On the evening of the 4th of September I arrived on the breezy and beautiful Isle of Wight to review my very first major festival. Despite a six hour coach journey, I was elated, and after a toast over an awful bottle of wine with one of my best chums, we headed to the picturesque Robin Hill Country Park. As it was just after midnight we could hardly see any of the site, however there was an ominous glow of electricity and light and the feeling of anticipation and adventure filled my whole body. From that moment I surrendered to the Bestival vibe.
The atmosphere of Bestival is difficult to put into words; eccentric, magical, magnetic, frenetic and extraordinary are all I can fathom, but it is a festival to be experienced. From the very first day, Carrie & I allowed ourselves to flow along with the natural movement of the event. One second you are dancing euphorically to an artist you had never heard before, the next you are vibing to a man and his guitar with a pint of Bestivale in hand and you turn your head to be greeted by a collection of goths morris dancing atop the magic meadow.
You may believe these to be the ramblings of a mad man, but this is the truth. There is a whole island made of sculpture and light where world renowned DJs perform. It has now been burnt to the ground as if it never existed. Jessie Ware did perform her whole set as a decadent admiral, and the entire crowd became her loyal crew. There was an inflatable Lionel Richie which you could crawl inside and sit in surrounded by cushions adorned with the celebrated singer’s face.
The music this year was of an insanely high quality. You had legendary performers such as Elton John stealing the show on the main stage with renditions of ‘Your Song’ and ‘Rocket Man’, whilst Lulu James confirmed she is a star on a startling rise with a blistering set of soulful 80s electro supported by other worldly vocals at Rob Da Bank’s Replay Stage. Chic performed a headline worthy set of co-written hits including ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Like A Prayer’, patrons old and young danced euphorically in the rain to these deliciously retro gems. In contrast, James Blake closed the festival on The Big Top stage with a sound to define a new generation; ingenious electro and an adoring crowd beckoned in a new era of dance music for the intelligent.
Dance music was represented incredibly well at Bestival this year with newcomers Disclosure delivering an impossibly large set including ‘White Noise’, ‘You & Me’ and the debut live performance of ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’, which included the haunted live vocals from Hannah Reid of London Grammar. If you prefer your electro with a heavier dose of screeching guitar, Manchester boys The 1975 performed a spectacular show with highlights coming from summer anthems ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’. As you may have guessed, I could write an entire article on music; other worthy performers include Bastille making their main stage debut with dancing crabs, Bombay Bicycle Club reaching new heights of perfection with their indie/folk/rock, and Angel Haze confirming that she is to be a prominent figure in female rap in the next decade following a blistering show which included crowd dives, Kings of Leon covers and an incredibly tight live band.
Despite the high calibre, Bestival prides itself on being an event that is not solely focused on the musical element of festival. This was demonstrated perfectly on our obscure Friday evening; we began with a large number of phenomenally tasty and strong cocktails in the Bollywood Field where we marvelled at the intricate archways, colourful flag work and amazing painted bus. We continued to The Port which had been created just for H.M.S Bestival, a life size rusted ship where a whole range of DJs performed to a vivacious and vigorous crowd. We followed the trail into the dark woodlands of the ambient forest where creatures hid in the shadows, gypsies read your fortune and all preconceptions about festival are cast asunder and you rely on your senses to experience all over again. We spent the night running through children’s play areas, sipping cocktails in huge hammocks and making friends with fellow festival goers.
As we trekked back towards the main arena at 3AM we presumed our evening to be over. That was until we saw celebrated drag company Sink The Pink performing at The Grand Palace of Entertainment; we followed a secret door and found ourselves inside a plush, pink gay club, which to my friend Carrie’s delight was playing mixes of Girls Aloud, Basement Jaxx and Kylie. The rest of our weekend followed this pattern, you begin with a musical act and then you allow the spontaneity and madness of the festival to take you to new experiences and new places.
If that doesn’t sell Bestival to you, here is my plea. Everyone knows festivals have evolved over the years and the calibre and genre of artist that they book affects the audience which attend; the people who go to Bestival are care free, friendly individuals who for one special weekend dispel the conformities of real life and release the inner child within and succumb to wonderment and magic. We are hoping Vada are lucky enough to be invited to Bestival 2014, and we would love to see a lot of you there. I will most likely be at the Bollywood cocktail bar. Rob Da Bank, you host one hell of a festival.
Pre-sale tickets are already available for next year’s festival and there’s a brilliant payment option which will cost you just £5 a week. http://2013.bestival.net/tickets