Respect for old masters at Glastonbury | Peter Beech

Anyone who says this Glastonbury lineup is for geriatrics doesn't know their yoof culture

Mallets at the ready. Like a family of moles, the Eavises have popped up again holding a crumpled sheet of paper with a few names scribbled on it. They cringe as you snatch it from their shaking paws, muttering about the overconfident forecast for June. Before you even look at the page, you know three things: (1) There'll be no black headline acts this time, (2) There'll be a few re-formed bands in prominent slots, and (3) the whole thing will seem a bit poppier than last year, a bit less cutting-edge, and a bit less worth eating, sleeping and shitting in a field for.

Ignore this last concern: it's simply your in-built sense of disappointment warping everything you see and hear. Instead, bend down towards the Eavises and clamp your finger on the bit that reads, in their silly, moley handwriting, "Top of the bill: N Young – B Springsteen – Blur". Rub the mallet head meditatively back and forth along your jawbone. Hear them stammer, their tiny mole eyes wide with fright: "We have to follow our gut instinct."

It takes balls to backtrack this blatantly – but then, needs probably must. In 2008, the Eavises set their hearts on luring back the "Radio 1 and NME" crowd following a few years of baddish press, of cooler, smaller festivals flicking the Vs, and of Hunter-wearing, fashiony cretins clogging up Lost Vagueness. They booked (er ...) Jay-Z – and very nearly didn't lure anyone at all. Ticket sales were progressing so badly that Eavis offered them in HMV stores to prevent 2008 becoming the first festival in 15 years not to sell out. Whether this was down to the chances of rain or to the mismatch between bling and beardy culture is still in debate.

For 2009, "bums on seats" apparently trumps "change things up". This lineup represents Glastonbury flexing its muscles. The Eavises know that theirs is the only British festival with the power to deliver Young and Springsteen on consecutive nights; they also know which demographics are likely to still have credit in the days of the crunch. To put on another yoof-oriented festival would be risky, as would any further attempts to get widdit by ditching the guitars.

On the other hand – and I genuinely can't work this out – it might be just another part of the plan to make Glastonbury cool again. Time Magazine didn't just name Michael Eavis in their 100 most influential people on the planet list for nothing. He knows that he has on his hands one of the most trivia-savvy, past-sampling, post-everything generations of young fans in pop music history. These are the kids that turned out in force for Brian Wilson, the Who and Paul McCartney. They grew up listening to west coast acts like the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash. They staggered red-eyed around their bedrooms to Forever Changes, just like you did; they worship Woodstock and Hendrix, 60s idealism, fashion, iconography and chord structures. They come to Glastonbury for a taste – however diluted – of the politicised musical subculture that began all those years ago, and in which they are still heavily invested. It is a taste that only Glastonbury can provide.

Anyone, then, who says this is a lineup for fortysomethings – and some are saying that – doesn't know enough about the listening habits of the young. I'll be working as a steward at the festival next month, but if I get allocated shifts on the Friday or Saturday night I'm going to forfeit my deposit and disappear into the festival mud like a naughty mermaid. I saw Neil Young twice last year and the grouchy old bastard was in glorious, crowd-pleasing form – teasing out a 12-minute version of Down by the River after a sit-down acoustic set which included Sad Movies, Ambulance Blues and Stringman. Springsteen and the E Street Band, featuring the redoubtable Nils Lofgren, are one of the few acts in the world that can wow 100,000 people without batting a bumcheek. And I will literally kill people who stand between me and the possible reunions of Crosby with McGuinn and Y with CS&N.

And when I come to, bathed in blood, I'm sure I'll see loads of young bodies slumped amid the older ones: it was the same last year for Joan Baez; it was the same for Leonard Cohen. Music is one sphere in which the young people of this country don't need to be told to respect their elders. I'm sure that Michael and Emily Eavis have clocked this, ahead of the music press.


Peter Beech

The GuardianTramp

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