The sun (finally) shines on the Isle of Wight for Bestival 2012

Bestival 2012 review

published: Wed 12th Sep 2012

Florence And The Machine

Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th September 2012
Robin Hill Country Park, Downend, Nr Arreton, Isle of Wight, PO30 2NU, England MAP
£180 for Thu-Sun - camping sold out, premium camping £299
daily capacity: 50000
last updated: Thu 6th Sep 2012

around the festival site (1)
The weather in 2012 has been not been kind to many festivals this year, and after the problems that plagued the Isle of Wight Festival, there were concerns as to how the Isle of Wight would handle another large festival. Fortunately the lessons seem to have been learned, and we were encouraged to see the background work Bestival organisers, local police and council had put into handling the traffic. Fortunately the weather was on side for once, and the weather only got better as the festival approached meant that getting to the site was pretty easy, and the traffic, while heavy, flowed pretty smoothly.

This year we were lucky to be offered the opportunity to camp in The Wild Copse. The campsite is a new addition for this year, and gives you the benefit of luxury camping, without the expense of hiring a tipi, podpad or yurt. The area itself is very spacious with plenty of room to pitch your tent, and the toilet and shower facilities were exemplary, although the queues for the showers were quite lengthy. The only let down is that the location was one of the furthest from the main arena, and meant that you had a fairly lengthy walk to get anywhere – as someone who likes to camp quite close in to the action, going back to the tent during the day to restock or just take time out to relax, this was a major downside. For those who don't want to walk there was a 'Festaxi' service, but this only ran during daylight hours (something that seemed odd for a festival that doesn't really get going until it gets dark) and at £5 a go could get quite expensive.

Alabama Shakes
Up until now, Thursday night at Bestival has always been a fairly quiet affair, aimed at early arrivals, but with 45,000 of the capacity 50,000 reported to have arrived by then, Bestival certainly got off to a fast and furious start, and the main arena felt more like a Saturday than a Thursday. We arrived at the arena in time to see Alabama Shakes perform in the Big Top, and lead singer Brittany Howard's powerful voice and soulful songs provided a great opening to the weekend.

Another new addition for 2012 is the 'Replay with Rob da Bank' stage, where we caught the end of a pretty good set from This Is The Kit, who came across as a kind of folked-out Radiohead. They were followed by festival stalwart Beans on Toast, who gave a typically eclectic mix of songs about drugs, love, drugs, festivals and drugs. He even treated the crowd to a 'free' 10 minutes when he arrived on stage early.

Hot Chip
Fighting our way across the crowded arena to the Big Top for the evening's headline act Hot Chip, a band who seem to add members as each year passes, I'm not sure what these musicians add to the mix as the band's well-honed sound doesn't seem to change much, not that that is a bad thing. Returning across the campsite gave us a chance to see the wishing tree field in its full illuminated glory, and although not completely open tonight there were plenty of people chilling out in this area particularly as it was outside the main arena and not subject to the alcohol restrictions.

Overnight was clear and chilly, but the sun rose early on Friday morning and the day promised to be one of the hottist this year. The good thing about Bestival is the range of food stores, many of which are small businesses rather than the larger corporate caters. The bars are a little different and although we've heard that many are selling a wider range of drinks this year, we saw that most of the bars sold the same selection (Tuborg or Gaymers). What we did discover was that when buying a drink (including non-alcoholic) from the outlying areas you couldn't bring it back with you through to the main arena, forcing you to drink up or bin it. Fortunately some of the security were showing some flexibility, and as long as the drinks were in festival cups they gave a bit of lee-way, but the vast majority were being served in cans. I can agree with the prevention of bringing excess cans from the campsite, but when it's something you have just bought 50 metres away it does seem a little ridiculous.

One of the great things about Bestival is the wide range of music and one of my loves is that as you walk through the site you are easily distracted by some fantastic bands you may not have experienced before. We wanted to head through to main stage to see Adam Ant, and on the way found Mary Epworth, whose psychedelic tinged pop/rock, was perfect for a sunny afternoon.

Adam Ant And The Good The Mad And The Lovely Posse
After First Aid Kit's gentle folk, 80s legend Adam Ant was taking to the mains stage supported by his new band The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse, providing a singalong moment for the crowd.

