I Went to Glastonbudget: Where Glastonbury Goes to Die
It's a festival in Leicester full of tribute bands.
All photos by Jake Lewis
I couldn’t get a Glastonbury ticket this year. I physically assaulted a laptop, thirteen Google Chrome tabs, a telephone, and a housemate - but the event sold out in minutes. It’s the biggest festival in the world but, clearly, it’s not big enough. It was time to find an alternative.
I didn’t want to attend one of the surrogate festivals. The line-up’s sound like sawdust and the entertainment subsists on boutique cup-cake stands, face-painting stalls, and other wacky tick-boxes - they’re basically circuses that worship mediocrity. I wanted a festival that encapsulated Glastonbury without leaning on arts-and-crafts; it needed a killer line-up, an amazing atmosphere, and a price worth every pound in my overdraft.
Glastonbudget - which is the “world’s best tribute festival ever” - fit the bill. It included Glastonbury in the name, the world budget is self-explanatory, and the line-up consisted of everyone from Oasis (Oasish) and Blur (Blurb) to The (Bootleg) Beatles and T Rex (T Rextasy). This meant that, unlike every other festival in the UK, the weekend would be jam-packed with the hits. No b-sides, no fifteen minute wanky guitar solos, and no new material. It sounded incredible.
I visited Glastonbudget in pursuit of two things: good music and a good time. The celebrity element had been eliminated. Would this mean every song would sound shit or would the brilliant songwriting shine through? Do tribute bands encapsulate the spirit of rock’n’roll better than their real-life counterparts? Could a festival called Glastonbudget be anything like Glastonbury, or would it just be a bald and bearded guy, his back-garden, and a couple of GCSE music students?
This is what happened:
Glastonbudget - like Glastonbury - takes place on a farm. It’s situated in Leicestershire but, to be honest, the only difference is that instead of cider, the location is famous for Stilton cheese (it was created here in 1730). The fields look the same. The roads are really long. The shops are miles away.
We arrived at 1pm. The site was big, it was covered in mud, my shoulders hurt from carrying my bags and, while queuing for a wristband, it pissed down with rain. “Great”, I said to myself. I’m really getting an authentic Glastonbury experience. I can’t wait to spend the next 48 hours here without heating and washing amenities.
Before we could watch any bands, a tent had to be erected. I found a nice spot, the rain had subsided, and it was as though the heavens had aligned; until I started to put the bloody thing up. It appeared half of the tent pegs had been left in 2013, presumably cemented into the earth, and we were running short. I put all the poles in the wrong way round and spent fifteen minutes clipping in the baby-tent before I discovered it was inside out.
Eventually - we got it sorted. I had a quick celebratory beer, cursed myself for not bringing a pair of wellies, and headed into the arena.
The Fillers, presumably named because every Killers album since Hot Fuss has been full of them, were quite good. I closed my eyes and it felt like I was back at V Festival in 2007, 2009, 2012 and, by some weird nature of time travel, 2014.
I felt all the same emotions that I’ve felt while watching Brandon Flowers in the past. “Smile Like You Mean It” made me sad that my sixth-form girlfriend is in a long-term relationship with a wet-look hair-gel chump and “Mr Brightside” made me feel like I could accomplish anything. I didn’t understand who this guy was though - maybe the original Fillers guitarist had called in sick and the only substitute guitarist available was a member of a Biffy Clyro tribute band.
I had a couple of minutes to kill after the Fillers and went for a walk. I discovered that lots of people at Glastonbudget had decided to dress-up. Over the course of the weekend I saw members of the Rolling Stones, Walter White, a bunch of dickheads dressed up as women, a camel, and this guy who had decided to channel Axl Rose. Unfortunately I left my fun-monitor at home and it was unclear if the people in dress-up had more or less fun than anyone else.
I entered a tent and found Led Zeppelin playing to about ten people. “Have you got your mosh pants on?”, this guy said to me. “Yes”, I replied. And then we both stuck our hands in the air. I stayed in this tent for a little while, hiding from the rain, but mostly trying to sneak beers out of my bag and pour them into plastic cups. Fuck capitalism.
