Review: Glastonbury 2008

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glastoSun, rain, then sun and lots of music in between. Glastonbury 2008 was (eventually) a sell out - or so we were led to believe... It hadn't started quite as had been planned with tickets being almost given away through a variety of outlets - including in HMV stores. This was one Glastonbury festival where everyone who wanted to go, got a ticket. Was the reason for the sales slump the headline act? It certainly created a media furore when Jay-Z was unveiled as top of the billing and arguments reined both in the public domain and inside the music industry. If this was the hype that Michael Eavis was hoping would lead to record ticket sales, it backfired.

When Jay-Z finally stepped onto the Pyramid Stage late on Saturday night, it was to perform an hour-long solo set, this despite all the rumours of special guests, and to answer his critics - including one of the most vocal; Noel Gallagher - with a confident and crowd-pleasing show.

The Jigga Man entered stage left strumming a guitar and (sort of) singing along to Wonderwall after lengthy video footage on the big screens featuring world leaders and politicians apparently contributing to the debate with carefully edited film. It certainly won the crowd over, half of which seemed Jay-Z fans and half of which must've been there to find out what all the fuss was about. You could tell it wasn't the typical hip-hop audience when the ‘Jay-Z' chants spread out as opposed to the more common ‘Ho-va', usually heard at his live shows.

Minor details aside, it was a fitting finale to the Saturday night's entertainment at Glastonbury 2008 and one we certainly enjoyed getting some snaps of from the press pit.

Speaking of the press pit - we avoided the stampede at the backstage gates - those paparazzi take no prisoners and we were mere amateurs in comparison; failing to take some stepladders and a 3-metre camera lens. But inadequacies aside, backstage at Glastonbury is interesting to say the least...

I would say the main differences are better toilets (although by Sunday it was much of a muchness) and a larger percentage of people who are up their own arse and over-flowing with self-importance. Ok, so there was free cider in the press tent but the press tent vibe was pretty cold - like the cider.

We did give Jo Whiley a copy of Freeq and we pinned a badge on Lily Allen (who says she stuck it on her dinosaur) and quietly chuckled at Amy Winehouse walking back and forth past our seats in the Pyramid's dressing room area almost demanding attention from anyone who was bored enough to give it to her. But we did not follow the well-trodden path between the two main stages - the best gigs were all further afield and well away from the paparrazi snappers, who didn't move out of the Pyramid / Other Stage radius.

The best vibe was definitely down at the Park; so much more relaxed than other parts of the Festival. We also liked the Jazz World backstage bar area - decent music and more informal. The John Peel backstage bar also attracted a more chilled out character and we think some excellent shows. Between those two stages we saw Lupe Fiasco, Reverend and the Makers, British Sea Power, Lightspeed Champion and Jimmy Cliff. How can you possibly argue with that!?

The highlight really had to be meeting Kool Keith backstage at the Park - what a legend!

We did miss out on seeing most of the ‘big' (commercial) acts but then that's not really what we're about at Freeq magazine. It was quite amusing to watch the mad scramble from the press tent whenever a female celebrity would walk by or if there was a commercial act playing either of the big stages (the hospitality camping area is in between the Pyramid and Other stage). We'd check for when Duffy or KT Tunstall was on, knowing that we'd have the press tent to ourselves. Shortly after the first three songs have finished, you'd get a big rush with the photographers desperately trying to get their shots uploaded to their agencies the quickest. That'd be our cue to head on up to any of the smaller stages for a bit of space. What was bizarre was even though the Jazz World and John Peel stages had some pretty big acts on, there was always a distinct lack of photographers. It pretty much sums up why we're here - championing the underdog and ignoring the Winehouses of this world.