on being weird: before glastonbury
Staring out from the Stone Circle, as many of you will do this coming week, watching the sun alight from the night-sky and witnessing the people bustle about as if in some medieval market town, each one a merchant of sorts, selling alcohol, drugs, their music or their thoughts, it dawns on you that the whole festival is bound in an supreme collective spirit. Each person like the tiniest atom contributing to the organism that is the festival as a whole. It was with this simple metaphor that a friend of mine, sitting on that same Stone Circle a year ago this week, was possessed of an idea just wildly arcane enough for Eavis to take note and make it real. She described a an esoteric core, a nucleus, that would exist throughout the year in the off-season – essentially this core would be made up of a group of dedicated volunteers. It would harness the redundant energy of the festival, with what’s left of a weekend of revelling trickling out from the festival’s patrons as they as they leave despondent through the exit-gates and onto home. This left-over energy would then be collected by the core of volunteers and stored in vast imaginary silos, of course the left-over energy would only be a small amount to begin with, before a year long process of energy created would fill the silos to their limit, to be released at the opening of next year’s festival. It would be like a giant transistor recieving a tiny trickle of energy before outputting a much stronger amplified boost of energy back out in to the Universe.
I imagine a commune of people living there year in and year out, feeding off of the thoughts and feelings of the festival’s collective conscious, gathering anecdotes, memories, interactions and all other manner of good vibes and cultivating them in the great imaginary silos of the mind. Their payment being the mutal joy of brotherly connection and the great spilling out of emotion that prevails at Glastonbury Festival.
Sitting at the Stone Circle at whatever time it was that morning it seemed all too possible, the likelihood of which was almost obvious – of course it would happen, in fact it does happen. Yes, every year it happens because the people wish it. Every year when the sun rises over the trees on the east bank of the Stone Circle that same harmony of feeling washes over all those who bear witness to the event. The festival has it’s central core and it’s ‘eternal YES!’, the light of the world illuminates those strong feelings of brotherhood within us and at a time like that, with a few hundred other believers the collective becomes the intimate and the intimate becomes the collective.
As the power emanates in waves like concentric rings from the core it establishes a unique understanding of the flow of energy within each field or tent, each seperate and together. Each formed of its own constituent parts and being of the whole. And it’s this being part of a whole that counts. This year sees the return of futuresoundtemporary favourites Horse Meat Disco who have curated the NYC Downlow stage, and have also done so for the past two years. Their disco-revival sound is quite wonderful, as I have written previously in On Disco. If you haven’t heard of them before then check out this supreme mix available for free from Soundcloud (this is actually a preview for their new album too!) –
The whole atmosphere of the NYC Downlow is perfectly fitting for Glastonbury. It combines the absurdness, the theatrics, the fanfare and the celebration of an event of this size with the right tone of musicality that aims at inclusion and fun as well as being daring and experimental. Exporting NYC to the fields of Somerset feels so absurd that it shouldn’t work but that is the melting-pot effect of the whole festival.
Dub-step features prominantly in this years line-up, taking over many of the dance stages including Hyperdub with Kode 9 and Ikonika, Skream, Jakwob and many, many more. It’s almost the perfect music for the festival that is its own planet with a million orbiting satellites. The sparse sounds of dub-step accept an isolated view, like watching the Earth from space. It’s something about not relying on lots of high-end that allows an element of communication on the dance-floor like your alone but your energy is interconnected with your fellow man. It offers a strange, mystical vibe that whilst obviously channeling an urban atmosphere it doesn’t seem like it will be too out of place at the festival.
This ties it all nicely in with the centre peice of the festival, the majestic Stevie Wonder. The cosmopolitan man of the music world, who has diverted his course a million times and in that fashion is responsible for a million different sounds and ideas over the course of his life. Yet again I can reference my previous feature On Disco in which it lay on Wonder’s shoulders to further the cause of disco music through his album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, in particular the rather beautiful Race Babbling:
The same can be said of his late 60s Motown influenced work. He is and always has been a gifted song-writer, and throughout his Motown period his work influenced widely, not only through music but merging into to politics too – because the Motown sound was not only the sound of a youthful and vibrant feeling in America, it had a recognisable political undertone too. What better place now exists for Stevie Wonder then at the Pyramid Stage on Sunday evening, sending his multi-faceted waves of energy from that shining beacon, the tip of the pyramid. Here is Stevie Wonder covering Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, as if you ever need proof of Wonder’s righteousness:
Going back to earlier ruminations on Glastonbury and it’s concentric rings bursting forth with pure energy and love it reminds me of a particular scene from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Carl Sagan, although a straight scientist, believing in reason and truth, also spoke in an incredibly poetic way about the Universe’s constant harmony. He tells us that we are made from the same atoms as those formed at the start of the Universe, that here on Earth and in the known Universe carbon is the main building block of life. We are all connected he says. In the following bit of footage Carl Sagan explains Kepler’s Laws regarding the orbits of the planets. The second law is what fascinates me most and is what I want to draw a comparable with, it states: a planet sweeps out equal areas in equal times as it orbits the sun. It’s the diagram that interests me most – now think back to that core of energy existing at the centre of Glastonbury Festival, each person becomes an orbiting satellite, each person draws from the core an equal amount of energy from whatever position they hold as they orbit that core. That very energy is the togetherness of the Universe, each man a part of the whole.