Isle of Wight
added: 21 Sep 2012
// gig date: 21 Sep 2012
reviewer: Nathalie Bonney
Once upon a festival, everyone camped in tents that were too small for them. Tripping over tent ropes was a common occurrence thanks to neighbouring tents being in such close proximity to one another to make shanty towns look spacious in comparison. Festivalgoers lived in a general state of grubbiness, which was disguised, bar an odd torch, by the lack of light at night, and the ever permeating smell and effects on the body of cider.
All was well in the kingdom of festival land because nobody knew any different. And then one day festival fairy Rob da Bank and his wife had an epiphany. Why was it just Glastonbury that got away with all the kooky and crazy non-music shizzle? And thus nine years ago Bestival was born: fancy dress themes, dance tents, a magical hidden forest and cake and tea from the Isle of Wight’s WI no less. Bloody brilliant.
I stayed this year in a hotel – yes it was a hotel made up of large canvas tents but there was a reception with a Mona Lisa picture and pot plants. We pulled up at Hotel Bell Tent in our fake flower festooned Festaxi, a pimped up golf buggy with trailer on the back. The communal lounge tent had cushions, loungers and phone chargers available for general use and then there were our rooms. Comfortable inflatable mattresses, duck down duvets, pillows and Egyptian cotton towels. Rugs on the ground, mats to wipe our feet on and even prettily painted low tables. Tea lights surrounding the two central tent poles looked like frou frou accessories but when lit at night they provided more than enough light to make a torch obsolete.
While toilets weren’t exactly boutique standard they were flushing and not porter loos. Access to our own bar and cafe was also pretty sweet though £12.50 for Eggs Benedict is a little too steep even if you do get cutlery and sunflowers on your table.
Walking through the main Bestival campsites with our Egyptian cotton towels under our arms, we were aware we looked like ponces. It felt a bit like we were on a Eurocamps holiday popping down to the pool early to claim our sunloungers. In truth that wasn’t far off. We were going to our private hot tub booked with a sauna, hot showers, hair driers and straighteners plus deck chairs to cool off on. Bathing Under the Sky had thought of everything. Founder Alexandra serves hot tubbers water on request or homemade lemonade. The hot tubs themselves are a delight, the cedar wood, burning fire and clean water creating a delicious smell and soothing experience. By the middle of the festival queues for the shower and sauna option (£8) were three hours long: proof that today’s festival attendees aren’t so happy to self-clean. Boutique and Wild Copse campers had access to their own showers and man they were worth it but again queues were lengthy.
French tartiflette, Morroccan tagine, Bloody Mary crumpets, Hog Roast, burritos, crab sarnies, sushi,gourmet burgers, pasta, rotisserie chicken, ice cream, halloumi wraps, fairy cakes, espressos, lattes, peppermint teas, cocktails. All the food and drink you could want.
So much food to consume, shower queues to wait in and general lounging around our tent when oh when would we fit in the other stuff, you know like the music and singing and things. Does dancing to epic hip hop on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Drambuie bar count? Surely jumping around to salsa inspired beats at the small Knees Up tent does? Oh ok like headline acts and ones that play instruments?!
The highlights: in glasses, a black smock top and jeans, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard looked like she could have been going to the library – if it was the kind that let you sing until your voice went hoarse; Ben Howard’s stunning set, with the crowd spilling out of the big top early afternoon, humble Michael Kiwanuka filling a similar slot the day after and showing off the beautiful African inflection to his singing voice on Bones. King Charles alternating between big hair and a top knot and achieving group prticiation, complete with in-keeping-for-the-weekend animal actions (Polar Bear). Dreamy and relaxing First Aid Kit.
In flowing green jumpsuit and L’Oreal Lady of Shallot red hair Florence looked suitably ‘happy’ to be headlining, getting the biggest cheer for You got the Love, which she first performed at Bestival. The XX on before her were as sparse with their repartee as their sound but ‘jokes from Jamie’ probably wouldn’t have fit. New track Angels and old favourites Islands and Heart Skipped a Beat stood out but overall their set was a little too muted compared to Sigur Ros who filled the same slot on Sunday. Otherworldy, loud and atmospheric, the guitarist Jonsi even bowed his guitar with a cello a la Jimmy Paige.
Cuban Brothers and Sister Sledge were Saturday afternoon crowd pleasers and Two Door Cinema really can do no wrong at the moment with a bright and bouncy set of both new and old songs that the crowd responded equally well to. Major Lazer and Annie Mac’s Saturday night Big Top tent sets were suitably hyped up and made extra entertaining by the crowds fancy drss status (wildlife this year). It’s hard to take anyone sporting ears, tails or a full-blown animal onesie attempting to ‘give dem a run’ to Pon de Replay seriously. But fun.
And then...And then there was Mr Wonder. Side stepping onto the stage in a black and red jacket, keyboard in hand he played all the big hits. There were a few misses; sound quality was poor (basically not loud enough) he talked a lot about loving the world (not bad) but it did get a little rambling at times (not good). Managing to mistake a small island off the south coast for one of the biggest cities in the world, Wonder’s ‘London! LONDON!!’shout out bemused the crowd. But, like polite grandchildren not wishing to embarrass their slightly dotty granddad, we didn’t correct him - and were richly rewarded. Wonder sat down daughter and backing singer Aisha next to him, to sing the song written about her ‘Isn’t she Lovely’ and promptly caused a collective lump in the throat of the thousands-strong crowd.
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