After the limited opening of the Bestival site on Thursday night, Friday found punters exploring the magnitude of the warped wonderland. Walking between the hundreds of multi-coloured flags, castles in the sky bonfires, flame throwing industrial spider shaped stages and cocktail lounges complete with comfy sofas and Bollywood sunshades it was easy to see why Bestival has become such a success. It continues to sell out to bigger crowds each year as other smaller festivals have struggled to grow - for not only is the music line up exciting and eclectic, but the visual delights of the grassy hills of the Robin Hill site are spectacular.
I Blame Coco on the main stage couldn’t be described as such. Her standard stage banter “How ya doing,” and “Hello down there,” didn’t gravitate towards anything but the ordinary, as did her disappointingly average mid-tempo pop rock. Her slightly hoarse and flatly dulled vocal failed to convey any real emotion, and whilst her band was competent there was no sting in the tail.
“If you fancy a dance, you’re in the right place,” announced Silver Columns from the Spider stage. Their Scottish bleeps and grooves lost the hardcore ravers who wanted something faster and more intense, but instead the band were supplemented by a group of punters dressed, possibly ironically, as Chav rejects. These GLC imitators produced some spectacular co-ordinated dancing on the raised podium stage front. When the duo’s megaphone wielding, siren blazing electronica finally came to life with the Bronski Beat / Hot Chip disco groove of Brow Beaten, it was both the band and the chavs who took the applause.
The dancing continued with Unicorn Kid. Having asked everyone to move forward, “because we’re gonna have a dance party,” the new-chip tune prince in Bart Simpson T-Shirt and lion hat brought the energy of an old school rave turned up to a modern warp factor 10 - this was elated laptop craziness. Dream Catcher was glitchily supreme and new single Wild Life divided the young (at heart) from the old. Seeming to want to forcefully create a hole in the stage with his wiry body Unicorn Kid was a highly charged assault of nutty bounciness.
In the Big Top Delphic were somewhat more restrained in their stage presence, preferring to let their music do the talking. Whereas some of their earlier shows (such as here) didn’t really take off, at Bestival they reached the celebratory highs their music strives for. Doubt provided a hands in the air moment and as Red Light merged seamlessly into it, Delphic hit the majestic realms that we predicted they could achieve (here). “Nothings wrong today,” the band sang blissfully on Counterpoint. They couldn’t be more correct.
Next up the Big Top overflowed with punters trying to catch a glimpse of The XX. The Mercury Music Prize effect demonstrated its pulling power and Bestival was the bands unofficial after party. It seemed that everyone had gate crashed. Backed by their trademark illuminated X’s the now three piece showed just why they have touched and engaged people. “I can’t tell you how happy we are to be here,” smiled Oliver Sim before a mass sing-a-long to VCR. Whilst acts like Delphic and Unicorn Kid both create music that is obviously and almost deliberately uplifting, The XX’s set was even more euphoric, even though it was created out of something brilliantly gloomy.
Hot Chip continued the upbeat mood, with their 5th appearance at Bestival, minus Joe Goddard who was on band-leave following the recent birth of his child. Ditching anything that resembled a slow song, Hot Chip played all the hits, with Alexis Taylor sporting his pearly-king-geek-chic and rather comically Goddard appearing via a TV screen. Starting with Boy from School, songs such as Ready for the Floor, One Life Stand and Over and Over kept the electronic buzz kids smiling.
It was left to Dizzee Rascal to close the main stage. Dressed in a Nirvana t-shirt Dizzee covered all bases with his band delivering music that ranged from reggae, rock, pop, disco, soul to old school hip-hop. Hooky, catchy and fun, it was also a little lowest common denominator, but such music snobbery didn't apply to most of the crowd who were happy to bounce to the happy heavens as Dizzee announced “Where’s the f*ckin’ mosh pit crew?” Bonkers finished things off - undeniably a great British pop song - funny, quirky and energetic as Usain Bolt after ten Red Bulls - it left everyone with a sweaty smile.