As a small festival attended by only ten thousand eight years ago, Bestival has, at the very least, quintupled in capacity and turned Robin Hill into one of the most popular sights in the UK. Optimism was flowing through every vessel as crowds skipped through the gates on Thursday because despite a typically dreary British summer, nature was feeling particularly generous towards the Isle of Wight (she couldn’t imagine a Stevie Wonder gig in the rain).
Like most first days at festivals, Thursday provides the eager to turn up early, settle down and get the party started before you realise it ends sooner than you think. But the music didn’t quite match the splendour of a sun-soaked field as big names like Gary Numan disappointed. Alabama Shakes were the highlight and those who like to take risks would have enjoyed Fiction deliver a performance reflective of their growing popularity.
There’s no doubt though that Friday is when things start to get more serious (and messy). Bestival has always done well to attract big (and safe) names and Friday’s offerings were The xx and Florence – the former confirmed everybody’s belief that they have a sound that is far more befitting of a live stage while Florence had her typical bellow and vigour. But their choice of more risky, new bands is much improved over previous years. The Rob Da Bank stage hosted the glistening sound of The Staves in the early afternoon of Friday. It was one of the most beautiful ways to start your Friday as the three sisters twanged and sang away just adding to the anticipation of their debut LP. Of course, you can’t go to a festival without experiencing some kind of clash that has you writhing at the luxury of choice. Friday’s was Alt-J versus Django Django. Having seen the latter play before, they both occupy different aspects of art-rock and both execute their sound with distinction.
Saturday is Bestival’s annual fancy-dress day and the theme this year was wildlife; a rather conservative choice that didn’t really produce many surprises. You can get an animal onesie almost anywhere now but even then, some people failed to put the effort in. The outstanding costumes were either the handful of safari hunters or a bunch of animals walking around in a makeshift boat made to represent Noah’s Ark. However, the big news from Saturday has be Azealia Banks announcing her retirement from music. It’s was a sad story for many as she was one of the biggest up-and-coming artists of 2012 and something must have really perturbed her for such a decision arise. Besides that, most people were waiting to see New Order; the sound was good, the light show was reminiscent of the 80s and they didn’t disappoint unlike some other mature artists. Oh hi Gary, didn’t see you there.
Everyone’s feeling pretty drained by now either by heat, booze or drugs and if you’re lucky, all three! You could see it in the sky too as clouds began descend over Robin Hill and gusty winds tore tents off their pegs. Even though Sunday had a wealth of dance music going on, the moves just weren’t as vibrant as the previous two days despite everyone’s endeavours. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Krafty Kuts did more than enough to draw every last bit of energy from people. Four Tet and Caribou put on a fantastic back-to-back set that any ear could appreciate but most bodies could only manage to dance from the hips up; people would have appreciated the producers to play a set on Saturday or Friday. Stand-out indie band of Sunday were Friends who also had some sad news because bassist, Lesley Hann, has now left the band. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out for them because Lesley shares a fair amount of vocal responsibility with Samantha Urbani. Plus, she made what has got to be one of the best basslines of 2012 in ‘I’m His Girl’.
Having been to Bestival when it first opened, it was pretty crazy to see how massive it has grown. There were more stages and more things to do – there was even a small cinema! Before, it was clear to see how much potential it had and Rob Da Bank has clearly done well to fulfil it. Everything from the atmosphere to the art was well-considered and most tastes were catered for. The organisers say they don’t want the festival to grow too large and if they maintain that then tickets are going to become increasingly harder to get hold of. Oh, Stevie Wonder was as you expect; magical. He discoursed on the problems of the world, one of the best bands backing him up and his cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is the best I have ever heard.