Thursday, 30 July 2009

Camp Bestival 2009 - Part 3

Saturday. After some early non musical fun and games we head for our first musical adventure on day two. In the Big Top Alessi's Ark are incredibly late, having got stuck in traffic. They arrive just fifteen minutes before their allocated time finishes, set up in what must be the fastest time ever and then race through a very short set. Alessi is full of apologies, apologising for being late and apologising for clashing with Alela Diane on the Castle Stage. The brevity of the set means that the band never really get the chance to settle as they quickly tiptoe through songs such as The Dog and Asteroids Collide, Alessi’s face animated in her expressions, her voice adding a sugar coating to her soft country rock sound.

To display Camp Bestivals musical diversity we jump from Alessis’s Ark to Goldie Lookin' Chain. From chart success with Guns Don’t Kill People Rappers Do, to celebrity Big Brother shenanigans, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that Goldie Lookin’ Chain were no longer a going concern having faded into obscurity. However it seems that Adam Hussain, Maggot, Eggsy and crew are still one big gang, bringing their energetic stage stalking track suited comedy hip hop to a big appreciative crowd. Funny and as puerile as ever GLC tackle everything from Michael Jackson “He’s dead now - he did do some bad things though,” to farting “I put farting powder in Adams coffee,” as they race through a set of tracks old and new. Their tongue in cheek lyrics, colourful leisure wear and comic banter go down well with the audience, with plenty of hands raised in the air (see picture above) Hit singles may now be a thing of the past, but Goldie Lookin’ Chain can probably make some money from a career out of festival appearances such as this for some years to come.

Musical journeyman Frank Turner returns to the UK from touring the States with The Offspring to bring some good old fashioned singer songwriter ideals to the Camp Bestival main stage. Frank seems to spend his whole life incessantly touring, building up a loyal fan base from it. New single The Road, played with jaunty enthusiasm seems to celebrate this fact with its lyrics of fear of staying in one place and the irony of “only being shackled to the road can ever I be free.” Turner is a troubadour with strong principles and his heart on his sleeve, a man who seems like he's grown wiser after taking some kicks, but getting back up again. On the eloquent Long Live The Queen he sings the words of someone who he has lost “You’ll live to dance another day, it’s just now you’ll have to dance for the two of us.” It's poignantly beautiful. There are hints of Billy Bragg in Frank Turner, if Billy if had decided to play acoustic punk rock with a folk twist. Turner is obviously a grafter, and we’re sure that this will pay dividends for him in the long run.

Last year at End Of The Road Festival Bon Iver played the most absorbing and enchanting set we witnessed in 2008. A year on and Justin Vernon, who effectively is Bon Iver has become more accustomed to playing to big crowds, and as a result his set loses some of the humble magic that made it so special a year ago. With a slightly smoother sound and a little bit of chat Bon Iver play through tracks from For Emma, Forever Ago, our album of the year last year, plus a rockier version of Blood Bank and a cover of Yo La Tengo’s I Feel Like Going Home. Skinny Love finds Justin on scratchy guitar and three drummers driving the song home, whilst on Re:Stacks he plays solo, the music meshing with the lyrics to portray exactly how the song sounds “it’s the sound of unlocking and lifting away". Creature Fear ends wrapped in warped noisy derangement and final song Wolves (Act I and II) sees Vernon using the crowd as backing vocals, gradually building in volume as they sing “What might have been lost,” over and over again. It’s good, but it lacks the emotion and awe that we have seen before, although the audience give rapturous applause after every song.

The evening is then left to PJ Harvey to play her headlining set in the Big Top. Earlier this year Harvey astounded us in Brighton (review here). At Camp Bestival she performs a totally different solo show which she states will consist of her own personal favourite songs, performed stripped down, the way they were originally written. From the stunning gutsy blues of opening song To Bring You My Love to the stark ending of Silence the performance feels more like a recital than a euphoric festival set, but it works perfectly. The audience are very respectful listening in almost near silence as Harvey performs everything from well known tracks such as Down By The Water to B Sides such as Nina In Ecstasy which Polly described as “a very small quiet song.” Some songs are played on piano, others on guitar. A new track samples the old tin pan alley song Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by fifties group The Four Lads, looped whilst Polly sings with a bizarre musical minuture harp type instrument. It's an odd yet intriguing piece.

The set confirms Harvey as a major and unique talent, her voice ranging from an unsettling girlish tone to a powerful strong woman. This show had a feel of being something rather special. It may not have been right for those who want a big singalong, clapalong, lowest common denominator headlining set, but for those who want something born out of pure integrity and quality PJ Harvey ticked all the right boxes. A superb way to end a great day.

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