I waited inside, sipping beers, and a band took to the stage. Say what you want about Metallica headlining Glastonbury - I watched Metallica Reloaded in a tent in Leicestershire and it was fucking incredible. The band slayed the guitar; they were palpable adverts for spending every break-time in the music room instead of kicking people in the playground. You know what they say - practice makes perfect and if you practice enough, one day you'll tour the Midlands in a cover-band.
I had a BIB (breather in-between bands) and wanted to find the Glastonbury side of Glastonbudget. I hoped to find a member of the Green Police, a bowen massage for my wounded shoulder, or a druid banging a drum, but the only interesting thing on site was a deformed human impaled on a fence.
I sat on the grass for a while and collected my thoughts. “Okay”, I said to myself. “I don’t think I will find anything remotely like Glastonbury here. However - Oasish will be on in half an hour and it will be fucking amazing”. I drank about five beers and took my shirt off.
I hadn’t lied to myself; Oasish were fucking amazing. They looked the part and they acted the part, too. “Let’s fookin’ ‘ave it Glastonbudget”, Liam said. “You ready for some other bands, Bootleg Beatles yeah? Nah, not as good as us”.
Liam stuck his fingers up at the crowd and everyone cheered. He had an argument with Noel, stormed off stage, and left the older Gallagher brother to play “Half the World Away” by himself. It felt real.
I saw this as a golden opportunity. I’ll never get to meet Liam Gallagher and, based on everything else in my life, I’m totally down for second best. So I headed backstage to get a photo with a guy that looks like Liam Gallagher, kind of, if you squint.
“Can I have a photo”, I asked. “You’ll have to hurry up mate, I’m back on stage in a second”, he replied. It was even better than I imagined.
Everyone had a great time. It didn’t matter that we were watching a bunch of men pretending to be Oasis - they looked like Oasis, they sounded like Oasis and, once you’re over the fact they’re not really Oasis, it’s exactly like watching Oasis.
It must have had a lasting impression because this guy decided to victory-slide across the mud as though he was describing the dog’s bollocks using his limbs. You go Glen Coco!
I’d sung “Morning Glory”, “Rock’n’Roll Star”, and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and I was on a buzz. “This is better than any festival I’ve ever been to”, I said, while conversing with Darth Vader and his Stromtrooper friends. They nodded their heads in agreement. It’s common knowledge that both Sith Lords and rock’n’roll are evil and I asked if any incredible, but slightly off-the-wall, Glastonbury-type bands were playing. Apparently a Star Wars themed-group were about to start in a small tent across the field and I walked over in anticipation.
The band were called White Men Can’t Funk and they walked on to a dubstep remix of the Star Wars soundtrack. It all went downhill from here, really. They started playing “Let’s Get Retarded”, but the more commonly known politically correct version, because everyone except will.i.am knows “Let’s Get Retarded” is a dumb name for a song.
The Star Wars band bummed me out. The tribute side of the festival was great but, other than mud, I had yet to find something that felt like Glastonbury. I sat on top of a bus and ate a burrito, feeling concerned because my insides were starting to feel a bit funny. Queen, and then Abba, both took to the main stage. I could describe them but if you've ever watched a family member sing “Super Trooper” or “Don’t Stop Me Now” at a wedding then you’ll know exactly what it sounded like.
I finished up my dinner and hit up the main stage. It was time for the headliner - The Bootleg Beatles. This was incredible because (A) the Beatles are incredible and (B) the Bootleg Beatles were incredible at impersonating the Beatles.
Look at the way they’re singing! It’s exactly like watching that YouTube video of Paul and George, except it’s in technicolour, and it’s real!
They even brought out the Sgt Peppers costumes and played a bunch of the band’s later material. The Beatles, unfortunately, never toured Sgt Peppers and it felt like I’d been transported to an alternate reality.
