Bestival 2014 – Live Review + Photos
aaamusic | On 15, Sep 2014
Thursday 4th – Sunday 7th September, Isle of Wight
The four day extravaganza on the quaint Isle of Wight, curated by Josie and Rob Da Bank, was a party to end the festival season like no other. The theme for this year’s event was the eagerly anticipated Desert Island Disco, which promised to boast the world’s largest disco ball a challenge set by the god of disco himself Nile Rogers, the notorious carnival parade full of jungle creatures and marvellous mavens and mind-blowing action from late night venues with the hottest DJs, such as the Temple Island, Bollywood, Reggae Roots and Red Bull Music Academy stages.
Acts are running behind schedule, Glass Animals are still tuning their instruments 40 minutes into their estimated set time. You hope it’s going to be worth it, as people frustratingly begin to leave the Invaders of the Future tent situated in the campsite. Eventually the band enters the stage more or less at the time they are meant to finish. Glass Animals open with a hypnotising beat intently, knowing they have to make up for lost time. They’re music is catchy enough to get the crowd dancing to their cool- minimal sounds and scratchy sexy guitars, at which point they seem to have them on their side; as they receive a strong applause after each song. ‘Gooey’ is the highlight of their set with its silky smooth melody, light chimes and RnB undercurrent. Unfortunately as a consequence of the severe delay the set is cut short and ‘Pools’’ Tropicana groove is an uplifting end to a short but sweet performance. Later jazz swing ensemble The Correspondents brings their distinctive sound to Invaders, incorporating a concoction of hip hop, drum n’ bass and ska all tied in together by Mr Bruce’s cockney vocals. I manage to squeeze in a segment of Beck, the band seizing the crowd with their sultry rhythm and blues, as they compliment the crowd of their beauty (which is not unusual throughout the weekend). Breaking into a medley of funk guitar, it’s back to the soul appropriate for this weekend’s theme as they bring their set to a close with their own rendition of Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’.
FSTE’s presentation is a politically and socially charged melodrama, filled with hard-hitting lyrics and rage mainly focused on the ruined state of society’s morality and behaviours and as the front man puts it “how we are all fucked”. Astronomyy on the other hand are a complete contrast supplying the crowd with sweet guitar laden RnB electronica and words of unadulterated lucidity. Bad Rabbits bring their glossy groovy funk to an extremely receptive crowd in the Big Top tent, as the lead singer Sheel Davé parts the rowdy rabble of people for a dance path over the barrier. Stage man-ship is also in high quantities as the guitarist and lead part take in synchronised dancing slides and the two step. This afternoon everyone is aware of the main stage’s secret guest, but no one could have guessed it would be Lethal Bizzle, which is a shock to most present. However, in true Bestival fashion the audience is fully absorbed in to his set and it is better than I envisioned. Old tracks such as ‘Police On My Back’ and ‘Pow’ are warningly embraced as word for word of the choruses are sung back, with a few new tracks thrown in for good measure and festival-pleasers (and covers) of ‘Jump Around’ and ‘Harlem Shake’ are integrated into his fun lively set.
Nick Mulvey’s acoustic resonance creates effortless atmosphere, building musical layers with his oaky tones, the band’s delicate instrumentation and open lyricism “…sometimes I’m afraid of the lunacy”. Nonetheless it is set closer ‘Cucurucu’ which establishes how far he has come since the release of his debut First Minds earlier this year, as it incurs a sing-along and unified clapping. Laura Mvula’s show conjures up a variation of emotions from the heart-felt nature of ‘Father Father’, joyous and happy nature and gospel influenced ‘Green Garden’, dusky laid-back jazz in the form of Nina Simone’s ‘See Line Woman’ and the uplifting empowering ‘That’s Alright’, all underlined by her fantastic band featuring backing vocalist, harpist, cellist and violinist. tUnE-yArDs’ aural assault of tribal beats, percussion and synths is awakened on stage. Live the performance is as much about the vital role instruments plays in the process of the band, as well as the vocalisations and screams of “hey”. Bizarre and at times disjointed it all seems to work and is eclectic as Merrill Garbus’s pastel blue eyebrows and her pastel pink and blue hair. Her voice is powerful and full of raw energy, which transcends through ‘Bizness’. The last act before giants Outkast, Disclosure opens up with ‘F Fool For You’, the Mary J. Blige version, to loosen up the assembly. Everything is a spectacle the lights and stage back drop featuring the symbolic Disclosure face, they have the full package. Watching the group tonight shows the true enormity of what they have achieved since their Mercury nominated release Settle of 2013, as I watch the sea of bobbing heads. They are not short of guests either inviting Ed MacFarlane (Friendly Fires), Eliza Doolittle and Sam Smith to feature on their collaboration tracks ‘Defeated No more’, ‘You and Me’ and ‘Latch’.
