Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bestival 2013 - Review

Amongst a horde of fancy dressed sailors, mermaids, seagulls and anchors, Bestival celebrated 10 years of hedonistic revelry last weekend. HMS Bestival itself sailed into a landlocked harbour at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight complete with a raft of DJ’s on its decks and flames spewing from its funnels to act as the centre piece for the end of summer shenanigans that have come to define Bestival as the festival success story of the last 10 years.

Breaking More Waves was in the thick of it, performing a rather unique DJ set (see later) and as a punter. Here’s our review of Bestival 2013, or rather….

10 Things We Leant At Bestival 2013

1. Sometimes the oldies do it best.

Bestival may be packed to the brim with new talent from the likes of John Newman, London Grammar, Chloe Howl, Alice Jemima (pictured below performing on the Swamp Shack stage) and Disclosure, but it was the old guard leading the way.

Elton John may have only been recently discharged from hospital but his hit packed  set found a huge audience of all ages singing along to every word he sang, backed by a note perfect band. The songs Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me and I’m Still Standing seemed to have added poignancy following his illness, whilst new song Home Again found everyone joining in as the lyrics were displayed on the screens to the side of the stage karaoke style. "The only reason I'm doing this is because I was told it's a brilliant festival to play,” said Elton near the beginning of his set. He wasn’t wrong.

Before Elton, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers brought disco through the ages like of tonic of joy to the wiggling hips, with Rodgers explaining that every song they were going to play he had been responsible for; and what a set it was. From Chic’s own Good Times and Le Freak through to songs Rodgers had worked on with others such as Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Sister Sledge’s Lost In Music and even Duran Duran’s Notorious. Feet moved, bodies grooved and faces lit up.

The day before Johnny Marr gave a lesson in crowd pleasing as he delighted the Big Top crowd with not only songs from his solo record but classic Smiths tracks culminating in a triumphant There Is A Light That Never Goes Out that reminded everyone that it was Marr’s fantastic musical ability that was as important to The Smiths as their quiffed singer.

2. Sometimes a tenth birthday party is actually a ninth birthday party.

We heard several performers refer to this year’s event as being Bestival’s tenth birthday, but technically if the first Bestival in 2004 was the events ‘birth’ and at that point Bestival was zero years old then technically this year became it’s ninth birthday.

3. Bestival needs to stop doing water themed fancy dress.

In 2008 Bestival had a theme of under the sea. It was one of the wettest and muddiest festivals we’ve ever attended. This year after some glorious sunny festivals another sea related theme - HMS Bestival - gave us more rain, although thankfully only in small doses and never enough to turn the site into a mud bath. It certainly exercised the English language’s ability to describe various types of rain. There was wet air, spitting, drizzle, showers, rain and a deluge plus everything from dark skies to brilliant sun. But next year Bestival, how about doing a theme that ensures 100% dryness?

4. Change is inevitable if a festival is to survive.

Recently Sean Adams of Drowned in Sound wrote a piece about Reading Festival and how it and its audience has changed since he first attended. In its ten year’s (which Breaking More Waves has been at every one) Bestival (just like the world we live in) has changed. It’s got bigger, it’s become better organised, there are elements of corporate sponsorship (although they’re largely unobtrusive)  and the audience has arguably become more mainstream, yet still Bestival has managed to retain the crazy spirit and sense of quirkiness that its early years possessed. However if it had stayed at just a few thousand loons doing the can-can in a half empty field to Chas and Dave and some unknown reggae acts playing to virtually nobody on the main stage it’s unlikely Bestival would exist at all now.

5. If you’re going to use a boat as a stage then getting the Queen to christen it is a must.

OK, maybe it wasn’t the real Queen smashing a bottle against HMS Bestival, maybe it wasn’t even a real boat, and maybe the camp dancing sailors on it weren’t real sailors, but it certainly had us believing. However we’re 100% sure we saw Rob da Bank play In The Navy by Village People from its decks to get the party started.

6. It’s OK to skip the headliners and watch a film instead.

Whilst Snoop Dogg swore a lot on the main stage other forms of vulgarity could also be found at the same time on the fringes of the festival. We watched horror classic Evil Dead 2, grotesque cute stop motion animation Bobby Yeah (trailer below) and Dario Argento’s spook film Suspiria with a live soundtrack created by Fake Blood in an amphitheatre in the woods; a weird, trippy and surreal experience.

BOBBY YEAH TRAILER from Robert Morgan on Vimeo.

7. Your position on the bill is important.

We had the pleasure of co-ordinating and MCing (ie shouting a bit) The Sunday Best Forum Allstars, an amateur DJ collective formed especially for Bestival. Virtually nobody has heard of the Allstars and yet we played to a rammed Big Top stage on Thursday night (estimates were of around 7,000 people there). The reason? At that time only a small number of stages were open and everyone on site was drunkenly eager to get proceedings underway. They would have danced to anything and we were lucky enough to be given the 8.30 – 9.30pm slot before the likes of M.I.A and The Correspondents took to the same stage.

8. Every festival should have a giant pop stars head that you can go inside and even sleep in.

See picture above. Hello Lionel is it me you’re looking for? Our DJ set even started with THAT song.

9.Your position on the bill isn’t important at all.

At least it isn’t if you have talent. Album chart-toppers Bastille may have been on the main stage at the stupidly early time of 2pm but they drew a crowd that was almost of headliner size. Dressed as Bill Murray’s character Steve Zissou in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic they played a celebratory set that climaxed with six people dressed as giant dancing lobsters joining them on stage. Only at Bestival.

10. To become a successful festival you have to get lots of things right.

The right bands, the right site, the right price, the right infrastructure, the right organisation, the right marketing, the right atmosphere, the right DJ’s.

Bestival does all these things and more.  Its name is completely deserved. Yet again, the perfect end to the summer. 

Here's some video footage from this years Bestival.

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