Curated by Josie and Rob da Bank, our reviewer Harley Cassidy steps aboard HMS Bestival for the 2013 voyage.
Kick starting the weekend, day-glo revolutionist MIA tears through a blistering set at The Big Top, clothed in multi-coloured robes and an impetuous snarl she gives us a taster of what Matangi has to offer playing new track “Bring The Noize” whilst proving her chops as one of the worlds best female rappers.
Catapulting into a hybrid of her best tracks including Paper Planes and Bad Girls and girdled by two backing dancers, MIA made Bestival the place to show she’s not going anywhere just yet.
Keeping up the rap messiah theme, Wu-Tang Clan take to the Main Stage on Friday proving they’re as relevant today as they were back in 1993 when 36 Chambers was a mere glint in the West Coast eye.
Pure passion and energy got the hip hop collective through a set which lacked a few members due to custom issues but made up for it in meteoric drops of their greatest hits including C.R.E.AM and Gravel Pit.
Also making a name for herself on the Main Stage was a contender for the Brit diva crown – Jessie Ware. A big charisma and even bigger voice, Ware has pulled herself away from the Adele/Duffy types by coercing with dance music and artists. Good shout.
Over at the Replay Republic Stage Jagwar Ma are captivating their audience in a kaleidoscope of heady, swirly vibes. Getting more accustomed to their crowd with every performance, the Australian duo are joined by guitarist Jack Freeman whose Bez dancing couldn’t fit in more with the baggy theme they bring. Pivoting through Howlin’ and playing dance orientated b-sides including Four, it seems Jagwar Ma are finding their feet through the maze of Tame Impala hype.
Back at Main Stage, nutball/god Wayne Coyne stands on a festooned plinth as The Flaming Lips truly capture what Bestival is all about. Drifting through Do You Realize? and All We Have Is Now, there’s no doubting the band’s enrapturing enigma which pervades through a set which isn’t as exciting as 2010’s hamster ball expedition but is still enthralling all the same.
Right about now? Well Fatboy Slim is causing quite the furore on the same stage with rooted, throbbing stabs of EAT, SLEEP, RAVE, REPEAT. No other DJ could’ve headlined Bestival’s 10th Anniversary other than Mr Norman Cook, embodying the spirit of the festival and rinsing tunes like Renegade Master and Right Here, Right Now dry but leaving a coat of typical Fatboy Slim hedonistic glaze on top. Finishing his set with a choir clad Praise You, he leaves Disclosure to do what they do best at the Big Top. Sailor hats off to you Slim.
It’s no secret that Bestival is littered with DJ’s but the most feel good set on Saturday came from Mark Ronson and Zane Lowe. Working their way through a slew of crowd-engagers – including Amy Winehouse’s Valerie transitioning into a mesmerising acapella version along with The Smiths’ Stop Me merging into the Daniel Merriweather mix – it’s good to see Ronson whipping the crowd into a frenzy despite his prolonged absence from the music scene.
Whilst Rudimental are blowing up the Main Stage accompanied by the smoke-soaked voice of Becky Hill, the Big Top is full to brimming point. The sheer brilliance of what one man can do with guitar is fully exposed with Johnny Marr possessing the flair and talent of one of the greats and after seeing the intricate fingerwork of The Smiths’ guitarist in all its glory live, you do begin to realise how his skilful playing is often taken for granted.
Of course it’s the Smiths songs that get the crowd going. The iconic, wobbling oscillation of the intro to How Soon Is Now still manages to send shivers down spines whilst closer There Is A Light That Never Goes Out snowballs into a mass, heartfelt singalong, leaving a huge tent of people singing the words right back to their maker. Utter perfection.
Brummie boys Swim Deep are making just the right amount of summer drenched, pop sounds. Their look and performance is the epitome of effortless indie so they were bound to pull in a big crowd. Effeminate and offhand the four piece are quite clearly set for huge things as their unlikely hearthrob status is held firmly in place by screaming fangirls. However, push aside the style and the substance isn’t as painted up. Fair enough, The Sea and She Changes The Weather are beautiful pieces but the band are nowhere near as good live as they are on record. Which, you know, is a shame.
Playing just underneath Snoop Dogg would be a rough task for anyone, never mind Franz “Who are they are again?” Ferdinand. Still intent on proving their pertinence in the industry, tunes like The Dark Of The Matinee and Do You Want To are wavering towards becoming indie classics but their new tracks seem to fall at a sooner hurdle.
However, Snoop Dogg (Lion? I don’t think so) has no problem with his cocktail of modern hits. Only he can get thousands of people singing “So what we get drunk, so what we smoke weed” and make it acceptable. He’s the most chilled person I ever did see. Oozing around the stage with classic Snoop charisma, he plays through P.I.M.P, California Gurls, Signs and Who Am I making it look like child’s play. Ok, so it gets a little cheesy at times but what’s a headliner without the Wotsits flavour?
Putting the rude in rude boy Sunday morning, reggae icon Max Romeo takes to the Main Stage, cascaded in sun and making people realise that Chase The Devil is not an original Prodigy mix. There’s more fun to be had though as Nile Rodgers declares his prominence in the music scene before Chic launch into a serious feelgood bonanza.
It seems almost impossible to ever get tired of The Strypes’ live performances. No matter how many times you see the Cavan teens literally devour their instruments, you can’t get over how raw the youngsters are. You should make a checklist at every Strypes’ performance you go to: one jaded reveller declaring that this “is the best thing he’s seen in a while”: Josh McClorey attempting to give at least three girls the eye: Ross Farrelly howling down his hand held mic into the crowd and in general a flawless technicality from all four of the wee lads.
Straight after this Blues Rock revival there’s a massive leapfrog of genres as Angel Haze launches herself onto stage tearing through an intense set, playing to the crowd and not staying in one place for long. Her rapping dynamics are impressive live and by filtering in cuts from her Reservation EP including her Missy Elliot sampling Gossip Folks, Haze is moving from lightweight to heavyweight at the speed of light.
Possibly the strangest performance of the weekend belonged to Dexy’s. Kevin Rowland took performance art to heart as he donned a Bert from Mary Poppins-esque suit and acted out a sequence of theatrics on stage. Geno was given a boggling revamp and whilst its applaudable that Dexy’s still have managed to retain that sense of fun, it’s kind of hard to warm to.
Which leaves the final headliner. The big’un. The convention breaker that left people exclaiming “What?” when they saw it. Elton bloody John. A bit of rest has done Elton’s voice the world of good and as he cuts the classic, iconic figure behind the piano, singalongs are blooming left, right and centre. The Rocket Man closed the rain soaked evening with the epochal Your Song – a perfect ending to a near-perfect festival.
All words by Harley Cassidy. You can read more from Harley on LTW here.