Sun-arises for Rolf and The Wailers at Bestival

Bestival 2010 reviews

published: Thu 16th Sep 2010

The Wailers (2)

Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th September 2010
Robin Hill Country Park, Downend, Nr Arreton, Isle of Wight.. PO30 2NU, England MAP
£150 (Adult) - / £75 (Age 13-15) - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 40000
last updated: Thu 9th Sep 2010

Saturday morning bought a strong wind and a fine drizzle that threatened to turn Bestival into a repeat of the Somme-like conditions that blighted the 2008 event. Fortunately by about 11 the rain had abated and so we set out across the damp fields in search of something hot to drink. Fortunately at the top of the Tomorrows World Field is the WI Tea Tent, a place where for £1.20 you can get a steaming hot mug of tea or coffee and a homebaked cake – an absolute bargain given the usual price of festival food and drink. Thus armed with sustenance, we took a chance to wander round the field.

Doctor Jones and the Blunt Instruments
Tomorrow's World is the green area of the festival and prides itself on being entirely powered by wind and solar power. As well as a selection of food and green issues tents, there is also a small club where the power for the light and decks comes from a kinetic dancefloor and, in case there are not enough people dancing, there is a bicycle at the side as a backup supply. Also in this area is the bandstand, where we saw local band Doctor Jones and the Blunt Instruments, whose mellow, bluesy rock was the perfect antidote to dust off the cobwebs.

Eliza Doolittle
Returning to the mainstage, Eliza Doolittle was bringing us a slightly retro take on pop. Because today is fancy dress day, she was dressed in an outfit that she described as being "the Ice Queen from Narnia", although if the ice queen did wear that outfit, then the film probably wouldn't have been a PG. Her bands outfit was rather less thought through as she admitted that their oversized handlebar moustaches were actually "ripped off the bark of the palm trees backstage". Although she had a good voice and carried the songs well, there was something lacking in the performance that didn't grab me.

Over in the Big Top Mountain Man were performing to a very small crowd, their gentle choral-folk not being a big attraction to most of the festival. All that changed when a rainstorm passed overhead and suddenly everyone in the area decided that gentle choral folk was far preferable to being soaked to the skin – especially for those whose fancy dress wasn't weatherproof.

The rain ensured that the Big Top had a good crowd to see Hurts, an electro-pop band who's particular trick is an operatic tenor in the band, sadly the sound levels were off and his voice was barely audible above the rest of the band.

Outside the rains had passed just in time for the fancy dress parade, although the inclement weather had put a lot of people off the parade as it was noticeably smaller than previous years. However those who did brave the layer of mud that had appeared were rewarded with the usual mix of costumes ranging from the original and inventive to the homemade and shambolic.

Rolf Harris
The ultimate destination of the parade was the main stage, and someone making his debut performance on the Isle of Wight. The man in question brought Glastonbury to a standstill in 2009 and this year opened the pyramid. The band come on stage first and rapper BB Manic takes to the stage to whip up the crowds anticipation still further, leading the crowd in the chant of "When I say Rolf, you say Harris" to which there is a resounding reply of "Harris". Rolf Harris is a man who has an iconic attraction, possibly due to his near constant presence on TV when so many of us were growing up.

His performance is one full of humour and self-depreciation. Although not in fancy dress himself he was fully appreciative of the efforts of the bestival crowd and was a little taken aback to see himself. Due to the fancy dress efforts his songs were most fitting as he there was an army of toy green soldiers at the front to enjoy his classics like 'Two Little boys', 'Waltzing Matilda', finishing with 'Stairway to Heaven' and the English version of 'Tie me Kangararoo Down Sport'.

If you believe in positive thinking, then the general feelings of goodwill towards Rolf may explain why the heavy clouds that had been a feature of the last two days finally started to lift with the occasional patch of blue sky breaking through. However it was left to the next band to complete the job and coax the sun out as well.

