Perennial Plant Flowers at Glastonbury
There’s been a lot of talk about Glastonbury. There always is. It’s a big event right enough, and it’s become part of the establishment now, what with the BBC broadcasting it. Auntie’s favourite festival; pop-culture highlight of the year. It’s never going to please everyone, of course, but on balance, where the audio, lighting, video and events supply industries are concerned, it’s a banker. So I’m pleased about that.
It’s pretty green, too, by all accounts - in fact the festival’s energy, waste and ecology policies are an interesting read. I’ve just read them to make sure I could make that statement. The stats seem to add up. I know a bit about all this because our clients have to take it into account. Nobody can afford to be running coal-fired festivals…
I don’t doubt that the two hundred thousand people who go have a great time. I’m sure that they’ll all be looking for and finding different things. For some it’ll be the pure joy of watching and listening to musical artist after musical artist, for others it’ll be the camaraderie of drinking to excess and consuming mind-altering substances in ways that aren’t possible in their local beer garden. Many will go just to have been. Some, after the fashion of trainspotters, will place ticks against their lists of likes, and many will probably discover that they don’t like music enough to be immersed in it (and/or mud and baking sun for hours at a time), and will internally vow never to go again whilst simultaneously nodding sagely when their boyfriend/girlfriend/friend enthusiastically declares that Sam Fender is the new Springsteen.
I wouldn’t want to go there. Not my bag. I mean, I’d go if I was playing it, but the call’s never come, and I’m not anticipating it any time soon. While Glastonbury was on, I was playing a great festival called Togfest in the grounds of Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes. Eddi Reader was playing. And Stray. There were camping chairs and flags (just not as many) and although one or two people I saw in the field might have been in an altered state, they did a pretty good job of marshalling their children and their parents. The PA was excellent, as were the crew. The organisation was spot on. When you look at the available technology that’s out there these days, and add to it a raft of well-educated, well-trained technicians, it’s clear no one has any excuses for things to be another way. After the wilderness years (if there really is an ‘after’) let’s hope those people come back from the night shift at Tesco and resume doing what they’re so, so good at (mind you, I bet Tesco never had people who were as good at logistics and working as a team).
During and after Glastonbury, a debate raged (happened) about old people doing music. Ok, ok…’seniors’ if that’s easier to work with. I don’t really have very strong views on the subject, although I’d sooner hear a singer singing in tune any day. Do we make allowances when we shouldn’t? My inclination is that yes, probably, we do. I’m fond of a football analogy, so I’d point to the fact that we don’t see old footballers jogging around the Premier League. That said, maybe there are cultural icons who can hang on by their fingernails by virtue of having so much musical credit in the bank, they can be presented for one final triumphant hoorah…and forgiven their trespasses.
I’d hate to have been the FOH engineer for Miss Ross, though. That would have been something of a job. If you’d been within reach, you’d be standing there with punters coming up to you imploring you to “do something”…and you’d be there, helpless. “I haven’t got a TARDIS button, mate…”
Paul McCartney, on the other hand, was a bit different. He got away with it, I think. Perhaps enough people reminding me that he’s eighty odd coloured my judgement; and although maybe his harmonies with The Boss were a bit Miss Ross, I reckon on balance he pulled it off. His band were a bit tasty as well, weren’t they? Oh, and I must include a shout-out to the tech next to the drum kit who was caught on camera gaffering something to a stand during the early part of the set. Some things will never change. Good.
I also watched Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s set. Yes it was only an hour on the telly, yes seventy-seven year old Mr P wasn’t wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Nurses Do it Better’ whilst emitting notes hitherto only manageable by aeroplanes, and his ringlets are a bit salt and pepper these days, but there were no doubts there. None. No-one was trying to hide behind anything. As a showcase of harmony and dynamics, it demonstrated in spades how music can be as adaptable as it is inspiring.
It reminded me. I was there when Rufus Wainwright played ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ at Kenwood House. He was supporting Kris Kristofferson, one of the greatest writers of them all, on the latter’s eightieth birthday. Wainwright’s delivery was from another planet. It had to be, because anyone who knows the Fairport Convention version with Sandy Denny singing, knows that only something other-worldly could ever get near. And then at Glastonbury, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss played ‘The Battle of Evermore’. Yep that one. The Zeppelin song where the same Sandy Denny sang ‘that’ part. At no point during the delivery of what is a truly beautiful, haunting song, did allowance need to be made for anything. No age-related benefit of the doubt - no forgiveness for the rigours of sixty years of vocals for him, no “can she/can’t she?” for her. Wonderful stuff.
Last week a magazine editor I know posed the question - who’s going to be the ‘legend’ at Glastonbury next year? That’s food for thought isn’t it? I’m not sure there are any ‘legends’ left who haven’t played it are there? Anyway, whomsoever occupies that slot, let them sing in-tune with gusto and shred their guitars with feeling…
Def Leppard, anyone?