I found Glastonbury’s secret piano bar, and it wasn’t all that

Many have hunted for Michael Eavis' legendary underground piano bar, few have found it. NME's Mark Beaumont was one of the lucky (or not so lucky) ones.

When Michael Eavis describes it, it sounds like a magical underground cabaret wonderland, the sort of place Alice might chase the White Rabbit to if he was tuxedo’d up and waving a bottle of Courvoisier. A secret piano bar buried in a hillside, somewhere beyond the Glastonbury Green Fields, the place where Michael himself heads after the headliners for sophisticated respite from the raving stilt loons outside. Many have gone in search of this near mythical jazz-based Valhalla, few have found it. I was one such hardy adventurer and I lived to tell the tale. The tale being, it’s a bit meh.

Cranny delvers of Avalon, take heed: below is a guide to this mythical subterranean speakeasy and what to expect when you get there. Just don’t expect too much.

How to find the secret piano bar

Ask a wizened Glastonbury old-timer where to find the underground piano bar of legend and they’ll beckon you with a hash-encrusted finger and whisper in your ear “the stone dragon of the upper river guards the door”. Ask them what they mean and they’ll cackle, drop their pants and pass out in a large mound of nitrous oxide canisters.

The truth is, so few seekers of the piano bar actually find it because, in order to get there, you have to go through the Stone Circle field, and nobody gets through the Stone Circle field with their cognitive facilities intact. From the entrance to the field, coming up the main path from the Green Futures Field, look to your left – see the small exit from the field over there? Just outside the field by that exit you’ll find a stone dragon set into a stream, and two large holes bored into the hillside to your right. These are the entrance and exit to the piano bar – now all you have to do is get in.

 

 

How to gain entrance

As with most Glastonbury ‘secrets’, way too many people know about this place. So you’ll be able to spot it from half a mile away by the queue alone (it opens around 10pm-11pm), which becomes a one-in-one-out affair almost instantly. If you’re lucky, though, you can table-wrestle your way in. Yes, the jovial pirates manning the door will sometimes bring out a table and offer instant access to the bar to anyone that can start on top of it, clamber all the way underneath and back onto the top again without touching the ground. Fortifying rum shots provided.

 

 

What to expect inside

Forget the ‘piano bar’ bit and concentrate on the ‘underground’. The bar is essentially a ditch with a stage. And if you’re imagining candlelit tables served by cocktail waiters as you relax to the soothing ivory tinkles of a low-level La La Land, think again – banks of seats dug into the earth overlook a small stage on which shanty folk acts play unamplified, and pretty much inaudible over the chatter. Tree branches frame the ‘auditorium’ into a ramshackle tent and drinks are supplied through a slit in the wall from a menu that gets about as exotic as ‘bag of cans’ and the odd shot of Irish liqueur. Basically it’s a post-apocalyptic Jazz Café – a great place to shelter from a thunderstorm or go Eavis-spotting, sure, but not worth losing your place in the queue for NYC Downlow for.