It’s pretty fair to assume that after 10 years of it steadily becoming one of the most-talked about events in the country, you will be aware of what Bestival is and what it does. If that isn’t the case, here’s a recap.
Starting with just 10,000 people in 2004, Rob Da Bank and wife Josie set out to create an event with careful curation, lots of colour and an atmosphere that couldn’t be copied. Now it’s 2013, there’s 55,000 people there, the lineup is second-to-none and there’s a shit load of face paint. If that isn’t a British success story I don’t know what is. ShufSounds borrowed a trolley of the local corner shop, loaded it up with a tent and some brioche and went to the tenth annual offering from Britain’s best music festival.
Thursday night saw the return of M.I.A ahead of her upcoming LP ‘Matangi’. The backdrop and imagery of her live show continues to blend worldly cultures with an unmissable underground ethos which can’t be imitated. She ran through new cuts like ‘Bring The Noize’ and closed with the colossal ‘Bad Girls’ and proved that even though she might not be quite as exciting as she once was, her music is still inimitable and her unique brand of inter-continental production but streetwise flow still packs a punch. ‘Matangi’ might just be worth a listen after all.
Friday daytime belonged to the ladies with Chloe Howl’s hype made worthwhile with her set at the Replay tent showcased a brand of pop music that is just as ballsy as it is heartwarming. Then came Jessie Ware on the main stage where cuts from ‘Devotion’ cemented it’s status as a seminal pop LP of recent years. Ware doesn’t try hard to be charming. She just is. With any luck she’ll hide away for a little while and come up with a sophomore LP which is just as addictive.
After Belle and Sebastian gave Shuf the warmest and loveliest vibe of the whole weekend, we caught the tail end of Fatboy Slim who was helping out his best mate Rob Da Bank by headlining the festival in the exact same slot he had when is began. Hawaiian shirts, lots of fist pumping and the occasional nod to the ‘Harlem Shake’ probably means that Fatboy Slim has still got it but it felt like it could have been the soundtrack to the launch of the Millennium Dome or something. Never mind. Much like the dome, we enjoyed Fatboy at the dawn of the decade and whilst the party might have moved on a little- nostalgia is never a bad thing.
For a real 21st century excursion of energy, we went to the RBMA stage for Evian Christ who played his spaced out trap beats to decorate the centerpiece of ‘I’m In It’ from Kanye’s latest record. A song so filthy you almost want to show your mum just to see what she’d do. He was reveling in the fact that he’s a twenty-something year old from Britain who has made possibly the sleaziest track on one of the shadiest albums of the year. To be fair, we’d probably revel in that too.
After doing all the dancing we could to Evian Christ, we tripped on a couple of tent ropes and went to sleep. After all, Snoop was the next day. After seeing girls lose their shit to Cyril Hahn’s RnB remixes, we saw the irrepressible soar of Julio Bashmore pull a colossal crowd to The Port. Then cuts from Jon Hopkins’ ‘Immunity’ had us locked in. The year Hopkins is having is justifiably amazing. His record deserves every ounce of acclaim it gets and we can certify that his live show doesn’t fracture that acclaim whatsoever. Snoop Dogg split the crowd in half. Fans of his Dre-affiliated sinister gangster-rap were sorely disappointed. Snoop mostly played feature spots that he’s contributed to the last 10 years of chart music. For many, this was ideal and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy it but when you go and see Snoop Dogg and ‘Still D.R.E’ is played as part of a pre-show DJ set but ‘I Wanna Make You Sweat’ is played live for all- it makes you wonder why you liked the guy in the first place. He did play some stuff as Snoop Lion though which was funny. Just funny.
Our nightly ‘Yeezus’ remit was fulfilled by a set from Hudson Mohawke who dragged ‘Blood On The Leaves’ out for all it was worth to create one of the best reactions of the weekend. After playing Rustie’s cut from the upcoming Danny Brown LP as well as the Chase and Status’ produced track from Pusha T’s new album. Whether you like to ‘turn up’ or not, Mohawke proved himself as a forefront force in an extremely exciting time for hip hop. If you do like to ‘turn up’- you’d have taken it all the way.
For a last day of a great festival, Chic and Elton John are your A-Team. We can assure you that you won’t find a better sign off to any event ever. You get Wilco to play at the end of a Bar Mitzvah, Kanye West could perform at the end of your Christmas dinner but it wouldn’t touch hearing ‘Rocket Man’ at the end of Bestival. First Nile Rodgers made it clear to all of us that the songs were his which made the enjoyment of tracks like ‘Like A Virgin’ and ‘We Are Family’ unmatchable. Then came the much talked about festival debut from Sir Elton John. He sounded just as you’d want him to, fresh, full of life and genuinely thrilled to be performing. Playing for 2 hours, Elton covered his whole career in an effortless, classy and party-starting fashion. His voice was impossible to fault and the way he thanked the fans and thanked the event was a joy to watch. The performance came in time with his new LP ‘The Diving Board’- a whole new album of fresh material. His opening number, ‘The Bitch Is Back’ seemed a fitting tagline for the Elton John experience of 2013. Rejuvenating, joyful and the unrivaled highlight of the weekend.
Elton was a fitting send off to an event that is worth every iota of it’s reputation. An unmissable curation paired with a genuine desire to play makes it the best festival in the country. It’s community of loyal attendees is certainly growing but the team behind the event haven’t lost sight of what people want from a festival. Full of character, energy and a boundless commitment to the best music in the world- Shuf are proud to have supported Bestival for another year. If they can get Elton John to the Isle of Wight, we might wager the possibilities are verging on endless.
Words: Duncan Harrison
Photos: Chloé Roselek + Louise Caldwell