Festival Review: Bestival

Festival-goers wave goodbye to a symphonic summer after Bestival 2015.

The self-proclaimed Best Festival, situated on the picturesque Isle of Wight, may have just lived up to its name. From farfetched fanfares to wacky weddings, this gathering was so much more than the music. If you have never been, you’re probably wondering what goes into this jovial concoction brewed in Robin Hill Country Park; we’ve just got back, so I’ll let you know some of the ingredients.

Island In The Stream

The setting is crucial for a music festival; pretty much the foundation of it all. We arrived to a country park filled to the brim with colourful and smiling people, evidently braced to succumb to the down and dirty lifestyle soon to follow. The variety of outfits and appearances made it clear that there were little limits at this occasion, and this paralleled the equally varied musical line-up – our next vital ingredient.

Grime In The Grime

Just like in our event preview, Jamie xx was first on the list. His imminent combination of floor-fillers and ballad-infused electric work made this set fundamental Bestival billing. His subtle alterations on big tunes such as ‘Good Times’ made returners in the crowd stay excited, with added sampling and pitch-bending. However, at times the ex-The xx front-man tended to sit back into some more mellow, hypnotic and experimental material, which although intriguing, was a down-note in the set.

Following this we hopped over genres to UK grime, starting with the Boy Better Know crew. Their mainstage afternoon booking meant that with children and ice-cream about, Jammer had to be on his best behaviour. All the classics came through, with ‘Too Many Man’ featuring despite the apparent inverse festival ratio. Plenty of enthusiasm came with this performance, but it didn’t take quality’s place – Skepta delivered well, and Shorty was also on fine form. This set was a nice taster of what was to come when the sun went down – a short but expectedly intense thirty minutes of Skepta in the Big Top arena.

The aforementioned MC lived up to his billing comfortably, with Skepta bringing on guests such as Frisco and JME to add some flavour. The arena was rammed with a medley of ghetto gangsters and short back and sides, and when Shutdown was aired, Skepta’s aggressive throwing of water bottles across the stage hyped the crowd up significantly.

We also managed to monitor Stormzy’s whereabouts at Bestival, with his arena equally as populated as any others that night, if not more so. His renditions of ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Wicked Skengman Freestylegot the crowd a little excited, and his call for no mosh-pitting or fighting reflected that, as well as being the freshest talent in the grime scene, he’s the nice-guy too. When he has a few more tracks released, he could be headline material in the future.

Bestival 2014

A Big Show

Another ingredient that makes this festival such a sought-after emporium is its flair and special features. Throughout the day there were acrobats hanging from cranes, dancers above stages, fireworks, giant mermaids and much more. Most of this occurred at The Port stage; an abandoned boat with the DJ’s decks on the decks, so-to-speak. Most attendees at this stage were seeking bass and general badness, and with the additions mentioned earlier, the whole experience was extenuated to new heights.

We also caught a daytime set from Fourtet, whose ambient bass/techno sounds fitted well with the blazing sun and colours. An evening sitting by DJs from Hospitality Records was a nice warm-up for the evening’s entertainment, coupled by appearances from David Rodigan, Slimzzy and Novelist. However, the highlight of the daytime dance music was Flava D – her jump-up/future bass house set drove the crowd insane, with every song a certified floor-filler. Flava D is a promising up-and-coming remix artist and DJ, and she’s starting to gain wide recognition.

As the night fell, The Port was transformed into a furious furnace of house music, dubstep, jump-up and drum and bass. For old times’ sake we scuttled down to Skrillex, and were pleasantly surprised by the performance – dubstep music has come and gone, quickly hopping from serious to ironic listening. But despite this, the atmosphere was far from stale – Skrillex’s added electro-house/trap style went down well with watchers.

Cream Of The Crop

And now we come to the icing on the cake: our two favourite acts of the weekend. They could not have been more different in style and approach. The first, The Chemical Brothers, comes as no surprise. The duo headlined the weekend on the Main Stage, and their futuristic electro bangers worked really well with the colourful, gigantic visuals on the screen behind them. It was a truly captivating performance that we’d love to see again.

The other act that impressed was Shanty – a British reggae band who were set up on a small-scale stage away from the masses. An accident at first, this viewing was an unexpected mood-lifter for all involved: smooth keyboard melodies, funky guitar, cool drum beats all sat perfectly beneath two protagonists – a lead singer with a soulful voice and a reggae rapper who had brilliant bars. This combination worked really well, and although attendance wasn’t exactly Mecca-esque, the gig was cosy and cotch and didn’t need anything more.

So those were the frills of a festival-fete that everyone talks about, and although those were only some of the many ingredients behind this raving recipe, you get the picture. And if you’re wondering what the cherry on top was: you’ll have to find out for yourself in 2016.

William McCartney

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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