I guess now is the time since tickets go on sale in a couple weeks or so. I hope this gives you an idea of what to expect. I had a moleskine and used it to keep track of everything I saw, did, and thought that weekend. And then I deciphered it all and put it together in something resembling a story, hence the present tense.
Getting there is the hardest part, or half the battle, right? Either cliché works. So my day begins with an unsatisfying, but cheap, breakfast at my dumpy, but cheap, hostel near Piccadilly Circus. My journey to Glastonbury truly begins with me hauling my suitcase up and down several flights of stairs and escalators at three different London Underground stations before I see daylight again. Being a regular captain of the failboat, I have forgotten how to get to Victoria Coach Station, where I was to catch my overpriced bus to the festival, despite having been there twice already. Being smart, I know to just follow anyone I saw with a massive bag on their back. I almost instantly find a group of punters packed like mules, and they are surprised that an American was attending their festival. Why? At least ten percent of attendees of the Coachella Festival are overseas visitors. Another part of the mystery behind Glastonbury, I declare.
Form an orderly queue when Big Julie rules the world.
Once inside the coach station, I am greeted by a massive, messy queue. Seems the concept of single-file is nonexistent in England. Since all the coach tickets are sold out, National Express must know exactly how many people are coming, at what times, and therefore how many buses to have, yes? Just fill them up and send them on the way, right? While waiting to solve this mystery, I ask a group of girls that apparently look like clones of Bob Geldof’s daughters, whoever they are, whom they want to see and one of these acts is Will Young. Surely she meant Neil? Or does he have a son that also performs? Turns out this singer of no relation is a big deal across the pond.
After a ninety minute wait, I get onto a bus that is not a National Express coach, but had been hired to help with the demand. This coach leaves right at 1pm and is barely half full. Why so empty when so many people are still coachless? It is a matter of storage space; once the luggage hold is full, nobody else can get on the bus. One mystery solved.
Over five hours of smoking and looking at grass and I am allergic to both…
The drive to Glastonbury is dull and uneventful for the first few hours. I am stuck behind someone with offensive body odor and everybody is either talking to their traveling companions or sleeping. This humdrum ride is sorely missed once we run into our first traffic jam. We are close to the festival site, but are not moving. Traffic is to be expected, right? Not like this. For over five and a half hours, we endure the hell of not moving, going outside for smoking breaks, moving ten feet, not moving for another thirty minutes, moving another ten feet, and so on. Locals take advantage of our misery by selling grape drank and even beer at the side of the road. So it turns out our driver had taken a back road to avoid an accident that caused a jam on the apparent main path. However, once the accident had cleared, the police let everyone on the main road get through and not those that tried to do the right thing and stay out of the way. The sun is finally setting at almost 10pm when the bus makes it through the festival gates and lets us out right at the festival gates. The cool kids that take the bus get the shortest walk possible to get into the festival...score!
I (not pictured) have arrived.
Being a foreigner, I do not have my ticket in hand like everyone else. Instead I have to find the ticket office to collect mine. It is disappointing to see that my ticket does not have my photo printed onto it like all the others, just a sticker with my name. Fortunately, I stop caring once I am given my wristband and the first of much free swag: an official Glastonbury program magazine courtesy of Q, and a booklet of set times and photos and articles that can be worn around the neck, courtesy of The Guardian. Once inside, I am overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the site for the tenth time in the past hour, shrug it off, and grab a free tote bag from Oxfam. I haul my suitcase through dirt, rocks, and grass, with strange looks from other people before someone finally asks why I have a suitcase. I tell them and they are surprised I came from so far for this festival. Do Brits take Glasto for granted?
Forget what I said earlier about being smart; I am actually stupid. I find my way to Millet’s, one of the camping gear vendors on-site. Their cheapest double-skin tent, which is required to keep the rain off you and your possessions (and mine included an autographed Jarvis Cocker record), was £40, which converts to $872,234 American. I declare it to be a ripoff, buy a pair of wellies for £10, and storm off in search of a better deal. Two other camping gear vendors sell either more expensive double skin tents or only single skinned wastes of space.
So I decide to go find the efestivals camping group and leave my suitcase there, then go find a tent. This decision was yet another mistake, as I never found the group, only an overpopulated Pennard Hill, so I decide to bite the bullet and get the overpriced tent. However, the nearby Millie’s is already sold out and I am nowhere near the original stand. I am given completely inaccurate directions several times to get back to where I need to bite this proverbial bullet, and I decide it would be a better idea to just find my way back to the entrance and retrace my steps from there. This turns out to be yet another disaster, but by the grace of Xenu, a kind couple feels pity for me and offers to help me find Millet’s and even drags around my suitcase for me as I am highly agitated and two steps away from a nervous breakdown. Finally I have my tent and go to the nearest campground to pitch it: right by the John Peel tent, which is a blue and yellow circus tent that can’t hold more than two thousand people.
The view from my tent was nice, at least.
Don’t you love those days where every single pointless little thing that can go wrong does? Money problems? Check. Long, hot, sweaty, noisy queue for a bus? Check. Arriving at the festival over five hours late? Check. Wasting two hours wandering around in an absolutely futile search for a reasonably priced tent? Check. Not finding your camping group? Check. Your desired campground being completely full with no room for another soul, let alone space to drag around a suitcase? Check. A tent that includes the wrong directions and therefore takes two hours to pitch in the dark without any help? Check. Yes, my tent instructions were incorrect, and this is not an overreaction. The directions mentioned the tent porch, which it did not have, and also said to place the poles through the sleeve on the tent. The tent did not have such a sleeve, the separate, outer skin did. Then the tent itself is supposed to be awkwardly tied to this outer frame.
Worst. Tent. Ever.
For future reference, I make a note to myself to just spend the day before Glastonbury in Bristol and immediately arrive the minute the gates open somehow if I can ever make it to the festival again. It is the only way to get a central camping spot at Glastonbury. Despite the music not truly starting until Friday (some side stages were running on Thursday but I didn’t care to see any of it), nearly 100,000 attendees are in the gates by the end of Wednesday night. How so many people arrived so early when an accident caused such a major traffic jam is a mystery I know I will never solve and just assume that the laws of physics do not apply in this world away from the world. In any case, clearly most people do not take Glastonbury for granted if they care enough to arrive so early.
Coming Thursday: I finally properly explore, eat, see and do stuff, find merch, take a dump, have ATM drama, and RAIN. Coming Fri-Sun: all the bands. Bands do actually play this thing. Oh, and late night insanity.