Practically everything that can be said about Glastonbury selling out, going to the dogs, being slowly but inexorably gentrified or infiltrated by well-heeled hipsters in luxury tepees already has been. The Bemolution isn’t especially qualified to add anything, having never got round to going. This is despite being based within twenty minutes’ drive of Worthy Farm for over twenty years. If the wind’s blowing in the right direction and the crowds are particularly euphoric you can just about hear them from the Bemolutionary hill-fort.
What we do know is that our favourite music shop proprietor and all-round gentlebloke Adrian had been going for thirty years before reluctantly deciding he couldn’t afford it any more. That’s as much down to the slow strangulation of niche independent retailers as any sort of hard-heartedness from Michael Eavis, but the fact that Adrian didn’t seem especially fussed when the time came was more telling. It hadn’t been the same for a few years now, he said, having become a kind of earthy playground for upper-middle class students to slum in for a weekend. The idea that Glastonbury was somehow different to every other festival, rooted in a kind of hippified, alternative view of the world, is in stark decline. It’s becoming like any other festival, full of apolitical posh kids who eye the shrinking enclaves of hippy leftism with bemusement while they hang round the burger van until Mumford and Sons come on.
Adrian is hardly Che Guevara, despite looking quite similar, and for him to be expressing these kind of sentiments suggests something really must have gone wrong in Glastoland/right for the Eavis family bank account*.
But all this info is second-hand. The Bemolution’s only real insight into the Glastoverse comes from the BBC, which dutifully sends down a bus of ADHD sufferers every year to provide comprehensive coverage.
Still, having religiously watched said broadcasts for many years now, we do feel qualified to make a few observations. Over the last decade, the kind of music you can see at Glastonbury has widened considerably, or, to put it another way, shifted focus from the kind of alternative acts that were once its bread and butter to the kind of ultra-commercial corporate-backed artists who have come to dominate mainstream pop. For some, that’s been a great improvement. Others argue that this has heavily diluted what made Glastonbury unique, and that people who want to watch Beyonce could do so at a thousand other venues and dozens of other festivals around the world. You can probably guess which side of the fence we’re on.
The presence of mobile leather sofa offcuts the Rolling Stones presents the same dilemma in microcosm. Michael Eavis himself was delighted to finally book them, claiming he’d been chasing them for years. Is it a fitting match, Britain’s greatest music festival and one of Britain’s most successful bands? Or a symptom of a homogenising malaise?
The Bemolution’s always been of the opinion that the Stones are vastly overrated, nowhere near as visionary and creative as The Beatles, a band they’re undeservingly and all-too frequently placed alongside. In fact, their sound is closer to Elvis, albeit ten years after his approach was revolutionary. They’ve put out a handful of timelessly good singles, adorned with some ingenious riffs, but have mostly just made sickening amounts of money from ripping off Muddy Waters and, latterly, turned into their own wizened tribute act.
But there we go. Short of fastening ourselves to a passing wild goat, geeing it in the direction of Worthy Farm and personally confronting the nice cow-rearing hippy in charge, there’s very little we can do about it.
*joking aside, Eavis is a thoroughly kind, decent, generous human being, as evinced by the quiet but sizeable donations he ploughs into local state schools and other hugely worthwhile causes. He also recently made an eleventh hour intervention and saved The Bemolution’s local Oxfam shop from closure. If there’s something wrong with Glastonbury, it’ll be because there aren’t enough people like him, not because of him. The Bemolution met him once, but Nick Clegg was also there which somewhat soured the experience.