Ah festivals, sh*tty camping, loud, but banging, music, lots of substances ingested and the hangover from hell at the end of it. Hundreds of thousands of Brits flock to them every year and this time around I finally joined them.
The kind people of Bestival offered the CUB team press passes to attend the pop indie festival in Dorset, I was lucky enough to bag the tickets.
I was exceptionally excited to go, considering I’m 20, I’d never camped at a festival, I’d only attended local ones, for example, Victorious. It was also my birthday weekend, it was a win win.
The day of the festival arrived, I ended up going on the Friday, instead of the Thursday, as my friend works for the Council and couldn’t get time off, I blame Theresa May for making me miss Jamie T. It was a bit cloudy, but with my bum bag strapped on and sunglasses down, I was optimistic. After getting through security, where in which I got paranoid somehow someone might have put crack up my bum, we made our way over to the Rainbow Rave campsite, right next to the Emerald City – sadly there were not munchkins or red slippers.
My friend who I managed to get a ticket for, Sam, swore that our tent was big enough, swore that no one would think it was ridiculous and swore it was waterproof. Well, the devil’s a liar and the liars name is Sam, she was wrong on all accounts. The first and second inaccuracies occurred as soon as we got the tent out of its bag. The third was a horrible surprise when we stumbled back to it on Saturday – it was essentially a swamp.
It must have been like looking at Dumb and Dumber trying to put up a tent during our curfuffle. It was honestly laughable, I mean we did get laughed at, I think it’d have been more useful as fire fuel than as a tent looking back. By the way, our tent is the pathetic thing circled in the above picture. Although it said it was a two man tent, I can say with all certainty it was not.
Anyway, we weren’t going to let our hobbit hole hinder our time. We set up our deck chairs and started drinking, responsibly of course. With beats from Whitney Houston, The Strokes and Fatman Scoop playing in the background, we got into the swing of things.
However, we thought, as it was a festival, we should probably go inside the actual event. The sight which greeted us was a hedonist paradise. The days of Woodstock, when festivals were all about the music, are long gone. It was like a post-apocalyptic human commune of chaos and delights, they even had an inflatable chapel. It was like a 21st century Oz, everywhere was colour, I was not in Kansas anymore.
Here is a breakdown of what we encountered.
Despite festivals evolving over the years, music is still at the heart of everything. Although I missed Jamie T, I was far from disappointed with what was on offer. Just because he was my raving music when I was 14 and I saw him at Victorious when I was 16, I’ll start with the man, the myth, the legend, Dizzie Rascal. Indeed, in case anyone wasn’t sure who he was, he opened his set on Saturday with “Bestival 2017, my name is Dizzie f*cking Rascal. Let’s get this moving then.” And f*ck me did the crowd get moving, I’d say ape-sh*t would be an appropriate description. Playing music from his new album, Raskit, as well as old bangers, there was a frenzy when ‘Bonkers’ came on, Mr Rascal took us for one last ‘Holiday’ before winter kicks in.
The xx headlined on Friday and drew in every Tom, Dick and Harry to watch them. In their earlier days, they were seen as minimalistic and as rock n roll on stage as Morrissey, this was far from the case at Bestival. Appearing to almost channel the enthusiasm of Mick Jagger, they owned the stage and seemed to genuinely enjoy being there. They too blended old and new tracks, as well as some of Jamie xx’s solo album ‘In Colour’, couldn’t be any more aptly titled considering the theme of Bestival this year was exactly that.
Until the festival I’d only ever really heard Rag N’ Bone Man’s most charts topping song, ‘Skin’, however, I won’t lie, after hearing him on Saturday I will definitely being listening to more. With his perfectly tuned band and his husky, coarse, vocals he brought the crowd up after the heavy rain.
Now I couldn’t not mention this duo, probably one of the most famous in the world, no it’s not Ant & Dec, but the Pet Shop Boys who on Sunday took the crowds by storm. With sci-fi tin foil hats, illuminated spheres and strobe lighting, Neil Tenant was true to his promise when he welcomed the stage with “Here’s some 80s electronic for you Bestival”. Playing their classic hits, even dressing up as a Russian dictator, the Pet Shop Boys disco mania fully encapsulated the life of the festival.
