As the late summer nights begin to draw in and the end of the festival season is in sight, while many have packed away their daisy dukes, the Bestivalites are suiting up sailor style for the magical mayhem of HMS Bestival 2013 – Robin Hill park is adorned with swaying flags, the ferries are full and the campsites are primed for partying.
Thursday’s foray into the mad world of Rob Da Bank’s imagination sees a brand new area – Temple Island (which we managed to explore before it all burnt up – apparently part of the act not an act of pyromania) and a host of new ‘bubbles’ with a stage, chill out areas and sculptures as well as a heap of amazing places to eat (our particular favourite is Anna Mae’s Mac n Cheese).
Heading into the main arena past the giant illuminated Big Wheel, the Big Top is already chocka with people for The Correspondents. Mad frontman Mr. Bruce is spinning wildly in his humbug-harlequin frilly getup during ‘What’s Happened To Soho?’ before launching headlong into heart thumping jungle tunes, to which the crowd goes mental. Yelling “This is about as dirty as a gentleman like me gets on a Thursday” before leaping onto the sea of arms in the audience, Mr. Bruce crowd surfs to the halfway point in seconds as DJ counterpart DJ Chucks lays down the beat. Calling out “I’ve gotta be honest, this is overwhelming…” Mr. Bruce isn’t kidding – for anyone who hasn’t seen The Correspondents before; they usually play to pretty tiny crowds, and tonight The Big Top is overflowing and going top notch wild. Elsewhere, Tankus The Henge bring a punky edge to the adorable Polka Tent and every single person we pass has a giant grin plastered on their chops.
Friday sees drag spectacular Sink The Pink (usually found gyrating at The Grand Palace of Entertainment) joined on the main stage by members of The Royal Marine Reserves for a thoroughly jolly workout session, “On behalf of the armed forces, we thank you” and “On behalf of transvestites we thank you” are not two sentences you expect to hear at a festival on a Friday afternoon but it did make us giggle. French electro band Caravan Palace are a surprise with their interesting mix of what’s being termed ‘gypsy jazz’ alongside some proper swing-dancing, but the crowd really draws in for the hotly anticipated return of American hip-hop crew, Wu-Tang Clan. Despite the fact that pretty much everyone only knows one song, the band manage to produce enough hype to get the crowd jumping, before busting out 2001 mega hit ‘Gravel Pit’. DJ Mathematics pops off his shoe and proceeds to work the mixer with his foot to the chant of “When I say Wu-Tang, you say forever…” as a mass of ‘W’ hand signs are thrust skyward in appreciation. Though their set seemed to a lack a bit of punch overall, the nostalgia factor made up for it.
A quick jaunt to check out new area The Port reveals it to be a giant boat with Diablo acts, fire poi spinners and a massive mermaid, alongside some banging music from DJ’s atop the structure and a huge crane providing an aerial dancer a place to do crazy tricks above the awestruck crowd. It’s sort of reminiscent of our beloved (missing) Arcadia from the last couple of years, and really comes into it’s own at night, with regular fireworks, flame cannons and an amazing DJ lineup.
Over in The Big Top, Sinead O’Connor pokes her signature shaved bonce out onto the stage to a decent crowd for a stirring rendition (with added crowd participation) of her iconic Prince cover of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, giggling, Sinead says “Thank you, you sang beautifully”. Main stage veterans The Flaming Lips are as bonkers as ever, with frontman Wayne Coyne cradling a baby-doll atop silver spheres, in front of a light-waterfall before spinning a flaming orb around his head like a talisman. Amid the madness and glitter ticker-tape, it’s actually a decent set, but the bafflement on the faces around us suggest they’ve gone a step too odd/dark for the Bestival crowd this time.
The Big Top welcomes Belle & Sebastian with an almighty roar for ‘Cuckoo’, and their soft melodic rock lights up the rammed tent, as the rain begins to pour outside. Joking “I hope you haven’t taken all your drugs at once, remember it’s a marathon not a sprint” frontman Stuart Murdoch launches into ‘Another Sunny Day’ and grabs a host of lucky fans from the crowd to join them on stage for ‘Boy With The Arab Strap’. The Scottish Belles definitely put on one of the best performances of the whole weekend.
Despite the extreme soaking the thousands at the main stage just received, the crowd is going absolutely hyper to the sounds of Fatboy Slim’s Bestival Birthday Bash (See main review for full details), with lasers, fireworks, a great AV show and absolutely banging beats. Norman Cook was absolutely made for Bestival and it’s great to see him filling up the main stage instead of either getting crushed in the Big Top or on the fringe watching the fun happen from the outside. ‘Right Here Right Now’ and ‘Rockafella Skank’ are just absolutely massive, heart pounding, raving beasts of tunes and the whole arena is jumping and waving glowsticks like there’s no tomorrow.
At Bestival, the headliner isn’t ever the end of the action – if you go back to your tent, you’re missing out on the most magical hours at Robin Hill. Staggering about the Ambient Forest, with it’s Chinese lanterns and kids play areas, tiny stages and secret hideouts is honestly like being a kid again. Stick on a forest dwelling animal onesie and you may as well have been dropped into Where The Wild Things Are. It’s totally surreal. As if that wasn’t enough, sneaking past Bollywood and The Port, the top left corner of the forest has a hidden jewel in the form of The Ampitheatre. During the day, this plays host to a huge array of acts (notably, Scroobius Pip’s Satin Lizard Lounge of amazing spoken-word artists) but at night they show bizarre and melon-bending movies for the drunk and delusional. Tonight’s effort is an 80’s hip-hop spectacular ‘Beat Street’. The movie itself is kind of confusing and terribly acted, but the atmosphere of the dark benches hidden in the trees, the bunting and the secret snuggling is what The Amphitheatre is all about, oh and the really exceptionally drink-and-or-drug addled couple falling all over people on their 30 minute attempt to leave – comedy gold.