Tuesday 14 September 2010

Bestival 2010 - Review (Part 1)

Almost 50,000 revellers converged on the Isle of Wight last weekend for the 7th Bestival. With arguably its strongest line up ever, an eclectic mix of music (and weather) and a reasonably hedonistic crowd, Bestival 2010 was a huge success. The problems of poor sound quality on the main stage experienced in 2009 was dealt with by a newly located main stage, the results being of the highest order, even from the back of the viewing area. The last couple of years had led to complaints from regulars that as Bestival had got bigger it had lost its original charm. This year they found themselves with found themselves with no such grumbles, with the newly formed Wishing Tree area capturing the colourful quirkiness of old, with smaller more intimate venues such as the Bimble Inn, The Inflatable Church, Cabaret Tent, Glatonbury’s finest party-vibes tent Chai Wallah’s and an 8 metre tall tree that hosted its own disco inside. Then off course there was the now traditional fancy dress on Saturday to top off Bestival’s vast number of highlights. The event had certainly come a long way since its 4,000 capacity debut in 2004

For early arrivals the festival got off to a low key start on the Thursday night with the main action taking place in the Big Top. As the gates opened to let punters through an orchestral version of Queens Bohemian Rhapsody boomed out from the space, the DJ’s - The Sunday Best Forum All Stars having formed through meeting on the Bestival website, then being invited by curator Rob da Bank to open the festival. One of these DJ’s, a certain DJ Hojo Hits bore a suspiciously uncanny resemblance to the writer of this blog dressed in an 80’s leopard print suit and terrible big-hair wig.

Once The Sunday Best Forum All Stars had got people dancing with a set that was described by the festivals own newspaper as ‘raucous’ (having rammed out tunes such as Paper Planes by Mia, F*ck You by Cee Lo Green and One More Time by Daft Punk) it was time for some bands - in an evening curated by Mark Jones of Back to the Future, joining the dots between electronic artists of the past and present.

80’s synth pop wizard Howard Jones may have been an unknown to many of the young Bestival crowd, but after a slow start he gradually won people over with snatches of contemporary dance beats amongst his retro electronic pop. A cover of The Killers Human finally sealed the deal and by the time he reached the questioning synthtopian drama of What Is Love and the d-i-y bleepiness and rhythms of New Song the audience was singing gleefully along. The lyrics “I don’t want to be hip and cool,” suddenly seemed double edged. Now in his mid 50’s, Jones was on the verge of becoming exactly what he didn’t want to be.

Introduced by a dude in a top hat, bow tie and a huge orchestral piece Janelle Monae was the funk soul sister with a haircut that gave La Roux a run for her money. Her mightily authoritative voice was remarkable - Monae unquestionably has potential star quality rushing through her veins. Her animated show was given a Sister Act quality to it with dancing nuns on stage, Monae twitching and strutting alongside for all she’s worth.

Heaven 17 were the next retro band, full of slap bass and slap heads. Despite their musical competence they suffered from everyone just waiting to hear ‘That Song’. With green lasers forming a swirling blanket through the dry ice above the audience, they kept people waiting right till the end. La Roux, fresh from a DJ appearance between bands earlier joined them on stage for a cover version of Terence Trent D’Arby’s Sign Your Name which was transferred into a clipped synth beast more reminiscent of one of her songs song than a Heaven 17 one. Eventually Glenn Gregory’s stern voice boomed out “I’ve never been closer....,” and Temptation was greeted with the second sing-a-long of the day.

As night turned to morning it was left to Finnish tech-pop duo Villa Nah to wrap up proceedings, but unfortunately the audience seem rather ambivalent. Stylistically OMD And The Human League were the obvious references, albeit the songs lacked the big memorable hooks that these two groups were capable of producing. As their sparse machine driven sound pulsed into the night, it seemed that this lack of instant accessibility worked against Villa Nah, many of the audience gradually drifting away to the bars or back to the campsites in anticipation of the whole festival opening the next day.

Reviews of the other three days of Bestival will be posted on this site in the next few days.

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