One of the greatest things about Bestival (besides the Women’s Institute Tea Tent, Forum Campsite and Fancy Dress day on Saturday) is the music. With rain clouds and mud making an appearance it was the music more than anything that did its very best to blow the grey clouds away.
Berkshire 4 piece Worship was the first band to grace the poorly named Rock N Roll stage on Saturday (a stage that during the weekend would feature pop, dance and acoustic folk - hardly Rock N Roll). Worship were the embodiment of a modern rock band - laptops set to melancholy, guitars tuned to atmospheric, like Radiohead and Delphic twisted in a suffocating wrapper. Collateral is a grinding steel beast of a song and the closing In Our Blood has a ghostly throb that could quite easily darken arenas.
As a DJ played It’s Raining Men from the main stage (just after a mini dance off in the audience - see video below), the skies opened and Stornoway should have really considered changing their name to Storm-away. Stornoway’s songs sounded lovelier than they have ever sounded, simmering with banjo, acoustic guitar and occasional fiddle, lead singer Brian’s vocal full of sweet sweet earnestness. Brian chatted to the audience about ghosts and the zoological attractions of the Isle of Wight, bringing a unique serious factual charm to the stage that engaged in the same way that songs such as the thoughtful We Are the Battery Human and the delightful acoustic pop of Zorbing did. It may have poured throughout their set but the enthusiastic audience remained, happy to be soaked in the beauty of it all.
“Sorry I couldn’t come in fancy dress, our ideal fancy is a businessman,” joked Theo from Hurts in the Big Top. If you don’t know the Hurts sound / image by now, where have you been? Suits. Hands clasped in prayer. Opera singers. Head bowed with hand behind back poses. Big electronic passionate pop ballads. Hurts seem to divide opinion. Yet at Bestival there were very few critics in the large audience, which was bolstered by those taking shelter from the rain. Rain suits Hurts. With a lyrical stock of “Clouds go back and thunder rolls,” and “I see the lights through the rain,” Hurts take epic solemnity and push it higher. Yet although they’ve been criticised for taking themselves too seriously, there’s another side to Hurts which was displayed as Theo laughed at the man dressed as a Health and Safety inspector in the audience, who held up a clipboard with the words “Danger - Good music,” written on it. Better than Love and Blood Tears & Gold were received with hands in the air worship and Hurts won a surprising victory at Bestival. “Best festival of the summer,” Theo said with a big smile on his face - it seemed that Hurts had just stepped up a level.
Out at the smaller Bimble Inn three up and coming bands / acts all delivered excellent sets in different ways.
“Sorry about the delay, we were having costume change issues,” announced Lulu and the Lampshades. Flanked by two dancing girls with lampshades on their heads, the groups alt-folk harmonies, plucked violins and use of unusual objects such as clattering typewriters or overturned cups gave the group an enjoyable quirkiness that got the clowns, fairies, garden elves, Snow Whites, superheroes and parrots in the audience on their feet and dancing. “An hour ago I was sat feeling f*ckin’ miserable in a car, now I’m so happy,” one of the band gleefully announced.
Spark was an altogether different proposition. She may have played to the smallest audience of the whole weekend, but her confident stage manner and strong pop voice suggested that it may not be long before that all changes. Dressed in an animal print hoodie and backed by just bass, drums and a laptop, songs such as the energetic “Woah-oh-oh” call of Blow and the classy elegance of Revolving hinted that Spark is getting ready to light up the radio.
Next up in the Bimble Inn Visions of Trees created a vibey slo-mo electronic atmosphere awash with ambient gentleness and ethereal splendour. Carefully contained by rhythmic beats created from natural and electronic based instrumentation, this London based duo worked together perfectly in unison - Joni with his head lowered, layering soundscapes, Sara fixing her gaze on the audience with unnerving confidence. Transcendent and hypnotic, Visions of Trees produced dreamy perfection that got the welly shod crowd dancing.
Back over in the Rock N Roll tent Mount Kimbie displayed their credentials as pioneers of new-electronica. With an expansive post-dubstep sound, their down-tempo clicks, beats and loops created a mellow fragmented journey of faceless brilliance. As they left the stage shouts of “One more tune,” rang throughout the venue.
Dancing of a different type continued with Canada’s Think About Life. From the moment that their playful and edgy pop sound, typified by their funky party jam Havin’ My Baby, blasted out - a mix of TV on the Radio and Kele from Bloc Party - disco feet moved. The band seemed a little phased at the whole spectacle of the mud, fancy dress and groovy party people at Bestival, explaining that they only stepped off a plane a few hours ago, arrived at the festival and went “What the...?” Unfortunately their set was cut cruelly short due to a power cut three quarters of the way through, and despite shouts for “Drum solo,” and “Acoustic,” Think About Life left with the audience definitely wanting more.
Saturday’s headliners The Flaming Lips know how to put on a show. There were videos of hallucinogenic naked space ladies giving birth to the band, ticker tape explosions, glitter cannons, huge colourful balloons, Wayne Coyne singing a song atop the shoulders of a man dressed as a bear, tangerine coloured crowds bouncing either side of the stage, lasers and of course the now infamous zorbing ball with a stumbling Coyne inside rolling over the audience. A Flaming Lips show really is like no other. However sometimes the visual treatment distracted from the music, which ranged from the brilliant, such as the beautiful Do You Realize and the trippy Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Part 1), to the comedic, to turgid psychedelic prog-rock nonsense that should have remained in the recording studio locked in a double bolted cupboard. Coyne himself was the worlds greatest mad uncle, or the lord of freaks depending on your perspective, singing “I can be a lion,” and getting the audience to roar in unison. He then continued asking them to also impersonate monkeys, helicopters and sneezes. We can’t imagine many other headline acts having such fun. Praising the crowd for being “beautiful freaks,” it was clear that Coyne was enjoying Bestival immensely, and didn’t want to leave.