The third Camp Bestival was the biggest and without doubt the best yet. Now establishing itself as one of, if not the best family-friendly festival in the UK, Camp Bestival sprinkled fairytale magic throughout its Lulworth Castle site and kept both adults and children alike entertained for the whole weekend. Camp Bestival may have had some teething problems in its first couple of years, but rather like the giant glow in the dark tulips in the enormous kids field, now it is really blooming. Amongst the colourful flags and bunting that adorned the site a friendly, safe, relaxed vibe was present that showed that festivals really can be for everyone. The only problem was that there was almost too much to see and do. From an incredible fireworks display over the castle, to watching jousting, wandering through the woods to find the petting zoo, to the insect circus, fancy dress, cocktails, the House of Fairy Tales, the East Lulworth Literary Institute, dancing to a Rob Da Bank DJ set of old school classics from The Jam to Michael Jackson in the Isle Of Boden it was almost possible to forget the live music at all.
But live music there was, with a line up that satisfied everyone from the very young (Mr Tumble), the quite young (Calvin Harris, Tinie Tempah, Example) to the old (Billy Bragg, The Human League). New music was also well represented with acts such as Visions of Trees, Summer Camp, and Charli XCX. In spirit Camp Bestival was more akin to the eclectic and anything goes spirit of the first three Bestivals before it grew into the bigger beast it is now, albeit with far more push chairs.
So when punters weren’t watching festival goers narrate a chapter of their lives in the Literature Tent, smiling at the 40’s / 50’s stylings of Mr Wippy and the Conettes performing odes and dances to ice-cream from the inside of an ice-cream van parked on the castle lawn or laughing at the range of comedy in the big top later in the evening, there was still time to watch some music on the main stages.
Backed by his dancers Derek Japan and Kevin Peters, a.k.a Double Penetration, the Bestival legend that is Barry Peters Halifax Hospital Radio got the party started with a conga across the Castle Stage field (pictured above), whilst blasting out nostalgic 80’s anthems and organising a skipping competition on the grass. It encapsulated the Bestival spirit perfectly - a mix of random humour and originality - a long way from V Festivals and such like of this world. “C’mon girls, don’t be shy, your mother weren’t,” Barry announces to get the crowd going in his fake Yorkshire accent. Who needs a comedy tent?
Example wasn’t the only artist on Friday who had to announce that he was late because of traffic congestion around the site, but the hard-working rapper/ singer soon caught up for lost time with a slingshot of electronic pop bangers that delivered the goods. “If you see somebody not bouncing I want you to grab their arm - even if they’re in a wheelchair,” he announced and the front half of the field bounced as one. There was a high-energy Radio 1-ness to his performance, but with the glorious summer anthem Kickstarts and the dirty electro of Hooligans, it was difficult not to be won over.
Over in the Big Top blog favourites Summer Camp’s hazy chunk of keyboard pop wasn’t quite as distracting. Innocently cool, Elizabeth’s vocal drifted with an almost country-tinged effortlessness, and whilst Summer Camp were fine, they didn’t dazzle.
We had mixed views about Lissie’s Catching a Tiger back in June, but her live performance to Camp Bestival was faultless. Her nicotine-yellow-smothered vocal was tender and beautiful, managing to make a cover version of Lionel Ritchie’s Hello seem less a guilty pleasure and just a pleasure. The guitar riffing Cuckoo made a sound case for her being the new star of AOR rock - her Stevie Nicks referencing drawl charmed the crowd who watched her.
Still in the Big Top, Breaking More Waves favourites Stornoway drew a decent sized crowd, but much of their quiet folk-pop intimacy was lost as they battled against sound bleed from the nearby Bollywood Bar. At least however Stornoway didn’t have to announce as both Lissie and Example had, that they had been delayed in traffic - typical of a band that seem to embrace themes of nature, travel and romanticism, they had arrived via the Swanage ferry. Songs such as the Thames inspired On the Rocks and Fuel Up were still acutely intricate, beguiling and life-affirming whilst the trumpet heightened Zorbing received the cheers it deserved.
Worst performance of the weekend came courtesy of Tony Da Gatorra and Gruff Rhys, whereby the lead singer of the Super Furry Animals disappeared the whole way up his musical anal passage. Standing in front of banners that proclaimed ‘The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness’ Gatorra played an instrument that is best described as half drum machine - half guitar, whilst his vocals rambled like a lost hitchhiker over hilly layers of ambient noise created by Rhys. It was an embarrassing psychedelic experimental mess, with complete disregard for melody - a performance designed for the statement “What planet were they on?” By the end the crowd were shouting the name “Billy, Billy” over and over again in anticipation of the Bard of Barking and when Rhys announced the last song, a big cheer sounded. Whilst Neon Neon was a credible Super Furries side project, this wasn’t.
“Not bad for an old bloke,” jokes Billy Bragg sipping a cup of tea. He’s right. In fact he’s far better than not bad - his set being an inspiring community singalong. “I feel a total jerk, before your naked body of work,” he crooned with touching warmth and awkwardness on Sexuality. The anti-fascist Accident Waiting To Happen was as lyrically powerful as ever and a great tune to boot. By the time he delivered a passionate speech about his pride for the young people of Barking and Dagenham coming out to ensure the BNP got a poor result in the election and that cynicism is the greatest enemy, his status as elder statesman of socialism and pop was assured. He rounded things off with New England and a mash up of Marley's One Love with lyrics changed to “Let’s drop the debt and it will be alright," and showed that passion and belief in what you do will always have greater longevity than shallow fashion.
It was a rewarding end to a first day, with the promise of more great live music that would please all-comers to follow the next day.