Playback: Bestival 2016
England’s annual end-of-the-summer festival has done it again. Bestival exceeded expectations despite some negative chatter before the weekend began. This year the theme was “The Future” and Robin Hill Park was taken over by everything that had anything to do with space travel, extraterrestrial beings and lasers. To cap it all off, the organizers created a spaceport consisting of a giant steel rocket flanked by two giant astronauts holding onto massive speakers.
All that and we haven’t even mentioned the music. And although Bestival is mostly about electronic music for me, there was loads of different genres to choose from this year. The headliners ranged from Hip-Hop to 80s pop music with The Cure, Major Lazer and Wiz Khalifa leading the bill. Human League, Hot Chip, Fatboy Slim, Craig David and Sean Paul were all big enough names to be headliners too but I suppose you can only print so many names on the top of a poster.
Day 1: Thursday, Sept 8th
Day one was all about the Big Top. The main stage doesn’t open until Friday and most of Thursday was used up on traveling to the Isle of Wight. To get to the island you have to take a bus to a train to a tram to a ferry to a helicopter to a hovercraft to another train to a bus and then complete a small obstacle course were you are finally deposited into the festival grounds. It’s an all day affair to get there but once you do, it’s worth the journey.
Arrived to the Big top just in time to see Glass Animals take the stage. Listening to the bouncy indie soul sounds of Glass Animals is a great way to warm you up to a festival weekend. It’s not the kind of music that you dance your face off but rather something you just groove to. The whole tent was chatting and swaying as they played. It was a good start.
To cap off the night Hot Chip did a set under the tent as well. It marked a very good start to the weekend.
Day 2: Friday, Sept 9th
Friday morning was a day of reckon. Every year Bestival has a slightly different set up. The stages are mostly in the same place, but there are all kinds of things to explore and take part in. This year there was an inflatable church (people were actually getting married there), a giant bouncy castle, and a sort of bird zoo where you could hold hawks, vultures, and owls. It was wicked. Imagine dancing all night and then waking up the next day to find yourself holding a freakin eagle. It makes you feel like the falcon master of the universe.
I was done ‘getting my eagle on’ (so to speak) and it was time to check out the rest of the park. I wondered over to the Spaceport to catch some of Kenton Slash Demon’s set. Then wandered up to the Big Top to see a little Swedish pop music from MØ. After a bit more wandering in the sun I decided to retire back to the campsite for some food.
On the way back to camp I came across one of the best festival couple ever. Picture this: A tiny pop-up tent. Two adults squeezed in. Both drinking champagne from plastic champagne flutes. Boss!
I decided to sit down and have a chat. This is what is so great about Bestival. It’s seriously the friendliest festival I’ve been to.
Inside the tent were Ben and Polly and they happy for me to just rock up and have a chat. They offered me a pint glass of gin and tonic and explained that they were doing some incredible people watching. It didn’t take long until their neighbour came to join us, and a few people walking along the path even joined in. This is the essence of Bestival I think. Here are two people in a tiny tiny tent with a fantastic attitude and a mission to spread some joy.
In any case, thanks Ben and Polly for the gin and the lovely chat. #BestTentCouple
Now that I was properly fed and watered it was time to get involved in some Major Lazer at the main stage. To say that Major Lazer puts on an exciting show is an understatement. There is just so much going on. It’s pop music, it’s world music, it’s reggae, it’s dub step. If there was a sound for the millennial generation, I’d say that Major Lazer is it.
In direct contrast to Major Lazer is Carl Cox, a British house and techno producer who has been defining the genre since the 1980s. So after leaving the Main Stage towards the end of Major Lazer’s set, I headed over to the Spaceport to catch the Carl ripping it up old school.
Odesza was next on my list of people to see and they were playing under the Big Top tent. I’m a huge fan of the Seattle based duo but strangely I’ve never seen them live. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sometimes this kind of music doesn’t translate that well live. It’s great for listening in your car or at a house party, but does it work as a performance. I was pleasantly surprised. The stage was split in two and both guys were positioned back to back. With a massive screen behind them all you could see if their silhouettes as they recreated different pieces of the percussion. It was very entertaining.
