Bestival Review 2015: We got our freak on

For its 12th year, Bestival, Curated by Josie and Rob Da Bank, offered a ‘Summer of Love’ to all festival-goers. The last big festival of the year added to its reputation of being one of the more fun and eccentric with its ever-changing themes. The pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight only adds to the excitement of the weekend, and offered a physical and mental escape from the mainland for 50,000 attendees.

There were plenty of eccentricities added to this year’s bill, one of which was the Chuckle Brothers. The crowd went wild for their short set, including a rave remix of ‘To Me To You’. Similar to last year’s record-breaking massive disco ball, the festival attempted a world-record mass busking bid, including 446 attendants by The Main Stage. Other quirky additions included the Caravanserai, where live circus-acts surrounded participants whilst they drank in derelict waltzer cars, and the train of thought took them on a reflective journey around the campsite aided by the delightful carriage attendant Annie Refreshments.

The commune was a new addition to the festival. Like most stereotypical communes, it contained tee-pees and VW campervans. It wasn’t purely decorative, and led meditation and yoga sessions throughout the weekend. Its location just behind the main stage meant the stunning Flower of Fire was constantly visible as the sun went down on Robin Hill each evening. Both the petals, and the people at this area of the festival were equally as warm and inviting. The summer of love theme allowed for added social responsibility to be a feature of the festival. The Bestversity had lectures as varied as ‘Understanding Bitcoins’ and ‘The Relationship Between Science and Faith’. The learning never outweighed the music but its addition made the festival a more rounded experience. A big presence within the festival was Oxfam and their ‘The Big Green’ campaign. The aim is to create a lip sync video to send to the UN summit this month, and put pressure on government to tackle poverty. It also meant a lot of people had face paint on during the festival so keen on fancy dress.

There were a lot of traditional fast food stalls on site, but we found a more refined culinary experience at The Feast Collective. The Chicken Rendang at Makatcha was superb, and the fruit juices offered a great juxtaposition to the carb-heavy meals people gravitate to. Anything here would fit perfectly in Borough market.

Bestival caters heavily to dance music fans. The Port area was back again and had crowds of thousands raving for 12 hours a day. Big acts included EDM hero Skrillex, and the unbeatable duo of Rob Da Bank and Annie Mac (the latter also arranged the Sunday line-up at this stage). The other stages were also littered with dance acts. The Chemical Brothers offered a stunning audio-visual show as Saturday’s headliners, with a relentless mix of their massive back catalogue. Walking around the festival there were so many smaller tents offering a mini rave, so there was no escaping a boogie at any time of the day or night.

Whist investigating the Invaders of the Future stage, we were exposed to plenty of new music. Singer/songwriter Kimberly Anne was one of these, showing strong vocals, witty lyrics and a fun stage presence. Girlpool were also an interesting act to watch. The American duo offered early Tegan and Sara levels of coolness, and kept their composure to deliver a polite set of guitar-only rock. Expect to see much more of these acts in 2016.

Highlights of The Big top included one of the more extravagant performances of the weekend in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. He was dancing and singing with as much energy as someone a third of his age (73). He let his band of dancers and musicians all have their own time to shine onstage, which is quite humbling since it could easily be a one man show due to his place in Rock Music history.

A more modern highlight at The Big Top came from Ella Eyre. Her hit filled set and slick performance is the reason she’s played at so many festivals this year. Låpsley could sing the phonebook and make it beautiful. The 19 year old northener has such sweet tones we respect her for taking us on a trip hop journey sonically, compared to a more traditional middle-of-the-road route that most lucky enough to sing as good would take. She was a real contender for the most impressive set of the weekend in The Big Top.

At the Main Stage we got to experience Lianne La Havas delivering her Jazz/Soul sounds to an appreciative audience, and the rap groups House of Pain, The Jungle Brothers and Jurassic 5 all showed how experience only makes your act better. All three Hip Hop groups sounded as fresh today as they ever did, and were in no way novelty additions to the line-up. 

The Big finale at the Main Stage started with The Jacksons. Jermaine led the four-piece in a relentless hour of hit songs that prove they aren’t lacking in talent after the death of Michael, and had the crowd dancing and singing to all their big hits. They are also the only act on the line-up which has a current UK number one, as the remix of ABC by Sigala took the number one spot last friday.

Missy Elliott was the final act on the main stage, and marked her first performance in the UK in 6 years. A set list which incorporates her history of producing, featuring and starring roles during the past twenty years of urban music history is a very tricky thing to get correct. Her dancers were as slick as they were in any of her epic music videos, and like most of hers and Timbaland’s beats, their music still sounds as fresh today as it ever did. Her tribute to Aaliyah was one of the most touching moments of the weekend. Aaliyah’s image resonated with the crowd as ‘I Miss You’ washed across the audience. If this is the last time the UK sees Missy Elliott, we will have a great final memory of her.

Finishing the festival with the Basement Jaxx remix of Missy’s hit ‘4 my people’ was a very British way to end a Missy set at a British festival. The song led the fireworks which were set off over the commune. The explosions broke through the rain, which only started as the festival came to a close. It didn’t end until the next day, and led to a very muddy final slog to the ferry.

As we made our way back to the mainland, we took Annie Refreshments advice to eat our joy and take some love home with us. A great weekend and a great end to the summer.

Words by Matthew Whelband and Verity Ransom

Photos by Verity Ransom