Eazy Eavis – Glastonbury Finally Embraces The Urban

Melissa Bradshaw didn't think Glastonbury was for her... until the sun-blissed 2010, when Snoop, Joy Orbison and Hyperdub ruled the parched fields. Images thanks to Georgina Cook.

I decided that Glastonbury wasn’t my thing when I was 18. We (me and three friends) went there after we finished our A-levels. Mostly I remember being too short to be able to see The Roots from the back of a massive blue tent, my friend’s bipolar boyfriend going manic after a 12 hour ketamine binge, some pretty good hash-cakes, and buying a huge bright orange pair of plastic trousers. Then there was paranoia induced by too many hash-cakes, being repeatedly accused of being the spawn of Satan by bipolar bloke, mud, and wanting to go home. (According to all the online records I can find, 1999 Glastonbury was actually hot and dry, but there was definitely mud on the Sunday/Monday morning. I still have the wellies I bought to prove it).

I liked hiphop, garage, and r&b, and as that great oracle of musical progress Noel Gallagher put it in the 2008 Jay-Z debate people like me weren’t meant to like Glastonbury. Which tallies unfortunately well with the fact that in 1999 I decided not to even bother with most of the music and hang out most of the weekend around the stone circle instead.

Everyone knows though that Noel Gallagher is a complete knobber, including Michael Eavis (who made such a point of not saying ‘racist’ that it actually became a point), and that embracing the explosion of that phenomenon known as urban music is the only way Glastonbury can fulfil its original remit. (I mean we’re talking about things like ‘love’ and ‘freedom’ here). So this year I went to Glastonbury to find out if, post-Jay-Z Glastonbury was really catering for people with tastes like mine. And boy did Snoop and Dizzee prove the idiocy of Gallagher. But I’ll tell it like it happened.

We were greeted in the hazily sun-drenched Somerset scenery of Castle Cary train station by a friendly refreshment booth dude with a burly accent and the sounds of Castle Cary Cash Cow, a country outfit, reeling out various cover songs. These including something, I can’t remember what, by Oasis. During a lovely rolling bus ride sat next to a loudmouthed Australian PR lady, oceans of tents appeared to the left, on the horizon, interspersed with various larger constructions including the unmistakable grey roofs of the main stages. Outside Pedestrian Gate A people gathered in various indie band t-shirts, or coloured boots over knee high socks with little shorts. As my eyes rested on a floppy fringe guy with a Primal Scream t-shirt I felt drastically out of place.

I hadn’t been to a festival, certainly not a rural one, for years. As we headed to Dance Village (comprising dance tents one and two and the ‘Wow’ tent) a voice inside my head started asking why on earth so many people had come here just to camp out with thousands of other people. They were all just milling around almost aimlessly.

A few hours later I began to know the answer. I was outside the Wow tent, everyone was singing, and Boy George was inside performing ‘Karma Chameleon’ with 80s style graphics of a woman holding pineapples over her breasts projected over his head. I found the whole scenario hysterically funny. To my left a little kid with massive neon yellow headphones and sunglasses was bruking out on his dad’s shoulders. Ethereal red, heart-shaped fire balloons drifted in the sky above.

Wondering back into the dance camping area I bumped into Skream and his big brother Hijak with a bunch of mates. And Appleblim was there. I now had fellow ravers. Everything was going to be okay. By 3 am we had heard Jamie from the xx playing a bunch of garage classics and a little bit of grime wrapped up with his very own remix of ‘You Got The Love’, Joy Orbison blend his classic ‘Hyph Mngo’ with past and future garage and dutch house like Bassjackers’ ‘Klambu’, Jaymo and Andie George round off Roska’s ‘I Feel Love’ with some more laid back disco stuff, and wondered over to a rock and roll tent somewhere on the other side of the encampment. I was fucking freezing.

