URB Does Bestival 2017
Bestival is a unique and eccentric festival which, somewhere between Glastonbury and Fresher’s Week, celebrates the best touring acts of all genres in a whirl of fancy dress and Jäger sponsored madness. I’ve been to Bestival a few times, some of the best gigs I’ve ever seen (notably Outkast and Nile Rogers ft. the world’s biggest disco ball) have been at Bestival, and so I had high hopes. I also had reason to be skeptical that Bestival would meet its usual high standards though, as this is the first year since the festival was uprooted from its former site in the Isle of Wight to an apparently smaller site in East Lullworth.
The site was indeed a lot smaller, and it cost Bestival the expansive never-ending feel that made areas like the ambient forest and the magic meadow feel so otherworldly. The effort to squeeze as much as before into a smaller plot was valiant though, and I got the sense that few punters begrudged the move given that it no longer meant lugging kit onto two buses and a ferry…
The main staples the festival has become known for were also transplanted seamlessly: The Castle Stage felt bigger than ever, the HMS Bestival (a DJ Booth built into a full-sized cargo ship) remained the ultimate in-between acts pit stop and there was enough activities, food and shops to make you forget you’d come for the music. Overall the site, attractions and ambience were still top tier, and Bestival can still confidently hold its own against big names like Glastonbury or Isle of Wight.
“But what about the music!?” I hear you cry, and indeed, music is commonly known to rank fifth on the list of reasons people most enjoy music festivals (in between staring at the back of someone on their friend’s shoulders and finding their car on the last day). There were of course, far too many acts to discuss individually but some acts stand out as worth mentioning. Jamie T delivered a morale-boosting tour de force on Thursday night, bringing a very wet and wind-beaten crowd to their feet with a career spanning set that closed with a high-speed hit melody (he informed the crowd that Dave Grohl wouldn’t let him headline without playing the hits).
Tribe Called Quest also deserve plaudits for their historic final performance which managed somehow to simultaneously somberly honor recently deceased member Phife Dawg and please the crowd with the most anthemic moments from their back catalogue. The lineup was littered too with incredible smaller acts, each of which would justify a full review on the merit of their own sets.
Highlights included Lucy Rose, who brought the crowd to tears with her emotive anecdotes and a melancholy set that packed a real punch, and punk outfit Skinny Girl Diet, who filled the stage with just a weighty drum and lead guitar that rocked The Box. Not to be forgotten too was the impressive dance line-up, with a fantastic set from Jaguar Skills at the HMS Bestival that featured classic tunes which powered a crowd through to the early hours.
Overall, although Bestival failed to live up to its weird and wonderful best, it’s still a unique festival experience more than worth the ticket price. I have high hopes for Bestival, with many of the downsides this year no doubt stemming from the difficulties of relocating, and I’m already looking forward to going back.
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