“Well, that was kind of nice”

Much of the music that I wanted to see having already taken place (and much of that at the same time), Glastonbury Sunday, as usual, was a day of loitering in the more unusual areas of the festival site. As Rob has already reported, we whiled away the morning by watching a mock wedding in the Chapel of Love and Loathing (free divorce with every wedding, apparently), drinking more of the sweet pear cider, and watching a silver-painted naked man torment Robert with his flaccid penis.

We returned to the main stage in time to watch a confused Brian Wilson play some old Beach Boys songs (“he doesn’t know where he is, does he?” said a chap I overheard in the toilets after the show) with all the charisma of a man who has lost his mind to hallucinogenic drugs. After that, unbelievably, it was time for Sal to leave. Despite my suggestions that she should stay and attempt to get home in time for work the next morning, we both knew that there was little to no chance of that happening, so off she went to catch her train, and off Rob and I went to watch Rufus Wainwright. Although Rufus’s indie singer-songwriter shtick contains all the ingredients of the type of thing I’d normally like, I was deeply bored by his performance. That said, I’ve just found my comments from last year when I first saw one of my current favourite bands: “…and showcasing a band called The Kaiser Chiefs, who were, well, alright, I guess. Maybe I’m getting old.“. You never know: maybe in 6 months time I’ll be a huge fan of Rufus as well.

And then, for the second time in the weekend, I joined Rob in an obscure tent in the green fields to watch an hour of Louise Rhodes being set up (she’s a solo singer: how long can it possibly take?) Again, I left before a note had been played. This time it was because I wanted to round off my festival experience watching Conor Oberst, aka Bright Eyes, in the John Peel tent. When I arrived at the tent, still smarting from having dropped my digital camera in the mud trying to take a picture of The La’s on the Other Stage, there was a palpable sense of anticipation (people were cheering the arrival onstage of the roadies, for goodness sake). I’m only familiar with one of the Bright Eyes albums (I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning), and so I was expecting to hear some of the pleasant acoustic ballads it contains. Inevitably he didn’t play a single song I know, but I wasn’t quite expecting what turned out to be one of the oddest gig experiences I have ever had.

The John Peel tent was already too busy for me to reach the front by this point, so I settled in with a good view just by one of the supports in front of the mixing desk. What followed turned into one of the strangest gigs I have ever been to. A song or two in, it became evident that Conor was not having a good gig. I’m not sure why. His between song banter began at mildly sarcastic (“Hey everybody, isn’t it great to be here: sixteen pounds for a plate of broccoli, and we’re all making poverty history”), but quickly descended into confrontational (“Normally I’d feel terrible about a gig going like this, but it’s ok because I’m making poverty history. I’m just doing my bit”, and “If you think this is bad, just leave now. It’s not going to get better; if anything, it’s going to get worse.”), all of which seemed rather odd given that the crowd was mostly appreciative of his performance. Perhaps we didn’t cheer quite loud enough for Mr Oberst. At one point I’m sure he even dedicated a song to John Peel, describing him as “a massive coke head”. Apparently he subsequently apologised for this, and other comments (“It’s great. We’re all here. We’re all making poverty history and John Peel. John Peel’s dead. It’s all great…”), but I’d be interested to know exactly what his problem was: as far as I could tell the only really angry person in the tent to begin with was Conor himself (although I did think his generic rock and roll posturing seemed somewhat less forceful by the fact that every time he threw an item of musical equipment down onto the stage in disgust, a small team of harassed roadies would have to scurry on after him to pick them up and reset them). Funnily enough, though, if you essentially tell your audience to f*** off, after a while they start to listen to you: there was markedly more space in the tent by the end.

Then again, perhaps I missed something: at one point I think I heard someone heckle asking for “Summer of 69”, a comment that perhaps has more resonance if you’re watching Ryan Adams, the billed headliner, who had had to pull out at the last minute. Later on someone asked for (Adams’s) “New York, New York”, but I think they were joking.

Finally, this strangest of strange shows ended when a streaker outwitted the Glastonbury security, disrobed on stage, and kissed Conor for as long as she could before a couple of said outwitted security men dragged her away off stage. “Well that was kind of nice,” he said. And suddenly he seemed a lot happier. Perhaps all he needed was a bit of TLC.

4 thoughts on ““Well, that was kind of nice””

  1. At the risk of being predictable, Ms Rhodes wasn’t strictly solo – she was accompanied by four or five other musicians. I think those smaller stages suffer from less adept people at the sound desk and the musicians having to set up their own instruments.

  2. I heard from XFM/NME website that Conor Oberst had apologised grovellingly and profusely for any offence he had caused and said he didn’t remember most of the gig. I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the streaker snog moment, it was definitely the high point of their set!

    that is by far the funniest thing I have read in a long time.

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