Bestival can be a very relaxed affair but there's so much gong on that no matter how carefully you plan ahead you'll always end up missing someone, but one we weren't prepared to miss was Jake Bugg, this 17 year old who sings far more maturely than his years and never fails to impress. The buzz surrounding him at the moment meant that quite a crowd that had amassed around the stage to see him, and it's hard to believe that he has yet to release his first album.

around the festival site (2)
The Swamp Shack is one of the more interesting venues at the festival – by day it is a live venue, but by night the front becomes a eerie venue populated by strange figures, while the inside is a club.

Most festivals these days are branching out into comedy, with varied amounts of success. Bestival has had a comedy tent for several years now, and still seems to be trying to make it fit into the overall scheme. After an initial big launch it then went quite low-key for a few years, but it seems to be finding it's feet now with a mix of newcomers, interspersed with some bigger names. Although there was always a good crowd there always seemed to be space to sit down out of the heat of the day for a while.

Emili Sande
One of the bands I was really looking forward to seeing was Django Django. and a large crowd had arrived to see them, however the bands performance seemed a little lack-lustre, and while pleasant enough just didn't match up the promise that this band showed earlier in the year. By contrast Emeli Sande's performance on the main stage was one of the highlights, and she worked the crowd well as she danced back and forth across the stage.

You couldn't ask for any better weather during the day, but clear September nights mean a drop in temperature as the sun goes down, which summed up my feelings towards The xx's set – musically they are ok, but after the uplifting set of Emeli Sandé, their gothic ramblings were too much of a downer. Whilst on our way to the Comedy tent to try and lift our mood again the evening then took a slightly strange turn as we stumbled upon Underbling & Vow's Knees Up, which from my memories included a mobility scooter, bananas and time travel, I kid you not.

Robin Ince
We thought the comedy tent would be a safer affair, but then having seen Robin Ince, Ian Stone, and Phil Nichol we should have known better, three acts not for the easily offended, but they are all very entertaining. Phil even picked up a guitar but I don't think there will ever be any record deals!

After a quick detour to the Swamp Shack to take in its eerie ambience we headed back for tonight's headliner on the main stage. Florence + The Machine are semi-regulars at Bestival, but this is the first time they’ve headlined. Curiously, for someone who has always got into the Bestival ethos and embracing the fancy dress, the show was actually quite sedate, but enjoyable none-the-less.

Florence And The Machine
For many the performance on main stage will mark the end of the day and they would not feel disappointed, but at Bestival things are just starting to wake up, particularly in the Bollywood field, where due to a rather nice mojito things threatened to get slightly messy, eventually we found our way to the Pigs Big Ballroom in time for Three Bonzos And A Piano the current incarnation of 60s legends The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, I was fed a diet of their music by my dad growing up, so found myself singing along in the small but packed venue for classics such as Ali Baba's Camel, Jollity Fam and Canyons of Your Mind.

Returning back we were again delayed at the Replay stage, which purports to feature a line up chosen personally by Rob da Bank, and if true shows that our tastes are quite closely aligned as I don't think we saw a bad act there all weekend. This time we catch up with Summer Camp, whose mellow pop rock topped off with Elizabeth Sankey's soaring vocals..

around the festival site (Arcadia)
By contrast on the other side of the site is Arcadia – a stage which first appeared at Glastonbury a few years back, and takes the concept of apocalyptic rave to it's extreme – the venue feels like something out of Mad Max, with scrap metal sculptures and stages littered with lights, lasers and bursts of flame all around you. Even if the music is not your taste, a trip to any Arcadia set up is well worth the hike. If only to see the spectacle.

As the first full day of Bestival closes for us, we muse over what a fantastic day it has been. Great music, great weather, a friendly crowd, it's looking as though Bestival 2012 is going to be one of the best.

around the festival site (3)
review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th September 2012
Robin Hill Country Park, Downend, Nr Arreton, Isle of Wight, PO30 2NU, England MAP
£180 for Thu-Sun - camping sold out, premium camping £299
daily capacity: 50000
last updated: Thu 6th Sep 2012


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