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Bestival 2012: The Commercial Festival With An Independent Soul

by David Hillier
20 September 2012 1 Comment

It's the final major festival of the season and is getting bigger evey year, but has it managed to hold onto the values that it's organisers imbued it with in the first place?

I’m giving up.  I’ve written four introductions to this and they’ve all been awful.  I promised myself I wouldn’t just do a chronological band-by-band report from Bestival; that I would find a theme, a hook or a singular event to define it.  And it’s not that I didn’t.  These year’s festival was more than joy, an assembly of moments that made it possibly my favourite ever. But I can’t remember enough of a more universally important moment like a headliner, or I don’t have any pictures which is why I can’t do this whole thing on Jane the transvestite (more on him later).  So bear with, and while you are reading it listen to this exclusive mix by the excellent Some DJ (hereafter known as Chorlton), of our musical voyage at this year’s festival.

Youngsters- There’s a lot of them here, most of them bearing more flesh than Daddy would ever allow.  Normally such a proliferation of young, happy people would yank up the heckles of an old fucker like yours truly but in general they’re on brilliant form, permanently bouncing and seemingly refusing to leave their tents without facepaint and/or those flowery crowns round their heads that remind you of what’s-her-chops from Almost Famous.   I laugh at two 16-at-best year olds dry-fucking on the grass during Two Door Cinema Club and bemoan the fact I didn’t spend my summers at festivals when I was that age.

New Order
- The cheeky fuckers open with Crystal. It’s my favourite New Order tune and them pushing it out first is (nearly) as good as Springsteen opening with Thunder Road.   By the time they play on the Saturday I’m wearing a pink wig, incessantly dabbing and over-dosing on self-belief. As Sumners belts out ‘here comes love, it’s like honey, you can’t buy it with money’ I put my hand in my back pocket to realise it’s missing the 80 quid I brought out with me and wonder if the girl I convinced to give me the wig had the last laugh.

The Woods- Somewhere over the back of the festival near the Bollywood field is a hill covered in some woods.  I think it’s called The Woods.  Lights in the trees twinkle and catch like cotton in the corner of your eye, and we lay in hammocks before swapping with some people in the couches next to us.  The next night we shuffle in there at 3am and I end up squashed in a hut the size of a thimble, thinking about how I am going to make my move on the girl I’m with while a very good-looking boy called Ollie skins up a spliff that would take down a zeppelin.  Weed leaves me cold and his attractiveness is a threat, thus it seems like a good time to leave and outside I ask her if I can rugby tackle her.  Incredibly she says yes and I make my move.

JFB and Jagaur Skills- Without doubt the most fun to be had this year was watching JFB and Jaguar Skills, both ridiculously talented scratch DJs that knew the benefit of a universal tune.  Check out this video of Jag Skills dropping this Bitter Sweet Symphony-via-The Stones sample.  This was going on in the Bollywood Tent which has a relatively high ceiling and warm sweat was dropping off it onto my head throughout his set.

Showers- I had the fortune of staying in a site-formally known by most as ‘posh camping’- with showers.  Except I never had one because they had queues from 7.30am.  These queues were sometimes 100 person deep.   Who has the time for that shit? It’s a shame because being clean is quite nice.

Justice- There are an awful lot of people in the Big Top for Justice, who prove once again that the French do squelchy disco for indie kids better than anyone. Bodies crash into other in and out of time with the music and it’s virtually impossible not to lose an elbow in someone else’s ear.  They play a 10 minute mix of D.A.NC.E that is a festival musical highlight, then drop a segment of it 2 songs later, and the place goes bananas.  Just after this I meet a kid dressed as a penguin that tells me hasn’t heard of Flight Of The Navigator or Coneheads, and the child in me dies forever.

Bad Pillow Talk- Chorlton is camped next to me and hears me with the lass I rugby tackled in my tent, so promptly scarpers away from the shagging sounds.  After the act he slopes back, and records our pillow chat on his iPhone, the apex of which is me saying to her:

“I like bodies,” and then: “Empathy is my best quality.”

I do and it really isn’t.

I meet a kid dressed as a penguin that tells me hasn’t heard of Flight Of The Navigator or Coneheads, and the child in me dies forever


Fancy-dress
- People really go for it at Bestival;  they are in outfits throughout but the official dressing up day is Saturday and that day is continually punctuated by the need to stop, appreciate and occasionally hug the bearer of a particularly inventive outfit.   Award for most technically impressive was a girl wearing a full octopus suit with 5 foot tentacles, with an umbrella that had lights attached to it for full Pacific-by-night effect..  The best moment of the day, maybe the festival, was when a pack of wolves accidentally bumped into a pack of sheep by the main stage, inspiring an impromptu game of Catch soundtracked by the terrified baa’ing of the sought after ewes.

