A lot muddy and a little the worse for wear, DiS' team of intrepid reviewers braved the weather at this year's Bestival to bring you their highlights and some survival tips...
Friday Review - by Richard MacFarlane:
There were certainly a few reluctant grimaces in the queue to the Bestival gates on the opening afternoon. While these seemed to scream “WTF am I doing here in this weather?” all it took was a three minute patch of blues skies for a collective cheer to arise from the backpacked masses. This sort of spirit defined the rest of the three days at a festival that experienced some of the most unfortunate weather and extreme amounts of mud (oh gosh, the mud!). Anyway, I hate to dwell on the bad weather too much, because otherwise the whole three nights of this festival were permanent good vibes in terms of those in attendance and the line up of bands.
The first real musical stop was at the main stage with Jamie Lidell and a strangely idiosyncractic set of minimal soul infused techno. The pace of it all edged towards the slower, cooler end of the spectrum, with style in miles and miles that was matched by his particularly rad jacket, all golden fractured forms and coloured patches. He sounded much different here than perhaps could’ve been expected; this minimal dancey stuff only giving ways at time to such soul jams as ‘A Little Bit More'.
It was hard to keep track exactly of the unfortunate rain-forced cancellations of a bunch of bands on the BBC Introducing stage and the Band Stand (including Yacht and Metronomy), but seriously, the rain was ridiculous and I’d be surprised if any festival could cope with those sorts of water levels. Naturally, I also just plain missed out on a few (on account of pitching tents and hanging with/looking for friends) but over at the Main Stage it was what we’d all been waiting for, My Bloody Valentine. Well, at least I imagined that’s what everyone would be hanging out for; while a massive portion were (the huge open area was packed, for sure), it seemed that maybe their noise a bit much for a few, meaning it was, to much surprise, easy to get right up to the front. You didn’t have to be right up there to feel how positively fucking immense they sounded. Even if they weren’t quite as loud outdoors as they can be, they were, as expected, they were as close to total transcendence that music can get, their massive pop bathed in massive and bright purple Loveless light and clouded by smoke as they moved through a long set of favourites from all of their oeuvre. And, at the risk of sounding a little wack, the sense of togetherness amongst the crowd at all points of their set was similarly inspiring.
Next, backed by a wall of balloons and boasting their usual crazed party agena, CSS were particularly well placed in the Big Top just after midnight, packing the place out with excited and spastic dance moves from various muddied wellies. Their energetic but often standard sounding disco has always sounded better live, and tonight it was in particular form, so much so that I totally forgot about checking out Erol Alkan who was playing just around the corner. The rest of the night was soundtracked by various DJs dropping extremely fun party jams that only increased the sense of excitement that permeated through this first night.
Saturday Review - by Andrzej Lukowski:
It's a hoary old cliché, but the Bestival spirit really did seem more or less unsinkable: the air of ironic amusement about Saturday's 30,000 Freaks Under The Sea fancy dress theme (lots and lots of Old Gregs drunkenly hollering about their manginas) was pretty priceless, but the most charming thing about the atmosphere was the universal assumption that Amy Winehouse's headline slot would be a load of incoherent bobbins, and universal good humour when this indeed proved the case.
Probably that's because Hot Chip's flawless preceding set made Wino seem somewhat extraneous. They easily drew the biggest crowd of the weekend and maybe should've headlined, but second on the bill suited them: 50 minutes only and without the luxury of an encore, they're forced to cut out Made In The Dark's flabbier tracks, blitzing us with a nonstop fusillade of shiny electro-pop brilliance, punchy and pretty as a hail of diamond bullets.
