Bestival is in its eleventh year this year and following last year’s tenth birthday celebrations there was a lot to live up to, and looking at festival line-up for the next few days seemed hard to envision. That’s not saying that there is particularly anything wrong with the line-up but Bestival seems to have fallen victim to the recent dearth of major acts, and after the managing to bag bona-fide legends such as The Cure, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, the headline acts just didn’t seem to reach the same heights.
In recent years the Thursday evening has been noticeably getting busier, but this year there didn’t seem to be so many people around the Big Top, or the central campsites, but this may just mean more were using the outer camping areas or just arriving on Friday, and not taking the theme of Desert Island Disco at its word and deserting the Island this year.
What is very noticeable this year is that there has been several big changes to the set up of the site, with some of the smaller stages being replace by more bar style venues, one of last year's better ideas (or so we thought) with the new comedy tent being one of this year's casualties, although not gone completely, it was now in a venue sandwiched between the early afternoon dancing classes and late-night music.
Our first stop after getting settled in the campsite was to walk up into the main arena and the Big Top which is this year hosted by 6 Music. The first act that we catch are Kids On Bridges, a band that are not dissimilar to Stone Roses in their big-sounding anthemic indie pop, certainly a band who’s lively and energetic performance got the weekend off to a promising start.
They were followed by Jenny Lewis, an American singer with a voice similar to Stevie Nicks, sadly the music wasn’t up to the level of Fleetwood Mac so we didn’t stay too long.
From here our plan was to make a quick circuit of the site, and get our first look at the glitter-ball–record breaking attempts seem to be the latest thing for festivals to get involved with, and this is the second festival this summer that we’ve been to that has attempted one, Bestival are getting in on the act by building the worlds largest glitter-ball –and on first impressions it’s certainly impressive - sat on the grass and lit by swirling lights it looks like a giant marble.
My first disappointment with Bestival this year was heading through the security point at the bottom of the Grassy Hill–seeing so many people urinating in the hedges at 9pm on the first night, just feet away from security is really disappointing. Maybe being local means the farm and park land that Bestival occupies is important, but what was really disheartening was seeing, despite many more toilets and urinals there are on site this year, that people cannot walk the extra few metres to use facilities provided–I bet these would be the first to complain if you urinated on their front lawn. My mood wasn’t improved when the Invaders of the Future Stage was running almost forty minutes late, this meant that instead of the energetic performance of what should have been The Correspondents we were subjected to twenty minutes of nigh-identical rock songs from Wild Smiles, which I can only say is time I will never get back.
It was a difficult choice to leave to head back to the Big Top, but headliner Beck was one of the few bands of the weekend that were really looking forward to seeing. Arriving out of the tail-end of the early 90s grunge scene, and Beck’s sound for me breathed new-life into what was becoming a tired genre. Although never quite managing to climb to the top of the heap, he has none-the-less managed to put together an impressive collection of music that encompasses country, rock, folk and hip-hop. Live he is a fascinating performer, never standing still, and moving round the stage almost constantly –only during vocals when he is playing guitar does he stay in one place, but even the shortest break in singing sees him moving away, often having to run back to pick up again. With 12 albums (and one collection of unrecorded sheet music) to his name, this could easily have descended into a meandering trip through the obscure (something he has a reputation for), but tonight it was the hits all the way, and the crowd were quickly swept up in the energy from the stage. I’m guessing that other commitments put him on the Thursday, as he could have easily headlined the Main Stage, maybe he will get a chance in future years.
Headed out to the Wishing Tree, which previously has been the home for late-night weirdness in the form of the Swamp Shack, but this year has relaunched itself as a slice of Jamaica, surrounded by its own sandy beach and swinging hammocks. The centrepiece of a ramshackle shack stage has been replaced by a more traditional set-up in the form of the Reggae Roots Stage. Finishing the scene is the bar which focussed on selling Rum in many forms - neat, with cola, in cocktails, the area is chilled and lives up to its name with the last two acts of this evening being Reggae Roast, a three man sound system who are being hailed as a leading light in the resurgence of the Dub/Reggae scene. These were the perfect warm up Prince Fatty whose energy and enthusiasm soon has the crowd jumping along to a set that included many reggae and ska anthems. Thursday evening seemed to come to an end all too early (even though it was past 1am), and it was with excitement for the rest of the weekend that we headed back to the tent.
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