Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Weds 2nd July: NYC Downlow, Block 9 at Glastonbury Festival

Arriving into Worthy Farm in the small hours of Saturday morning was like entering an Armageddon hellfire.  I felt like a figurine from a Chapman Brother's miniature Warhammer scene, shuffling thru the mud with my military backpack and holding my tent like a musket to fend off immobile anaesthetised revellers flailing in my path.  Fortunately I'm accustomed to a Glastonbury weather failure far more severe than this, so I could navigate the slurry and slurring spangled festival goers with humour.  I'm also familiar with the characteristics of the middle-class "craazy" characters who religiously attend the solstice blow-out as a pilgrimage into the land of legitimate debauchery and hedonism.  A place where professionals can take off their thinking-man's hat and put on a diabolical foam jester hat.  This year however I immediately noticed a shift in that classic fashion of novelty headwear in favour of a dousing of glitter - as if a playgroup has used your face as a canvas instead of a paper plate.  You? Yes you?!  You've got the daisy-chain wreath, like a crown of thorns for the Blackthorn-guzzling accessory de jour.  You've got the dilated pupil eyes that are leaving your skull on stilts from their sockets due to that slight over eager equation of   E + K = K O.   You've now also got eyelids heavy with metallic makeup that you've managed to rub into every crow's feet crease and laughter-line left over from the years before.  This glittering iridescent vision, freaking out on hallucinogens in a field is a disposition I need to flag up to pay props to the Habiscuses of the original hippy routes.  These are the very same floral forefathers to whom I'm specifically honouring in Somerset - far away from 1970's San Francisco Cockettes.
So here it is.  If you manage to make it past your pegged out plot, camped next to the Pyramid Stage; you'll possibly discover the after-hour heaven of "NYC Downlow".  It's this concealed pocket of the performing arts festival that I call home and the one I have to thank for my golden ticket in.  To explain in a nutshell for any novices to the nocturnal nightclub - its an epic scale set that authentically recreates NYC's disco-era Studio 54, run by sisters who really (we) are family.  The girls in question are the East London troop of *trannies who collectively get a coach across the country to set up "Camp Bitch".  If you regretted the extra burden of that unworn sequin butterfly bolero packed in your Mulberry bag, then consider this.  These girls have schemed and schlepped enough garms to turnover two to three looks for each of the four night stint AND an additional tribute for this year's  Dolly Parton posse.  (Potentially the inflatable breats could double-up as a travel pillow for those planning Geisha style makeup perseverance sleep, but that's on the presumption of getting any sleep which is an unknown quantity to these quiche queens).
I LOVE the fact that Michael Evis annually re-homes his herds of cattle to make way for a hot-mess of humans to takeover and celebrate all spectrums of subcultural and social scenes.  Whatever in the world tickles your fancy, floats your boat or flicks your switch - you can find it on a stage in this far flung farmland.  From candle-making to waxing-lyrical on a soap box or basket weaving to caning it with Bez - it's all here.  And the glorious gift from that generosity of non-judgemental encouragement is that there is also a thriving destination for divas desiring a dancefloor at Downlow.   Here is a dedicated space to embrace all sexual orientations and equally offer an opportunity for the curious to encounter what they might be missing out on (however if you do insist on standing mid-stage with your jeans round your ankles to expose your manhood for the duration of a Janet Jackson routine, you may well receive a jab in the ribs from Jonny Woo to jump off).
Without wishing to waffle on........ stuffing superlatives into every sentence......... I just want to say how vital and victorious the work of the Downlow is.  I want to applaud the girls for getting around in the mud in stilettos without a flinch.  I want everyone to experience seeing the labour-intensive stunning outfits, from Serving Fish (term for Female Realness) to Lobster looks (er, literally a crustacean costume complete with claws for clearance of afore mentioned stage invasions).  I count myself so lucky that I am surrounded by these sensations in a capital city of London's like-minded souls who magnetise together to create magic and cause mayhem to the mainstream.  Now, thanks to Michael Eavis and the legacy of his relaxed nature to nurture this cross-exchange of cultural communities, anyone from any alienated out-post can enjoy an introduction to the Electric Slide.    
So next yar(!) when you anoint your brow with blossom and sparkle, remember this.  The 1970's homosexual hippies who you are now re-appropriating without reference, are still shimmering and shaking their pom-pom tail feather to pushing forwards Global human rights.  When you're worried there's no Wifi at West Holts and the World's going to end because you can't check into Facebook to update your status that you've blagged backstage to use Lily Allen's luxury loos - take a hot second to sashay away up to Block 9 where the girls are putin' on the Ritz and poking fun at Putin with a BoneyM "Rasputin" rendition of Stravinsky's "Firebird" Ballet Russes.  It's genius.  Its essential.  Its ridiculous fun and it's rare to find in any other field in these fair isles, that's for sure!!     

*Trannies - I use this word with neutral intention.  If it is outdated or offensive in any way - I apologise - please correct me as I don't know of an alternative.

Top to bottom:  Babs from Legs & Coq, Carly, Dani, Luke Howard from HMD wearing Lee Benjamin, Diana Might as Dolly,  Annie Pics, Felippe as Dolly, A Man To Pet,  Jacqui Potatoe, Sizzle, Feral as Dolly, group routine w/ MC Gaffe,  Louie as Dolly)

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