As the night carried on and the drugs started to take hold on people it was time to do some exploring. Saw some more of Diplo play, caught Animal Collective and took a wander through the Ambient Forest. Inside the forest the amphitheatre was transformed into “The Amphitheatre After Dark,” a small stage with an outdoor sound system under the trees. It was Bugged Out’s Little Bugger party and it was wicked.
In the early hours of the morning on the way back to camp, I decided to stop by the Big Top to catch Katy B. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan, but Katy B definitely knows how to play some party music. There is also some nostalgia value to her music. I can remember listening to Annie Mac in 2010 when she premiered Katy B and Ms Dynamite. Good vibes.
Here’s all the snapchats from the day:
Day 3: Saturday, Sept 10th
The rain began Saturday morning. Bestival has been pretty fortunate over the years when it comes to rain but we weren’t escaping the mud this time. Saturday was set to rain all day.
To avoid the rain, we headed over to the COOP Mix Kitchen. It’s rare to have a sit-down meal at a festival when most of the options are usually simple food stands that barely give you a plastic fork to eat with. The COOP changed this with their Mix Kitchen which created freshly cooked meals by well known chefs (and served on real plates). Imagine stepping in from the rain to a very clean restaurant / marquee with all sorts of fresh ingredients from the COOP. A chef comes over and asks what kind of flavours you like and they take all of the fresh veg and spices and whip it all up right there whilst you sip a glass of COOP wine. Sure it’s a plug for the COOP, but it worked. Everyone craves a clean sit down meal when they are at a festival and this was a very memorable way to insert the brand into the event.
After a very satisfying lunch we ventured out into the rain. Took a trip over to Temple Island to have a listen to Clara Amfo who was playing some fire! And despite the fact that it was raining quite a bit, there were still a few people jamming out in front of the sound system. I took refuge from the rain in the ambient forest for a bit and saw some Shitfaced Shakespeare. If you haven’t heard of Shitfaced Shakespeare, it’s a theatre show where a cast performs Shakespeare with one incredibly drunk cast member. I don’t think the cast member knows which person will be chosen until they go on stage but once they are chosen they have to drink heavily through the rest of the performance. It makes Shakespeare very interesting to watch.
I tried to steal these space glasses from this nice chap… he wasn’t having it.
With the rain letting up a bit, and Shakespearian sonnets in my head, I thought it was only right to move onto something equally as enriching culturally. I headed over to Britain’s largest bouncy castle. It’s rare that you can truly feel like a child again but jumping around in a giant bouncy castle certainly does the job. And what a work out! When we were in the queue to get in, the organisers informed us that you are only allowed ten minutes of bouncing. I thought to myself “ten minutes…pfffttt, I’ll be in there for a half an hour.” Once inside, it only took half a minute of bouncing before I was completely exhausted. “Get me out of this prison of cushions.” You would think it was child’s play to bounce around like an idiot in a brightly coloured air castle but you could barely get to the other side before you are out of breath. Then when you inevitably fall over in exhaustion you are assaulted from every direction by other out-of-control idiots who are about to use you as a trampoline. It’s terrifying. Don’t underestimate the adult bouncy castle.
Approaching the spaceport by day:
Late in the afternoon, the rain started up again and the mud started to take over. I decided to head back to camp to put on my fancy dress. Oh I forgot to mention…. Saturday is all about dressing up in a costume at Bestival. This is another big reason why Bestival is so fun. Who doesn’t like to party in a costume? And loads of people do.
The theme this year was “The Future” so of course there were aliens and astronauts everywhere. I went with a group of intergalactic space miners who were from the O.R.G.A.S.M. corporation (short for: Outer Rim Galactic Asteroid Space Miners) which entailed dressing up in a tron suit with a miners ax and a head lamp. It was quite practical really. The head lamp works fantastically when you are trying to find your tent drunkenly in the dark, and the tron suit (read: jump suit with aluminum foil tape decorations) worked well at keeping the mud out.
The official O.R.G.A.S.M. uniforms
The Cure spinning webs on stage
After nightfall it felt like everyone started making their way to the main stage to see The Cure. As a child of the 80s it was a treat to see these guys play live. It’s always a worry that a band that has been around this long won’t perform as well thirty years on, but The Cure hadn’t missed a beat. Every song was a classic.
