HMS Bestival 2013: review
It’s September, which means two things in the UK. Summer is over, and people are asking why on earth Christmas decorations are in the shops already. Despite it being the end of our unusually pleasant summer – Bestival was there to close the festival season and welcome Autumn in style this weekend.
Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank celebrated the tenth anniversary of his success story at Robin Hill in Isle of Wight along with 60,000 friends. And the thing about Bestival is, it does feel like an old friend. Where some festivals erect a stage, stick a band on, and throw you in the mud, Bestival goes all out to make sure you’re having a good time. It wants to welcome you, and it certainly wants to wow you.
One distinguishing element of the festival in Isle of Wight is the overriding theme each year. This year’s was HMS Bestival, and in regular tradition, revellers went all out with their costumes. There were sailors, mermaids, pirates, sharks (and their victims), sea creatures and even a pram converted into a pirate ship. The parade displayed the best of them – with intricate and elaborate costumes riding metres high above the crowd. The theme was clear at every point – from disused boats, to new stage The Port in the form of a giant ship, to a 40 foot rusted anchor on the main stage.
This year’s line-up took a more electronic route than former years with less of a band presence. Rudimental and Disclosure’s performances reflected their chart success – but also brought in a much younger crowd than usual. Both put on energy-packed sets to elated crowds singing back the lyrics. Fatboy Slim also headlined the Friday night 10 years after he did the same at the first ever Bestival. But more of his own hits would’ve been welcomed.
Putting Franz Ferdinand before Snoop Dogg wasn’t ideal for Saturday night. They’ve got recognisable hits to dance along to – but they’ve been out of the charts too long to make them current, and not long enough to give them legendary status. But to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of his debut album, Doggystyle, someone both current and with legendary status headlined Saturday night.
You didn’t need to head to the science tent to discover that marijuana affects the memory – you just had to watch Snoop Dogg. Not only did he forget that he’d asked if we were smoking weed a couple of times already – but he forgot about his change to alter ego Snoop Lion, ignoring reggae, preferring a giant dog headed man and scantily clad dancers doing a good Miley Cyrus impression. Nevertheless it’s Snoop Dogg, and with songs like ‘Gin and Juice,’ and ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot,’ there was no doubt it was going to be an amazing show.
It can be a little frustrating when bands only play new songs from their new album and ignore the hits that got them there, but The Knife’s ‘Shaking The Habitual’ show pulled it off. Playing songs from the long-awaited follow up album to their 2007 opus Silent Shout, the Swedish electro duo delighted fans with not only the most strange and incredible choreography of the weekend – but possibly to ever grace a Bestival stage.
Nile ‘Bragsalot’ Rodgers emphatically informed the crowd that every single hit Chic would be playing on Sunday night was written by him. And then listed a lot of artists and songs. But heck, I’m sure we’d all brag too if we had that roster of hits under our belt – so here’s a list of his songs. Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, Dianna Ross’s ‘Upside Down’, and 2013’s summer song Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, as well as the heap of hits from Chic which brought a disco vibe to the Isle causing a ‘Freak Out’ en masse.
And then came Elton John. He’s more used to Vegas these days, announcing he hadn’t headlined a UK festival since 1969, but said he agreed because he was told “it’s a fantastic show to play”. And whoever told him was right. Dressed in a snazzy black jacket with Madman Across The Water written in glitter on the back, his perfectly-rehearsed routine took the crowd through six decades of hits across a two hour set – including ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, ‘I’m Still Standing’ and of course ‘Candle In The Wind’. Elton was an inspired choice – and the perfect headliner to end Bestival 2013. (Ellie Goulding was also really kind to let him cover ‘Your Song’ as the final number).
Other highlights included James Blake returning to the Big Top tent with his soulful vocals, The Polyphonic Spree doing The Rocky Horror Picture Show (amazing – but arguably not enough suspenders), and Josie [da Bank]’s artwork that set the creative tone beautifully. But not the persistent rain that kept returning all weekend.
Everywhere you go at Bestival there is something strange, alluring, or both, to make you take a second look. There is also a strong element of environmental awareness – whether it be sawdust toilets or free cups of tea for recycling. On site there was also a rammed Oxfam charity shop, and restaurant The Surplus Supper Club that offered three course meals produced from unwanted food to counteract our ridiculous waste culture. That was on top of entertainment like the chapel where you can get fake-married, the amphitheatre with mini plays and performances, and a giant Lionel Richie head.
If you don’t manage to get Glastonbury tickets next year – go to Bestival. And even if you do manage to get Glastonbury tickets – go to Bestival. It’s unlike anything else. Here’s hoping for ten years more.Bestival, Disclosure, Elton John, festival, isle of wight, James Blake, music, Rob da Bank, Rudimental, Snoop Dogg, summer, The Knife
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