circus) dirty fred and Mika from holland, still expecting Gazzo at this stage and missing Butterfly-man who’s priorities are confusing at the best of times I putted about with a propeller on my head inhaling nothing more objectionable than campfire-smoke and drinking naught but orange juice and coffee.
One more full day before the fest even starts I’m trying desperately to pace myself.

DAY 2````````````````````````````````````````````````` ``

Woke up on a bed of air provided by nicks spare air mattress and exited the tent to a bright sunny day and Peppe cooking eggs on the fire.
Peppe works to his own inner calender, a rare variation of liver-time, when the liver needs extra energy to process excess sleep. When its wake up.

Peppe had also mysteriously adopted rooster like properties but instead of cock-a- doodle doo, he had, for his own reasons come up with.

This is repeated at volume ad nauseam until someone sticks their head out of a tent and screams at him to shut the fuck up.

Anyway after sticking my head out the tent and yelling I got up.

The fest will start tomorrow but people are beginning to stream in.
Walking round the place all morning most of the shops had opened and the competing sound systems changed the atmosphere every 20 ft.

Met Dougy from Invisable circus who had set up their own stage and juice shop.
Invisable circus had been rehursing a whole new show for the festival but some component or other had gone missing and so they were constructiong an improvised show with 24hrs to go (very Glastonbury)

As the crowds grew little drum circles formed like fungi , small rings of menfolk tapping away in interlocking rhythms many of which would go on to last the whole festival, it was like corporate male bonding for the unemployed and it was a beautiful thing.

Up at the stone circle the shellshocked forgone conclusions had already started stumbling through their 4 day overdoses because to really enjoy all a festival has to offer its presumably best to retreat as far as possible into your hallucinogenic entrails at the earliest opportunity and so shuffling shells hugged 3 meter rocks or sat and stared at blades of grass filled with infinate possibility.

I went back to our dude-ranch and lucky had arrived and was settling in, bike-boy popped up as well.
I decided to test the new stilts I had made after snapping my old ones in a nightclub in Toronto the week before. They were much heavier than I’m used to ( I make them at borderline tolerances normally but these were downright clunky and designed to survive mud if required)

I went for a wander to seek out sound systems to wiggle to and generally get the lay of the land. It was fun being one of the only performers up and running and its always good to make contact with various stall-holders so you can get supplys of water on the hoof later on, and boltholes should you antagonise the punters.

Two hours later I decended at Pee Wees bar and took my gear off and had a weaponsgrade bloody mary (It has begun) followed by a bottle of vodka, 3 lines of charlie, 4 meteor strike joints after which I wrote 2 short novels and a “ abdominal surgery for idiots” self help book (or did I?)

Back at camp night had fallen, the fire was roaring, fireworks would light the sky at intervals from various corners of the 250 acres of the festival grounds and we all knew that this was the last night that the stages would be silent.

Tomorrow it would start for real.

Day 3
Woke up, my mouth tasted like a vulture had pissed in it, my brain had somehow putrefied and my soul would have preferred living in a potted plant.

I was primed and on schedule.

Burst out of the tent, had a shower, leftover stew, coffee, popped briefly down to Pee Wee’s bar for a wake up call then ambled across to the main stage and caught Alabama 3, who are a cunning theatre group masquerading as a kick arse rock and roll band, they look speak and sound like good ol boys from down south USA with brilliant banter between the songs but are actually 3 chaps from Bristol.

Passing through the main thoroughfares it seemed that the masses of people were all behaving and chilled out, popped briefly into the children's area and saw the effort that had been put into making the festival cool for kids, story telling, opportunities to construct all sorts of stuff, rides, slides, masses of things to occupy the littlelys while one parent or the other moshed on.

Back at the theatre, circus , cabaret fields and Lucky was pumping out a show, while 4 legged sci-fi stiltwalkers roamed, 2 tough broads with sideburns and attitudes rode around in pedalcars abusing other motorists.

The jazz field was going off, some calypso band pumping the crowd.
The stone circle was more heavily populated than yesterday with its drum circles and the shellshocked forgone conclusions looked set to reach critical mass ( a rare phenomenon wherein a like-minded herd of people instantaneously achieve a status of a collective half-brain, rip their clothes off and writhe violently in a huge pile gibbering ancient football scores and long forgotten tax textbooks)

Popped into the Invisible circus’s area next to the roller disco and casino and church and had a carrot juice and a talk to Dougy and Dado then back to the dude-ranch to get ready for work.

The camp was looking impressive with seats and tables made from firewood and a large table filled with snacks all coming from a 3 man tent filled with provisions, the fire kept whatever was available warm and ready and celia and peppe and beck and others had each at different times cooked enough for all..Praised be the tummyfillers.

I’d spoken to Pee wee who’d told me to more or less keep to the theatre field where i had been programmed as out there in the meanstreets all bets were off with people likely to try and push you off your stilts for fun and that Em had had a brick thrown at her out there at an earlier festival.

I’ve never been deliberately taken out, (though theres been a fair share of attempts) and whilst part of me relished the idea of spinning and swiftly kicking some unsuspecting pillock in the head with a large piece of wood I deferred to experience today and only briefly ambled out of bounds to the Stone circle (trippers are slow moving) and wandered and danced madly at the jazz field also, there was an aptly named field of vagueness that had danceable bands as well and as it backed onto the tee pee tents and the woodworkers field it was mellow and good for a wiggle.

Once my contractual obligations were done for day one I cleaned up, had a beautiful massage and fueled up with my fellow campers and chilled out as the evening bled to night.
Then it was time to check out the acts I had either seen before or had heard about.

Caught a couple of good standups (and a couple of overwhelmed and struggling ones)
Saw the Bastard Son of Tommy Cooper who's wee wee humour was surpased by his slickness .

Miss Behave who has a brilliant sense of style and pace was let down somewhat by miscommunication with the soundguy. (give the same emphatic hand cue 3 starts...go to mike...’No the other one darling”... continue)
The audience was on her side though and that alone is two thirds of being able to pull stuff off.

Then outside to catch Dirty Fred do his 1am show next to the public toilets on his own portable stage.
Dirty Fred is one of my all-time favorites, its a mixture of his confronting improvisational bravery, his gross content interludes and the mastery with which he Ping-Pong's between high and low status.
You really have to watch him to appreciate it and for example if I told you he admits to having the ugliest white bum in the world and reveals one buttock to the audience only to discover a huge boil on it which he squeezes sending fake pus squirting into the audience, and then gets a large lump of phlegm spat onto his hand by an audience member before popping it into his mouth and spitting it up into the air and catching it again, then deep-throats a banana while delivering a twisted heterosexual monologue only to have the banana ejaculate over his face afterwards (‘Oh I must have been better at that than I thought”)
Then burns his mouth while fire-eating and bending down, takes a realistic penis out of his fly and pisses in his mouth for relief.
You would only have an ugly outline of what for me is as best an example as there is out there of the unique unfettered freedom available to the fearlessly creative street performer.
All in this ugly american persona thats as sharp as anything i’ve ever seen.
As well as being a highly skilled and fluid juggler.

I headed back into the secured performers area and popped into the green room bar and then on to Pee wee’s bar which was packed with eccentrics, then back to stare at out campfire for a bit before kip.

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