However, throughout all of these acts there was a political undertone, Rag N’ Bone dedicated his song ‘Ego’, unsurprisingly about egos, to Donald Trump, and both Dizzie Rascal and The xx commented on the b*llucks and b*llshit going on and called for peace, one of Bestival’s key messages.
Just so that it isn’t all about the big names, and there were many, I thought I’d point to an act I saw who were far from the mainstream norm, Disney Rascal. No, he is not the PC brother of the above mentioned Dizzie. For starters it’s a band. They play ska/punk renditions of Disney songs, weirdly works. Must admit I’ve never danced so violently to ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’.
Not live but still lively:
Along with first class live music, the festival had clubs, shacks and tents playing every rhythm. Just to paint a picture of the array on offer, here are some examples. If you fancied some old school hip hop and rap, I am basically Snoop Dogg, then at night Jimmy’s Ice Coffee van was for you. Or if you wanted to funk and groove the night away in what resembled a 70s disco, rave style, then Stacy’s would provide the beat. And finally, and my personal favourite, the Old Mouth Cider arena, entitled the Kiwi Adventure. It was the cutest thing I’d seen, mismatched white fences, vintage furniture, acoustic singers, karaoke (heard the best acapella of ‘No Diggity’ by a woman who worked in food banks in South London) and every nineties and noughties hit, hadn’t heard ‘212’ in about 6 years. This was complimented by their abundant supply of cider; their passion-fruit and apple is like fruit juice. Yes, I know, sounds like a middle class paradise, it was. Bit of sophistication in the madness never hurt, it bizarrely made me feel quite feminine.
Food (makes or breaks an event for me):
Every kind of food imaginable was available at the various stands, vans and their main fold hall, aptly dubbed The Feast Collective. From the standard, cheeseburgers and chips, to sushi, mac n cheese, everything vegan and gluten free and of course a Mr T Tea gypsey wagon – this came very much in hand with the weather.
Not only was every dietary taste and requirement catered for, but Bestival also provided a variety of pastimes for those brief moments away from the music. If you fancied getting artsy, there was basket weaving, or for some other kinds of entertainment, there was a comedy tent, a carnival – complete with a Ferris wheel allowing for an amazing panoramic view of the buzzing event. There was even the showmen of Cirque Bijou to enchant you with their aerial artistry acrobatics.
For the posh people:
They have clearly taken advantage of the craze of glamping, you know camping for posh folk with all the comforts of home with minimal camping. Alongside the Boutique Camping, this I had a view from my Mad Maxesque location – yes, the grass is greener, there were Jacuzzis, MUAs, nail technicians, massages and yoga classes (as I can’t touch my toes and would probably have vomited attempting the crouching lotus in my hungover state it was a no from me).
My favourite spot:
The Ambient Forest, it felt like you had entered a trippy fairy-tale dream world with strobe lighting and chaos at every turn, there were various bars in the secluded spot, providing entertainment and magical mixers. Might feel a bit old making this reference, but anyone remember the Tim Burton movie ‘Big Fish’? You know when Ewan McGregor stumbles upon that skatty village with all the shoes hung over a TV line? Well that same image is what greets you throughout the forest. You could make your own beat using their illumaphonium, on their website they call it a ‘dynamic, multi’ sensory, generative and interstices installation.’ I believe the image below does it more justice than if attempted to explain what it was.
So, to sum up, did Bestival meet my festival expectations? Was the camping sh*t? Yes, but only by my own stupidity. Was the music loud but banging? Most definitely. Did I ingest a lot of substances? My bank account would say I did.
Sidebar: I understand this might sound like I was doing a fruit cocktail of crack, smack and meth, I was not. Not rich enough for that.
And did I get the hangover from hell? Well, it hurt to look at bright lights for a couple of days so I’d say so.