News & Insights 22 June 2007

The World’s Most Famous Festival

Friday 22 June, 7am (Car Park, Glastonbury Festival, Somerset):
I wake up, reluctantly, and squint at my immediate surroundings. I am feeling really quite wretched. We have had less than two hours sleep on the back of a 14-hour day in the studio and a 3-hour drive to Somerset. And when I say “sleep”, I am using that word in its loosest sense. Three grown men squeezed into the back of an estate car with a couple of tents and a sizeable collection of instruments is not the kind of environment that promotes blissful slumber. Believe me.

Imagine, if you will, that upon waking up in said environment, your next task is to trudge for 45 minutes through the rain with half your belongings strapped to your back and squeeze awkwardly through about 27 different turnstiles and checkpoints whilst trying to keep your hair looking nice for the gig you are playing at the world’s most famous festival in just a few hours. This experience turns out not be a great deal of fun.

Nevertheless, we are here to play a gig at the world’s most famous festival and whichever way you look at it, that is still pretty exciting. We are handed our Glastonbury programmes at the main entrance and scan through to find our mention – The Lightyears, Small World Stage, 12pm. Glancing through the pages, it becomes clear that we are pretty much the first band on, on the first day of scheduled music, on perhaps the smallest stage at the festival. However, we are still on the bill and that’s what counts. What’s more, this means that, in theory, we have played on the same bill as The Who, who are headlining on Sunday evening. If you wanted to be pernickety you would point out that there are approximately 476 bands in-between us and them, but pah! That is a mere technicality. The Lightyears and The Who. Best of chums. Except that they were probably choppered into the festival, whilst we arrived in an only semi-functioning Mitsubishi Space Wagon. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

Having pitched our tents, we rock up to the Small World Stage at about 11.30am to set up our gear. The place is pretty much deserted. The mythical “Pony”, who has been running this stage for years, is nowhere to be seen. A couple of sleeping bodies are strewn across the floor. Looks like they had a big one last night…

Gradually, come 11.45, people begin to filter in. I gather from the sound engineer that a significant crowd gathered yesterday at this time, when we were initially scheduled to play (we pushed it back a day so we could spend longer in the studio). “We’ve never had that many people come and ask us about an act before. Looks like you boys have got a lot of fans. You’d better be good!”. Yes, we had, I think. Problem is, I’m not convinced I can even form sentences yet today, let alone sing complex harmonies and leap around the stage.

I genuinely have never done this in preparation for a gig before – and so I’m not just saying it to impress you – but at this point I decide to see off a good 150ml or so of neat whisky. Whisky seemed like the most economical alcohol to bring on-site, as beer is heavy and doesn’t taste any good warm, and drinking spirits at this hour is, after all, a festival tradition. This gees me up quite a bit.

By midday, the tent is three-quarters full. Time to kick off. We start the set gently, with Fine, so as not to freak anyone out (we may have been up for five hours but I get the impression that it’s still breakfast time for everyone else). Gradually we rock things up a bit, playing Beat AliveDon’t Want You and Sleepless. By this point, the tent is packed, we are really beginning to enjoy ourselves and there’s a great atmosphere in the place. After high-energy acoustic versions of Emily and Banana Republic, we close the set with Girl On The Radio and leave the stage to enthusiastic applause. Calls for an encore lead to us dusting off The Last Night (from our 2005 album Mission Creep), which we haven’t played in at least a year. It’s written to be played at festivals, this song – 12/8 time signature, soaring harmonies, de-tuned acoustic guitar. Very chilled indeed. Nice.

Good job boys. Next stop – Bright Eyes, on the Other Stage. Best get the ciders in, eh?!

Chris Lightyear
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