Thoughts on Glastonbury 2011 from Someone Who Wasn't There

Audrey DaviesCategories:Music

Rock Cellar Magazine

This past weekend, thousands of mud-soaked concertgoers flocked to the town of Somerset, England for this year’s Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. The fest featured a slew of international bands of varying genres, including headliners U2, Beyonce, Coldplay and Morrissey, with surprise sets delivered by Radiohead and Pulp causing attendees (and the Internet) much excitement.

Bird’s eye view of Glastonbury

I haven’t personally been able to go to Glastonbury in my life, mainly because it is held in England and the US dollar is little more than play money over there. Glastonbury is arguably bigger than Southern California’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, held every April in Indio, with more musical acts and more than 100,000 people in attendance each year, compared to Coachella’s 80,000 or so.
This year’s fest was marked by some pretty fierce rainstorms, causing the grounds to be completely mud-soaked for some of the weekend…not that a little bad weather deterred any of Glastonbury’s guests from having a good time.
The success of the Glastonbury Festival is unrivaled by any of its competitors, UK or elsewhere. The entire festival sold out of tickets in four hours, MONTHS before any of the artists were even announced. Goldenvoice, the company responsible for Coachella, capitalized on this by offering early bird ticket sales for 2012’s fest a few short weeks after this year’s installment concluded; naturally, die-hard fans snatched up tickets on faith alone, much like Glastonbury’s did back in October. That’s the true mark of a music festival that has legs: fans willing to pay hundreds of dollars without even having any idea who is playing. Pretty savvy business model, isn’t it?
And yet, despite the crowd-pleasing aspects of Glastonbury, one thing culled from photos and videos of various performances is curious at best: the insistence of people up close to the main stage on waving huge, seemingly 15-foot tall flags the ENTIRE night. The flag-waving is incessant, and must be quite an annoyance to any of the tens of thousands of people behind the folks up front trying to catch a glimpse of a headlining act.

I get that Glastonbury is a huge international event; people fly in from all over the globe for the festival every year. Why, then, must they mar the experiences of others with these gigantic flags? Sure, it’s fine to be proud of your country, but don’t you think it would be completely obnoxious to wade through the mud to watch U2 only to have a sea of nylon and other materials fluttering about in the breeze, blocking your view of the stage? Why do festival organizers allow people to bring in these eyesores?
I’m envious of anybody who is capable of getting to Glastonbury each year; the combination of a very eclectic lineup of musical acts with the lush English countryside atmosphere seems pretty irresistible. Yet, I know that if I someday am able to attend Glastonbury, I’d have a hard time having fun if I couldn’t see anything from any vantage point because of the flags. Consider this a nitpick from a bitter American jealous of all the fun you Brits have been having if you wish, but I just think it would be pretty annoying to have to deal with this at a festival as big and otherwise enjoyable as Glastonbury.