Here is the thing about the Isle of Wight, it is on an island (the clue was probably in the name). The only problem with this fact is that trying to ferry 55,000 people in one day to the Isle of Wight is a mission. Three trains, one cab, one hover boat, one bus and countless hours of standing in line later we finally made it to the site to set up our tent.
Somehow, none of this seemed as tough to deal with as Glastonbury. The main reason being that the weather was relatively nice. No bikini weather but warm enough that I could actually enjoy the festival and avoid the mud.
This was my second trip to Bestival, my first one being in 2009 and the lay out had changed quite a bit! However, the park is still as beautiful as ever and the new layout made it much easier to get around and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the people. Unlike Glastonbury, Bestival is a small festival, and the camp site is just a couple of minutes away from the action. Without the hindrance of the mud, exploring the site was a much lovelier experience.
After we set up our tent and our gazebo, which we hauled all the way from Croydon (worth it) we went out to watch Santigold perform in the Big Top Tent. I haven't listened to much of her work but her performance included dancers dressed as horses and other wild things which matched the psychedelic feel of Bestival. The festival is active all night, even if the big stages aren't, and there is plenty of after hours action for those who are so inclined.
Friday started out hopeful with lots of sunshine as we headed into the main arena. Then our good friend Stephen a.k.a Bean Head had his arm pop out of his socket. After a minute of trying to help him get it back in, I ran to find a medic and we all waited quite a while before the ambulance came and picked him up. After he was taken to the field hospital, we headed over to the Sailor Jerry's tent for some drinks, temporary tattoos and good cheesy dance music.
Later in the afternoon, I raced over to the main stage to watch the legendary Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys take the stage. It was, quite honestly, the best show of my life. The weather was good, we were outdoors, I had a pretty good spot and I got to hear timeless classics played by a legend. Not only are the Beach Boys one of my favorite bands of all time but Brian Wilson is an absolute genius song writer. After hearing the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Wilson had a nervous break down and spent a year in bed. Ever since then, he has struggled with Schizophrenia, making it hard to appear on stage but despite the voices in his head he still plays live for the benefit of the rest of us and is even planning a Beach Boys reunion tour for the next year. His performance at Bestival was like a religious experience and he played as many hits as time allowed but he could have easily filled up another hour.
There were some complaints that his voice was not up to speed but some people don't realize that Brian Wilson was not the singer, that was Mike Love. Wilson was a composer and a songwriter and getting to see a musical genius perform his own music is why I fell in love with music in the first place.
The one thing you have to remember at music festivals is that you have to compromise. You will never be able to see everyone you want to see. If you are in a big group of people, you will have to compromise. The other thing you have to remember is not to get burned out. It is easy to think that you will be able to see loads of acts with ease but you have to take breaks, have a rest, get food, and sit down.
This is the reason I did not get to see Chromeo's full set. The others in the group wanted to see Magnetic Man right after and I knew I would not be able to stand straight through both sets. So I stayed for Bonafied Lovin' and Hot Mess but I wish I could have seen their set in it's entirety and plan on doing so. These two guys, who do not move around very often somehow manage to have a lot of stage presence and their retro-tinted electronic music is just plain fun to dance to and was a great way to watch the first day's sunset.
Let me digress for a second because before Chromeo while we were searching for food, we came across Public Enemy, which did not interest me because, as I have stated before, I am not a big Hip Hop fan. What did interest me however, was that Flavor Flav was selling his own book to fans. For 20 pounds, I could get his book (Flavor Flav: the Icon, the Memoir) with his signature and a picture. I passed.
Next up was Magnetic Man featuring Benga, Artwork and Skream, the latter which is credited for creating dubstep, the newest electronic sensation to sweep across the world and even, surprisingly, America. The band are also Croydon boys, the south London borough where I currently call home. Magnetic Man's form of dubstep is quite ethereal and much more chilled out then American counterparts such as Skrillex. The light shows were fantastic and made the experience of the night exciting.
Chromeo, I wish I could have seen the whole thing because the light show had me in awe and the band's heavy house oriented electronic music had my whole body pounding. Again, this is another band I will have to catch at their own show.
We walked back over to the Sailor Jerry tent to see Frank Turner and it was so busy, Turner had to give some safety instructions at the beginning of his set. Turner's 'folk-punk' was awesome, especially on such a small stage, and the atmosphere was crazy. However, it was too much for some of the others in the group and we cut his set short.
Saturday is the day everyone dresses up for the festival's theme which was Rock Stars, Pop Stars and Divas. I dressed as a Beatle but there were all kinds of costumed folk running around the festival. Our first act of the day was the Village People, which was rightfully cheesy but loads of fun. We decided to take it easy during the day because we wanted to explore Bestival by night. We returned to the main arena to catch the tail end of Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey singing songs off her latest album 'Let England Shake.'
We were not going to be missing Saturday night's headliners because they were the one and only Cure. Playing for nearly three hours, the Cure did not miss a hit and getting to hear Love Song live was the highlight of the Festival. The Cure were so good, they have actually released a live recording of that night's performance.
We went to explore Bestival by night an boy does it have a lot to offer. One can easily get lost in the park's beautiful Ambient Forest and around every corner could be an odd performer, light show or DJ ready to entertain. We headed to the Afterburner which was in a "secret location" near the camp site and watched Andy C play a crazy set from whatever you would call the structure emanating from the middle of the stage area. Between the lights, the atmosphere and the late night ravers, it was hard to believe we were sitting in a nature park in the Isle of Wight.
We attempted to get into the Psychedelic Worm tent for Metronomy but it was way too packed. That would be my only complaint about this whole festival is that the tents (Psychedelic Worm and Big Top) became way to packed, to a point that seemed dangerous. It did not help that around this time it started pouring rain and everyone wanted to flee indoors. We quickly gave up and headed back to our tent to listen to the torrential down pour that ensued.
The previous night's rain left a little bit of mud but nothing like the extent that we dealt with at Glastonbury. We started the day back at the main stage to see The Drums, who honestly, were very disappointing. They seemed bored on stage with their early afternoon time slot and did not even play their biggest hit "Let's Go Surfing." If Kings of Leon can play "Sex on Fire" for the benefit of the audience, then no one else has an excuse.
Next up, we saw Kelis, best known for the 'Milkshake' song. Lately, she has come back with the help of producer and DJ Calvin Harris and their song 'Bounce.' Her performance was quite good but her style of pop music does not really interest me. However, I think she is much more talented than some of her counter parts such as Rihanna and Beyonce.
It was around this time that we began to get word that the weather was going to turn and by turn I mean that a hurricane was headed towards the Isle of Wight. About half of us in the group decided that we did not want to experience a hurricane in a tent and chose to head home. The decision ended up being the right one, since our tent ended up blown away. So we left half way through the Maccabee's set to catch a cab to the hovercraft. I am sure Bjork was very good and I heard some very good things about the ensuing fireworks show but avoiding hurricane weather was not regrettable.
Getting home was much easier than arriving since we were not leaving with 55,000 other people. We were back in our beds within a few hours to sleep off the festival lethargy and that was the end of my festival experience for 2011.
All the pictures are by the lovely Becca Scott except for the Brian Wilson one, that is from efestivals.co.uk.