BESTIVAL 2011 // Part 1

Is Bestival the best festival? Well, the event won ‘best major festival’ at the 2010 UK Festival Awards, so I guess the case is closed. In truth, Glastonbury is the best UK festival (arguably the best festival in the world) but Bestival is perhaps the strongest contender for second best. And it does have one thing that will appeal to those who think Glastonbury is just a bit too much: its size. This fancy dress jollification on the Isle of Wight has the perfect capacity (around 55,000) and the most manageable site area of any festival I have been to, especially for a lineup of its magnitude. For many, the 200,000 or so who descend on Glastonbury and the city size/layout of the site is insufferable, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the small 26,000 capacity, relatively small site and barely-there lineup of Secret Garden Party is underwhelming. Rob da Bank (Bestival’s curator, record label honcho, and DJ) has – over its eight-year existence – managed to lure a lineup as commercial, eclectic and extensive as Glastonbury, but maintain the boutique-like charm of an anti-corporate festival like Secret Garden Party.


First up is Ghostpoet – who has seen a significant increase in exposure since his Mercury Prize nod – over on the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Stage. Oh, actually a passing sound desk guy informs me that he is going to be delayed by a mere five hours (!), so I leave the impatient crowd of confused Ghostpoet fans and check out Aussie’s 80s-inspired electro-pop band Cut Copy in the Big Top. They may be pretty, and the singles from their sophomore album ‘In Ghost Colours’ do create a bit of a stir, but their set sadly sounds as flat as their most recent album ‘Zonoscope.’  The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfing USA’ will always cause hysteria, but since Brian Wilson is a living legend it’s a shame his Main Stage show is lifeless – since this may well be his last ever festival appearance it would’ve been nice if he could have brought a little charisma to Bestival. I catch the start of Chromeo, but the funk-disco-electro of the energetic duo is a little repetitive (especially if you’ve seen them before). I then head over to the Roller Disco stage (literally a stage where half the crowd area is a roller disco arena – health and safety anyone?) for DJ Roska’s sublime dub/house/funky set with Jamie George. George may not be the most natural MC (he is an RnB singer after all), but he is sweet and talented enough to hold attention, and Roska is on the form of his life.

The first big dance act of the evening comes courtesy of Magnetic Man – with producers Skream, Benga, and Artwork bringing a good (not great) visual show, a larger than life MC, and a surprisingly big sound (considering dance music tends to be lost on Main Stages) along with their trademark pop-laden, euphoric dubstep. Yes, they have an overtly commercial sound – but that was always the intention. Sadly, all I am able to catch of the Numbers showcase on the RBMA Stage is Deadboy – who continues to impress – before I head nice and early over to the tiny Sailor Jerry Ink City stage for Frank Turner’s short, sharp, solo (semi-secret) set. Yes, I boycotted Pendulum’s headline set – there are only so many times I can listen that ear-molesting siren riff (time to learn a new trick perhaps?). The crowd sing along to every one of Turner’s word with such incredible passion and volume that the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and starting singing along as well – especially on singles ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘I Still Believe.’ Without question: England’s finest touring singer-songwriter. Groove Armada Presents Red Light (good, but nothing compared their now retired live show) and Boys Noize (playing a standard electro-techno set) bring the night (well, my night) to a close in the Big Top.


Thus far, the weather – predicted to be pretty devastating – has held off, but as of Saturday afternoon the temperature noticeably drops and the intermittent showers begin to spit down. This only delays my entrance into the site for an hour or so, but eventually Mr. Basics Rum fills me with enough bravery to head in to check out Ghostpoet. Oh, actually a passing attendee tells me I’ve already missed him. Dear Ghostpoet: I give up. Over to the Big Top to listen to the ever so talented A-Trak (who won the DMC World DJ Championship at the age of 15!) impressively scratch and mix his way through a selection of unimpressive and generic pop-dance tunes. His remix of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Heads Will Roll’ will never get old, but his Armand Van Helden collaboration ‘Barbara Streisand’ was born old (think Benjamin Button). Boycotting the terrible skills, the arrogant chat, and the generic setlist of Grandmaster Flash (he may have been a pioneer of hiphop DJing – a fact he likes to repeat before, after, and in between each song – but everyone who came after him was much, much better) I chill on the sofas in the hidden, unmarked Converse Tent. Once Flash has well and truly left the Main Stage, I head back for Crystal Castles, who are fine, which is a real shame. The chaotic sound Crystal Castles produce is always lost on an outdoor stage, but that never matters because frontwoman Alice Glass is just so watchable trashing the stage, smacking soundmen/fans, climbing anything/everything, or just generally stalking the stage screaming profanities – but today they (relatively) sedately play muffled song after muffled song. Shame.

I then elbow my way through a thousand Village People (the fancy dress of choice, since Village People played earlier in the day) to check out some of the Annie Mac Presents… showcase in the Big Top. Toddla T (who, according to one ‘friend,’ looks like a lesbian) plugs his new album with a respectable sound quality and an unanticipated likeability, before Ms. Dynamite – starting late – gets everybody jumping and shouting thanks to her massive, massive stage presence. She takes the most accessible parts of dubstep, DnB, garage etc. to create a pop show that appeals to almost everyone (not unlike Katy B) – her distinctive voice marking her out as one of the most beloved UK dance/pop crossover artists. I catch some of Carte Blanche’s set (RIP DJ Mehdi, who sadly died three days after this show) and then head back over to the secluded Converse Stage tent for an intimate and secret-ish SBTRKT live show. Aided by a superb live drummer, SBTRKT displays cuts from his latest album, bouncing and programming along as he sings live, hitting each note spot on – one of the festival highlights.

Now for the big headliner: The Cure. Yes, they are legends, having been performing for over 40 years (even if Robert Smith is the only continuous member), and yes, they are Rob da Bank’s dream Bestival headliner, but are they an appropriate headliner? Not quite. Most of their 180 minute set of gothic, new wave pop-rock bypasses the crowd. Even a few of their ‘hits’ go unnoticed – perhaps because the sound isn’t that loud, or perhaps because the younger generations are missing out on the dark beauty of their lyrics and basslines. Nonetheless, hits like ‘Friday I’m In Love’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ get the massive sing-a-longs The Cure deserve. I catch the end of Diplo’s set in the Big Top (including the infectious slash infuriating ‘Pon De Floor’) and wait patiently for Primal Scream Presents Screamadelica (the real headliner of the evening). It was one of Glastonbury 2011’s highlights, and it is one of Bestival 2011’s highlights – with Bobby Gillespie groaning and gyrating in front of a psychedelic visual show and enticing the greatest crowd sing-and-hug-a-longs of the whole weekend.


Originally published by AAA Music…


~ by cliveparisrozario on September 15, 2011.

One Response to “BESTIVAL 2011 // Part 1”

  1. […] Continued from BESTIVAL // Part 1 here… […]

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