The average festival punter for most major UK festivals now has to fork out near the £200 mark for a weekend’s camping ticket. And that’s not including the uncomfortable and downright chaotic public transport (£50), the offensively middle class and extortionately priced food (£8 for an ostrich burger anyone?) and the drinks that, at the price they offer (£7.50 for a double), you’d expect at the very least to be passed out in the comedy tent at 5am with no memory whatsoever of how you got there. When all’s said and done, you are now looking at having to take out a £500 loan for a muddy and overpriced three day holiday. A holiday in which you contract trench foot.
So what is the reason festival organisers can charge so much for this pitiful experience? Why do millions of people trek to the middle of God-knows-where for three days of uncomfortable accommodation? To see their favourite bands? Well, perhaps that is it. But what festivals like Bestival offer is much more than just an extended gig. At Bestival, it seemed that music was the afterthought with chart-topping artists thrown in for good measure.
Rob da Bank could charge £200 for a ticket and a tenner for a burger because he was selling a holistic festival experience. That word ‘experience’ was thrown at you from all angles all weekend. They wanted you to enjoy the music, sure, but at this festival, the music complemented rather than made the weekend. Sui generis in its marketing as a music festival not all about the music, or has Rob da Bank simply missed the point? A bit of both, really.
Bestival’s theme this year was all things nautical. We were encouraged to ‘climb aboard’ HMS Bestival and to dress up accordingly in sailors’ garbs throughout the weekend. There was even a parade at one point with a float of transvestite pirates. You get the picture. The theme was forced on you whether you liked it or not. The crowd was for the most part super edgy and whacky and if you weren’t dressed in rainbow dungarees with a sparkly cutlass and appropriately themed headwear, you were pretty much the most unhip person that ever lived and frankly there was no place for your kind at our kooky festival, thank you very much.
So no, I was not vibin’ the theme. What I was vibin’, however, was the new ‘The Port’ stage. Flashy pyrotechnics and brilliant stage performers were the perfect addition to a stage where all your deep house, drum ‘n’ bass and trap needs could be met. This was where Rob da Bank’s festival vision was seen – The Port was not just about the music; it was about enjoying the atmosphere and experience of Bestival.
While it may seem like I’ve been criticising the lack of musical focus at this music festival, the less music focus meant that organisers could focus less on picking the ‘right’ music, or the music they thought the diehard music fans would most appreciate. Variety was therefore very much prevalent, which makes a change from festivals such as Reading, or even Glastonbury to a degree. I saw folk, rock, pop, hip-hop, house, dance, and even a cheeky bit of gypsy folk-rock (one of the highlights if you must know).
A special mention should go to The Strypes who if you haven’t seen live, I urge you to as soon as possible. They put on such an incredibly exciting show and the lead guitarist is quite simply astounding in both his confidence and skill. While their set compromised of a lot of old rock ‘n’ roll covers, leeway should be given owing to having only one album under their young belts. John Cooper Clarke was a nice addition to the line-up; his influence on the band just about to release one of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year (AM), did not go unnoticed and drew a sizable crowd perhaps bigger than it would have been any other year.
All three headliners put on great shows as well. Fatboy Slim was electric, though he seemed almost embarrassed by his biggest hits and shied away from playing any more than hints of ‘Right Here, Right Now’, and even refusing to complete the full version of ‘Praise You’. Snoop Dogg didn’t even have to do much work to get the crowd screaming and cheering he just had to walk on stage, sing some of his chart collaborations and everyone was putty in his joint-smoking hands. A crowd-pleasing set but not a particularly ground-breaking one. Elton John was fantastic and played off the good vibes of Sunday’s happy crowd. Mass sing alongs galore, he was clearly excited and pleased to be play for such an appreciative audience.
Bestival 2013 embodied the spirit of the modern music festival; a festival perhaps too focused on appealing to people for who music isn’t the main attraction that it forgets to cater for those for whom it is. I would have liked to see better and bigger names on the bill, especially considering the high attendance. Having said that, however, Rob da Bank put on a good show, ensuring the party didn’t stop when the headliners had finished and that festival-goers had much more than music to enjoy.
So what it boils down to is that for music lovers,this was a decent festival with plenty to enjoy- but it wasn’t spectacular. For those who were either too drunk to appreciate the music anyway or for those who attend festivals simply for a good knees up, Bestival is probably the best option out there. Aptly named, when all’s said and done.
…Liv is listening to King Krule – ‘Easy Easy’…