A fallow year leaves one great issue with Glastonbury – a complete memory lapse in terms of the size of the site, and the weight of my rucksack. Thursday begins, like it does for most other attendees, playing pack horse with enough gear to survive any form of weather. Of course, it’s the vast expanse of the site, with it’s rolling hills and disparate areas, which is also it’s charm – no where else do folkies hang out with pop lovers and dance fans, all feeling blessed to be one of the lucky few to bag themselves a ticket.
After donating tent pegs to a neighbour and creating camp for the extended weekend, it seems wise to take our inaugural steps further into the site. Though the festival doesn’t open the larger stages until Friday, there’s still plenty to see. A wander through the Park area brings us back face to face with the iconic ribbon tower and a trip via the Tipi Fields brings us to my favourite part of the site: the Green Fields.
A sneaky postcard home (this time an image of a more optimistic sunset over the Pyramid Stage, rather that a ‘danger deep mud’ one) and a welcome cup of tea bring simple reminders of the outside world. It’s almost like a last taste of reality, before I get swept along with the music, and the mayhem.
Musically it’s The Drystones who kick everything off in the Avalon cafe. A dynamic two piece, the Spiers and Boden influence is fairly pronounced, though a guitar takes the place of Spiers’ accordion. The Somerset is enough to get the crowds to their feet, and the tent becomes a hive of dancing. Not yet even 18, the duo are a forced to be reckoned with and their ability to deliver dynamic folk music acts as the marker of what’s to come.
Their follow up, Keston Cobblers’ Club, hit the mark and as the tables are pulled out to make way for even more of the crowd (which by this stage is spilling out of the tent into the sunshine) their ability to fuse folk into a more mainstream sound, à la Stornoway and Mumford & Sons becomes apparent. For me it’s current single Beam which stands out; a catchy number which captialises on the male/female harmonies and the creative instrumentation of the band.
After a brief break for food, our final trip of the day is to the interstage area for the official launch of the festival with Michael Eavis. Here we’re treated to sounds from the Emerging Talent Competition winners Bridie Jackson and the Arbour, who blend Laura Marling-esque lyrics with harmonies to rival The Staves. It quickly becomes apparent that they’re rightly a band to watch, but this is quickly overshadowed by Gaia’s Guardians.
Replacing the Green Police, whose whistle blowing naming and shaming antics many have us have come to love, the Shakti Sings Choir (who form part of the guardians) do exactly as they claim, and honour the earth through song. Still, whether this is enough to make others feel the same and prevent people pee-ing in the rivers and fields, is yet to be witnessed, but they certainly bring a smile to my face and fill the crowd with a sense of joy.
Thursday ends with an acoustic set from Stornoway which makes me realise it’s when they strip things back to a more simplistic level that I appreciate their sound the most. With the fitting We Are The Battery Human, The Bigger Picture and a nod to their home town of Oxford in Zorbing it’s a well placed taster of what to expect from their other sets over the course of the weekend. Nevertheless by this stage the rain continues to fall, and it seems wise to head back to the tent, ready for the festival to start it’s full assault on my sense in the morning.
Images copyright © Jo Cox. All rights reserved.