Other big names were kind of anti-climactic: Aphex Twin's two hour set starts well, a playful bag of breaks garnished by the cheeky deployment of Cameo's Word Up, but before long it lapsed into a noodly, semi-ambient groove that thinnd out the heaving Big Top sharpish. Grace Jones played a gaudy, impressively strop-free surprise set, but event of the day was unquestionably the return of The Specials. For the first time in 27 years it was Dammers out, Hall in, and it'd be a cold soul who didn't enjoy their tight, immaculately-delivered slew of greatest hits. That said, a heavy handed voiceover reminding us all of how very socially relevant they are was mercilessly punctured by Terry Hall's laconic observation "we've waited 27 years to play to a fucking sea of king prawns". It's early days yet, but at Bestival this reunion felt more like nostalgic fun than something the world desperately needs.
The shutting of the BBC Introducing stage in the early evening (rumour has it the generator sank into the mud) dealt a serious blow to the new bands quotient. Still, there was time for Vessels' icily melodic post rock to freeze some of the damp away: they're maybe not forceful enough to enter the Mogwai league, but there's a steely, unshowy beauty to the Leeds band that restores some early afternoon clarity to the festival's most problem-hit arena. By contrast Let's Wrestle weren't quite the adorable shambles some would have it, though the sweary, shouty Fall-pop of their eponymous song establishes itself as a festival anthem in about ten second flat.
Sunday Review - by Richard MacFarlane:
By the third day being muddy felt relatively normal, in fact, I’d go so far as to say it felt pretty good, but maybe that’s because the it didn’t rain for the whole day! Amazing.
Earlier in the afternoon, Roni Size provided a dose of old-skool drum & bass, playing all the early noughties hits with a full band and various MCs. All in all, it was terrific fun and brough yet another facet of diversity to an already mixed line up, with he juxtaposition of catching Akron/Family soon after (whose pastoral sort of folksy rock was much more rockin’ than I’d imagined). Not that their albums aren’t; their coming-down-the-mountain vibe has always been both upbeat and technicolour but here, at the small Dada tent, it caused a lot of unexpectedly wild dance moves. They even had an acapella hip-hop jam at the end!
Afterwards, the Midnight Juggernauts played a solid set of their dark electro in the Big Top to a sizeable crowd, while over at the Main Stage it was more family times as George Clinton and Funkadelic played a freaking long set of mostly inane funk. There were plenty of interesting enough funk classix but really, there’s only so much of that you can handle...
Once the sun had gone down there was huge crowd waiting for Underworld to start. They’re a classic British dance act for sure, though I never really got the appeal and their set didn’t do too much to sway me; generic electro that came off pretty drab over all. It peaked in a few places but mostly didn’t feel exciting enough, especially compared to the other acts that had been on.
After some miscellaneous boogies at a few of the smaller tents (including the 50s-60s pop filled House of Mirrors which was all wood and stained glass) and some very warped performers and dancers at another tent somewhere, it was time to finally call it a day. And even if my camp mattress was mainly caked-mud by then, I was still reeling from the weekend and the enormous vibage that seemingly everyone in attendance seemed to spread.
Sunday Review - by Andrzej Lukowski:
With the rain gods finally bored of pestering us, the much suffering BBC Introducing stage finally got a fair crack of the whip on Sunday. Thomas Tantrum's hitherto unsuspected (well, unsuspected by me) cojones got matters off to a roaring start. While their self-titled debut album feels a bit eager to please, this was full on and ballsy, math rocky middle eights and the crackling interplay between Megan Thomas's grating yowl and Dave Miatt's hard, buzzing guitars sending a stream of sparks flying through the still-grey afternoon.
Micah P Hinson's set was almost comically short, but when you're entangled in a thicket of his heart-stoppingly intense country rock, the passage of time is somewhat irrelevant: his monumental rendition of 'The Leading Guy' alone would still have been a pretty solid deal.
Opinion seemed mixed on Neon Neon, shunted over to the Big Top to fill in for an AWOL Laurent Garnier, but for those not afraid of tongue in cheek electro-pop anthems it was pretty delightful stuff. 'I Lust U' went down a particular treat, the duo's shimmering neon signature tune leaving this bruised, battered but ultimately triumphant Bestival all aglow for its final hours.
Photos by Richard MacFarlane and Sinister Pictures.