Thursday, 1 September 2016

Preview: Bestival 2016

If there’s one festival that solely changed the way I feel about music, festivals themselves and to a certain extent life (yes honestly), it’s Bestival.

Back in 2004 I’d usually attend one or two music festivals a year, which would mainly be chosen from a small list of Glastonbury, Reading, V Festival or Guildford. Then I saw an advert for a new event on the Isle of Wight that claimed it would have guaranteed sunshine, Fatboy Slim, Morris Dancers, a Kate Bush tribute act, Basement Jaxx and it would all be set in an adventure park with a toboggan ride.

That event was Bestival and in early September myself and a friend hopped on the ferry in the pouring rain to journey Robin Hill Country Park. The rain stopped as we stepped off the boat onto the island and from there a habit began.

Since that year I’ve only missed one Bestival (in 2014 when I was in America) and during that time I have seen it change and grow. I’ve also had the opportunity to DJ at the festival in stages that have included a tiny treehouse, a hidden disco and a massive big top full of thousands of people just a couple of hours before M.I.A took to the stage. I even got away with bookending the DJ set with 2 Lionel Ritchie songs; Hello for the intro and All Night Long to finish. I have so many great memories of Bestival and as with any long lasting relationship, a couple of sour ones as well. But 99% has been great - even Bestival can't control the storms that lashed down on Thursday night in 2008.

Some of the highs, besides the DJ sets, have been the weird non-musical moments; being greeted at the entrance gates one year by a bunch of grannies on motorbikes as well as two girls in an open topped double decker bus who were flashing their topless selves at the queue, the warmest smiles in the world of the ladies of the Women’s Institute Tea Tent high on the hill, attending a wedding in an inflatable church between two festival regulars known as The Dude and Flora Mouse who met on the Bestival Website Forum, cocktails in a Bollywood Bar at 11am and sitting in a pitch black open air theatre, alone at about 10pm watching The Evil Dead.

Bestival was one of the first ‘boutique’ festivals; that 2004 event had only about 3-4,000 people in attendance (don’t believe Wikipedia which states 10,000). Sure it took elements of other festivals (in particular Glastonbury and now the defunct Big Chill) but added in its own special flavours to create something vastly different to any other festival I had experienced at the time (including Glastonbury).

In 2004 it was unique, but in 2016 it is less so. There are now many festivals that have taken aspects of Bestival and grown them in their own way and this year sees the festival facing greater competition than any other. Bestival has influenced my taste in festivals and my enthusiasm for them, with the likes of Flow (in Finland), End of the Road and Latitude being some of my favourites. The bands in a dirty, smoke-laden field and nothing else approach of Reading is far less appealing these days. But with all this competition the continued growth of Bestival probably just isn’t a reality – it probably explains why this year it appears the event has downsized somewhat - although there is now the family friendly Camp Bestival, Bestival Tornoto and Common People festivals all under the Bestival umbrella.

So why do I love Bestival so much? I think it’s because it combines so many great things.

Whereas some very good, very respected festivals (for example End of the Road or Green Man) do everything with immaculate taste and a strong sense of curation, they lack the sheer eclecticism, party spirit, sense of madness and free spirited fun that Bestival at its best has. I love the fact that this year at Bestival I can go from dancing to Diplo or Fatboy Slim in a huge spaceport complete with a 20m rocket in the centre and giant astronauts firing lasers across the sky, to watching a poetry collective in an open air amphitheatre, to catching music that ranges from hip-hop to indie to pop to disco to soul to house and then go for a bounce on the world’s biggest inflatable castle. Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the fancy dress that gives the place a carnival atmosphere (and yes there’s a real carnival as well).

So if you want to come and join the party, grab a ticket by clicking here and maybe I’ll see you there? It’s my final outdoor festival of the summer, as it has been for 12 of the last 13 years.  

And don’t forget, for new music fans Bestival has plenty of it, especially in the invaders of the future stage. Here’s three of my tips from this year’s line up (although I could have included many more). The future is almost here....

Alice Jemima

Breaking More Waves regular Alice Jemima signed with Sunday Best records around this time last year, so it’s no surprise to find her on the bill at its sister festival. I understand that Alice will be playing early on Friday morning on the main stage. If you’ve spent any time on this blog you’ll know how much I adore her music. Worth getting up early for.

Petite Meller

If anyone on this year’s bill meets the Bestival ideals more than Petite Meller I can’t think of them. Her live show is a joyous dressing up dance-a-thon that makes you glad to feel alive – just like Bestival.

The Japanese House

My original 3rd choice was originally Rationale, but he has now cancelled, so instead I'll recommend an act from Bestival's new music stage - The Invaders of the Future. The Japanese House aka Amber Bain featured quite heavily on Breaking More Waves when she first released material last year and since that time has gone on to support The 1975 on tour - no surprise there given they are on the same label. There hasn't been that much in the way of new material recently, but with some forthcoming live dates and this Bestival show it shouldn't be too long before there's more - so get to the Invaders of the Future and get an early glimpse of what may be to come.

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