Review | Bestival

Bestival 2014 - Carolina Faruolo [DSC_0951] Bestival is a strange beast. With a line-up that lurches wildly from hardcore dance to woozy underground guitar-pop, it’s not sure whether to be a Shoreditch dive bar, a hippy commune or Club 18-30 for Surrey freshers. Despite this split personality, to a certain kind of person the 362 days of the year not spent getting mashed on the Isle of Wight are the party equivalent of waiting for your Candy Crush lives to be refilled. If you are not that person, your refrain for the weekend is, “God, everyone here is the worst.”

After all, you have to be pretty dedicated to make the pilgrimage from mainland Britain to the far side of the Isle of Wight. Surrounded by hashtag lads being hashtag ledges, you’ll queue for the train, you’ll queue for the ferry, you’ll queue for the shuttle bus and you’ll queue again to get in. You’ll spend what probably amounts to £100 on a costume you’ll wear for two hours then ditch somewhere near a playground in a labyrinthine forest you’ve been stumbling around for 45 minutes. The festival site is hilly as fuck. Hype bands clash with two step, dubstep and any other kind of step you’d care to mention. There’s as much neon face paint on site as there is potable water. You can tell just from the greasy feel to the air that Diplo is there somewhere. It seems like hell on earth.

And yet. Somewhere amid all that, nestled in the gaps between the incessant selfie-taking and casual desertion of basic human decency, lies the party of the summer.


Jenny Lewis - Carolina Faruolo [DSC_1952]

Image credit: Carolina Faruolo

Thursday night saw workers scramble to finish building the site as alterna-country pop sweetheart and wearer of great suits Jenny Lewis took the stage. Her set comes with a generous helping of Rilo Kiley throwbacks and a satisfying slice of her new solo album, The Voyager.

Watching Jenny Lewis perform is like catching up with an old friend; when her in-ear monitors malfunction she starts and stops acoustic number ‘Acid Tongue’ twice before ripping the earpiece out and declaring, “Ah fuck it, I’m not playing that one.” But the crowd’s not having it and we cajole her into carrying on the way good friends do. She tries again, begrudgingly, deadpanning at first and grimacing on the high notes but nailing it before blowing kisses as she slips offstage to let the band enjoy some stage time without her.


Friday dawned cool and misty, which was perfect weather to catch vampish Cousin Marnie. Dig deep enough into Cousin Marnie’s dark synth-hop and you’ll find whispers of country music, but the highlight of her set was a banging disco rendition of ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ which gets the small, but eager, crowd hopping.

Cate Le Bon - Caitlin Mogridge [CSM_5178]

Image credit: Caitlin Mogridge

There wasn’t much hopping going on over at Cate Le Bon, where the sea of solemn faces seemed to reflect the mood of the band. Cate and co rattled through songs, barely holding for applause before crashing into the next. It smacked of contractual obligation and wasn’t helped by the world’s most irritating bandana-wearing ginger guy who planted himself in front of us halfway through and caused a considerable amount of attention to be diverted into wishing him a fiery end. Festival crowds, eh? Doesn’t matter where you stand, give it five minutes and some dickhead wearing a bandana will come and ruin it.

Vaults - Caitlin Mogridge [CSM_4298]

Image credit: Caitlin Mogridge

We may have been holding on to some residual annoyance when a guy wearing a tiger hat stood in front of us as technical difficulties delayed mysterious hype band Vaults. There may have been a tweet in progress about how you can’t stand anywhere at Bestival without a dickhead in a tiger hat standing in front of you when he turned around to ask if he was in the way and we became firm festival friends. Which just goes to show that not every dickhead in a tiger hat is actually a dickhead and if anyone knows him can you pass on our number please. There was a general absence of dickheads for Vaults, who sit somewhere between the po-facedness of London Grammar and the lightswitch rave of Chvrches – all deep dark synths and twinkly cymbals that don’t take themselves too seriously. Front-woman Blythe Pepino busted out impressive ballet kicks between verses and the six song set seemed far too short.

