Bestival 2017: A big year for Rob da Bank’s brainchild. Uprooted from the Isle of Wight to the same site as the family and kiddies Camp Bestival, in East Lullworth….veteran punters needed more than just a fancy castle to be convinced the festival – typically the marker of the end of summer, the end of sunshine and the end of the festival season- hadn’t met its own end.
On a freakishly windy weekend – the end of summer was definitely on the Dorset horizon. Camping spots on steep sloping mud slides (formerly known as hills) made for a solid leg workout and the perfect camping chair entertainment for those with a sadistic streak in their sense of humour….who doesn’t enjoy watching people take on muddy terrain 8 pints down, or after 3 hours’ sleep and desperately balancing a bacon roll and a boiling hot cuppa?!
Speaking to Bestival-goers of years gone by – the same assessments were murmuring in among the mud and glitter: “much smaller site”, “a bit weird”, “they’ve got all the same shit here, it’s just…different” and “I suppose it beats lugging all your gear onto that fucking ferry”. So it seems, Bestival had in the most part, changed up location pretty smoothly.
But, what about the music??
This is the festival that always seems to offer itself as the escape, the one that goes against the grain of other major festivals… going for headliners that you may never think of – offering that edgy freedom that people apparently so much crave. This year they had The XX, A Tribe Called Quest and Pet Shop Boys.
After the release of this year’s I See You album and a massive worldwide following, this was the headliner we were most pumped for. However, this was a set that did little to inflate. The Castle main stage was absolutely rammed on the Friday night as they kicked off, but as the hoards began to realise this set was never threatening leaving the chilled bubble it was trapped in – many abandoned and sought something to shake out all of that wasted anticipatory excitement.
On the Thursday night, Jamie T playing at The Box stage had a tent flooding out with crowds. For true die hard fans, this was the perfect set – a tour through the back streets of his catalogue rather than the main attractions….the songs who’s lyrics mean so much but maybe only to a few. To his credit, when big hitters such as Zombie played- the patient crowd responded brilliantly. Over 10 years on the scene and 4 albums means there is more to come from Jamie T. He definitely has the capacity to play to crowds of this size….but he needs to be armoured with his biggest hits.
Fans at festivals want energy from the acts at the top of the bill – perhaps they could have followed A Tribe Called Quest who tore through a captivating set that meandered brilliantly through the years. Even the most anti-rap sections of the crowd were left feeling like worthy successors to Kendrick, whilst giving a nod of appreciation to the giant inflatable bust of a smiling Kanye on their way out.
Where then where the highlights? Of the bigger names on this year’s line-up….the boys from Stockport were the ones flying the flag – Blossoms.
Playing before Jamie T, they had the crowd whipped up for what promised to be an unreal double header and the perfect opener to the rest of the weekend.
Honey Sweet, Charlemagne and Blown Rose were played by a band who now ooze silky professionalism. Something clicks when seeing Blossoms live – their number 1 eponymous debut album make all the more sense. With such bands as Blossoms now established on the Indie and Alternative scene, we may see the tide turning gloriously toward a sustained period of quality British Indie music.
Thankfully – many of the bands making up the current scene were on hand across the weekend. Here are GIGsoup’s hot picks:
The Magic Gang
Having seen these boys perform a packed out and spectacular set at Truck Festival, we were surprised to rock up to a pretty much empty Invaders Of The Future tent …. Fear not!
Within minutes, there was little room for manoeuvre and (annoyingly) little room to boogie. The autumnal winds rolling in across the Dorset Hills were long forgotten in a steamy tent packed to the rafters and ablaze with The Magic Gang’s attitude that flirts with joyous indie pop and a captivating self belief, cut with an early 90’s inspired sound.
Taking the stage in matching yellow rain macs – this is a band that sound fun and inspire fun. How Can I Compete, Your Love, and Jasmine are all brilliant tunes that sound as though they have existed as well-known songs for a lifetime. The Magic Gang are familiar yet leave you surprised with the constant shift in melodies they drop on you.
There is an unmistakable coolness to The Magic Gang, an unquestionable measure of soul seeps through every tune and every sing-along chorus.
Soon to be embarking on a tour in support of Sundara Karma, along with the likes of Willie J Healey, be sure to follow this merry, magic gang for they are for certain invaders, if not the dominating force, of the not so distant future.
Imagine a collaboration of Peace, The Drums and a dusting of The Beach Boys’ romance and you have Fur.
Taking to the Jager Haus stage, we caught this band’s dreamy brand of indie amid a filthy festival hangover. However, after watching Fur, we felt right back on track.
These beautifully compiled songs creep up around you and let you know that everything will be just fine. Perfect for a festival hangover or the impending colder days. Listen to recent release If You Know That I’m Lonely for your dose of brilliantly executed pop heartache.
Taking the stage at the Jager Haus on the same evening as Fur, Free Money entered and seemed to boot the door down of the very same Haus.
These guys have such a tangible energy on stage, you cannot help but get swept up in it. At the set’s end – they looked like they’d run several circuits of the Bestival site: true performers. If you’re looking for a new raucous guitar band to smash your way through the day….head for Free Money immediately.
The heavy drums and rapid guitars have a true rock ‘n’ roll essence about them that force you to bop along. Be sure to follow their social media channels for updates: many London shows are already lined up in the diary.
Playing on the final day of the festival, FOURS were the perfect pick-me-up recipe for the solid crowd that gathered at Invaders Of The Future.
Ridiculously catchy pop beats and funky guitars are the basis to this brilliant little unit who are incapable of anything but massively energising their crowd.
Fade To Love is nothing short of a pop gem, the typeof song that would not be out of place as you either contemplate pulling a sicky in bed or as you force down more budget gin ready for a night out.
Edith Violet has such stage presence – it takes some doing to get a Sunday festival crowd going, but when she is having as much fun as she does onstage, it is impossible not to give back.
Overthink and Tell Me In The Morning were two highlights within a highly entertaining set.
The stage which this outfit tore apart had a pillar obstructing the view of the band. Honeyblood were so loud and so emphatic in their performance, we had to keep turning our heads either side of the pillar, just to be sure it was only two band members.
Pure thrashing guitars and meaty drums are exactly what this band do….and they do it very, very well.
The Scottish duo have gained a solid following after the release of brilliant second album Babes Never Die late last year, here Sea Hearts being one particular highlight.Guitarist Stina Tweeddale and drummer Cat Myers own their instruments and unite with a punch over their lyrics that drip with attitude.
The host at Invaders Of The Future came onstage at the end of the set to tell the buzzing crowd “we haven’t done this ever before, but for one more song…..Honeyblood!”….he was clearly scared for what would happen if he told them they would have to stop.
All in all, Bestival organisers will be happy with the outcome of their first year of relocation. The New York Brass Band performing an impromptu hilltop set to keep happy campers happy, is just the sort of weird and wonderful spontaneity that this festival throws up.
Where the headliners were at times uninspiring, the smaller names on the bill carried the mantle perfectly. The sparkle of The Enchanted Forest and HMS Bestival offering thrashing of “YEAH!” with Fat Man Scoop taking the reigns, Bestival fans embraced it all and partied on in true style. Watch this space for where Bestival heads next – there is definitely more to come.