Mud, madness and magic – Bestival delivers in spectacular style at its beautiful new Dorset home.
Over the weekend of the 8th/9th September, we headed down to Dorset for the UK festival that undoubtedly represents the nation’s final blow-out before the summer draws to a close.
Bestival has always had a reputation for quirkiness. And it’s in this regard that we receive our first assurance that despite moving location, the festival had no intention of changing its stripes.
As you meander between stages, you witness all you never realised you definitely needed. An inflatable Kanye face? Check. Giant inflatable church? Check. World’s biggest confetti cannon? Check.
That’s not to mention the staging itself. From the full size shipwrecked HMS Bestival to the all-out neon tribal decorations of the Temple stage, Bestival clearly had no intention of doing things by halves.
We arrive on Friday just as Romare introduce their experimental brand of live tribal funk to The Box. Straight after, Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit‘s folk rock has the crowd swaying in unison. The stage’s back-to-back afternoon of talent is completed by singer-songwriter Nick Mulvey, whose latest album ‘Wake Up Now’ released that very same day. It’s this type of line-up combination that is testament to Bestival. They actively seek out combinations that make festival goers listen to different types of music.
As the sun sets, we journey to the main Castle stage, to watch Swedish electronic act Little Dragon treat the lively Friday crowd to their mysterious and irresistibly catchy synth pop. It sets up the perfect atmosphere for The xx to fill the first of the weekend’s headliner slots – the trio make their faithful return to Bestival seven years after their 2010 performance, an appearance which is marked as one of their first ever festival shows.
The xx craft a dramatic and ghostly atmosphere on stage. Treating the audience to a tour-de-force of their intricate discography, the group flit between their three critically acclaimed albums. The show reflects the myriad of emotions their music tends to bring about, from the peaceful solo Romy singing ‘Performance’ to sing-a-long tracks like ‘Crystalised’ and upbeat Jamie xx gem ‘Loud Places’. Not to mention the tying together of the set list with ethereal closing number ‘Angels’.
Our night closed with Joe Goddard‘s set at the Jägerhaus, whose latest album ‘Electric Lines’ saw him flawlessly mix between feel-good synth-pop through to ’70s-disco and cosmic techno.
As Saturday dawns, the conclusion that the weekend’s weather is going to be as bad as predicted sets in. Rain tumbles down, but in true Bestival style we quell any bad mood by diving into the Club Dada tent for electro-swing group Swing Patrol before a trip to Stacey’s for a taste of the well-loved South London Soul Train.
As the line up continues to build throughout the day, we caught the soulful indie pop of Laura Mvula at the Castle Stage followed by the bass-y house of the fast-rising Patrick Topping. In similar style to the previous day, we finish the afternoon at the Box watching the gentle acoustic sounds of Lucy Rose, followed by the not so gentle, but just as heart-wrenching, rock of Black Foxxes. Once again Bestival had provided eclectic goodness.
It was then time for the most hotly-anticipated performance of the weekend. The final ever performance of A Tribe Called Quest – a hip-hop group who maintain a reputation that’s arguably unrivalled in terms of impact and duration.
A solo image of Phife Dawg is projected on-screen before they appear on stage and the tribute that ensues is remarkable. They open with ‘The Space Program’, followed by ‘Oh My God’ as each of Phife’s verses are added to the backing track. The combination is as good as ever, blending loose conversational bars, conscious messages and brass-fuelled instrumentals all into one package.
“A Tribe Called Quest, we suffered a blow,” shouts Q-Tip to the crowd. “We lost our boy Phife Dawg. This is gonna be our last show as A Tribe Called Quest, ever.” After 27 years, it’s been an incredible journey for the group.
Closing the main set with ‘Check the Rhime’, the group return for ‘Can I Kick It?’, ‘Award Tour’ and the repeated playing of ‘We The People…’ as all three members stand rapping at the barriers. It’s an emphatic performance that closes an important chapter in hip-hop history.
From old hip-hop to new hip-hop, we subsequently caught the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at The Box. Their team of brass players have the swagger of a rap group but the funk of a big-band. It’s infectious. Closing Saturday, we turned to queen of the UK dance music scene, Annie Mac. Making the most of lighting, the packed crowd and phenomenal sound system, she rounds off the day with a selection of classic house. Closing with undisputed crowd-pleaser ‘Music Sounds Better with You’, she sets off the confetti cannon one last time to a chorus of cheers.
Bad weather truly set in on Sunday, making even the hardiest campers shake. Unfortunately after only an hour of being open, Bestival were forced to close the site for Sunday afternoon due to high wind speeds. Sadly, this meant missing performances from favourites like Blaenavon, Park Hotel and Loyle Carner.
We took the opportunity to head for the roads and drive home. A decision made without regret on the basis of a phenomenal weekend of music. Once again Bestival had done what it does best – deliver no nonsense music with magical charm. Here’s to increasing the peace.
For more information on Bestival, head to the Website.
Featured image: Bestival Robot by Victor Frankowski
Photo insert: Temple Stage by Georgina Harrison
Photo insert: Temple Fireworks & Canon by Sam Neill