“When you’re dressed as Hulk Hogan you can do anything – mud-wrestle (obviously); punt a giant apple around a lake; jump on stage with Jarvis Cocker halfway through every other song he plays; swap clothes with a hardcore Baltimore band while they yell in your face. Right now though, 10,000 secret gardeners are thinking the same of being disguised as fried eggs, Run DMC, cats, chimps, wizards and massive bell-ends (literally). This is an enchanted world of adolescent adventure; a bubble-blowing place of wildest abandonment; where nothing is improbable and even less is frowned upon: Alice’s Wonderland without the bad drugs. In fact, so giddy is this year’s Secret Garden Party that its third-rate, folk-heavy lineup somehow only heightens the experience – three days of unmissable bands, after all, is why so many of us never make it to the more interesting further reaches of Glastonbury.

In the midst of this eccentric do though – which turns distinctively Wickerman once its organisers set fire to their floating stage, stranded in the middle of the idyllic Great Lake – a handful of bands are as brilliant as the organic pies on sale.
The xx – playing the relocated Where The Wild Things Are stage – are as humble as ever, smiling to one another at the cheers received by ‘Crystalised’ and a majority of their new self-titled album. That they left a vital keyboard at home, leaving Baria to hop on and off stage √† la an unwanted Liam Gallagher, is only noticed by a few, everyone else transfixed by James’ electronic drum-pad poking. It’s a solid set, beautiful at times, but being Hulk Hogan – and alive – things are already starting to get a little too lethargic as day one bobs along. Cream teas and oversized chess battles are all fair enough (yes, both are now somewhat predictably part of SGP life) but we’re one more Soko performance away from a coma, so our consciousness is thrust into the hands of Phoenix and Jarvis Cocker.

The former’s disco pop on The Great Stage rightly sees the festival’s first stage invasion. Surrounding trees are under-lit, the floating stage is blissfully unaware of its fate and paradise may not be throbbing to this French electro but it’s certainly showing signs of life. And now that we know climbing on the stage won’t end in a security beating, this land seems more lawless and exciting than ever. That’s how five of Jarvis Cocker’s songs end with the Pulp singer totally lost in amongst 50 ‘gardeners’. Those not on stage know he’s still there somewhere, they can hear him posing for pictures, politely asking if he can carry on with the show and meeting and greeting anyone who wants to shake hands. Maybe it’s the atmosphere – like that time Moby didn’t seem all bad at Worthy Farm – but the absurd posturing is for once upstaged by Cocker’s songs too. His solo material! An eye-blink hour of bombastic show tunes, it’s as if he was made for Secret Garden Party’s nihilistic yet twee way.

Everything on day two is then completely eclipsed by The Death Set in the festival’s best-kept secret of a tent, Ninja Tunes. It’s here that the trio – performing at first to only myself, The Ultimate Warrior and the bar staff – remove my blond moustache and ask a handful of arriving audience members to “pass it around for the next song”. With that, the sweaty piece of fake hair is slapped on some poor soul’s face and no more than twenty heads start thrashing around to the DIY punk that made up the band’s debut album, ‘Worldwide’. Grubby and beer-soaked, the upper-lip-warmer finds its resting place on a plastic pint glass onstage; a perfect spot to enjoy a closing cover of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’.

Had Au Revoir Simone and Chairlift arrived a day earlier, The Death Set’s clean sweep could have been soiled. Bringing SGP 2009 to a close – because you just can’t give that mantle to the soulless, headlining set from Zero 7 – the New York set were between them a charming, melodic force (particularly the girl trio of Au Revoir), providers of the best pop song of the weekend (Chairlift’s ‘Bruises’) and sweet without being as sickly as the Icelandic elf that opened the main stage on day two, Hafdis Huld. Now though, we have to return to a much less vibrant world. Sure, we can listen to our dream festival lineups on Spotify but is there really much point if you’re no longer dressed as a former pro wrestler?

Next time you can, go to Secret Garden Party, whether they book The Smiths or Status Quo. Music is important, but so too is so much more where festivals are concerned. That’s why Rage Against The Machine at last year’s Reading was less ‘a moment’ and more a legendary band playing very quietly to a corporate slurry pit. Trust me, Hogan knows best.