Glastonbury Triumphs Over Rain, Mud

Published by Billboard

The heavens opened on the eve of England’s Glastonbury Festival 2005 but the gods of rock still came to play. More than 150,000 people gathered at the annual three-day event last weekend, which will be remembered equally for its quality lineup of performers and a spectacular act of nature.

More than 400 tents were submerged when a lightning storm drenched the Worthy Farm site in Somerset during the early hours of the opening day’s program. Emergency services pumped about 3 million liters of water out of one of the worst-hit fields. The scene was that of a wipeout: portable toilets were overturned and rubbish floated past the deserted, mud-covered tents. Some upbeat visitors bypassed the water obstacle with canoes. Others swam.

The music program also took a hit. Lightning strikes took out power lines and disrupted some stages on Friday, leading to the cancellation of some acts booked early in the day. The BBC had to abandon its regular live Radio 1 broadcast after a river close to the broadcaster’s compound broke its banks. The Dance Lounge tent split in two.

Over the course of the event, all thoroughfares and the areas in front of the most popular stages had become swamps of mud.

Despite the flooding being “a bit of a nightmare,” festival organizer and founder Michael Eavis quipped that too much sun “makes people lethargic and rain stimulates the character.” He added, “people have enjoyed themselves this year more than they ever have.” Drainage solutions will be on his “to do” list for the next event.

Bob Geldof used the platform of the Pyramid Stage on Saturday to rally support for the following week’s Live 8 campaign. “Now is the final leg of the long walk to justice. Glastonbury begins that last push,” he said. The Live Aid founder and former Boomtown Rats frontman conceived the July 2 string of international concerts as a means to sway world leaders to prioritize African poverty. World leaders will meet in Scotland July 6-8 for the G8 summit.

Highlights of the Glastonbury music program included sets by Brian Wilson, White Stripes, the Killers, Kasabian and Coldplay.

Gestures of goodwill towards the absent Kylie Minogue were commonplace. Closing act Basement Jaxx covered the Australian singer’s hit “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” as did Coldplay the previous night. Basement Jaxx was elevated to fill Minogue’s slot when she pulled out after being diagnosed with breast cancer. One festivalgoer held high a cardboard cut-out of the pop star throughout the festival.

Eavis has already announced that the festival will skip 2006 to allow the grounds time to recover from the event.