For Breaking More Waves Saturday is the day where pop and synths take over. From the folktronica of James Yuill, to the pure pop of Lily Allen, to the refined computerised beauty of Kraftwerk. If you only connect with ugly male skinny jeans indie guitar bands, then you wouldn’t want to be hanging round with Breaking More Waves today as a number of our favourite acts take to the stage.
But at first it seems like one of those ugly indie boys has put a spanner in the works. Thirty seconds into the James Yuill set in the Red Bull Transmission tent, as swishing electronics build and the bass kicks in, all we hear is the sound of silence. It’s not just a laptop malfunction, but a proper power cut. Yuill appears totally unfazed and pulls out his acoustic guitar, sits on the front of the stage and softly serenades the silent crowd unplugged. The irony in this is that there are booming sound systems all around the place and yet here is a man beguiling an audience with no amplification whatsoever. Utterly endearing and gently wonderful. Two songs later, an audience transfixed, the power is back on and the digital beats and fuzzy warped electronica slaps back in, to add sonic power to Yuills warm balladeering. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again he’s the thinking mans Calvin Harris with Aphex Twin, New Order and Radiohead implanted in his brain. No Pins Allowed gets several people air drum machine playing and an extended Over The Hills is universally gorgeous. We’re sure we see a lad with a curly mop of hair, skinny jeans and electronic guitar skulking out of the tent.
After a disappointing non appearance by Blue Roses at the Jim Beam Bar, Little Boots is Go! bringing Thunderbird chic to the main stage. Dressed as Lady Penelope in a platinum wig and sporting a pink boa and cocktail dress Victoria Hesketh arrives on stage driving a tiny car, with the rest of her band togged up as Brains, Parker and the International Rescue crew. Little Boots set is becoming rapidly polished and professional, the electro pop of Remedy, New In Town and a cover of the Freddie Mercury song Love Kills all going down well, but sometimes it is a little too shiny and lacks a raw and undiluted quality. The best moment is when Victoria displays her more awkward geeky side, tottering undextrously over the stage in an attempt to stand on the low level speakers where she almost slips. This ungainly nerdiness is more charming than the girl who swings her arms aloft with shouts of “Let me see your hands.”
The pop revolution continues in an overblown hysterical way with Mika . Not to be out done by Little Boots, Mika sports an astronauts costume, and adds dancing Stormtroopers and a meteor shower, or rather someone wearing a shower curtain with meteors stuck on it. With silver balloons unleashed into the crowd Mika knows how to entertain the masses for sure. From the Elton John vs. Billy Joel orgy of next single Blame It On The Girls to old songs such as Grace Kelly, Mika struts and preens his way around the stage, his voice sounding like Leo Sayer in a whorehouse. His music is as camp as canvas and as nauseating as a bucket of sick, but we salute the man for at least knowing when irritation turns to absolute annoyance and exiting the stage before we have to abandon the no guns on site rule.
Today the crown of pop is presented to Lily Allen. “I’m Barbarella or Lily Alien,” she announces with a charming giggle. Dressed in a revealing backless white dress / leotard affair with a split down the front and silver tassels stuck around the bottom. Allen commands the stage in a way we have never seen her do so before. Puffing at her “theatrical cigarette,” for the jazzy He Wasn’t There and dancing wildly for a cover of Britney Spears Womaniser, Allen appears self assured, confident and a complete pop star. The last time we saw Lily she meandered around the stage looking like a vacant lost girl. Today she knows exactly who the star is and she shines brightly. Getting everyone to put their fingers in the air for F**k You she explains that the song was originally about the BNP, but then it was changed to be about George W Bush. “Who’s still a c**t, but not as powerful.” We never thought we would say it, but Lily Allen is starting to turn into a half decent live act.
With the nu rave scene now being almost old grave, Klaxons find themselves in a difficult position. It’s been three years since their Mercury winning debut hit the streets. Since then there have been tales of shelved recording sessions and the ‘difficult’ second album has become a massive understatement. So when the band launch into Atlantis To Interzone as their opening song there are mixed emotions. One, it’s good to have Klaxons back. Two they are starting with a song that we first heard in its demo form about four years ago. Are they really in so much turmoil that they haven’t moved on at all ? Luckily as the set develops this crisis call lessens. They play a bomb of new songs that are edgy, angry and apocalyptic, mixing dance and rock synergies. Some are as heavy as Manuel Uribe and then some. The crowd go utterly mental and as Jamie Reynolds announces “From where I’m standing - front to back mayhem - thank you !” you begin to realise that as the band sing themselves, it’s not over yet.
But it gets better. After Underworld warm the crowd up with a DJ set, it’s time for one of the most seminal bands in the world - Kraftwerk. Starting behind a curtained screen, four shadow silhouettes of motionless men standing at laptops / keyboards are projected from dull red light. The curtains part and there they are. Motionless, expressionless, staring straight ahead. One of the most visionary bands of all time. The electronic minimalist rhythms begin to pulse across the arena and Bestivals main stage becomes one mammoth industrial dance floor. Kraftwerk deconstruct every rule of live performance, ripping up the rock rule book and instead create their own elegant space. The band never look at each other, never talk to the crowd, never even move, communicating only through the music, playing one classic track after another. From Tour De France, The Model to Autobahn Kraftwerk find romance in the most unlikely subjects and soundscapes. And as the main set comes to an end the curtains close only to open again to find the band gone, replaced at their workstations by robots for We Are The Robots. Kraftwerk was one of the most anticipated performances at Bestival 2009 and it easily lived up to expectations. The coolest band in the world ? Hell yes. Absolutely inspiring.
There is of course no way that synth pop revivalists La Roux can come close to Kraftwerk, but by playing the slowed dubstep version of In For The Kill and finishing with a mass singalong to Bulletproof in the Big Top, La Roux certainly keep the night on a high. The sound may be a little on the quiet side and Ellie Jackson has yet to come out of her shell as a really engaging front woman, but with her eighties shoulder pads, and ultra quiff she certainly looks the part.
As the night goes on the outer space theme of today’s fancy dress takes on a new meaning for many punters, who really don’t know what planet they are on. The Breaking More Waves approved Casio Kids are determined that those space cadets don’t crash land just yet either, bringing their percussion heavy Hot Chip styled rhythmic dance pop to the Red Bull tent. With one of their singers looking like a camp version of Beck sporting a bow tie, much instrument swapping, songs about villages in Tanzania and wild horses, sumptuous sky high falsetto vocals and a perfect structure to their set the atmosphere feels like a very big house party. As Finn Bikjenn kicks in towards the end bodies are grooving in every direction, the place shimmering in joy and as the band finally leave the stage and the sounds of Paul Simons You Can Call Me Al start to play, Saturday night / Sunday morning has never felt so good.