After The Cure, it was time to get some serious electronic music in my ears. Thankfully, Richie Hawtin was playing nearby in the Big Top. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Richie Hawtin play live. It was 2009 at Electric Zoo in New York and Hawtin just went deeper than anyone else. Nothing has changed from then till now. The stage was set so that red lights pointed down on a simple set of decks and a man playing some of the darkest house and techno of the festival. It was perfect. The raving had begun.
The MDMA started to kick in on the way over to the Spaceport to catch Skream playing. Skream was followed up by another English DJ called Klose One who I didn’t know about. I definitely gave his SoundCloud page a listen after I got back from Bestival.
Late late night activities started with some Crystal Fighters and then an extraordinarily sex fuelled dance party by Sink The Pink. Battered from a night of too much fun and dancing and tired of navigating mud slides, it was time to head back to the campsite. On the way back, in true Bestival fashion, there was an after-hours party going on in some make-shift village set up behind the food stands. So around 4am I found myself heading into a small tent to see a music-off. There were two groups set up opposite each other in the tent and they were having a contest to see who could get the crowd more excited.
On one side of the tent a DJ dressed up like a 16th century king wearing a ‘Smoky the Bear’ hat played drum and bass music. On the other side of the tent was a full New Orleans brass band who were slinging jazz and soul music. The two sides were taking turns playing music which contrasted and weirdly complimented each other. It was wicked.
My contribution for the night was to glitter bomb everyone in the tent every time the bass dropped. Oh yeah, did I mention that one of the perks of being an intergalactic space miner is that I have barn-loads of space dust (ie glitter). The canister I had was like a giant pepper shaker so that I could hold it over my head and shake the shit out of it whenever the music dropped. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to party your face off while spreading a pint of glitter all over the tent. People were coming up to me by the end asking to be glitter bombed because they didn’t get enough.
Note to self: always bring glitter to a festival.
Snapchat snapchat snapchat:
Day 4: Sunday, Sept 11th
Sunday was about two things:
1. managing the damage from a day of rain
2. managing my hangover
Tent city was a war zone. Tents were destroyed or left in ruin by the rains. People were wandering around aimlessly. The bacon ran out at one of the breakfast stands.
I saw one camper who was laid down in his collapsed tent with his legs still sticking out the opening. He must have arrived home last night and found it so difficult to open his door that it was all he could do just to drag half his body into the entrance. How he managed to take his tent down in the process is beyond me.
I patted myself on the back for choosing to stay in Pitch Village rather than tent city this year. The team running pitch village were absolutely amazing.
Pictured above is me drinking my first ever Irn Bru with Kris from the Pitch Village team. Irn Bru is Scotland’s answer to a hangover. And boy does it work. It’s like drinking the most sugary bubble gum. Hangover be gone!
The day started with some light entertainment from Sink The Pink. Admittedly, their daytime showing is much tamer then their night time performance. Only one set of tits came out in the crowd.
After Sink The Pink finished sexing the audience, it was time for the Purple Rave to begin. Created by Rob da Bank, the Purple Rave is a tribute to Prince through dance music. This year Rob was joined by Tayo and Heidi behind the decks. Good times were had by all. “Purple Rain” sing-alongs were also had by all.
Inside the Spaceport
After nightfall, Eats Everything took the stage at the Spaceport followed by Fatboy Slim. Seeing Fatboy Slim live is not what you would expect. He plays none of the songs you know him for and a lot of really good deep house and techno. Ok. That’s not entirely true. Every once in a while he will slip a second or two sample of one of his popular songs in the mix and then drop the track back into some nasty bass. It’s wicked.
The dillegent reporter That I am, I managed to drag myself away from Fatboy Slim for thirty minutes in order to see the Human League at the Big Top. If I timed it right, I thought, I could get there right in time for “Don’t You Want Me.”
The band left the stage before they played it. And when the music did start for “Don’t You Want Me” the band didn’t come on stage for a full verse. You couldn’t tell though because the crowd was singing every lyric right up to the chorus. After the second verse started the band came on stage to join in. It was all very moving and nostalgic.
After the show finished and as we were all leaving the tent, fireworks began to explode over the Ambient Forest. Of course everyone started singing “don’t you want me baby… Don’t you want me ohhhhh ohhh.”
Well done Bestival.
The Sunday after hours party in the Bollywood tent with Heidi and some house music
Fatboy Slim Spaceport
Here’s all the snapchats from the day: