It feels a lot like you’re cheating, going to a festival as press. With access to two clean press portaloos and charging points, and bumping in to two former Sussex full time officers, it was almost like glamping. With no history of music reviewing and a drunken housemate in tow, off I popped to a future-themed weekend of music and mud on the Isle of Wight.
According to the revellers of Bestival, the future looks a lot like the 90s. Silver leotards, light up shoes, football shirts, and drugs. The future also seems to involve smaller festivals. This year’s edition of the festival was smaller in size, with fewer stages than previous iterations. The trend on the festival scene – just as with the increasingly dire state of music venues in the UK – is diversify, decrease or die. Bestival chose the former two, putting on an eclectic mix of acts for this year’s 4 day festival on the Isle of Wight.
Notable was the very much welcome resurgence in UK grime on the line-up. Giggs, Kano, Kurupt FM, but all outshone by Skepta, just a few days before his unexpected but deserved mercury prize win.
Cross-over pop acts Bastille and Years and Years brought the theatrics and well-rehearsed fun to the field. Major Lazer stormed the Friday with choreographed routines and the hits that have made them an international favourite on the festival circuit. Katy B closed the Friday with the typically dance-filled fun dedicated to the clubbers and ravers amongst us.
Milk Teeth, playing the Invaders of the Future stage, loading the afternoon with a punk raucous whilst The Wytches too brought punk ethos and noise to the island’s stage for new music. Danny L Harle, DJ’d triumphantly after his PC Music comrades. With the assistance of a truck load of sponsored Red Bull, he mixed tracks you’d find at Coalition with those squeakier strange tracks like Broken Flowers that sound like a coked-up children’s theme song – not that I’m complaining.
Jagwar Ma and Animal Collective both brought new directions and a strange euphoria that were unexpected delights. For those who stayed up until 3am, Crystal Fighters’ stunning show was entirely expected, but no less euphoric. Particularly so after exploring Bestival’s late night forest bars and stages. The festivals prior boutique vibes could be felt more thoroughly at night in the forest, thanks to avant-garde sound and light installations and tiny gazebos with exceptionally talented lesser-known musicians.
Wiz Khalifah proved a massive hit amongst the student population of the festival. Not a low-key set, if slightly low-energy, he produced two giant inflatable joints from the stage and asked the audience to get high with him (not that anyone needed permission, especially the man I heard howling “help me” on loop for an hour from the medical tent).
The highlight, of course, was The Cure. A 3 hour set of singles from a band who know how to entertain and remind you that they are headliners for a reason – they are truly superb at what they do. With the enthusiasm of a band half their age, they captivated the revellers and set a standard that every act should aspire to.