Photo: shirlaine forrest
For many the Rob Da Bank curated Bestival not only signals the final curtain call on Festival season but also on summer. This year in the build up to the opening day it fell victim to harsh weather warnings proclaiming the likely hood of the tail end of a hurricane arriving and for us attendees to expect high winds and harsh torrential rain, but on the Thursday people arrived by their boatload in a positive fun filled mood determined to make the most of these four days, no matter what does or does not happen.
As people were constantly shuttled onto site throughout the day, things did not begin till late in the evening inside the Big Top, a large tent that for the duration of the festival acted as the second stage and one where a lot of people flitted between this and the main.
Today’s musical highlights were not of the ripest variety but what was on offer swung from the hip upbeat alt pop of American songstress Santigold to the hip upbeat electro tinged alt pop of Hercules and Love Affair. Dancing was very much on tonight’s menu.
Friday was the day when the festival came fully alive and the first real kick came from the performance of Lemonheads inspired slacker pop group Yuck, though they may not be your typical mainstage folly there uplifting guitar powered tunes made a powerful connected with the audience.
There was a big jump in style when the undoubted hip hop legends Flavor Flav and Chuck D fronted hip hop group Public Enemy ran onto stage and played an upbeat set in which the chained clock face wearing Flavour Flav took the opportunity to reignite hip hops relationship with commerce by plugging his autobiography several times which coincidently was also being sold on a stall temporarily set up next to the stage
Later on the same stage the iconic Brian Wilson played a set that largely consisted of songs from his Beach Boys heyday, much time may have passed since these songs first received an airing but these classic well known songs such as the emphatic ‘God Only Knows’ had a good portion of the audience singing along proudly.
Mainstream friendly dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man helped usher in the night; the individual key components of Skream, Benga and Artwork being joined by a hype man to help gee up the audience for their hard hitting set that drew from their self titled debut.
Despite having had a number one album this year, many of the people in tonight’s audience would struggle to sing a chorus penned by headliners Pendulum there was a general sense that many enjoyed their at times hard hitting fast paced Prodify-lite dance rock.
On Saturday Sunday Best signed duo Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip have become staples of this festival and at times there politically charged lyrics found favour with the generally left leaning crowd in the Big Top. While later across on the mainstage, acclaimed solo artist Katy B with songs such as ‘Katy on a mission’ showed just why she had been tipped for success very early on this year with her fun filled easily digestible version of danceable pop.
Which was in stark contrast to Oh Land! who made an appearance on the Psychedelic Worm stage and showed with her brand of Electro tinged skewered pop that sometimes there is a need for music to be a little bit complicated and not so easily digestible. Crystal Castles play a condensed yet strong main stage set that would only have been improved if Robert Smith had joined them for set closer ‘Not in Love’. Singer Alice Glass spending a good portion of the time at the front security bar.
There was a general sense of excitement around the appearance of recent Mercury winning PJ Harvey and who’s first few songs drew from her politically charged and critically acclaimed album ‘Let England Shake’ but who was also happy to later dip into her back catalogue to give several songs from her rockier ‘Is This Desire?’ era an airing.
But the night was largely closed by a two and a half hour, 32 song long set by Goths The Cure who have a well defined habit of marry uplifting melodies with sourly depressing lyrics, on the eve of this performance Robert Smith declared that the group had considered calling it a day but tonight it served as a celebration of both their achievements and the way they have worked themselves into much admired legends.
The closing day of the festival once again saw the festival proceed along an eclectic path, one which saw the jittery indie rock hugging four piece The Drums and there studied New York cool give snappy songs from their recent sophomore album ‘Portamento’ a live work out.
If this wasn’t quite to the audiences taste, a short walk away saw The Midnight Beast deliver a comedic set of late eighties aping Beastie Boys style hip hop which included a re-working of Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’, high on the comedy factor they showed that if the music career at any time goes sour, comedy would be a more than adequate replacement.
Those that avoided the aforementioned would have done well if they had later headed to the mainstage for Kelis’s set, as it was an ear friendly ‘best of’ set that was just what a lot of people needed to wake them from their Sunday afternoon slumber. Indie rock returned to the mainstage when The Maccabees fresh from finishing work on their as yet untitled third album found themselves in a comfortable place up onstage in front of several thousand people intent on passionately singing their songs back to them.
Zola Jesus suffered slightly on the otherhand as her haunting goth inspired pop had the misfortune to mostly clash with headliner Bjork and understandably the vast tent in which she was playing in was less than a quarter full – any other slot today and her set would have gone down a storm.
But it was left to Bjork to close the mainstage on Sunday: a unconventional headliner albeit one that curator Rob Da Bank has publicly declared has always been on his list of artists he would love to book – tonight his wish came true and he would not have been disappointed. An original artist whom that like Marmite has the ability to split people into two very different camps, the lovers and the haters. Tonight’s set wasn’t centred purely around recent album ‘Biophillia’ and instead wandered off to included high reaching songs such as ‘Joga’ and set closer ‘Declare independence’
Later while some were escaping the arena in the big top tent DJ Shadow was bringing to life a good portion of seminal nineties album ‘Entroducing’ he maintains to be a true trip hop legend and a splendid way in which to finally close the UK festival season.
With comedy stages, roller disco, spoken word dedicated tents, a wall of death and fairground rides on site: Bestival is more than just a music festival, Bestival is a necessity.