Guest Post: Live Music and Shenanigans at Bestival on the Isle of Wight
Nicola Marchant, the lucky winner of the competition I ran to win two tickets to Bestival, tells us about the live acts and Shenanigans at this year’s festival!
With its annual slot at the beginning of September, Bestival is the last player in the major festival circuit and as such is often billed as the last big party of the summer. Indeed, as the Isle of Wight’s biggest party of the year approached, so did a bittersweet feeling that this year’s impressive season of sun was drawing to a close. That, and a whole lot of rain. But what would a British festival be without mud?
As most festival goers are aware, the purpose of the first day is to secure yourself a good camping space and ensure you are nice and ready for the main attractions. Only a novice goes hard on the Thursday – remember, your stamina and that crate of 24 Kopparberg need to last another 3 days. For those who have pacing down to a fine art, Bestival offered plenty of entertainment to keep Thursday ravers busy, with acts playing both the Replay with Rob da Bank stage and the Big Top – headlined by M.I.A at 1am – a somewhat bizarrely placed slot for the star.
My Friday kicked off with the Big Top stage, where rising stars The 1975 gave a spectacular show. With an album that went straight in at number 1, they define the idea of universal popularity – even my sister whose last purchased album was Robbie Williams’ Greatest Hits is obsessed. Needless to say it took a very organised fan to secure a perfect spot amidst the crowds. I was not that fan. But Bestival isn’t about forgoing a wee for 2 hours so that you can carve yourself a front row spot for a band. It’s about perching anywhere, dancing like crazy and only pausing to touch up your glitter face paint. Friday’s Main Stage also saw stellar performances from Jessie Ware and headliner Fatboy Slim, whilst Duke Dumont had the crowd dancing with one of this summer’s biggest smash hits, ‘Need U’ at dance stage The Port. The festival’s smallest stage, Replay with Rob da Bank – the creator of Bestival – also played host to a fine selection of Indie bands, including London Grammar and headliner John Newman who dominated the summer charts, radios and a fair few adverts with his mega hit Love Me Again. This is another part of Bestival’s charm – with only four main music stages, the space never feels overwhelming and should a clash occur, it’s no problem to divide your time between bands. Unlike the behemoth size of Glastonbury, Bestival never feels impossible to conquer, yet still manages to remain consistently delightful.
This is also due in part to its perfect balance of live music and ‘the other stuff’ – namely, installations, events and anything that isn’t on a stage. While Secret Garden Party compromises the calibre of live artists for its spectacular visceral experiences, and Reading and Leeds does exactly the opposite, Bestival manages to strike a perfect chord between both. Once the music stops, the fun takes you to the Ambient Forest, an enchanting woodland pocket adorned with glowing plants, neon spider webs and 6-people hammocks; a gigantic boat filled with swans and jellyfish, or the inside of Lionel Ritchie’s head. But the standout attraction this year at Bestival had to be the Irish ‘bar’ Shenanigans, at the bottom of Grassy Hill. From the outside it looked to be your regular Irish pub, but when you entered you were thrown into a lightning quick tour of Ireland. First stop was a Shenanigan Airways trip to Dublin where we helped Bono find his missing sunglasses, on returning which we were flung into a rugby scrum. We then ran through the tunnel at the Aviva stadium into an Irish accent lesson for our upcoming performance which turned out to be an Irish wedding. We had our pictures taken and left not knowing exactly what had happened during the previous 10 minutes. All in all, well worth the wait and a great addition to our festival experience.
Saturday brought the best weather of the weekend, with next to no rain and portions of sunshine. London indie troupe Bastille had a cider induced crowd singing along to chart hits Pompeii and Bad Blood on the Main Stage, whilst DJ Yoda and DJ Fresh got the rave fingers pointing over at The Big Top, along with big name dance acts Julio Bashmore and Annie Mac at The Port. Saturday’s main headliner Snoop Dog (who seemed to have been booked before his recent ‘reggae reincarnation’ Snoop Lion) gave a somewhat lazy rendition of his back catalogue – the predominantly hipster crowd only paying real attention to the hits he merely collaborates on: Katy Perry‘s California Girls being one example. Simian Mobile Disco at The Big Top were a far better choice.
In contrast, Sunday brought an apocalyptic downpour. But inside dance stage The Port it felt like sunny Ibiza, with the likes of the Hospitality takeover, featuring High Contrast and Danny Byrd, finished by dance music’s colossal Carl Cox. There was a unanimous feeling towards Sunday’s Main Stage headliner amidst my friends and I, along with the Bestival goers I had the pleasure of meeting: Elton John? I know he’s great, but is anyone from our generation really that into him? Maybe not. But it was also the general consensus that this wasn’t a performance to be missed. I stuck around to see the embarrassingly limited amount of Elton songs I know, but it was without regret. I may not be that into him, but he was indeed flawless. And above all, looked genuinely happy to be there, especially when the entire crowd joined him for his performance of Your Song.
How do you follow Sir Elton John Bestival? By putting on a spectacular display of fireworks as glittery as his dinner jackets. And with that, this year’s final festival of the season came to a close. The last big party of the summer indeed.