Bestival 2014


Events, Features, Music | by — September 8, 2014

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by Jon Burns

Rob Da Bank’s Bestival is in rude health, having rocked and rolled on the Isle of Wight over the past three days for its 55,000 revelers.  Back for its eleventh year, the fancy dress fest theme was ‘desert island disco’, perfect considering Nile Rodgers and Chic closed the festival on Sunday evening, alongside the world’s biggest disco ball.

The key to Bestival’s success is its curation of a heady and eclectic mix of DJs and bands – a live version of Da Bank’s recently finished Radio 1 show if you like – the majority of which encourages partying and losing oneself to the music and atmosphere.

Friday afternoon got going with the hugely talented Sam Smith, who after professing his music can be a little depressing, sang an suitably disco version of Ce Ce Peniston’s ‘Finally’ to lift the crowd before finishing with ‘Stay With Me’ as the sun started to set.  Smith went on to join Disclosure’s blistering main stage performance for Latch, with Eliza Dolittle and Ed McFarlane of Friendly Fires partaking in their respective cameo spots, the latter shaking his booty like you wouldn’t believe (one of indie’s best frontmen)!  The Disclosure brothers have the rave set down to a T, but it would be nice to see some new work.

Brooklyn musician Tune-Yards put in a high tempo drum fueled show in the Big Top, followed by La Roux.  La Roux was particularly impressive as the polished pop star on the second album – looking confident and comfortable in simple white trousers and a black top, and her band all in white. She sang mostly from her new album, but a highlight had to be seeing hundreds rush the tent as the opening bars of ‘In for the Kill’ kicked in.

Sticking with the Big Top, we finished Friday with 2 Bears and Caribou. The 2 Bears, aka Raff Daddy and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, are a kind of homage to the bears of gay culture (I guess because they could be), and were joined by the Sink the Pink trannie and club kid crew for the 2 Bear take on house music – highly danceable and entertaining.  Caribou were also very good – their album sounds even better live than recorded, and their new work sounds like it will more than live up to their reputation.

Saturday saw Candi Staton on the main stage, quite clearly enjoying her legendary status, and having her son on stage on drums. In keeping with disco theme, and on stage at the same time as the fancy dress parade, we got to hear ‘Stand by your Man’, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, and finish with the crowd singing along to ‘You Got The Love’ – all in glorious sunshine.

London Grammar took to the main stage after sunset, and were seriously impressive.  It’s singer Hannah Reid who gets the attention, not that she appears to be searching for it.  Reid’s vocals are wide ranging, soft, vulnerable and stunning.  Then there is her look: blue grey eyes, blonde hair scraped back into a ponytail, puffa jacket (it’s cold) and minimal make up. So simple, and so beautiful. The music is dark and introverted, and I find myself stock still, rooted to the floor, focusing on every word as Reid takes a seat and sings ‘Strong’.  I feel like I’m intruding.

Foals were next to pep up the crowd, and they didn’t disappoint. Their infectious brand of fast paced indie rock and light show lit up the main stage field, giving it all after telling the crowd they’ll be taking around eighteen months out of performing.

The set of the Saturday belonged to Basement Jaxx, playing the big top in the early hours, which meant a few thousand couldn’t get near the tent, including us.  Eventually, once some had given up and left, we got inside to the joy that is the Jaxx and their ensemble. On stage they had ballet dancers and robots as they rolled out all the hits including Do Your Thing, Jump and Shout, and Where’s Your Head At.  It was two hours of spirit-lifting dance mayhem, and a curtain call of around 70 performers – shame they were on a smaller stage.

Continuing the dance theme on the Sunday, Clean Bandit got the main stage moving in the early afternoon, followed by the unapologetic bass of Major Lazer a few hours later.  Arriving on stage in suits, Major Lazer (ie Diplo and friends) soon stripped down, at one point sending Diplo in a zorb across the crowd from one side to the other.  Sunday evening was the turn of the godfather of disco, Nile Rodgers with Chic, and fittingly, on the hill next to the stage, the world’s biggest disco ball raised from its resting position by crane, and shining out over the site.

Rodger’s back catalog is a lesson in popular music – we got versions or Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, loads of Sister Sledge, and of course Chic.  Touchingly, Rodger’s broke off to explain that he was finding the show particularly hard as his guitar roadie of 18 years, Terry Brauer, had passed away suddenly a few hours before the show at the band’s hotel – which reduced Rodgers to tears on stage.  Rodger’s dedicated Sister Sledge’s ‘Thinking of You’ to his friend’s memory.

After Chic, was the traditional site fireworks display, which this year acted as a backdrop to the glitter ball shining its disco light across the site – beautiful.  In a market that’s already saturated, Rob Da Bank has hit on a niche formula that works: great music, great site, and not cramming too many punters in.  In essence, a festival of fun.  Although, what was with the ID at the bars? I was ID’d six times in two days (I’m 35) – but I suppose it’s quite flattering so who am I to complain?!

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