Bestival review and best bands

Wow – it’s been ages since I wrote anything vaguely resembling a blog.  Apologies if you’ve been getting withdrawal symptoms and needlessly phoning the police… I’m back now, and ready to resume normal Some Of It Was True! service.

The reason for the sustained silence is simple: Bestival – including a lunatic, super-hurried build-up, and a slow, pained comedown, and return to drab office life.

How was the festival?  Pretty good on the whole, thank you.  Here’s a chart of the brilliant and the bad:

1. The fancy dress at Bestival is famous, but rightly so: it was incredible – a circus of colour, the most eclectic funfair.  In keeping with this year’s space theme, I saw entire armies of walking confectionery (Mars, Galaxy, Starburst, etc), a trio of Tony Harrisons (“This is an outrage”) and, easily best of all, a man dressed as a massive yellow alien, with 12-foot conveyor belt arms, and a flashing roadworks light on his head.
2. People’s kindness – without doubt this was the nicest festival I’ve attended.  If someone bumpd into you during an energetic dance, you got an apology.  If you lost your phone, it was returned.  If you asked someone for help, you got it, unreservedly and enthusiastically.  It’s how it should be.
3. The weather – more or less stunning sun, and perfecterly-blue-skies the whole way through.  And then rain from hell on Monday, when we’d all left.  Fabulous work, weather gods, and the polar opposite of 2008’s monsoon hell.
4. The creativity.  Away from the stages and tents, all sorts of wonderments awaited.  A toboggan run.  A huge wicker snail.  A rocket sending fireballs off to space.  The world’s tallest sculpture, a huge tree in the woods.  An insect circus.  Christmas dinners and high teas.  On and on it went, and I doubt I saw the half of it.
5. The Solace: a Christian-run cafe that provided free teas of 30+ varieties (including their own, delectable Spicy Chai) and free cakes, in a cosy, cushioned setting scored with happy chatter, contented snoozes and peaceful lounge music or spoken word.  In the midst of standard festival fleecing (£6 for sausage and mash?), this shone out like a beacon of goodness.  They wouldn’t accept payment, but the kindness inspired me to other, later acts of charity and other stabs at goodness.  Admiration isn’t close to a strong-enough word.

1. The main stage.  Moved to combat the floods and strife of last year, this is now located on a hill that slants from left to right as you watch bands, meaning you lose your balance if you even attempt a shuffle.  An additional problem is the height – it’s miles up in the air, meaning bands seem oddly distant.  But worst was the sound – it fluctuated in volume and clarity like a slowly-dying earphone.
2. The musical variety.  I know, it’s a dance festival.  It’s Rob da Bank’s festival.  And there was a little folk, rock, whatever, in some piffling outer tents.  But really, post-live music, the only options for partying into the night was loud, throbbing fast-pacery electro everywhere you directed your ears, and a likely need for chemical enhancement.  I went to, and loved Exit, so I’ve no problem with dance, but it is nice to have alternatives
3. Fooking this, fooking that.  An overwhelming majority of the audience seemed to be sheltered middle-class kids who said the fabled F word about five times a sentence, with ribald rebellion.  It grew to be a bit wearying, and plain depressing.
4. The journey.  By public transport it involves a train, a ferry, a bus and a long, hilly walk (uphill on the way out), with an additional bus if you go via Southampton.  Unless you’re exceedingly early or preposterously late, most stages come blessed with massive queues, too.  Thursdays and Mondays are never meant to be the fun festival days, but they’re rarely this depressing.
5. I’m struggling here… er… the coloured sections of the campsites could have been labelled more, er, clearly???

Overall it was great though, and I’d recommend it.  As for bands, I saw plenty of good stuff, but for me these were the three stand-out performances:

Passion Pit
I saw the Boston quartet much earlier this year at Koko, so was prepared for the incredible ability of singer Michael Angelakos to constantly produce falsetto screeches.  And I knew very well the addictiveness of their disco-tastic electro pop in the live surround.  But what was different was Passion Pit’s confidence: once geeky and awkward, they’re now seasoned pros ripping it up.  No complaints at all.

I was no Klaxons fan going in, and still can’t tell the old classics from the record company-rejected newbies, aside from anthems like Golden Skans.  Yet, hell, I enjoyed myself: every song was a rip-roarer, a bouncing brute of energy, big beats and thrashing guitars, and yet I didn’t feel remotely tired or bored.  The sun set and the air chilled, but the Klaxons thrilled – and the next album, whenever it finally does arrive, ought to be quite something.

Along with the two aforementioned acts, Efterklang seemed simply delighted to be playing, to be a band making and playing music.  Faced with the first slot in a silent, sleepy dance tent unlikely to be aware of their slow-fi alt pop (complete with occasional, rousing set-pieces), they played and thanked and played, and eventually everyone was standing, smiling and clapping in fanfare.  For me, this was the precise start of the festival, and set the tone beautifully.

Passion Pit on MySpace
Klaxons on MySpace
Efterklang on MySpace

Bestival website

MP3: Passion Pit – To Kingdom Come (zSHARE)
MP3: Efterklang – Step Aside (zSHARE)


~ by ripamel on 16/09/2009.

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