It had been a great day. Every tribute band - aside from White Men Can’t Funk - put on a show that, when I got over myself, was exactly like watching any of the real-life counterparts. I’d ticked my first box - hearing good music. But I still hadn’t ticked the second. I stumbled around the field for a while but the only evening-entertainment was this weird looking booth. I sat in it for a moment, wondering what to do with myself and then retreated back to the tent to roll up, hot-dog style, inside my duvet.
I woke up bright and early the next day and went to find breakfast. Bombay Barbeque Club is a name that deserves to be highlighted on the internet and we took a photo. Well done guys, I didn’t eat any of your food, but well done.
The first band on the bill were The Real Nirvana and the main-stage was relatively empty. Did people not realise they were about to watch the real-version of the greatest grunge band of all time? I can’t believe that anyone went too hard on the beer to wake up for midday because everyone at the festival was in bed by 1am. Or maybe they were wise to the game - Kurt Cobain’s English accent kept breaking through and the guy who played Krist Novoselic ruined it for everyone. Although, when you think about it, maybe the latter was part of the act.
We watched The Doors tribute after this. I would write about it but they didn’t look anything like the Doors. Jim Morrison died at 27, not 50, and mostly I thought about life and if my lift home would show up.
Next up were Green Date. “You’re at fucking Glastonbudget! Put your fucking hands in the air! Go fucking crazy, it’s only a fucking bit of fucking mud!”, shouted Billie Joe Armstrong before bursting into a call-back of “Hey, Oh”. Sure, he doesn’t look anything like Billie Joe Armstrong but his impression was spot-on and you can’t be mad at genetics.
You can tell Green Date were legit - they brought out a member of the crowd to participate in the fun, which is exactly what Green Day do at every single show when Billie Joe Armstrong gets bored of cussing. If you look closely, you can even spot the nondescript touring guitarist that never makes it into any Green Day video, but helps back them up at every single concert.
Our lift called shortly after Green Date finished - he had stopped at a service station for a shit and a Burger King and would be with us in an hour. It was time for the last tribute band of the weekend - Blurb.
The majority of bands that played at Glastonbudget were on-point. Green Date, Oasish, the Fillers, the Bootleg Beatles; they all looked and sounded like the band that they were imitating. Blurb, however, almost ruined the festival for me. Here’s the members of the band in order of importance.
And Alex James, who looked like he should be in Funeral for a Friend.
Blur, unlike Oasis, were a band that looked like normal people. You could find someone like Graham Coxon in the local library, someone like Damon Albarn on a South West Train service, and someone like Alex James in a cocktail bar, and it’s why they’re difficult to imitate. It’s like attending a fancy dress party and, instead of dressing as Marilyn Manson, you dress as your best friend. You look like yourself but you’re wearing someone else’s clothes.
This isn’t the only thing that left me disappointed. The bass sounded like Blur, the drums sounded like Blur, and the weird things that Graham Coxon does to his guitar sounded like Blur. But the vocals - they didn’t sound like Blur. This made me sad.
This guy had a fucking great time though!
No middle ground exists at Glastonbudget. The audience consists of adults - people that have cars, pay mortgages, and shop in B&Q - and teenagers, sort of like Glastonbury but without the students and Australians. For the old people, it's a chance to listen to the bands the children have banned from the car stereo, get drunk, and take their shirts off. For the teenagers - the kids sliding in the mud - it's an affordable festival where every band is a household name.
I'd come to Glastonbudget hoping to have an authentic Glastonbury experience. It was nothing like Glastonbury - nothing in the world is. But I did have an experience. A lot of the budget festivals in the UK have been drained; unless you spend money on drugs, booze, or fairy cakes, they're not fun. But Glastonbudget is different. If you're able to get over the tribute aspect and appreciate good music for being good music, the festival beats most others for entertainment.
Let's be serious - what other festival has booked the Beatles, the Doors, Green Day, Oasis, Blur, Abba, Queen, and The Killers?