Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Glastonbury memories - the Sugar Cube, Underworld, and not meeting Banco de Gaia

Here's my first Glastonbury memories post - The Cure, The Family Cat and Tom Jones.

The Sugar Cube

I remember when dance music first came to Glastonbury. I think it was before I'd really discovered dance music - although maybe I'd been to one of the first DIY raves in Nottingham by then - I'm not quite sure... anyway, before there was an official dance tent at Glasto there were a bunch of unofficial dance/rave things scattered throughout the camping areas, generally with a sound system set up by festival-goers from the back of a truck or van.

I was wandering back to my tent late one night when I stumbled upon one of these unofficial areas - and the organisers had really gone to town on it. I seem to recall a great big tent, decorated from top to bottom with glowing white sculptures, brightly (and glowingly) lit with black lights... and this crazy doof doof music incredibly loud filling up your soul... oh wow. Craaaazy! I hung around for a while but it was all a bit much for me back then. Was it called the Sugar Cube? Can anyone recall?

Underworld - 1998

My 9th and last Glastonbury was in 1998. My dad had just died, and I had to do the awful trek back across half a world from New Zealand to the UK to go to his funeral.

Seeing as I was in the UK for such a sad occasion I figured I'd do something fun while I was there - and the fun thing was Glastonbury with my favourite Glasto-buddies, Sandra and Sean (accompanied for the first time by their daughter Kerra, who was about 3 years old).

It was a very muddy Glasto, and it was pretty exhausting for all of us. Kerra needed to be carried a lot of the time, and it was too wet to sit down, so none of us saw quite the range of bands we usually aimed for.

One band I was absolutely determined to see was Underworld. I'd been idly thumbing through the programme soon after we arrived (I had no idea who was playing), thinking to myself "hmmm - who would I really really love to see at Glastonbury - yeah - Underworld!", turned the page - and there they were in the lineup! Kewl!

I think the others either went to bed early that night or went off to see someone else, because I experienced the wonder that is Underworld alone (albeit along with thousands of other people!) I made my way across the dark and muddy site and arrived with plenty of time to spare (I was an old Glasto hand - I knew how long it took to get across the site when it was muddy!)

I was very near the front - it was on one of the secondary stages (can't remember which one) - and while we were waiting for Underworld to come on stage the crowd was idly watching these three roadies setting up all their gear, testing the mikes and all the electronic stuff, doing all the things that roadies normally do.

After about half an hour of setup time the three "roadies" all turned around as one - and started playing! Eh? We'd been watching Underworld setting up their own gear for the past 30 minutes and no-one had realised...

My absolute all-time favourite Underworld track is, of course, Cowgirl, which I had first heard/seen on telly one day in NZ, accompanied by Tomato's ground-breaking video. I'd never seen (or heard) anything like it...

So Underworld are playing their set, doing their thing, and I'm thinking "Play Cowgirl! Please play Cowgirl!" and they move into a strange new song, which is incredibly sparse, and consists of more bits of silence than it does actual notes, and I'm thinking "this is cool - and strangely familiar..." and I suddenly realise that it's the intro to Cowgirl only with a whole bunch of notes taken out - and slowly everyone else realises it too, and as they add more and more of the melody into the spaces of silence we all go completely crazy and start leaping around in the mud, and I'm incredibly happy because it's the middle of the night, I'm up to my knees in mud in the middle of a field, and I'm watching Underworld doing Cowgirl...

Not meeting Banco de Gaia - 1998

In addition to catching Underworld, I was planning to catch up with Toby Marks, aka Banco de Gaia, somewhere behind the dance tent before his set on (I think) Saturday afternoon.

We'd "met" a year or so earlier, when I had almost booked him for Omnivore - one of my first dance parties in Wellington. Things had gone pear-shaped between me and my co-director a couple of weeks before the party (I fired him - he was a total nightmare) and I'd had to cancel Toby; so I was really excited about the possibility of meeting him for real, as well as seeing him play. Yaay!

It was quite a mission arranging to meet up with him. I still had his phone number from the Omnivore days, so getting hold of him was pretty easy, but the backstage pass for Glasto was something else... after much phoning of Glasto organisers I finally managed to swing the pass, which I had to pick up at the office once I was on-site. Got the pass, figured out where the backstage area for the dance tent was, wandered on over there at lunchtime on Saturday, planning to see if I could find Toby (no cell phone coverage in out-of-the-way places in those days so I had to just hope he'd be around) and then stick around to catch his set afterwards.

Except he wasn't there.

There was a bit of a drama going on in the dance tent that morning. The rain had got in in quite a major way the night before, so they decided to use the sewage truck to suck up the worst of the liquid mud before the first DJ of the day. Unfortunately someone pressed the "blow poo" button instead of the "suck poo (or mud)" button, and the floor of the dance tent rapidly filled with poos as well as liquid mud! Lovely!

Toby's set was cancelled (boo!) and he was nowhere to be found backstage, either.

I hung around for a while, feeling like a total dork. I had no idea who anyone was, so I randomly wandered about asking people if they had seen Toby/Banco de Gaia, but no-one seemed to know him. I found myself sitting with a bunch of people (DJs? Performers? Musicians? Famous people? Hangers-on? I have no idea) round a camp fire, hoping he'd show, and knowing in my heart he probably wouldn't. The guy sitting next to me pulled out a ziploc plastic bag filled with a white powder and started offering it round. I got freaked out and made a hasty exit.

I never did meet Banco de Gaia, and I never got to see him play, either. Wish I'd seen him in 1995, but there you go. You can't have everything. It was a great story about the poo, though...

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .


jellyhead4465 said...

You are the only person I have seen post a comment on the Sugar Cube, what a great Saturday morning I had in there....sublime. Must have been '93, what great year that was too.
I won't forget 98, poo rain, glad I wasn't in it, but it was funny to watch. Underworld played at the NME stage in copious amounts of mud but were fantastic, whats a bit of mud when you're having fun.
2007 was one of my favorites, Trash City knee deep in mud but what a laugh....Glastonbury is the Best!

webweaver said...

Hi jellyhead!

Wow cool - someone else remembers the Sugar Cube! Wish I'd been into dance music at the time - I know I'd have loved it as much as you obviously did - my time as a rave kid came a little later...

Yes yes - the NME stage for Underworld - of course! Someone massive was playing on the main stage at the same time - Robbie Williams or someone I think - but I was so very happy to be grooving on down to Underworld in the mud instead.

I agree with you - Glastonbury is/was the best - it was my annual pilgrimage for years and years when I lived in the UK. Great memories.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I remember the Sugar Cube, i think it was in 1991 - that was the first year i encountered rave culture at glastonbury. i remember it being at the end of a 'street' of stalls and it was a circular marquee. in my mind im pretty sure the sound system was mounted on a landrover, but that may have been the microdots........! yep ...had a fab night in there (well just outside actually, near the massage tables...).. didnt realise id been spiked till the sun came up and i was still dancing and grinning like a loon :)

Anonymous said...

I remember the Sugarcube tent. I remember the big top or netting they had, and the land rover with the sound system on it.

there were big wooden picnic tables outside, and people making massive soap bubbles and flapping them about with paper plates.

everyone was super-chilled and lovely. I think that the DJs were from DIY in Nottingham if I recall correctly. I remember 2 Bad Mice 'Bombscare' being a massive tune there, and at the other unofficial rave further up the hill.

fantastic time, I went back to the Sugarcube many times over that Glastonbury because I always knew it would be good vibes.

thanks for the memory of it - I was googling for it :)