After some very light early morning rain, by lunchtime Camp Bestival 2010 was experiencing unfaultable festival weather – sunny, but with some cloud and breeze to keep temperatures comfortable, especially for the thousands who garbed up in fairy tale costumes for the annual Camp Bestival fancy dress parade. It was like Snow Whites and the seventy dwarfs, a hood of Little Red Riding Hoods and although there weren’t quite 101 dalmations, there were certainly a good twenty or so.
Lucky Elephant was also perfect for the weather, their laid back Anglo-French grooves designed for days such as this. Asking the crowd to sing happy birthday to one of their children who was four that day, Lucky Elephant tapped into the family atmosphere of the festival, but also give food for thought with their song The Pier, the sad tale of the loss of a town’s landmark and identity.
Following the cancellation of Chipmunk, the grandiose pop of Breaking More Waves favourites Hurts (pictured) found themselves moved from the Big Top to the Castle Stage and introduced by the stage announcer as “next up – The Hurts,” missing the point that the lack of ‘The’ in the bands name is important. Dropping the ‘The’ gives a group a fashionable vagueness and emotional resonance that the gang mentality use of ‘The’ just doesn’t do. Hurts are the musical version of architecture. Carefully designed and with meticulous thought put into every grandiose expression or minimalist moment, it was difficult to see how such a band could succeed on an outdoor stage at a festival, stripped of atmospheric lighting or any sort of context to the space in which they are performing. Yet even if their form was incorrectly placed their basic function still worked - just. Theo’s calculated and suited posing – the outstretched upturned hand, the nervous playing with the microphone lead, the stance of one arm behind the back were all present, but the songs such as the pulsing electropop of Better Than Love or the Albert Hall sized Illuminated, complete with opera singer, were strangely passionate and euphoric. “This song is called Stay – remember that because you might need to use it,” suggested Theo strangely and certainly most of the audience did – Hurts even adding a few more onlookers by the end. They’re not for everyone and festivals may not be their design specialism, but Hurts still delivered.
Ellie Goulding’s late Saturday afternoon slot showed just how popular the lady has become – this was true crossover appeal. With her sun-blazed hair seeming all the more golden, Ellie squinted out at a big Castle Stage crowd of all ages – mums, dads, teenagers, kids; everybody seemed to want a bit of her. Racing through tracks from her album Lights plus a cover version of the Midlake song Roscoe this was an easy win for Goulding. It was a shame that she had to rely on so many pre-recorded backing vocal tracks to flesh out her sound – her rasping girlish voice was strong and distinctive enough to carry a set without polishing. A little more rawness would have been preferred.
Back in 2009 when Ellie Goulding was breaking through, Max McElligott aka Wolf Gang was bolting out of the same pop stable (Neon Gold Records) with his debut release. Pop success is a game, and with winners there have to be losers. Whilst Goulding played to the masses, Wolf Gang found themselves playing to a small mainly disinterested audience on the smaller bandstand stage. Whilst songs such as The King & All of His Men and the Talking Heads referencing Pieces of You still sounded like hooky pop anthems in the making, you have to wonder if Wolf Gang had drawn a raffle ticket with the word ‘lose’ on it. His guitar and keyboard led tunes were good, but not remarkable. The hot under the collar buzz generated by bloggers and industry types last year for Wolf Gang seems, for the time being, to smack a little of slightly exaggerated hype.
But brilliance shouldn’t just be judged by audience numbers. Sound Of Rum may have played one of their many sets at the festival to a smallish crowd, but were inspiring, creative and in Kate Tempest had a uniquely charming front woman. Hypnotic skittering rhythms, building layers of guitar and Kate’s street-wise poems were delivered over jazzy and rock sounds that were completely unaffected, natural and compelling to listen to, each track drawing you in. “True story, 22 seconds ago I was asleep,” Kate laughed before spitting out an incredible flow of lyrics, getting the crowd to come closer to the bandstand. “That’s nice innit,” she smiled. “A proper gig.” When there was a pause in between songs she rapped out poetry acappella and got the audience to create a vocal rhythm for her to rhyme over. Astonishingly good. “It’s all about the substance not about the image,” she rapped, and certainly Sound of Rum have giddying substance. They will never infiltrate the mainstream, but the leftfield is just fine.
Mass adoration is reserved for Madness, who draw the biggest crowd of the whole festival. Starting with One Step Beyond the Nutty Boys set saw huge giant white letters spelling the words Madness being wheeled out at the back of the crowd by men wearing glowing fez’s, and the bands name in sparkling lights to the backdrop of the stage. After indulging in some lesser known mid set-material and jokes with the audience “Ok parents cover your childrens ears, this one has a sexy guitar solo,” they really took flight at the end with a nostalgic, sentimental runway of greatest hits - Baggy Trousers, the tropical Wings of a Dove and many more, leaving mums, dads, kids and in-betweeners all happy, with a ska’d up frenzy of dancing and skanking.