You think you know all there is to know about mud but you don't, not until you go to a UK music festival do you really learn about mud. For instance, when the mud is like chocolate mousse and 12 inches deep you would imagine it would take weeks for it to dry out but no, miraculously, astonishingly, within 12 hours the chocolate mousse has become a firmly iced chocolate brownie.
How can this be? Well, apparently - and I got this from one of the 3,000 local people who work on the Glastonbury festival every year, so he should know - it is the army of around 150,000 festival attendees staggering over the chocolate mousse that forces all the water out of it and in no time at all it becomes firm and easy to walk on. That is, provided it stops raining, and it did, thank god. It looked pretty bleak on the Friday afternoon when the heavens opened; the good lord put on a light show unrivalled by any of the bands on the Pyramid stage and as a result, shut down the entire power supply to the festival site. We were sheltering in the Acoustic Tent at the time hoping to see our old Port Isaac favourites, The Fishermans Friends. Needless to say, they had to leave the stage and instead took to the audience and treated those in the close vicinity to an a cappella set of their sea shanties. Another sublime moment in what was a truly wonderful three days of live (well almost, Dolly?) music. Shame that the Fishermans Friends declined our repeated requests to sing 'Bound For South Australia' but never mind, when they finished their set, those of us who had been shouting for it just sang it ourselves, probably not as good as the FF's but a spirited effort nonetheless.
The first thing to say about Glastonbury for those that have never been is that it is truly huge. 1,200 acres huge, with eight and a half miles of perimeter fencing. It makes the Reading festival, Sonisphere and Download feel like a gig in someone's back garden. We walked around for 13 hours on each of the three days and still there were areas that we just didn't get to. I suppose that is one of the most frustrating things about the festival, all the bands that you miss. It was a recurring theme, bumping into friends and people you have never met before who can't wait to tell you how brilliant so-and-so was on the stage that you didn't get to because you were busily fighting your way to a different stage to see the act that you thought would be the best of the bunch. For instance, on the Saturday night Metallica clashed with Pixies, Jake Bugg, John Grant, Bryan Ferry, Dexys Midnight Runners, MGMT and Mogwai. Now, granted, maybe not all those bands float your boat but it really rankles that you can't get to see them all.
So to Dolly. I had the great privilege to see Dolly at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 2007 as part of a tribute to her one time collaborator, the late Porter Wagoner and that was a truly wonderful evening of live music. I'm pretty sure that if Dolly had tried to deliver a performance with the addition of 'enhanced' vocals at the Opry there would have been a riot, she didn't need to, her voice was wonderful and her performance was pure Nashville rather than Vegas. So why do the Vegas thing at Glastonbury? I know I'm in the minority because critics and music fans have been lining up to heap praise on her Glasto performance but for me it was a disappointment. I don't want to see Dolly pretending to play the banjo, fiddle, autoharp and what looked alarmingly like a toy saxophone, I just wanted her to sing those great songs that she wrote. To be fair, we got some of that as well - was she miming? I'm still not sure but there were definitely times when I could hear her voice but her lips weren't moving - but by then I had a nasty taste in my mouth and so I sloped off to watch the Horrors.
The best thing about the festival is the atmosphere. Everybody, the people who work there, the campers and the security are incredibly friendly and there is none of that slightly lairy feeling that often pervades at festivals when the darkness descends and the young shavers have had a few too many Tuborgs. Out of the bands that I did see, the standout performances were from The Manics, Fat White Family, Jurassic 5, Haim, George Ezra and Royal Blood. All of those mentioned played fantastic live sets and, let's face it, it doesn't matter how many CD's, downloads or streaming accounts you have, you still can't beat live.
At this point I'd like to send a special message to Nick Starr at the National Theatre: Nick, you'd be amazed by just how many music fans were enjoying the live music even thought they couldn't see the band, yes, really, they couldn't see the band and yet they were loving the live music. Think on Mr Starr. Save the War Horse Band.
If you haven't done it yet then give Glastonbury a go, it really is a wonderful experience that reminds us all of the power and beauty of live music. So, if you don't mind the sense of regret about the bands that you missed and the all pervading smell of ganja and urine then you'll have a great time.