To be fair, I had two hopes for this year - 1) that no one would die and 2) that I wouldn't (accidentally) smoke a crack pipe. Neither of those things happened so, just by virtue of their absence, this turned out to be a pretty good week!
Unlike (Glasto and non-Glasto) festivals of previous years, I had no real agenda of bands to watch or things to see. I was quite keen to catch a bit of U2 and Beyonce, and I would've gone to see Coldplay too if I hadn't been on shift, but the music this year didn't appeal to me as it had done before. (Ray Davies are you reading this, please come back for 2013!) In any case, come Friday night I was roaming round the Pyramid stage crowds trying to find my friend before U2 so that I had someone to lean on in my drunken stupor. I seem to recall going to and from the 'cider bus' carrying pints of a delicious hot and spiced refreshing beverage and being positively overjoyed upon seeing a sign that said 'Baby Spice - hot cider + shot of Brandy £4.50'. I couldn't at the time understand why they were calling it Baby Spice, but thinking back, I think the sign had two more Spice Girls' nicknames on it and two other shots of liquor... No, I'm still failing to make the 'Spice Girls + Spiced Cider' connection.
So, due to my inebriation for U2's performance, coupled with the fact that I left about a half hour before their set ended, I cannot possibly provide a critique of their performance. I think, standing in the rain with a belly full of warmth next to my friend on one side and a really hot (Jake Gyllenhaal-lookalike) guy on the other, mixing lyrics up at the tops of our voices, was probably the best way to have spent that Friday night. Without it, I probably would not have been able to get through the mammoth 1am-6am stewarding shift...I spent most of those 5 hours shivering and spotting smokers lighting up in the 'bar' we'd been assigned to, and asking them to leave the comforting cover of the gazebo and please stand outside, since this was a no smoking area, even though it was covered on top, because the sides were open. It was a bit like Minority Report, only I didn't make any arrests - but I did time my walk over to the perpetrators for precisely the right moment when they'd just lit their cigarette and were taking the first drag. That is some mad skillz, right there!
The stewarding was mostly uneventful ... in fact, one of the more entertaining aspects of the shifts was talking to one of the security guys who, as I put it at the time, was probably one of those people who 'hadn't quite evolved with the rest of the human race yet'. A bit harsh, perhaps, but here are some snippets of conversation:
Security Guard 1: Are you religion?
Security Guard 2: ...what?
Security Guard 1: Are you religion?
Security Guard 2: ...I am religious, yes. I am Christian.
Security Guard 1: Oh. Are you religion?
Me: Am I religious? No, not really.
Security Guard 1: What, never?!
Me: Well, my grandma's Catholic, does that count?
Security Guard 1: What type of Catholic? There's different types, ain't there... Catholic... Roman Catholic... Help me out, man!
Security Guard 1: Where are you from, then?
Security Guard 1: Your name though, that's not English.
Me: No, suppose not. I'm from Croatia.
Security Guard 1: Oh. Close to Brazil, innit.
Me: What is?
Security Guard 1: Your place. Costa Rica.
Me: No, Croatia - that's in Europe.
Security Guard 1: Same thing.
One does wholeheartedly despair, sometimes.
One did not, however, wholeheartedly despair at Beyonce's performance. She closed off the whole thing on Sunday as the headline act - the first female headliner in 40 years! I find that a little shocking! Starting off strong with Crazy In Love and Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), the crowd were absolutely loving it! Upbeat, fun, firey (very literally, there were a lot of pyrotechnics set up on that stage - at one point the fireworks cleared and there was just a whole heap of smoke rising into the air that I did for a split second think something had caught fire). However, the middle section dragged on a bit, from where she sang Happy Birthday to her friend Steve (who's Steve anyway? What kind of a name is Steve?) and two relatively unknown numbers - Best Thing I Never Had and End Of Time, and the crowd did start getting a bit edgy. If I Were A Boy and Sweet Dreams provided a sort of temporary pacifier, but she lost us again after that and didn't fully command our attention until Irreplaceable and the subsequent Destiny's Child medley. Her performance would only be called 'solid' were she performing to a crowd of Beyonce Knowles fans who had turned out specifically to watch her in concert, but the majority of revelers at the Pyramid stage that night weren't die-hard Beyonce fans, and I think she failed to pick up on that fact, that not everyone would know every line to every song. It was, in essence, what one of my friends called 'over-indulgent in the American sense', and I did have a bit of a chuckle when B pronounced disbelief at playing to a crowd of 170,000 people - 'Er, love, they're not all here to see you, you know, some have gone to Queens of the Stone Age!' I don't think she heard me.
Having said that, maybe next time she's touring I may well be tempted to learn all her lyrics and go watch her down at the O2 because she really does put on a good show...but I'd also expect her to sing a fucking swear word if it's in the song she's performing (/written?!) - or otherwise not do it at all! I've spent an hour trying to work out which of the songs she sang had the word 'motherfucker' in it, because I found it really annoying that she would only say 'mother-----'. You can only go two ways on this really, you either use swear words or you don't. And if you do, then you have to actually sing them! Unless it's pre-watershed - but Glastonbury Festival is definitely a post-watershed type establishment, no wimping out of cursing here please! We are not a Presbyterian parish!
It's taken me two hours to write up this review, and I hardly feel like I've shared anything... which is probably just as well, because the residing motto - as discussed and agreed in the minibus back - of 2011 is: what happens at Glastonbury, stays at Glastonbury.