Subliminal images of a monochrome American flag and sounds of an aircraft set for takeoff intensifies, which is no other than less the platform which gives birth to Outkast. Andre 3000 is in a white blonde cropped wig and dressed in a black boiler suit labelled with ‘my dad had cool albums’ over the chest, while Big Boi is dressed in a camouflage and stripe combo dungarees oversized jacket and trousers and black leather cap. Visually and artistically they couldn’t be more different, but it these divergences which makes them such a unique package. Their set list is a speckled amalgamation of songs which span over the duo’s 20 year plus career with songs such as ‘BOB’, ‘Rosa Parks’, ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ making appearances. Their set moves from the energetic to the mellow, ‘Ms Jackson’ gets the crowd back into the swing of things a popular number for the majority. With a DJ, two backing singers and bassist in toe, it is a shame they don’t have a full complete band to add to a fuller sound, but these are minor modifications that could be acknowledged. The mid section of Outkast’s show is dedicated to the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, allowing both parties to show off their individual strengths. Big Boi’s ‘Ghetto Musick’ and ‘The Way You Move’ dirty bass gets the party started and people moving, while Andre 3000’s ‘She Lives In My Lap’ and ‘Prototype’ slows down the pace taking the display to a darker, sexier and romantic place and back again in rotation to the raucous revelry with ‘Hey Ya’ and ‘Roses’. Caribou is perfectly placed in the early hours of the morning, with a full live band saturating the tent in complete euphoria, ‘Odessa’ and ‘Can’t Do Without You’ are standout tracks bringing the first full day of music to a close.
Reggae-ska-metal outfit Skindred shake up the early main stage, with some good old rock and roll including: fist pumping, head banging and Harlem shaking to help remove any symptoms of the pending hangover of late night shenanigans. ‘Pressure’ gets bodies furiously jumping and up and down and encourages mosh pits galore. Sophie Ellis-Bexter’s show on the whole is tedious, but saved at the end by her top hits ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ and ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’. Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip take to the stage for their last ever show. A well-know staple at Bestival over-years, the duo treats the crowd to songs they’ve never played at the festival. Heavy throbs and bass vibrates through you, as Scroobius educates the audience about the life lessons of youth and progressive positivity on ‘Get Better’, with some smatterings of humorous stage banter. Conversely the set is brought back to the poetic core of the act and the spoken word is animated, serious, concentrated and analytical though Scroobius’s paper is still in hand. Watching Wild Beasts is absolute ecstasy listening to Hayden’s sultry vocals which opens up their set. It becomes evident the turnout is smaller than imagined and it doesn’t even matter that a large majority are at The Kooks’ secret set. ‘Bed Of Nails’ is a beautiful piece of art full of lust and longing, whilst Hayden and Tom both sway lucidly to the music absorbing every inch. ‘Sweet Spot’ and ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’ highlight the front men’s vocal contrast, but also how well their voices mesh simultaneously which is even more delightful to watch and is perfectly summarised by a spectator “…their voices are like dribbling honey in my ears”. Though Present Tense’s songs are welcomed it is the songs from Two Dancer’s such as ‘Hooting and Howling’, ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues’ and set closer ‘All The King’s Men’ which steal the show and get the biggest applause.
Hannah Reid’s chilling yet mesmerising voice immediately sets the tone for London Grammar’s dark moody pop as ‘Hey Now’ rings out across the silent Stardust Field. Subtle percussion from the multi-instrumentalist Dominic ‘Dot’ Major and nominal guitar courtesy of Dan Rothman drives their sound. ‘Interlude’ exudes the fragility and sincerity present in the trio’s music, something I’ve never fully gained from listening to their recorded works before this performance. ‘Wasting My Young Years’ is full of emotional depth, poignant and clarifies the uncertainty during our youth-which is simple but picturesque. SBTRKT is electronic music for the cultured connoisseurs who dare to venture; beyond the drab EDM of the daily pop chart and for that I am thankful. They play popular numbers ‘Never Never’ and ‘Hold On’, with a few new tracks ‘Look Away’ and ‘New Dorp. New York’ which has funk undertones and Latino samba jungle accents from the producer’s forthcoming second album Wonder Where We Land. Though the bass may have been pounding there is a lack of ambience, the show does not have any live singers and at times it feels as if you are just dancing to the audio record with the odd live instrumentation here and there.
