despite the problems, Bestival still carries (electric) dreams of being the best

Bestival 2016 review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Thu 15th Sep 2016

around the festival site

Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th September 2016
Robin Hill Country Park, Nr Arreton, Downend, Isle of Wight, PO30 2NU, England MAP
£190 adult weekend (+booking fee)
Daily capacity: 79,999
Last updated: Mon 5th Sep 2016

Sunday saw the return of summer and with it a very quick recovery of the site in general with only a few areas still suffering from the mud. It also dawned on us just how quickly this weekend seems to have passed, and this is the last day to enjoy the festival. After a delay to put out some matting to cover the worst of the mud accumulation in front of Main Stage the final day was opened by Lauran Hibberd, an artist whose been making a few waves on radio recently, whether the delay put her off I don’t know, rabbit-in-the-headlights air that Laura Marling used to have, like Laure, however the music was pretty good and perfectly placed for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Lauran Hibberd: Bestival 2016

It was about this time we realised, we had only made one visit to the almost legendary WI tent, so this certainly had to be rectified, and an early visit meant plenty of choice. Why more festivals (or indeed WI groups) haven’t cottoned on to the genius that is a tent supplying home-baked cakes and strong tea for a couple of pound is beyond me. If I had my way it would be written into the license of every festival in the UK. It’s one of the greatest hangover cures out there!

One of the attractions at The Bestival family of festivals this year has been the world’s largest bouncy castle, and wherever we have seen it has always been very popular, although today's jumpers seemed a little more sedate than some we have seen, maybe it’s the heat or or just  by Sunday there are too many revellers partying too hard to get more energy up.

Catching chance to sit in the sun in the main arena we enjoyed the ravings of Ghostpoet, I say ravings as it’s difficult to describe his performance. His delivery is not really rap, poetry or singing, but a combination of the three and when matched with his unique dancing has a unique flavour of its own. What it certainly is is interesting, and that’s never a bad thing in my opinion.

One of the best things about this festival is the Invaders of the Future stage, where predominantly the bands are little-known but deemed to be the ones to look out for. Although its position is occasionally marred by sound bleed from the surrounding stages, it’s usually got something interesting going on and we found ourselves heading there if ever at a loose end. A strong Liverpudlian accent is the first to strike about the next artist, Louis Berry, who has a strong voice belying of his age to go with his life-telling tunes – definitely worth checking out again.

Off in search of food today we finally ventured to the food hall, a venue that at first view you could mistake if for just one or two stalls but it opens up into the covered hall with plenty of food and seating, we went for the chicken randang and weren’t disappointed. Suitably refreshes we were now ready for our final trip to the main stage for a band that are quickly growing in stature and with their new album just released, Bastille were very much a crowd pleaser with anthemic tunes and a great energy, they deserve to be headlining festivals very soon.

With the sun still shining we found ourselves back at the Invaders of The Future stage for Eliza and The Bear, who said that they had only been signed for the festival three days earlier – making us wonder who had pulled out. Whoever it was had given us here a fantastic last-minute treat. With great energy and upbeat fun-loving loving lyrics which quickly turn into sing-alongs for the crowd, they are likely to be a band that rise to larger stages fairly quickly.

One of the the strengths of any good festival is the ability to provide a variety of different music, and so it is at Bestival, as the headliner Wiz Khalifa didn’t appeal at all, so instead we headed over to the Big Top  where The Human League were gathering a crowd, Although I’ve seen them a few times before I had to say I was particularly impressed by them this time as they seem to have upped their game again, with an energetic show, and frontman Phil Oakey in excellent voice. Arguably there biggest hit  Don't You Want Me was presented as an instrumental at first, giving the crowd a chance to sing it for him, not seeming to notice the lack of singers on stage. When he did come out and sign it for a second round the crowd only seemed to get louder. If there was one misstep it was they help dout a bit too long for the encore, resulting in half the crowd leaving. But the rush back as the menacing synth riff of ‘Being Boiled’ broke through was almost funny to watch – especially as Big Top was one of the few venues still quite muddy stopping fast movement! They finished with the almost-cover of (Together in) Electric Dreams, and I don’t think I was the only one with a raw throat from singing along. Greatest hits act they may be these days, but with their catalogue who really cares?

In search of something to keep the high going, we headed to the Caravanserai stage for Oh My God! It's The Church – a mock full-on Southern Baptist church service with a difference, mainly being the embracing of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Matching a comic performance, audience participation, and some rocking covers of gospel and soul classics, this group are probably one of the best acts on the festival circuit at the moment, and perfect for some late-night antics.

Deciding that this was a high worth ending on we sadly headed for the exit. Bestival this year seems to have been a weekend of highs and lows, both in the weather, the acts, and the new layout. There’s certainly some issues that will need addressing – the sound certainly needs looking at, given the space they do have there is no real need for sound bleed to be an issue here. It’s also still a shame that there’s no real platform for local acts like there used to be. But these are fairly easy to solve, and hopefully will be addressed for next year. But putting these aside, Bestival has shown that when it gets it right, it’s up there with the best of them.

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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