Diversity is the key to Rob Da Banks' desert island disco

Bestival 2014 review

published: Mon 15th Sep 2014

around the festival site (3)

Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th September 2014
Robin Hill Country Park, Nr Arreton, Downend, Isle of Wight, PO30 2NU, England MAP
£195 for adults, £127 for Teen (age 13-17), 12& under free
daily capacity: 79999
last updated: Mon 1st Sep 2014

Although long range forecasts had threatened that the weather would be closing in this year there were no signs of this in the sky. So it was with bleary eyes that we headed up into the main arena, only to be expected when attending festival, but unfortunately there are always a few who don’t wish to attend the festival for all it has to offer and will therefore remain in camp until late evening and return at six in the morning expecting everyone to be impressed by their drug taking, unfortunately this year we had these people as neighbours who thought that their festival experience was the only experience to have. Don’t be put off by this as usually these types are very few and far between and most people want to experience all Bestival has to offer, appreciate everyone attends for different experiences, and usually security are very hot, but a few seemed to slip through this year as could be evidence by the surplus of used ampules and balloons that seem to be strewn across the site.

Using the opportunity to recharge both ourselves and our mobile and camera batteries we spent the early part of today in the main arena, which had a fairly impressive line-up. First up were New Build and if their musical style seemed familiar, it could be because they are fronted by Al Doyle– guitarist from Hot Chip, whose performance warranted a slot further up the billing.

Dramatic changes of style was the order of call for today, as following New Build’s Electropop were the excellent reggae rockers Skindred, these were themselves the polar opposite to the following act – Sophie Ellis-Bextor, dressed to compliment her new album Wanderlust, and nothing better to lift the spirits than good music in the sun and the crowd in the main arena seemed to be in agreement.

Fancy dress is a big thing at festivals these days, but Bestival can probably lay claim to being the first festival to really run with it. On commencing our journey across the site today we were surprised by the lack of many really imaginative fancy dress outfits this year, the theme of Desert Island Disco didn’t seem to grab people as previous years fancy dress themes have, there were a few genuine disco outfits and many Hawaiian shirts/grass skirt combos, but not many that really stood out as usually happens in previous years.

Kawa Circus: Bestival 2014

Although our plan was to do a circuit of the site to see what’s happening, but as many should be warned, it’s never good to have too many plans at Bestival, as you never know when the surprises will be thrown your way. Today we stumbled into the Indian circus act Kawa Circus, whose show was a mixture of the unbelievable and the stomach churning, certainly and act that would give health and safety a headache, with sword swallowing and spinning on top of bamboo poles just a couple of their highlights. Knowing that we would no longer have time to make our planned circuit, we headed to see the awe-inspiring Wall of Death–a regular at the festival where stuntmen and women drive motorbikes and buggies round a 20ft high circular wall, coming within inches of the audience, not to be recommended for those who have a weak disposition or a strong fear of heights, but an experience all should try and make time for.

Legend is a phrase that is often bandied around, but I think it’s fair to apply it to Candi Staton. Starting out in the 60s as a soul singer, it wasn’t until the mid-70s that her career really took off with the growing disco trend. Again her career saw another high in the 90s with ‘You Got The Love’. Her live performance was like many of the old pro’s unashamedly feel-good, with plenty of opportunities to sing along. Time has not diminished her voice, and despite a lightweight style of music, she gave a really powerful performance.

From here we headed over to the Invaders from the Future stage to catch Kate Tempest, part rapper, part poet, she is a favourite of organiser Rob Da Bank, and he has championed her for a number of years. I’ve never managed to catch her before so decided to make an effort this year. While she is undoubtedly a talented person, I found her delivery and poetry a bit uninspiring, so we didn’t stay too long, and it seemed that as we moved on many others agreed.

We used this opportunity to explore some of the food stalls on offer in the main camping areas, these seem to be a little more basic than what is on offer in the main arena but the prices are very reasonable around £7 with portions being far more generous, after perusing the range, we succumbed to the promise of curly fries and a ‘Bestival burger’(double patty, bacon, cheese and onion rings), while certainly filling it was just a little too greasy for my tastes. While eating we enjoyed the fun of the Sure DO More event which saw adults taking part in party games with a twist for the opportunity to do a reverse bungee over the site.

With little appealing to us from tonight’s main line ups, we headed up to the bandstand to chill out and see what the smaller stage can offer, it’s just a shame that the WI tent closes early each day as a slice of cake would have gone down fine after the big climb, but it is run by volunteers so is only fair they get to enjoy some of the sights themselves if they wish.

At a festival it’s easy to sit round the big stages enjoying the big names, but if you can pull yourself away then there’s a lot of real talent hanging round the smaller stages –one of the weekends’ highlights came on the Bandstand when The Southsea Alternative Choir –basically nine men, two guitars, a bass, a kick-drum and a trumpet singing the songs of artists as diverse as Blur, Beach Boys, Mamas and Papas, and Gomez. If this sounds like the sort of thing that would come together after a drunken night in a pub, you’d be right, as that’s how they formed, mainly to raise money for local charity Samuels Fund. But as often with seeming frivolities they’ve hit on something fantastic, with tight close harmonies they lifted the songs into something quite special. Add to their voices about 200 festival-goers and something quite special was created.

By contrast OthaSoul were a fairly ordinary rap group, who despite having some reasonable riffs, were let down by the two front-men –white-boy rappers that Ali-G has lampooned enough already for me to go any further. If it weren’t for the fact that we’d managed to bag one of the sofas at the back of the stage and were quite comfortable, we probably would have left. But we didn’t and our patience was rewarded with Gallows Ghost, a prog-folk act whose rich, ambient sound brought to mind Bats for Lashes.

With the bandstand closed for the day, we headed through the Ambient Forest which takes on a whole new life when it gets dark, with a chance for relaxation in giant hammocks in the gypsy camp to the fantastic effects of the lights on all the different water features you can imagine yourself in the middle of nowhere, not in the heart of a music festival. If you can face the hikes you really do need to explore Bestival by day and night to appreciate all it has to offer - albeit occasionally weird, such as the group dancing and miming to 30s ballads. As we made our way back to the tent we contemplated just how enjoyable Bestival is, providing such a wide variety of styles that, as long as you can manage the rolling countryside, ensure there is something to entertain even the most varied groups.

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th September 2014
Robin Hill Country Park, Nr Arreton, Downend, Isle of Wight, PO30 2NU, England MAP
£195 for adults, £127 for Teen (age 13-17), 12& under free
daily capacity: 79999
last updated: Mon 1st Sep 2014

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