Having toured Holy Fire globally for 18 months Foals’ last show of the year ends here and I know the audience is in for something special. ‘Interlude’ unfastens the seams building tension as the rumbling reverberating bass surges through the crowd, the drums vicious they are definitely out to kill tonight as they head straight into ‘Miami’. ‘Olympic Airways’ the band is on their best form, everything is so tight from Yannis’s vocals to Jimmy’s guitar skills. Seeing as it’s the selected fancy dress day in addition it’s wonderful to see the group has made an effort: feathers, glitter and gold pants all making an appearance. ‘My Number’ is gigantic and funky, as everyone bounces along singing the lyrics, Foals have had so much growth over the years and in this moment it truly captures why they are 100% headline material. Invigorating yet captivating, the set list is a heady mix of their history Antidotes and Total Life Forever which have cemented them as one of the best bands in British music. At times feral energy is unleashed through ‘Providence’, ‘Late Night’ and ‘Electric Bloom’, but then is masterfully honed for ‘Spanish Sahara’, as the noticeable sea breeze kicks in, while hands stay raised in the air as if we were at the altar of Foals, which brings you back down to earth. ‘Two Steps Twice’ is their big closer, extended and grander than ever as the mass chants along.
My new discovery for the weekend is Melt Yourself Down, who produces jazz music with a heavier twist of punk and funk elements. With two drummers, two saxophonists and a bassist the group has a strong and vibrant energy on stage as the whole group leaps and bound around stage, while the lead incites the crowd to vocalise and recite his words with him. Major Lazer takes on an hour and half slot on main stage a sizeable feat. Yet this is not even an issue as Diplo and his crew run it and are in full control, giving the top performance of the whole weekend. Major Lazer flags are waved, two professional dancers hype up the crowd with their seductive and risqué dancehall moves. It’s a massive carnival bash as their set enlists a genre clash of extraordinarily low frequency bass lines ranging from hip hop Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ to reggae and rock the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Heads Will Roll’, which are consciously altered with Major Lazer name drops and supremely merged with their existing tracks ‘Get Free’, ‘Pon De Floor’, ‘Mashup De Dance’ and ‘Hold The Line’. The crowd hangs on to every word of the super group, commanding finger ‘lazer’ guns to put in the air, a 4000 plus crowd to jump up from the ground and run from left to right (which happens) and items of clothing to be taken off and thrown five feet into the air. Not only is it the velocity and sheer authority of the music which makes the imaginary one-armed lazer gun king’s exhibit a triumph; it’s the utter unity and positive vibes elevating the crowd.
The time which everybody has been waiting for finally arrives as the world’s largest disco ball has been hoisted and Bestival’s clinchers Chic featuring Nile Rogers take centre stage. Tonight’s show is a stampede of the group’s biggest hits openers ‘Everybody Dance’ and ‘Dance Dance Dance’ just giving us an inkling of the colossal set we have in store. There is nobody else who could be a more fitting headliner for a desert island disco theme, they are ideal as they get the audience into their full groove, as people unashamedly boogie. The stage show is classic, featuring a full live band all dressed in white and two glamorous singers doused in sequins and glitter in the guise of Kimberly Davis and Folami Thompson, whose vocals are both mind-blowing. Rogers appears to be the only musician that can name drop, without coming across as smug or arrogant, as we are indulged in a medley of number one hits he has written for artists such as The Supremes, Duran Duran, Madonna and Sister Sledge: ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Greatest Dancer’, ‘Like A Virgin’ and ‘Notorious’. It’s pure hedonism as we are submerged relentlessly from song to song and Rogers pushes the audience to continue to “Sing proud. Sing Loud and sing long”. A cordial moment arises as he informs us about his guitar technician’s Terry Brauer recent death before this evening’s show, as he tries to hold back the tears. It’s moving as the crowd shows their support and condolescenes by chanting back ‘Terry!’, before they dedicate ‘Thinking of You’ to his memory. ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Freak Out’ are just a few more gems which offer indescribable instances. Taking it back to the era of Studio 54, ‘Good Times’ is the last slice on offer, as Chic are joined on stage by other artists who have performed over the weekend and production staff shutting down the blowout like no other as fireworks, confetti and streamers are released. It is honestly a breath-taking manifestation of the weekend’s festivities as Bestival 2014 comes to an end.
Review: Lois Browne
Photos: Dave Livingstone