At 8am I woke up fucking boiling. Immediate tent exit extremely necessary. I wondered around. Bought a huge fake fur coat. Ate lunch with Appleblim where a little girl was putting fresh flowers on the tables. Someone called me both beautiful and the palest girl at the festival. I hung out in the shade, with Appleblim and his Bristol crew. We all left together to see Snoop Dogg play on the Pyramid stage. We made it all together through the crowds thronging around makeshift promenades lined with Camden-esque T-Shirt stalls (should have written down some slogans), falafel, burgers and such. In a moment’s distraction among the Pyramid crowd, I lost them all.

Snoop was banging nevertheless. I had some important realisations. 1 – Snoop may be skinny but he’s got a pretty big catalogue. 2 – the part to ‘Beautiful’ sounds better when Pharrell sings it. 3 – nothing he’s done since has beat ‘Who Am I’ and ‘Gin and Juice’. 4 – this man is now very much the professional, rolling out impressively fast lines over killer bass licks and addressing the ladies in the audience with complete ease. After ‘Sensual Seduction’, Tinie Tempah was invited on stage and a hyperkinetic rendition of ‘Pass Out’. Needless to say the crowd was bouncing. And for all my scepticism about UK urban music needing hip-hop’s approval, it felt kind of momentous.

A couple of hours later in roughly the same spot but with the sun blazing more directly in my eyes I was quietly blown away by Dizzee Rascal. Accompanied by a full band he played a metal re-jig of ‘Rascal’, his live ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ -version of ‘Stand Up Tall’, and tight deliveries of new material like ‘Road Rage’ and, um, ‘Shout For England’. Crossing himself with Nirvana and Aswad’s Brinsley Forde for ‘Can’t Tek No More’, Dizzee makes a big statement about his rank in generations of youth culture. Seeing him rouse thousands in singalong, I thought how hypocritical it has been for grime scenesters to berate him for selling out while they complain about their music not making money. Dizzee just tapped into a bigger voice. His music has broadened with his physique, but you know the skinny yout’ we first fell for is in there still. I even found myself enjoying ‘Dance Wiv Me’ (if not ‘Bonkers).

Suffering from a bout of anaemic exhaustion I went back to my tent and fell asleep in my fake fur coat and woke up to discover I’d tragically missed the Orb play Cubehenge, a plastic version of Stone Henge made of Perspex that flashes in different colours all night long. But I found some people and wondered with them up to catch the end of the xx on The Park stage, after which on giving up going down The Rabbit Hole a dude called Ben and I wondered round stumbling aimlessly upon such goodness as an adlib Calypso troupe. They were comprised of a skinny redhead guy in a grass skirt, a curvy bikini-clad woman with a headress and plastic fruit all over her bum, which she occasionally turned round and shook while she looked wide-eyed over her shoulder, and a Latino woman in a striped tiger catsuit – kind of growling and prowling. It was one of the best acts I saw all weekend. Later we wondered through a field of people sat in circles round flares, some drumming, and eventually found Skream raving up Shangri-La, where the crowd slopes down towards the stage so the vibe is close up and exciting.

On Saturday I gave up being the palest girl at the festival and sat in the sun for a while as the sounds of dancehall and The Bucketheads drifted across the fields from inside a large plastic pineapple (a DJ booth outside of the Wow tent). Someone else was playing Donaeo, Scratcha and Altered Natives, and I couldn’t feel more at home. It was beautifully hot as I went to pick up Georgina, my friend who came to take photos but was arriving late from France. We proceeded on a blurry afternoon beginning with a feral but adorable Seasick Steve. Seasick Steve produced various forms of makeshift guitar like two Morris Minor hubcaps and a broom. While he ‘had me a revelation’ I made the very important point that althought Kode 9 wouldn’t like Seasick Steve, because he is a white bluesman, he is actually quite like Seasick Steve, because they are both stalwarts of raw, rebellious energy. Steve sang ‘Burning Up’ and we were, quite literally. One glass of pink wine went straight to my sun-blanched head, and the only places of shade smelled of sewage. I can’t remember where we found Appleblim in time for Shakira, but we did, and there we were all blurry and excited in front of her. For today, she said, she was ours and only ours. Barefoot, tussling her mane, she bust many styles from ‘Whenever Wherever’ through the quite balladry of ‘Underneath Your Clothes’ to disco ‘She Wolf’, with rock ballads to reggaeton in-between (Calle 13’s René Perez joined her on stage to perform ‘Mi Gordita’) that we were gawping Shakira adulation. As she sweetly thanked René she launched excitedly into her new rendition of the xx’s ‘Islands’. She wined and pounced and popped. And she got African dancers on stage for her football song. It was perfect. I’m serious; my heart was in my throat the rest of the day.

