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Music |

Review: Bestival 2012

Monday 17 September 2012
Words Amy Lavelle

Noah’s Arc trundles past, narrowly avoiding a collision with a man not in an animal onesie. Two by two, looks of withering contempt are aimed his way.

“When I say hash tag, you say prick. Hash tag.”


“Hash tag!”


Hang up the waterproofs, herald the joys of indoor plumbing and find another excuse to start drinking at 10 in the morning (‘Tuesday’ is a popular one with us); it was the send off to the summer, as Rob and Josie Banks once again ushered us out of the festival season with a rollicking Bestival.

Okay, I know what you’re all thinking, so let’s address the elephant in the room and get the obvious over and done with early on, shall we? The rain: there was none. Or rather, there was for about 10 minutes on the last day, but otherwise, we had nothing but blazing sunshine. Which meant that instead of four days of vociferously bemoaning the wet, jeans so caked with mud that we were left swaggering like John Wayne with haemorrhoids because we could no longer move our legs and whispering conspiratorially with friends a week later, “You know, I’m still finding mud there,” we vociferously moaned about sweat stains, twat tans not usually seen outside of lads on tour in Shagaluf (“There’s an imprint of a hand on my calf?!”) and fetid port-a-loos that had been left baking in the sun for so long, they brought a whole new definition to the word ‘ripe’. Ah yes, unlike the unfortunate fate met by the Isle of Wight Festival earlier this year, the forecast defied the odds and brought us weather we could actually be quite happy with. We still of course, moaned.

Right, glad that’s out there; now, let’s get back to the bands, shall we?

The mighty Alabama Shakes opened up the festival for us this year, kicking off their bluesy, Southern rock set with Hold On, before Gary Numan took over the Thursday night line up. The excitement of the crowd on hearing Cars, as he offered himself up to the crowd in a Saviour-like/Chesney Hawkes pose, was palpable; never more so than for the girl next to us who made the wise choice to forego the queues for the toilets and simply squatted next to us. Alas, the struggle across Robin Hill under the hefty weight of cereal bars, rice cakes and Asda’s own band vodka earlier that day proved too much for us (despite the many, many breaks taken) and we didn’t make it to see Hot Chip, who were, by all accounts unmissable.

An early end to Thursday night meant we were back out early on Friday morning. Anyone out of their tent in time to catch Scandinavian First Aid Kit were awarded with a glorious opener to a gloriously sun soaked Friday morning. The two sisters, holding forth on a guitar and keyboard, plus their drummer performed a stripped back set, serenading the crowd with their mesmerising harmonies as they tipped a hat to Johnny Cash and dedicated a song to Pussy Riot.

Token cheese act, Adam Ant & The Good The Mad And The Lovely Posse drew crowds eager to soak up their share of the 80’s icon and his bevy of hits, however, once you got past the ‘Oh my God I’m watching Adam Ant’ moment, despite the fact that his vocals have held up well and he can still rock a militant tassle, you were left with a performance akin to watching Adam Ant’s dad perform (in full, military regalia, mind you). Warpaint’s lo-fi set, on the other hand, more than proved the grrls had it for the day.

In what was, for us, one of the most annoying clashes of the festival, fans of the rising alternative indie band were forced to choose between standing seven people deep in the crowd waiting outside the Replay tent for Alt-J.’s set or plumping for Django Django, playing the same time slot in the Psychedelic Worm; we chose the former and were rewarded with Matilda, which received the most rambunctious response of the set.

The xx were the first headliners of the night, their first festival date of the summer attracting huge numbers of attendees, before Florence & the Machine took to the main stage as Friday night’s main headliners, belting out the favourites, including You’ve Got The Love and Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) before ending with Dog Days Are Over.

Saturday morning and costume day was kicked off for us with Wiley’s secret gig in the Big Top, which provided an opportunity for an early morning gurn and rave up, before singer/song writer Ben Howard changed the vibe completely for a laid back and relaxed gig.

The main stage’s morning line up began with an incredibly out of place performance (the Polka Tent would have seemed like a better setting, at a time of day when the cider had had more of a chance to take effect) from twee folk band Skinny Lister, who quite frankly, would be hard to take without a raging hangover- as it was, teeth were set considerably on edge. Following them, the requisite ‘hangover line up’ was fronted by Sister Sledge this year, who went on the quest for the ultimate disco dancer, inviting the worthy to get down on stage (a fact not appreciated by one photographer in the press tent after, who had had his camera stomped on by one enthusiastic mover) while De La Soul had us breaking out the 90’s dance moves later that day. In stark contrast, following their brief hiatus, Death In Vegas were back on form, blending electro with psychedelic rock and pummelling their way through a largely wordless set- not speaking until the very end as they fist pumped the air and left many walking away in the same pose, lauding them as the best show of the festival.

If you could ignore the ‘dad moves’, slightly stilted working of the crowd and emotional manipulation of ending their set with Joy division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, while simultaneously projecting images of Ian Curtis on stage and ‘Joy Division Forever’ on the screens behind the stage, New Order’s anthemic set proved to be an emotional highlight, with more than one of us welling up, as they gave more than a nod to Joy Division; the atmosphere noticeably picked up during Transmission and Isolation. Hard to top though it was, Kwes. closed the night for us in the Replay tent, with an intimate gig, which saw him chatting with much of the crowd gathered and playing their requests, including Bashful. The London based producer and musician is constantly proving himself to be one to keep an eye on.

Electronic beats with indie hooks were provided by Little Dragon for anyone capable of moving out of their tent by lunch on Sunday morning: a big ask on the final day of the festival but well worth it.

Relative new comers, Palma Violets played a frenetic set in the Replay tent, more than showing the buzz surrounding them is warranted, while Bat For Lashes reigned over the main stage. Natasha Khan treated the audience to some new material, including taking to the piano for Laura, while elsewhere, alternative ethereal front woman Lucy Rose’s delicate and fragile vocals filled the air in the Psychedelic Worm tent.

Watching indie pop production trio Miike Snow end a set with Animals, while two giraffes offered each other a leg up to get a better view, was particularly sweet, before heading over to the main stage, for what was touted as the biggest act to ever grace Bestival’s stages.  It’s not often that one gets to utter the sentence: ‘Christ, I just trod on that guy’s spine,” except, that is, when bodily clambering over the myriads of festival goers gathered to watch Sunday night’s headliner, Stevie Wonder, lord it over the main stage.  His set was chocablock with a discography of hits (the sheer quantity of which it was easy to forget he actually had) and the crowd throatily sang along – until the second verse of any song, which inevitably no one knew the lyrics to, before enthusiastically joining in again for the chorus – before ending with Happy Birthday: a slightly odd and lacklustre choice for a festival closer but a fitting homage to that other date he played this summer.

Dan Le Sac and newcomer, Sarah Williams White (plus guests) shared an undeniable chemistry on stage and once again proved the post headlining acts were often some of the best shows of the night, before we called an end to the night with electronica courtesy of Gold Panda.

All in all, whatever Bestival’s detractors may have to say, the festival once again proved to be a fitting final hurrah of the season and the summer. See you next year.