I only saw one band at Glastonbury this year, but this was enough to make the trip worthwhile. No I’m not talking about the Glastonbury Festival, I’m talking about the band who, unannounced and unplanned set up their kit to play to the small gathering assembled at Glastonbury town centre.
I had travelled up on the Sunday, on what forecasters had said would be the hottest day of the year, just in case there was any chance of somehow getting in to the festival proper. I’ve been to the festival four times, and only ever paid once, but then again I hadn’t been since 1999, and things have changed considerably since then. That last time, we’d turned up late on Saturday evening, and just basically walked in where part of the fence had been knocked down, not more than 100 yards from some stewards, who did not bat an eyelid. That year, I saw a fantastic Skunk Anansie close the festival.
Prior to 2000, you could guarantee that surrounding the site would be a host of people, mostly hippy types, who by some means or another, for minimal cost, would aid you in getting in. It was part of the whole experience, and once inside, the number of people who had not paid must have easily matched those who had. Now, the only people walking about were family types. Security guard every inch of the surrounding area – God alone knows what the cost of keeping out the unwanted must be.
As well as wanting to get into the festival, I also chanced my arm at selling the magazine I used to run, Square. I sold one to a group of festival go-ers, but also asked a few bored security as I passed them, in case they wanted something to read. One of these must have felt it their duty to inform their superiors. I could not believe it when I was later stopped by a van of security – these guys in blue suits, not fluorescent jackets, so possibly the uber-security – asking what I was selling. Over a poetry magazine for God’s sake! And aside from that, I think it is actually legal to sell magazines without a vending license so they had no right to stop me anyway!!
Well, I had just about given up hope of getting in, and also given up on society in general, when I bumped into 4 lads who looked up for a bit of anarchy. I asked if they were trying to get in too, and they said in fact they were a band, looking to set up and play somewhere. Although before that, they were wondering about knocking on the door of a house that had “Eavis” written on its postbox! They wondered if this was in fact Michael Eavis’ house. Of course, there were security next to it. We asked a couple of questions, and were sent on our way.
The guys – a band called Top Buzzer it turned out – offered to give me a lift back to where I’d parked (still a couple of miles on, so I was very thankful for that). We then set out to find a place for the band to set up. I suggested Glastonbury town centre, where I told them it was likely a few ticketless travellers would probably be camping out.
We got to the town. First things first, it was liquid refreshment in the form of cider. I got on well with these guys from the start. They gave the distinct impression that they were completely into what they were doing. They were clearly a fun-seeking rock’n’roll band in the purest sense, and anyone was welcome to join the ride – as long as they could keep up! Top Buzzer are a 3 piece, with singer/bassist Andy from London – dressed in purple skin-tight jeans, spangly purple DM’s, a Madness t-shirt and with a mop of bleached blonde hair, he looked every bit the punk rock star – plus Welshy and Becksi from Jersey, a place where magic mushrooms grow in abundance, apparently! It turns out they’re actually a band of some pedigree, having once supported Primal Scream. They’ve also toured America, including playing at the SXSW Festival.
So after a drink and a chat, it was down to the more serious business of doing a gig. Along with their friend/roadie/promoter, James, I helped the band set up. It was all in place, the small assembled crowd were looking on with interest, it was just a case of starting up the generator, and off we went….except then disaster struck as the generator packed in after about a minute! A frantic 20 minutes or so was spent trying to get it to work. It could have been a bit embarrassing, but thankfully the onlookers were patient, and eventually it kicked into action, and then so did the band!
Andy announced they’d play 3 songs, but these went down so well – this included two of their own, plus their manic cover of M’s “Pop Muzik” – that they did first “one more”, and then “ok, one more” before forgetting about announcing how many more they would do and doing something like a half hour set. It was mostly Buzzcocks-style punk, all at a frantic pace, with pop undertones. My favourite song of the band’s was probably “Deeply Shallow”. When they played another cover, “Daytripper”, it coincided with a busload of, well, daytrippers, arriving at the town!
Despite it being quickly assembled, the mix was great, and the whole thing really went down well with the privileged few that saw this event. This included all the travellers, young and old, surrounding the square, plus locals and others drinking outside in the sunshine in the nearby pubs. A few people had a dance, one old guy did a collection in a hat and raised easily enough for the band’s petrol money home. We were told afterwards that even a relative of Mick Jagger’s had been there!
Well, Andy broke a string, but they were about to bring things to a close anyway, As James said, it had been truly a guerrilla gig, and as if to emphasise this, the police showed up just as they were packing away their gear! All this still wasn’t enough for the band, as they decided they would still try and find another pub to play at, and with nothing better to do, I continued to follow them! Finally, we decided to call it a night though, and that was our collective Glastonbury experience over.
Maybe their gig was more in the “true spirit” of Glastonbury, although what exactly that means, who knows? It’s like talking about the “true spirit” of Christmas, but if you’re talking about spontaneity and a spiky zest for life, Top Buzzer have it in abundance. Headliners on The John Peel stage in 2013? Or maybe just another town square appearance! Their album “Outside is a world” is out today.
This review first appeared on Godisinthetvzine