For the first time since 1990 I decided not to go to Glastonbury this year. It was a purely practical decision: the drug intake needed to get you through those three days is so vast that it wipes you out for the rest of summer and, for a change, I thought it would be interesting to see what July, August and September are like unmediated by insomnia, lethargy, paranoia, depression and the continual urge to dance to anything with a repetitive beat.
Watching it all on TV instead, it struck me that the BBC’s fantastically thorough coverage of Glastonbury is one of the wonders of the modern world. I won’t say it’s almost better than being there — that would be silly. But it is nice, instead of constantly worrying as you do when you’re there that the real highlight of the festival is taking place on whatever stage you’re not at, to check out every big act like some jaded emperor simply by flicking from BBC2 to BBC3 to BBC4.
Since the death of John Peel, the job of the BBC’s chief Glasto anchorperson has gone to Jo Whiley, and two things really impress me about her. First, her costume changes: she always looks clean and fresh and ready for a night’s larging (spangly tops; cowboy hats; that sort of thing). Second, what we in the TV trade call ‘synch’ — i.e., the stuff that comes out of her mouth. It’s not quite A.J.P. Taylor talking about world civilisation. But it’s relaxed, uplifting, fluent and reasonably lucid — which for anyone operating under Glastonbury conditions is pretty damned remarkable.
Phill Jupitus has this gift, too. Less so Mark Radcliffe, whose critical faculties appeared to have been bludgeoned by the Glasto vibe.