Right from the off, the buzz for Bestival was immense. From DJ’s playing to the queues at the ferry terminal to people throwing on glitter aboard the shuttle buses, the bar was set high. Having been desperate to attend for years but having always had something obstructing an actual ticket purchase, the chance to go and review the festival was met with so much excitement. I had poured over people’s photos of previous years; and so knew to expect a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic world of visual delights everywhere I turned – and I was not disappointed.
After shrugging off our rucksacks and pitching the tent, out came the glitter (to cover the bags under my eyes) and the exploring began. The sheer amount of stalls lining the arena and pathways leading to it was so impressive, selling everything from vegan falafels, silver sailor hats and fresh juices to inject some vitamins back into your system. We rummaged through a few vintage stalls and got our first cider of the weekend as we walked around, taking everything in. We spent the evening throwing shapes to Joe Goddard at Temple Island and Redlight in the Big Top, before collapsing into our sleeping bags. Hot Chip, Thursday’s headliner, impressed crowds and went above and beyond expectations for a synthy pop band: their performance was full of energy and the crowd met this with equal amounts of liveliness and love in the form of crazy dance moves.
The morning after the night before saw some serious grooving at the newly opened Spaceport stage; the chance to get straight back into the swing of things was happily welcomed. Headed by Morning Gloryville and Rob da Bank, extravagant performers in outlandish costumes woke up festival goers with happy tunes such as Paul Simon’s ‘Call Me Al’ and an uplifting ‘Gold Digger’ remix complete with a Conga line. It was Oh Wonder in the Big Top who we visited next – who I had high hopes for after regularly enjoying their music on the radio and recommending them to friends. Despite drawing a fairly big crowd for such an early afternoon performance, the minimalistic XX style sound left us feeling a bit flat after our boogie around at the Spaceport beforehand. Venturing out towards the Main Stage, we saw Kitty, Daisy and Lewis next – veterans of Common People. Their retro guitar sound was lapped up by the crowd drawn to the stage: shining silver yet noticeably smaller than years before and at Common People.
Later on that afternoon, while warm in the sunshine with a cider in hand, an even greater crowd stretched far back across the field to watch Years and Years. Having seen them at 2015’s Common People, I had already formed an opinion on their performances and hoped to be proved wrong. Unfortunately, even though their songs are catchy, poppy radio hits, when executed live the effect was nowhere near the same. Much of the weekend’s feedback featured the sound quality, with Rob da Bank himself apologising as it wasn’t up to scratch. Nevertheless, even when seeing the band at Common People, friends I attended with commented that everything but singer Olly Alexander’s microphone seemed to be turned up. Once again, his voice seemed to be drowned out by the background sounds. This diminished the powerful club feel on the soaring notes in the choruses of their top tunes ‘King’ and ‘Desire’.
Skepta took to the stage before Major Lazer, the perfect addition to get everyone hyped beforehand. A typically lively, bouncy performance followed, with the crowds lapping up all the interaction and rapping along with some immense screw faces coming out to play. Obviously, ‘Shut Down’ was the highlight of the show as the tightly packed audience danced as one. Then it was time for Major Lazer to close the Main Stage for the night. Heading further back to the outskirts of the crowds for the set, what we witnessed was pure, unadulterated madness all around. Every single person watching the collective make up of Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire followed suit with the dancers on stage and never stopped moving – the music took hold of everyone. MØ came out to sing her part of new single ‘Cold Water’ and then the hit that is ‘Lean On’ – which was electric. Every song was remixed and redone in a way that encouraged maximum movement from the whole crowd. The complaints of a smaller stage and poorer sound quality were squashed by this set, highlighting how the right act will get an audience pumped no matter where or how.
The crowd surged towards the Spaceport upon Major Lazer’s departure from the stage, meaning that we didn’t get to catch the end of Carl Cox’s House Classics set. Instead, we arrived as Diplo settled into the rocket ship DJ booth and continued where Major Lazer had left off earlier. His set, including reworks of the Macarena and Whitney Houston, is honestly up there in my favourite musical performances ever. He knows how to get spectators hyped and his hour long residency flew past. Our only issue was the Spaceport itself – its position in the field on hilly ground made for unusual crowd spillings on the sides and at the back where we found ourselves.
At 2am, it was time to head back into the Big Top for Katy B. After being blown away by her energy and enthusiasm at Common People, we expected more of the same. Maybe it’s because it was late or maybe it’s because a mid-afternoon set back at the end of May required more effort to stir up the audience, but it didn’t match up. Of course, her songs had everyone bouncing about and her ability to sing and dance so well at the same time was impressive, but the atmosphere in the tent felt more disconnected – as though it was a recorded performance churned out again. 45 minutes of her hits went past and we left seeking more of that Diplo dancey goodness.
Because the Caravanserai stage is the nearest to the Big Top, we wandered over and I have never been happier to stumble across what we arrived to. DJ WBBL’s hour long set in a tiny plush hut, covered in red velvet with elaborate ceiling hangings, played host to tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place at Itchy Feet; sped up with loud, wobbly basslines. The dancers who were dressed as can-can girls set the standard for the shapes being thrown and an ever growing crowd spilt out into the courtyard area within the walled off Caravanserai area. Watching people climb onto stands and throw their hands up left us feeling as though we had discovered something very special.
Friday night was probably my highlight of the entire festival. Having wanted to see Major Lazer live for so long, their astounding performance lived up to everything I had imagined. We climbed back into the tent as the sun came up, aching from grooving for hours on end and as fine rain started – little did we know how hard it would continue to come down until the following afternoon…