“We’ve never played by a castle before, so that’s good,” announces Marcus Mumford with a smile. It’s mid afternoon and Mumford and Sons are playing their soulful blend of bluegrass and folk to a chilled out crowd on the main stage on the opening day of Camp Bestival. Summery vibes may be the order of the day but the accordion led Winter Winds is by the bands own admission not very appropriate for such lovely weather. Irrespective of lyrical rights or wrongs, the bands tunes have a solemnly epic gravitas, Marcus’s quietly rasping roar sounding glorious and tender on White Blank Page. Roll Away Your Stone with its Camberwick Green style intro brings out spots of take your partner by the hand country and western style jigging in the crowd. Mumford & Sons win some new fans and warm hearts, whatever season it is.
Having been celebrated and referenced by Mumford and Sons earlier, Hayseed Dixie continue the banjo revival. Best known for reinventing classic rock songs as ballistic bluegrass numbers they roll out hyperactive hoe down versions Ace Of Spades and Fat Bottom Girls to the delight of the crowd. Performing a song about keeping your ex’s poop in a jar may not be the most spiritually deep moment of the festival, getting schoolboy giggles all round, but these hilarious hillbillies removed the frown from even the biggest cynics face.
The crowd at the main stage swells significantly for Florence And The Machine. She may be third on the bill but young Florence Welch could quite easily be considered headliner status now, with a number two album and a Mercury nomination under her flowing robes. But could she deliver ?
Introduced by a town crier carrying a Dorset flag Florence is like a flaming pre-raphaelite bride, flailing and fizzing across the stage. It was at Camp Bestival this time last year that we witnessed Florence live performance for the first time, and she gleefully tells the audience how then she ended up half naked down at Lulworth Cove. “I was in a pretty bad way,” she giggles. One year on and Florence is now the speaker stack ascending commanding queen. She divides the crowd in two and gets each section to howl like wolves for Howl, instructs everyone to turn round to look at the beautiful sunset and asks for everyone to say hello to her sister in the audience. Just like her performance the music itself doesn’t hold back at all, unleashed in a powerful frenzy of heavy drums and belting vocals it’s brimming with energy and passion. Performance of the day and possibly of the festival - she delivered.
Later in the evening Dan Black headlines the tiny Bandstand stage to just a handful of people. The gig is probably the most surreal that Black has ever played, standing on a bunting decorated bandstand with a number of children stage front, adults seated on the grass in the dark behind them. “Shouldn’t you be in bed?” asks Black to the children as he launches into his set of funky pop grooves with heavy beats. The kids seem to show no fear though “When are you going to play the good one?” a six year old questions. “We‘re saving it till the end,” laughs Black. As his set develops though Black takes the victory. The adults stand and begin to dance and people huddle closer to the stage. Black is engaging, full of funky moves and confidence. Alone in particular storms it, a hot little stormer with sexed up synths and thrusting pumping bass. The children got a right musical education.