it's the smaller bands that really impress on Saturday at Bestival

Bestival 2013 review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Fri 13th Sep 2013

around the festival site

Bestival 2013

Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th September 2013
Robin Hill Country Park, Nr Arreton, Downend, Isle of Wight, PO30 2NU, England MAP
£190 for Thu-Sun
Daily capacity: 79,999

After a night that saw some quite heavy rain, Saturday saw the sun again making its comeback as HMS Bestival sailed on into its second day. Feeling a little tired following a disturbed night - you expect noise and a bit of chaos at a festival but this year we were unfortunately camped next to a very self-centred group who came back into camp around 4am and shouting at each other and announcing to the whole site that they had MDMA and laughing gas. There are some areas where you would expect this but in the campsites that are a little more remote you would normally expect some consideration. I have to say that this appeared to be the only group of selfish individuals we encountered all weekend, and credit has to be given to the security who are always reasonable and friendly at Bestival who dealt with this quickly and without fuss when the same looked to happen on the following night. By the time we made our way slowly across camp taking in some of this year’s more adventurous fancy dress outfits, the nautical theme saw lots of naval suits and pirates throughout the day, but there were as always some fantastic outfits including a full-length lighthouse.

The Polyphonic Spree kicked off proceedings on the main stage. Now performing with a far slimmed down 13-piece band (they have numbered 30-40 members in the past), the soaring vocals and Beach Boy-esque sounds created an uplifting show that fit perfectly with the early afternoon sunshine and saw them fill the arena with crowds drawn in by their euphoric pop sound. Following them in the main were Bastille a band that have been popular on the festival scene and making some waves in the charts, while their performance was enjoyable, for me they never really commanding the main arena the way I’ve seen them do at smaller stages. 

Food at the festival offers a wide variety of food, in addition to the ubiquitous burger vans, there is a good selection of international cuisines available. Prices are slightly up on some other festivals and a good meal will cost you about £10. For those of you who fancy something a little more substantial, there is always the option of The Supper Club, although a little more expensive than usual festival fayre (a three-course meal will set you back £25), the food was delicious, and it was nice to be able to sit down at a table and eat rather than perching somewhere or eating as you travel between stages. The restaurant itself is staffed by volunteers and run by Bristol based charity FareShare South West – a charity that collects food from traders and stores that can no longer be sold due to mis-labelling or damaged packaging, and distribute it locally to those in need. The profits from the meal go to fund further charity work. If you ever have a spare couple of hours I can recommend paying the supper club a visit, the food is good and a little different from your usual festival staple of burgers and chips, and you can feel good about helping others too. 

One of good things about Besitval is that alongside the main venues, small tents give you the opportunity to discover small acts that most of the festival overlook – today's discovery was The Lorraine Bowen Experience - a fifty something lady rapping and performing with the help of the pre-recorded tunes on the type of keyboard you’d get from Argos – strange and surreal, but very compelling none-the-less. 

Decideing to approach our daily pilgrimage to the WI tent form the other direction, we took the opportunity to visit the Ampitheatre, Besitval’s spoken word venue. Here we watched a little of Tongue Fu, whose musings on Scooby Doo and detective shows drew a sizable crowd. With another round of tea and cakes from the WI in hand, the world seemed a little more sane, and we enjoyed some Peruvian folk courtesy of Myles Sanko at the Bandstand, not an act that we had planned to see, but again an enjoyable discovery for us. This is one of Bestivals strengths, the fact that, despite being a 60,000 capacity festival, it’s still possible to enjoy intimate performances form small bands – giving the impression of being at a far more intimate festival than it’s size would suggest.

One of the must see acts of the weekend form me was Johnny Marr. Formerly of The Smiths, Johnny’s status as a guitar hero and musical legend is fairly well cemented, and today’s show showed why those accolades are well deserved. Mixing solo work with Smiths songs, he soon had the crowd hanging on every note and singing along, ending with the classic ‘There is a Light that never goes out’ on the strength of his show he probably could have headlined.

Tonight’s headliners were Franz Ferdinand, and Snoop Dogg. The former have been quiet for a while why they worked on their new album, and this was the first chance for many to get reacquainted with them as a band. Live they are fantastic, with hits such as ‘Micheal’, ‘Matinee’ and ‘Take Me Out’ still sounding as good as ever, with the new material sitting comfortably alongside the old songs. Musically they gave a tight and energetic performance that showed they are still one of the best pop bands out there.

I’ve never been a great fan of Snoop Dogg so took the opportunity to go and discover something new instead. Having walked past the Polka Dot tent several times and always heard good noises coming out we decided it was time to see someone properly in there, and we arrived just in time to see The Adventures Of… whose energetic garage rock bought to mind an early Clash – definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Bestival attracts a wide variety of artists, and occasionally throws out a curve-ball, placing an artist you wouldn’t expect in a venue where they stick out – this year this honour fell to John Cooper Clarke who, despite the festival having a couple of perfectly respectable spoken word venues, was placed as second to top in the Replay stage, where for the rest of the weekend it was given over to the up-and-coming acts. Probably the most confused by this was the group of teenage girls firmly ensconced at the stage barrier, who rather than getting a dose of indie landfill, were instead presented with a lanky northern poet who looked like Keith Richards on a bad day. Once they got over the initial shock they seemed to warm to him though and joined in with the rest of the (older) crowd in applause for his poetry.

Having had one poet on the stage the crowd were treated to another – this one however performing more to the expectations of the crowd. Ghostpoet is a musician whose ambient electronica matched with a downbeat delivery that is probably best received in a small venue. The open plan nature of the venue was slightly at odds with this, and despite giving what was in itself a polished performance, it was noticeable that as the set wore on the crowd were drifting away in search of something a bit more upbeat to end their evening on.

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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