Review: Bestival 2011

Bestival 2011 Photographer Louise Roberts .uk20110910141927
Photo: Louise Roberts

This year’s Bestival, Rob Da Bank’s festival on the Isle of Wight, narrowly avoided being hit by the tail end of hurricane Katia. Instead festival-goers were treated to a mostly dry weekend of sporadic sunshine and showers, once they got there of course.

In the interests of getting the negatives out of the way first, it must be reiterated that getting to Bestival is probably the worst thing about the festival. Ferry services from Southampton and Portsmouth are seriously over-stretched leaving thousands of revellers subject to several hours of seemingly endless queuing.

Our wait was over four hours, with our booking for 4pm shifting slowly but surely towards gone 8pm. Once you’re off the ferry you find yourself in another queue for a shuttle bus or taxi to actually make the 6/7 mile trip to the festival site. We knew this to be the case and hitched a lift off the ferry with Paul, a security guard from ProTouch Security, working the festival. (He had waited three times as long as we had to catch the ferry!) Huge thanks to him!

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A snapshot of the ferry chaos

With the mammoth journey out of the way and some much needed rest in a surprisingly peaceful campsite, the first day kicked of with some sunshine and an emphatic set from Beardyman on the main stage and Fenech Soler in the Big Top. Beardyman went down a storm as his bass-laden mixes felt like the perfect way to start an eventful weekend.

A little later and Scroobius Pip took up his position in The Ambient Forest, something he maintained throughout the weekend playing sets here, there and everywhere over the weekend. Meanwhile, veteran Beach Boy Brian Wilson took to the stage to deliver some old favourites whilst Cut Copy continued to crank up the energy in the Big Top.

Two of my highlights of the weekend followed shortly after with SBTRKT pulling in a huge Big Top crowd to play a blinding set of his ambient, dubstep material. Whilst Sampha’s husky vocals struggled to transmit across the entire crowd it was still a treat to see SBTRKT drum live to recreate his unmistakable sound for the Bestival crowd.

Bestival 2011 Photographer Louise Roberts .uk20110909174914
Photo: Louise Roberts

The second highlight started immediately after SBTRKT finished approaching the stage to the distinctive sound of sirens. Chuck D, Flavor Flav and DJ Lord, better known as Public Enemy played to a huge crowd on the main stage. Admittedly their age is starting to show but classics like Don’t Believe the Hype, Night of the Living Baseheads and Bring The Noise still sounded fantastic and their stage presence was as entertaining as ever.

After a break to enjoy some of the other Bestival sights and indulge in some fantastic festival food it was time for Magnetic Man to show exactly what a main stage Magnetic Man set should consist of; dazzling visuals (from their uber-expensive lighting rig) and flawless sounds. It proved to be the best set of the night on the main stage as Pendulum (Friday’s ill-chosen headliners) bypassed a lot of their superior Hold Your Colour tracks, instead opting for their over-played, over-hyped modern material. Zane Lowe and Groove Armada rounded off the first day going into the early hours on the Bollywood stage and Big Top.

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Main Stage Motivation. Photo: Victor Frankowski

Saturday started promisingly with yet more sunshine, despite some achy heads, with Mr Motivator on the main stage and a brilliant lunchtime set from Toots & The Maytals. Everything from 54-46 Was My Number and Funky Kingston featured in the reggae masters’ set and despite a heavy downpour making things look grim, it soon brightened back up.

Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip and Skream & Benga took to the Big Top in the afternoon and provided yet more musical highlights to remember, the latter benefitting from even better sound than they had the previous night as Magnetic Man.

Some more surreal moments led us into the evening with The Village People performing on the main stage before Jaguar Skills, Paloma Faith and Grandmaster Flash followed to restore Bestival back to some sort of normality. Of course, this was the rockstars, popstars and divas fancy dress day of the festival, so everywhere you looked was like seeing The Village People.

The Saturday night was the strongest lineup of acts of the weekend and the treat of a main stage medley of PJ Harvey followed The Cure was wonderful. PJ Harvey, still on a high from her Mercury Prize win just a few nights before, had a relatively short but stunning set with tracks from all her albums stunning the audience.

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Photo: Andrew Whitton

In between PJ Harvey and The Cure we headed across the arena to try and catch some of Ed Sheeran’s set in the tiny Psychadelic Worm tent. However, after squeezing in, literally under the sides of the tent (to the dismay of Bestival security) we cut our losses (along with frustrated parents with children and hundreds of other fans) and headed back for The Cure. That was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the weekend, that the festival organisers had somehow not recognised the huge popularity of the Suffolk-born singer-songwriter. It also could have ended horribly as the tent became crammed well over capacity.

Nevertheless, all was quickly forgotten as Robert Smith and co. took to the main stage to belt out a phenomenal main stage performance that lasted a staggering two and a half hours. Personal highlights included Lullaby, Just Like Heaven and A Forest but the whole set was mesmerising and proved they really were the main attraction at this years Bestival.

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Photo: Andrew Whitton

Saturday felt like an all-nighter as Primal Scream took to the Big Top straight after The Cure before a brilliant Metronomy performance at 2.15am rounded off a stunning and unrelenting 6 hours of music. Their excellent The English Riviera proving as popular and poignant as debut Nights Out.

Sunday had a more sporadic offering of music as we kept our eye on the weather in fear of the reported hurricane heading our way. We caught sets from The Drums, Kelis, Noah & The Whale and finally The Maccabees before making the difficult decision to call it a day and head for the ferry before becoming the next casualties of Bestival’s unbelievably chaotic mass-exodus. Yes, we missed Robyn (no biggy) and Bjork (disappointed) amongst the final acts of the festival but by 2am we’d made it home with the only queue to speak of being for the ferry’s coffee machine.

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Photo: Andrew Whitton

The Maccabees were a fitting end to the festival too as they spoke on numerous occasions of their gratitude for people making the effort to stay and see them. New material from their forthcoming third album sounded excellent as did all of their Colour It In/Wall of Arms crowd-pleasers.

So, Bestival suffered from the year-on-year problems of it’s location (please just move it to the mainland!) but proved once again that once you’re there it’s a fantastic festival that really does cater for everything. There’s certainly never a lack of things to do and pulling in acts like The Cure is sure to cement it as one of the big-hitters of the festival circuit.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.