Friday, 18 September 2009

Bestival 2009 - Part 4

After two days of almost incessant main stage hogging, Sunday takes Breaking More Waves to virtually every other point on the Bestival site.

Peggy Sue's alt. folk harmonies give a lo-fi kiss to a large hungover crowd at the Jim Beam Bar. Conveying hippyish ideals with flower garlands in their hair, lyrics declaring that “Love will save the day,” and strong soulful female vocals the group are just the tonic for sore heads. After they finish with a stomping version of The Sea The Sea they sell out of the CD’s that they’ve brought with them, a good sign.

The shadow of a ferris wheel creates rotating patterns on the arc shaped canopy above the stage as Ohbijou play songs from their album Beacons. With silken strings and lush violins tussling with Casey Mecija’s angelic girlish vocal, their folk rock sound could easily become twee and indistinct, but it never does, always falling into something more substantial. Intro To Season sounds like Arcade Fire snuggling up with Joanna Newsom and barely lasts over two minutes, but is so lovely it wouldn’t be strange to be found wanting to give the band a hug.

Over in the Big Top Hockey demonstrate with a beach ball that yanks can’t do soccer, and neither do these lads seem to be able to score any musical goals. The bands white boy indie funk has a fair amount of groove but lacks capacity for tunes. It’s only when the LCD Soundsystem sound-a-like pop of Too Fake gets an airing that ears stir. When one particular loon of a punter manages to get on his friends shoulders and presses his face close up to the camera filming proceedings, his ugly mug covering the large video screens to the side of the stage, and it is the highlight of the set, you know something is wrong.

Delphic from Manchester are much better, particularly when they drop their guitars and let washes of indie dance synths cascade around the tent on the loopy and Orbital influenced Counterpoint. Then there is the monumental This Momentary with its “Let’s do something real,” chanted vocal call to arms, where building percussion creates space and energy that given a later night appearance would have developed into a transcendental hands in the air moment.It may not be staggeringly original, 'indie dance' is the category here, but if they can create a body of work as good as these two songs they will be onto something.

Back at the Jim Beam bar Polly Scattergood (pictured) is resplendent in silver, pink feathers and neon yellow / green. Polly is an unusual creature, although very young she seems much older, her girlish vocal and dark sometimes sexual lyrics confusing the issue even more. “You can spit on my French knickers sir, you can call me a whore, if you roll in, roll out, roll up to the Bunny Club,” she sings in a destitute vulnerable manner during Bunny Club, her next single. On Other Too Endless she utters “And I gave you my body, and when I said I did I meant it, and you gave me your anger, and for that I’m still trying to vent it.” It’s all pretty disturbing stuff, with themes of suicide, abuse and clinging on to long gone lovers permeating her performance. Yet despite these themes Polly sings with a smile and theatrically poses her way round the stage as if she were auditioning for Yo Gabba Gabba whilst unsettling electronics add to her blend of broken Prozac Nation pop. It’s oddly schizophrenic and enjoyable all at the same time.

Doves represent our first and only trip of the day to the main stage. The band provide a functional greatest hits set which is watched by Guy Garvey of Elbow in the wings. Doves are talented and accomplished musicians (even permitting the false start on the opening song they play) but after four albums their sound and set is becoming predictable. We would have bet our lives on them finishing with There Goes The Fear, and indeed they do. We said it earlier this year and we stand by our statement that we wish that Doves would now go and do something to surprise us. Maybe a rejuvenation of the Sub Sub ideas would be a neat twist to the left ?

The Bandstand area of Bestival is virtually empty as The Cordelier Club play with just a smattering of friends and stragglers watching. The Cordelier Club sound is very much one of adult middle of the road pop from the eighties with a powerful female rock vocal. There are hints of Stevie Nicks, Roxette, The Pretenders and Eurythmics circa Revenge - not particularly hip reference points, but it is exactly that and the quality of their songs that makes the band stand out. The group have hook after hook, sharp enough to gut wrench you in. One listen to Fire In The City with its “Don’t stop, we go far, running from the city in a getaway car,” chorus and our head is spinning dizzily. Stolen Lovers is even better with big Radio 2 styled high catchiness, it could easily sneer with vibrant abandon from the top of the pop mountain. In a festival full of oddness, The Cordelier Clubs mainstream position seems strangely leftfield and staggering brilliant because of it.

And talking of odd, we take a brave (many would say stupid) decision to miss Elbow (who as much as we love we have seen many times before) to sample Squarepusher, who we have never seen and on paper sound like they will tick our box. If ever there was an argument for taking risks then this would be it. Squarepusher would blind us with brilliance and we would go away happy. Unfortunately the whole thing is a massive endurance test. Faceless experimentation can be brilliant at times, but in the Big Top Squarepusher barrage us with dirty noise, erratic beats and utter chaos in their sound. Headache inducing tosh. Sometimes there’s an argument for playing safe as well. Apparently Elbow were brilliant. Damn.

And with that Bestival begins to draw to a close. There is more dancing to be done still, but in terms of live music that’s it. Bestival 2009 was the biggest yet and in places (Kraftwerk particularly) was the best it’s ever been. There is no doubt that Bestival as a festival has changed. The quirky randomness that the original first two events in particular had still exists, but it has been pushed to the side through its sold out 40,000 capacity popularity. There will be some who will say that the festival has lost its vibe or soul, and certainly the respect for the site at the end of the event seems to have disappeared with the camping areas resembling other large festivals in terms of littering (see video below) and some graffiti terrorism spoiling the hand crafted artwork in the main arena areas. However there will be others who say that there is now even more fun to be had and that the organisation of the event gets better every year. Purely in terms of live music (sound issues from the main stage notwithstanding) and bill quality Breaking More Waves is of the opinion that Bestival 2009 was the best yet. God knows how Rob Da Bank and crew are going to top Kraftwerk next year, but we’ll be looking forward to finding out.

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