Image: The Temple: Billy Bunter
You can talk all you like about the big acts at Glastonbury, but to me the genius of the place is the utter farce that descends after hours, well away from the main stages.
As a man who has spent at least some of every summer since 2004 in Ibiza, I am obviously a bit biased towards surreal partying and DJ culture; but as my visit to Glasto's after-hours mayhem in Shangri La proved this weekend, you don't have to like the music or the scene that it references in order to get it. If you open your mind, it'll get blown.
There are many options for open-minded blowing; like the NYC Downlow area for example, which began by me being berated by a transvestite on a balcony above the queue for refusing their offer of "get your cock out and get free entry" (I was whipped with a dildo as a penalty).
It then ended with me tripping over a gimp in a cage on the dancefloor; while Seth Troxler was playing gay disco in the background. As much as that sounds like a living nightmare for a middle-aged straight man, it was a great use of a few hours, but mere child's play compared to the utter genius of what was just around the corner.
There, on the Common in Shangri La, laid The Temple. No need for inebriated trannies to carry this one off - just the absolute creme de la creme of design and production from curators Bearded Kitten.
Through the night it's DJs, through the day it's all kinds of stuff like paint and tomato fights, fire eating etc. but it doesn't matter a jot what's on in there - it's about the space.
It's a wooden amphitheatre built out of re-cycled railway sleepers, with the DJ booth up on high opposite an immense wooden Pharaoh; and down below there is what can only be described as a bear pit where the most hardcore of folk dance the night away.
I prefer to to be up in the gods jumping on the wood in order to get a full perspective of the place - I have genuinely never been more blown away by a club space anywhere in the world.
The Romans knew that you don't need a Funktion One sound system to make somewhere sound great - just build it in a circle and make it go up a bit, and hey presto, you've got an amazing sound space.
I can still remember vividly the first time I went to this space at the 2011 Glasto (back then it was called 'Campo Pequeno' and had the theme of a Spanish bullfighting ring - see above). I'd had no intention of going there beforehand but on my first night ended up befriending this hippy called Ziggy who recommended it.
Despite him showing great competence in recognising that one of the songs Carl Cox dropped in the East Dance tent sampled Echo And The Bunnymen's 'The Cutter', he had grated on me over the next few hours, with a series of poor recommendations and poor craic like "I can speak to dead people you know" - this was his last chance.
He could tell I was growing weary of his guided tour and said to me "right Mike - I'm off to bed now, but promise me that you'll go in there - you'll have never seen anything like it." I was dubious but as it was my first ever night at Glasto, I ran with it and queued up, and walked up a wooden outdoor staircase.
Just at the very moment I got to the top, these two massive flames shot up from the DJ booth which I could feel the heat from, the lights went into a total white out, and the crowd went absolutely berserk. It reminded me of a level on the legendary early 90s computer game, Lemmings (below) - it just didn't seem real.
I was on my own by this point, but felt I had to say something out loud, which was nothing more profound than "fuuuck me" as I lurched forward, jaw literally dropping. I thought people's jaws only dropped in films or in books, but I realised it can actually happen to the best of us.
I ended every night there at closing at 6am, seeing the likes of Justin Robertson DJing with a samba band freestyling over the top of it, and it was this place that I cited to all my friends as the reason why they should not go to Ibiza this year but instead spend their money on getting wet in a series of fields in Somerset. I was nervous of the fact that it had since changed (in 2013) to The Temple - would it still be as good?
Well basically, yes. In fact I had a better time this year, as if that were possible. Perhaps it was because I was now spreading the gospel, blowing someone else's head off like Ziggy had done to me, with that knowing look now on my face.
She was an old flame who had dutifully tolerated the highbrow electronica of Jon Hopkins with me just before... I was thinking about The Temple but wasn't going to push it... it was her turn... just walk towards Shangri La and see what happens...
"Shall we go to The Temple then Mike?"
There could have been no better suggestion - she always had that knack. But as much as I'd prattled on about this since 2011, I did wonder how well the broken-beat mashups of Krafty Kuts & A Skillz would go down with us at midnight, but I wasn't going to back down now - this place had better deliver or I was going to look like a knob.
Suffice to say it was unbelievable. I never thought I'd see the day that M.O.P. & Busta Rhymes - Ante Up (above) would define a music festival for me and my company, but when Krafty Kuts dropped that, three minutes after I'd randomly decided to shout it out in the breakdown for another song... well that was the moment.
I've probably spent more time listening to the tones of my electric toothbrush than I have listening to hip hop and dubstep, but that didn't stop me buying into it so much that I was able to predict the next song. Props to Kuts & Skills and also to Slipmatt, Billy Bunter, Ratpack and The Ragga Twins for some outstanding old skool; but the real plaudits should go to Bearded Kitten for creating a space and a concept that makes the music almost irrelevant.