Jane- We’re in The Wild Copse bar at 4 and Chorlton has trotted over to the front of the dancefloor- he turns round to see, in his words, me “lost in the eyes of a man in a dress.” Jane tells me about how he’s got a cock, how he likes girls and doesn’t like fags.  I ask a lot of questions. He flicks his blonde wig and I tell him he’s got freakishly large hands.  He doesn’t seem to mind.  The next night we return and Jane is in the same spot again and is very happy to be introduced to some new friends that are with us.  I like Jane.

Stevie Wonder
- Seems sacrilege to say but we don’t enjoy Stevie much.  Too many people crammed onto the hill, and he keeps on stopping and starting tunes; it turns out he had a problem with his grand piano, which seems a bit of a tit-up. We go to meet someone outside the Purepie cabin, but hear the opening strains of Superstition and leg it down to where we can hear it.  It’s a moment. A guy with a kid sleeping in a buggy next to him smiles a smile as big as a rainbow and screams: “We’ve just watched Stevie Wonder play Super-fucking-stition”, grabs both me and Chorlton and licks our faces. It’s another moment.  I tell him that next year he should take his kid to Camp Bestival-read my nephews report of this year’s Camp B here- and he gives me his number, telling me to call him if I go to Rob da Bank’s other one next year.  We see him later and he screams; his eyes are going wild, his brain is somewhere along Urion’s Belt and he’s pushing the pram through the crowds at Friendly Fires, the kid spark out, his right arm hammering the air to the sound of “one day, we will live, in…”

Old friends- There is no better arena to meet an old friend you haven’t seen for years than a festival- everyone is flying in one way or another, barriers are razed and there’s something about fresh air that’s just better than a back-room in Hackney. We meet Paino’s friends, her fiancée (who put me on his shoulders in The Wishing Tree), we make a bunch of promises to see each other that it really doesn’t matter if we keep or not ‘cos at the time it felt like all that mattered in the world…We also bump into Tom, who I haven’t seen in at least 5 years and we proceed to meet up with him and his mates throughout the festival.  It got quite emotional, as you can see from this picture of me and him from the first night.

And this was Tom’s outfit for the Saturday.

I’m now getting involved in his business.

Bat For Lashes-
I always had a soft spot for Natasha Khan, then she leaked Laura a couple of months back, and it became full-blown, lurking-in-the-bushes, subscription-to Telephoto Lens Monthly obsession.  The song came out at a time when a girl was taking a massive shit on my heart and as with all the tunes that you latch onto, this one seemed to sync 100% with the person I was at the time, all trains crashing into hearts and love glittering in the dark (I know, I know-gag).  Therefore I happily trotted off to this gig by myself to treat myself to a grade C wallow.  True enough she played it and it was perfect and as she dropped the “her name is tattooed on every boy’s skin” line I turned round and the girl next to me was in floods of tears.  I grabbed her and she wiped her nose on my shirt and I was glad I could offer her somewhere to do it then asked her if she was okay and she said “I think so” and asked if I was and I said something similar.

After Bat, a video came on the big screen with a video of some dude rambling to the camera about his missus and how they had met at Bestival four years ago.  He ended up proposing and I thought it was some horrible cheesy line, until I heard screaming and saw a huge circle of people about 10 metres to me; it was the fella kissing his missus who had clearly said yes and there was hundreds of people all around them taking pictures and cheering and whooping and a beautiful girl told me it was the sweetest thing she’d ever seen and I galloped away from the main stage a big grinning mess

Getting to and getting from Bestival- is a total fucking nightmare. The less said about it the better.

The People- Looking back at what I’ve written so far, almost all of it is stories about people not music.  I’m haven’t done it intentionally, but it is reflective of the spirit that permeates the event.  Bands might be what pull you in and what you talk about before with your friends, but festivals live and die by the people that buy the tickets, by the (in)consequential meetings you have with strangers acting in the way that they’re not allowed to at home.  In this respect, Bestival excels, perhaps a surprise as with a 55,000 capacity it is very much a commercial festival.  Yet underneath it’s still got an independent heart and everyone there is acting as such and, for a few days at least, they are more than happy to put them, their lovers, friends and the 54,955 scraggy souls around them at the centre of  the universe.

Follow David on Twitter- @Gobshout

And if you liked Some DJ’s mix, check him out on Facebook  and Soundcloud


If you liked this, check these out

Camp Bestival: As Reviewed By An 8 Year Old

An Urban Glastonbury?  Sheffield’s Tramlimes Festival Reviewed

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Wendy V 2:11 pm, 21-Sep-2012

A very lively review, David Hillier! I was also a "big grinning mess" after witnessing the big-screen wedding proposal, and was inspired to write about it. Maybe you're in my photo of the couple? http://bit.ly/NpsgYC

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