The Wailers (2)
Bob Marley was such a commanding figure in music history that often The Wailers were relegated to the job of backing band, and I'm sure many people would feel that minus their legendary lead singer they would be more of a tribute act these days. Thankfully the truth is that they are as good musically as they were in their heyday and although Koolant, the new front man, has a respect for his predecessor, he isn't afraid of developing and re-interpreting the songs in places. The Wailers back catalogue is a good excuse for a sing-a-long and the crowd were in good voice throughout.

Steve Mason
After a quick food break – where we discovered that while the Fine Chicken Co. did indeed produce some very fine chicken, their chips were far less so, being overcooked and dry, which was reflected by some of the staff. We headed up to a half empty Big Top for Steve Mason. The ex Beta Band lead singer has had a rough time of it over the last few years, battling depression and several suicide attempts. But seems to be back on an even-ish keel. Musically his new material is confessional and the restrained music suits the equally downbeat lyrics, but amongst all this angst and shoe gazing, Steve delivers the songs with a passion that lifts the music and makes it something beautiful. If he can keep himself straight maybe he can finally achieve the success he deserves.

In contrast in pretty much every way, The Correspondents were busy driving the main stage crowd into a frenzy. Last year this band were all over the Bestival like a rash, turning up to perform between just about every act it seemed. This year they were a little more sparse, but having earned themselves a set proper on the main stage. Their mix of swing and drum and bass, is infectious, but when matched with frontman Mr Chuckles' frankly insane dancing, creates a hypnotic spectacle that is hard not be swept up with.

Mumford and Sons
To say Mumford & Sons have had a busy year, going from Laura Marling's backing band to a major force in British music. From their appearance today it's clear that they are only going to get bigger. Arriving on stage in Musketeer uniforms they were clearly loving every minute of the show, from the exuberance of 'Little Lion Man' or the darker songs such as 'Blank White Page', the former leading Marcus Mumford to quip "That's the most superheroes I've seen shouting 'fuck' at the same time." The only let-down was the crowd at the end, or more particularly a certain part of it, who, apparently oblivious to the muddy conditions underfoot and the amount of people trying to move about on site felt the need to push and shove their way about the packed arena causing several people to fall over. Given the generally friendly nature of the Bestival crowds, it's a shame that some are so selfish.

Escaping the chaos for a while we returned to the woods hopeful to see what surprises the Gazebo could spring on us, sadly two no shows (presumably put off by the weather) meant that the venue only had a DJ on, even though, it was nice to just sit down and have a chat with other festival-goers and just chill amongst the multi-colour lit trees for half an hour.

Roxy Music
Returning to the main stage in time to catch the tail end of Roxy Music, who seemed to be entertaining the crowd well enough, but not enough to make me regret not seeing them. We settled down to wait for The Flaming Lips. If ever there was a band whose personal philosophy is closely allied to Bestival's then they are it. It's a surprise they haven't played sooner. The band arrived on stage through a door in the screen displaying a woman’s nether regions, while the lead singer Wayne Coyne was 'born' on stage before heading off into the crowd in his inflatable hamster ball. After returning to the stage things only got weirder, as the usual selection of confetti canons, giant balloons and balls were unleashed upon the audience while crowds stood either side of the stage and, dressed in orange, danced their way through the show.

Wayne Coyne was clearly taken with the festival admitting that the band had been here for the last two days, as well as the crowd in front of him, possibly because it was the first time at a Flaming Lips concert that there were more people in furry animal costumes off stage than on it. Personal highlights was the grand and dramatic 'Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung' and the sublime 'Do You Realise' which made a perfect end to one of the finest performances I've seen in a long time. Wayne left the stage thanking the crowd and "hoping that this festival goes on for ever and we come back every few years to share the magic with you." An opinion that I'm sure the crowd and organisers shared with him.

The Flaming Lips (2)
review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Phil Bull / Steve Collins

Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th September 2010
Robin Hill Country Park, Downend, Nr Arreton, Isle of Wight.. PO30 2NU, England MAP
£150 (Adult) - / £75 (Age 13-15) - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 40000
last updated: Thu 9th Sep 2010

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