Getting to Bestival this year seemed like an epic journey to some far flung corner of the planet, well at least for the time and effort it took to get there. A long train journey was followed by an agonising wait of three hours for a ferry at Southampton, and once the other side of the Solent we endured another two hour wait for a shuttle bus. Yet despite this, it is to the music that we should turn.
Perhaps having left my home at seven and arriving at the campsite eleven hours later soured my opinion of the first night, and I came to the conclusion that festival had an odd feel. It has the organisation and layout of a Glastonbury or Latitude style festival, but none of their relaxed attitude and atmosphere. It was certainly a trend and appearance based festival, with many of the crowd perhaps more interested in what they were wearing rather than what they heard. The weekend’s line up was also puzzling, with acts dotted about the place, with no real sense of structure. I didn’t attend the festival for the dance music – that’s not my thing – so it was clear early on that I would find myself dodging a lot of the acts to find the gems in the rough.
The festival can almost claim to be a four day event, with a pretty good line up on the Thursday – there was a particularly enjoyable set from Santigold, despite the rather cramped crowd. Musically, Friday was diverse but superb; the ability to see a set from Public Enemy and then turn round and see Patrick Wolf was a little bizarre, yet demonstrated the festivals’ impressively broad appeal.
An amazing set from Brian Wilson on Friday afternoon, which was essentially the Beach Boys greatest hits played in glorious sunshine, finally got me into the festival mood. Caitlin Rose was another highlight, she seems to add a new twist to traditional American country, and her last track, the brilliant ‘Sinful Wishing Well’ had an almost emotional feel to it. Around nine we moved over to the Red Bull stage catching the end of The Selecter, enjoying an old fashioned slice of ska, and positioned ourselves front of stage for Ghostpoet. After waiting an hour for the staff to deal with technical difficulties, we watched a muffled yet impressive set from the act. Ghostpoet’s music is genre defying, and I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy their electro/lo-fi/trip-hop cross over, but I was converted.
I made an early choice to give headliners Pendulum a miss, instead heading to the Sailor Jerry stage, a marvellous little stage which had one of the best indie line-ups of the festival. We went to see Frank Turner, added as a special guest last minute, and he didn’t disappoint, playing with his usual crowd-pleasing vigour and enjoying his last festival performance of the year. The evening ended by catching one of my favourite acts, Los Campesinos! play tracks from their new album as well as a mix of some of their classics including the cracking You! Me! Dancing!.
Early Saturday afternoon we turned up at the main stage to watch a little of Claire Maguire and then enjoyed a little reggae with Toots and the Maytals. Both Danish electro band Oh Land and London based Dry the River (who looked like Biffy Clyro and sounded like Local Natives) put on impressive sets in the Pyschedelic Worm tent, placed directly in the middle of the campsite. It was essential that we saw PJ Harvey after her Mercury Prize success, yet we were surprised to see that the crowd was small; it was clear that many had not even heard of the Mercury Prize winner.
The Cure were of course the band of the day, playing a two and a half hour set of 32 classic tracks. It would have been a marathon to have watched the entire set, so after catching Friday I’m In Love and In-between Days we headed up the Sailor Jerry, to catch some of buzz band Tribes. I wasn’t convinced by the act, which seemed to have stolen other’s sounds rather than be influenced by them. I gladly headed back to catch the second half of The Cure’s amazing set. Primal Scream were the other headliners that evening and I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to hear that the band would perform in the Big Top tent rather than on the Main Stage. At one in the morning – a ridiculous time for a main act – they played a simply brilliant set from beginning to end. I was desperate to see Screamadelica live after missing it at Glastonbury, making the fateful decision to see U2 instead, so Primal Scream were an extra special treat.
Sunday’s line-up was an odd relay of dance and rock acts on the main stage, with Kelis, The Drums, Professor Green and The Maccabees perhaps haphazardly, thrown into some kind of line up. Sunday afternoon we headed to the bandstand, a lovely little stage towards the entrance of the festival. Here we watched Keston Cobblers Club, a London based band with great vocal harmonies and engaging lyrics who played a highly enjoyable set of foot-tapping indie-folk. I am a massive fan of The Drums’ namby-pamby indie pop and think highly of the new album Portomento, yet their set was a little disappointing and worst of all, they didn’t play the crowd pleasing ‘Lets go Surfing’, opting for the more downbeat ‘Down by the Water’ to finish the set. Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip performed an engaging dancey set in the Big Top in the afternoon, and later played new tracks in the gazebo of the Sunday Best Record Store. The Maccabees performed brilliantly to a large crowd, able to entertain the audience with their new unheard tracks as well as their classics, including First Love and No Kind Words.
As the festival came to a close, Bjork felt like an odd choice of headliner for the Sunday night, although as amazing as she is, her set didn’t feel in keeping with the festival’s atmosphere. The fact she also only played for an hour and twenty minutes, of which at least an hour was of her new unheard album Biophilia was a little disappointing. My last highlight of Bestival was Niki and the Dove, who played an exciting electro set with a distinctly eighties Kate Bush feel.
A fun weekend of a variety of music, with some cracking acts, but also a lot of rubbish. A disgruntling amount of clashes also made seeing some of the smaller and up-and-coming acts difficult, but this is the same for all festivals. Till next time Bestival!
[Photograph by Louise Roberts]Read More