Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bestival 2010 - Review (Part 4)

The weary and the hungover were greeted with welcoming sun on the final day of Bestival. The mud began to dry up and once more the madness, mayhem and music began.

At Sailor Jerry’s Ink City - a bar, tattoo parlour and music venue all in one Laura J Martin enchanted with her crazy flute and mandolin looping, puppet on a string dancing and Kate Bush styled vocal mannerisms. A bizarre cover version of Chaka Demus & Pliers Tease Me and the beautifully odd Hangman Tree with additional melodica ensured that Martin captured a few new fans.

Mystery dance pop group Monarchy arrived on stage in the Rock and Roll tent still trying to keep their identities covered. With matching buttoned up white shirts, suits, cheekbones and calculated composure the obvious visual reference was Hurts, although Monarchy kept their faces partly obscured by masks. Their music - a mix of 80’s styled synth pop and French disco was incredibly well polished - so much so that it seems a shame they haven’t had chart success. Maybe if they’d played a few more shows to build a fan base and buzz than their largely online / secret identity campaign they may have achieved that success.

“What’s up Bestival,” yelled a geeky looking girl in a black jacket and a Fuck the Clock T-Shirt. “My names MNDR and today’s my birthday,” she informed everyone, leading to a spontaneous rendition of Happy Birthday from the crowd. You can’t get much more hipster than MNDR, and the number of soldiers of style and big plastic sunglasses in the audience suggested that the race to the finish line of cool will have her judging the winner. Pressing a few buttons and giving a goofy smile MNDR was ready to show than she’s more than just a load of hype overload only loved by style magazines and uber cool blogs. Unfortunately her twitchy minimalistic electro-pop came across as little more than karaoke for those in the know, fifty percent irresistibly hooky and fifty percent irritating scenester rubbish.

At the opposite end of the spectrum Mercury nominated Villagers played a short but well received set in the Rock N Roll tent. Conor O’Brien’s carefully crafted folk-rock had a poignant and sensitive side to it, but was also filled with enough gusto to not be considered lightweight. The clich├ęd phrase mature beyond his years immediately sprang to mind.

Maturity is probably not something that Charli XCX has yet to be accused of. With legs akimbo over the monitors on the Spider stage there were moments when XCX’s flirty rock / porn star poses almost became a bit too much, but having announced that she would convert the small audience, she proved herself correct. Because once you get over the idea that Charli XCX is just a young girl pretending to be a pop star, you realise that she could actually be a very good pop star indeed. Full of attitude - beckoning saucily to the stage security and embarrassing them, dropping to her knees to belt out the songs and with enough hyperactivity to fuel an army of battery operated toys, she threw herself passionately into a bunch of tunes that as XCX described herself are “killer.” There was something of merit here. End of the World with its skittering secondary drum patterns and apocalyptic electro synth sound was a very grown up pop song - and Do It Well was moody and sultry enough to seduce.

With billowing dry ice, classical music blasting out and the biggest hair at the festival, King Charles certainly made an impressive entrance. Big is the word to use here. Big hair. Big sound. Big songs. With Hendrix riffs, rattling folk pop moments and revelatory tunes such as the urgent Love Lust and a re-working of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire that name checked Tracey Emin, David Beckham and Tom Cruise before referencing the days headliners The Prodigy with the words “are you fire starters ?” King Charles was a riotous heap of fun.

Musical eclecticism continued with Caribou who used techno, house, disco, slow-rave and electronica to draw the audience in with an adventurous and accessible blend of experimental sonic textures, before the festivals closing firework display and bonfire - where a specially built castle on a raised platform was burnt to the ground.

Finally it was back to the Big Top for Fever Ray - the side project of The Knife’s lead singer Karin Andersson - who presented their eerie, shadowy electronic sound of spookiness. With the stage lit only by pulsing intermittent lampshades and limited overhead lighting it was difficult from the back to make out anything more than shadowy figures through the fog of dry ice. Like Kraftwerk making a horror film soundtrack the music of Fever Ray was as unsettling as it was glorious. Andersson’s vocals were deep and monstrously distorted - pitch-shifted and almost inhuman - the music claustrophobic and icy. Sinister and imaginative it was a dark but impressive finish to Bestival 2010, which musically was our favourite festival of the summer.

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