tUnE-yArDs - Dan Dennison [GJS_7112]

Image credit: Dan Dennison

Meanwhile, the indisputably excellent-at-singing Laura Mvula’s mid-afternoon mainstage set was indisputably boring as hell. The diplomatic term is “a bit ballad heavy” – she followed two ballads with the phrase, “I’m going to get intimate now.” At which point a small groan rippled under the mainstage audience’s polite applause. Much better timed was tUnE-yArD’s Friday evening show, overflowing with bangers as drums, wood blocks, microphones and anything else you can hit with a stick were roped in to add to the rhythmic cacophony. Everyone on-stage and off- was having the best time; we danced until we could dance no more.


Laura Mvula wasn’t the only one to suffer from Wrong Time Of Day-itus. Hockeysmith hit the stage at 2pm, but 2am would have worked better for the Cornish sisters’ pulsing ethereal pop-flavoured dance music. We’re really excited about Hockeysmith; they just need a couple of years to grow into themselves.

Candi Staton - Dan Dennison [GJS_9398]

Image credit: Dan Dennison

Somewhere in the golden hours of Saturday afternoon, the entire festival transformed from hygienically questionable festival chic to full-on blow-out fancy dress. The Desert Island Disco theme meant you were as likely to be conked on the head by an errant disco ball as you were to bump into Wilson from Castaway (we counted at least 20). Kicking the evening into disco gear, Candi Staton mixed fairly dubious relationship advice with the killer combo of ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ and ‘You Got The Love’, practically daring the crowd not to have an amazing night.

London Grammar - Dan Dennison [GJS_9698]

Image credit: Dan Dennison

The Da Bank family needs to have a word with whoever scheduled London Grammar for the main stage midway through Saturday night; the pulse of the evening dropped dangerously low for this dreamy but not exactly party-starting set during which your correspondent felt some #feelings from a tree stump in the forest. Although London Grammar are playing to tens of thousands of people on a stage that hangs off the three-piece like a parent’s clothes of a toddler playing dress up, they give a noir-ish performance that would be equally at home in a dank bar with twenty people sipping whiskeys. Like Hannah Reid’s ever-impressive voice, it’s a show that is expansive and intimate all at once.

Pulling ourselves together, it was time to hotfoot it to highlight-of-the-festival . If you were looking for the kernel of the party, it was here. She had the crowd lapping up her blend of art-school dance-pop, pushing adrenaline levels to their heights and topping things off with a contemplative cover of the Spice Girls’ ‘Say You’ll Be There’. The very best pop music is the sort that you can dance and cry to all at once: it’s a niche that MØ has nailed.


Chvrches - Caitlin Mogridge [CSM_6048]

Image credit: Caitlin Mogridge

CHVRCHES drew the early evening crowd to the Big Top tent like weary moths to an electro-pop flame. Every song a crowd-pleaser, Lauren’s reedy vocals soared above the blanket of crisp synths and disco beats, culminating with a goose-bump-raising rendition of The Mother We Share.

The world’s largest disco ball (officially) shimmered above the festival as the godfather of disco and his freaks took over. Chic and Nile Rodgers busted out a real good time despite having learned that one of their long-time roadies and good friend had passed away minutes before they took to the stage. An embarrassment of disco-pop riches flooded the mainstage like we were at the world’s greatest wedding reception. The band flawlessly medlied their way from ‘We Are Family’, ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance through to last year’s smash hit Get Lucky as fireworks burst into the sky above them. It was enough to give you chills. With shining eyes and smiling faces jumping and shimmying all around, we couldn’t help but feel that Bestival-goers weren’t such a bad lot after all.

Just 362 tedious days to endure ’til Bestival 2015, then.

Kate Solomon Follow Kate on Twitter – @katiesol

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