This is the story of the first time we ever played a British music festival; Glastonbury. It's also an excellent example of the survival modes that help us get through the "anything can happen" possibilities of travelling. On the off chance that anyone could possibly get into trouble from this story, let's just say that maybe I'm making the whole thing up. Or that some of the names have possibly been changed as well, etc.
Ok, so it's the summer of 2010. We're in Chicago, and it's time to head to Glastonbury. The frontman of my band, Chiddy, loses his passport and finds it literally the day before we have to leave. Chiddy and I are 19 years old at the time and we bring along our dear friend, Sascha, who has never been to the UK before. Our UK tour manager, let's just call him Lord Swaggington, picks us up from the airport. Overwhelmed by jetlag, we nap on the drive to Glastonbury. Our plan is to play our set in the afternoon, see some other performances, and then head back to London in the evening. We had a studio booked for that night and for the rest of the week, hoping to get some more songs finished.
We play the show in a hot tent to about 4,000 insane drunk kids, then wander for a bit and meet back at the van in the evening as planned. We arrive to find Lord Swaggington upset. "Guys," he stammers, "we can't leave! This festival is what I wait all year for. Chaps, leaving now would be an injustice." We explain that although we would love to stay and enjoy more of the festival, we don't really have any lodging arranged, we have studio time booked in London, and we should probably get going. At this point, Lord Swaggington lists the various substances he has imbibed and explains it would be a mistake for him to drive the van. Then, said substances compel him to strip down to his shorts, hop on a bicycle (that he brought? we don't know) and pedal away, a gleeful cackle trailing behind him into the night air.
At this point, there was a definite feeling of "oh-lord-we-are-so-fucked", as we began to size up our surroundings and explore the premises. We contemplated trying to get the keys from Lord Swaggington and driving the van ourselves, but with no phone, GPS, or even a vague knowledge of London's location in relation to the festival - not to mention any experience driving on the opposite side of the road - we quickly came to our senses.
Luckily we ran into a bunch of lovely people from our record label who were staying in a secluded circle of Teepees. And even more luckily, they had a spare! Hallelujah! We put our stuff in the Teepee, and I set out to explore the grounds further and forage for food as Chiddy laid down to rest. It wasn't long before I ran into Lord Swaggington in a mini-village he had set up with a small group of friends consisting of a beautiful South African lady and a meditating man covered in body paint and chocolate dust. The man was very kind and gave me plenty of (really good) raw chocolate, water, and honey. That plus whatever we could steal from the artist catering tent was our sustenance for three days. We learned three very important festival lessons:
1.) Drink lots of water and eat lots of raw, dark chocolate to keep your energy up.
2.) Say yes to everything
3.) It's best to sleep only during the hottest part of the day (9 AM to 3 pm), and is only bearable outside of the teepee on the grass, where the temperature is cooler.
At night we would wander around, seeing bands and exploring the vibrant mini-cities that would spring up throughout the festival grounds, taking in sets from everyone from The Dirty Projectors to Toots & The Maytals, plus a giant robot spider that spewed fire into the night sky without warning. Back at home base, the good folks at the label would set up a bonfire every night around 3 or 4am. They would talk and play guitar while various people wandered in and out of the Teepees. I later learned that these people included Lily Allen and also members of The Clash.
After three3 (or was it four?) days, we finally cornered Lord Swaggington and forced him to chill. the. fuck. out. in the Teepee until he was okay to drive. "This is an injustice!" he cried. "You're taking me away from my people!". We had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but it was time to get some work done. We fell asleep in the van, stopping only once for a bathroom break. I stepped out of the van, only to find myself in front of Stonehenge, under the full moon. It seemed like the perfect end to our bizarre journey, and for a kid who six months prior was unsigned playing shows in Philadelphia basements, a million miles from British festivals, robot spiders and chocolate shamans, it really hit home as I realised how far we'd come.
Epilogue: We never did make it to London. Lord Swaggington decided we should record at his friend's house in the countryside instead. Ah well.