Which ended up perfectly. We had an hour long dose of Parliament (who were mourning their recently deceased member Garry Shider) making a big family jam just like you would want them to. George Clinton was mighty in stature and a big yellow moon hung in the sky to the right of the stage. His granddaughter came on stage and rapped about fucking. (He didn’t seem to mind). A guy in white fur trousers did acrobatics around the stage. Then we went to see Arcadia in the next field over.

All I knew was that I was looking at an enormous spidery metal contraption, which could have come out of Mad Max. Huge gas flames occasionally burst from its joints. By now we had developed the quack. This meant we could all stay together (somehow Appleblim’s train had multiplied to like, 20) by putting our hands up in the air and making them into quacking duck shapes. So as midnight fell, and a mad ravey kind of funky techno suddenly started blaring loudly from the Mad Max thing, we went to dance beneath its limbs. From somewhere among the flames, and the limbs, a net fell down, with two acrobats in white leotards caught inside. As the net fell open, they twisted and writhed in beautiful shapes just above our head. And then I began to notice things moving all over the Mad Max thing. Soon we were like a bunch of children pointing to exciting things dropping out of the sky. Trapeze artists. Dancers in all sorts of weird bodysuits. Flamethrowers. A singer and an MC emerged. And then, I don’t quite know how to describe it … there were two people with lightning bolts coming out of their arms and their heads. They emerged on pedestals that we hadn’t even noticed. And they made the lightning bolts coming out of their heads meet up. I swear I wasn’t high. You need to see this thing.


On Sunday I went back home, metaphorically… or less solipsistically, home came to us. In the morning, Georgie, Appleblim and I tried to go to the Healing Fields but ended up in the kid’s field where we were volunteered into a drumming parade. After Arcadia, this was the number two highlight of my weekend. Drumming with a bunch of five year olds is the best kind of healing ever. We went the long way home and somehow took 3.5 hours to get back to the plastic pineapple, where Bristol’s H.E.N.C.H. crew member Wedge was playing to a small throng of scorching ravers. He played So Solid and his own next level dubstep (take halfstep and add all your fave bits of hardcore). Appleblim kept pointing out amazing tunes all of which he seemed to be about to put out. I got absolutely wasted off the heat and one more glass of pink wine, and was dripping three layers of suncream as Untold stepped up to the Pineapple, opening with Mosca’s remix of CRST’s ‘Dance’ and cranking it up with dancehall and his own hybrid bangers. Then I realised 5 hours was probably a little too much straight sun…

In the evening, a shower and a nap and a crap football match in the dance area bar later, I sat dazed through the suitably blissy and laid back sounds of dâm-funk and Hudson Mohawke. And now, rather than give you a list of what the Appleblim v Al Tourettes and the Hyperdub camp played, I’ll just say where the f*** were y’all? The dance tents were so unfairly sparse that I decided not to join the entire of the rest of Glastonbury to go see Stevie Wonder and support the rave. Later, as Ikonika and I cotched in a flashy hire car while Norman Jay’s car alarm went off next to us, gazing up at the last of the ethereal fire balloons, I was wishing all my London crew and everyone who’d chosen the safer option of Sonar had been there too. Glastonbury was stepping for us, but we weren’t stepping up in return. The problem is, of course, it does all depend on good weather.

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