Words by Cher Dunn | Photo: @bestival
Bestival is not just the greatest name for a festival… it really is the best festival. Over the years I’ve been to many festivals in the US and more recently the UK, and I can’t tell you how many photographers, managers, and musicians have told me out of all the festivals, Bestival was their favorite one. I had to go and see for myself, so I flew to England, took a bus to Portsmouth, a ferry to Isle of Wight.
Upon immediate arrival on Thursday afternoon, you had to get excited by the general buzz of everyone around. From the mass exodus of the ferry to friends helping each other carry camping gear, heavy bags, and beer, to festival veterans leading the way. I got on another bus and made it to my airbnb and crashed for a couple of hours. This was not in my plan…I needed to get a move on to catch Glass Animals. I got myself together and made it to the shuttle, I was alone so I assumed I’d be running around to each show on my own starting with the Glass Animals playing later that night. I ended up making friends waiting for the shuttle who have been going to Bestival for the past five years and got to experience the festival through absolute pros. This included a lot of late nights/early mornings and most importantly – a ton of dancing.
When you get to the grounds, and make your way down to the camping area by the entrance, you are already blown away by the beauty and the vastness of the festival. String lights illuminating the campgrounds seemingly go on for miles, making it feel like the entire island is the festival. When you walk through the entrance you pass a giant robot, who (lucky for me) had one of my favorite musicians, Lewis Floyd Henry, playing on it throughout the days of the festival. I first saw Henry, who I like to call the ‘Jimi Hendrix of Brick Lane’, after I went to The Great Escape. He was slaying on Brick Lane, shredding his guitar and singing with a voice that made everyone stop on the busy street. I was actually sad thinking I wasn’t going to see him again this trip and there he was, playing for all the music fans on their way into the festival, stopping traffic once again. You honestly could have stayed and watched him perform the whole time, but if that was the case this would be a really short article.
Thursday night was one of the best nights, being the first night it was not as crowded as the others but the energy of everyone there was explosive. Already you could see the camaraderie of all who attend- I’ve never been to a show or festival and seen so many random acts of kindness, or had that many strangers ask me if I’m having a good festival. You felt a kindred connection to everyone there ultimately for your equal love of music.
Walking up the field you could hear Glass Animals blasting out of The Big Top. Following the fog and lights it was great to hear Glass Animals playing new music from their album How To Be A Human Being, along with older favorites sounding exactly like the record with an electric amount of energy. Later in the same tent I got to see one of my favorite artists, Hot Chip for the first time and they did not disappoint. Hot Chip set the stage for the insane dance workout that would be proceeding throughout the festival.
Another great thing about Bestival is that this festival caters to every kind of music fan. Artists from every genre played every hour of the festival. Friday was that day for me. From K. Flay, Spring King, Benji B, to Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, The Japenese House, Skepta and Loyle Carner, the performances on Friday were out of this world…maybe that’s why the festival was ‘Future’ themed this year.
Years & Years drew a huge crowd on Friday and it was great to see the band perform tracks from Communion with an army of dancers. Loyle Carner, Diplo and Katy B were the highlights of Friday night for me. Oozing wisdom beyond his years, confidence and a beat poetry-like flow, Loyle Carner is definitely the voice of this generation. If you haven’t listened to his music or seen him live before, I am excited for you to experience his songs for the first time and the change you’ll feel after. Katy B couldn’t have ended Friday night better, with her soaring vocals and high energy performance, she had The Big Top overflowing with dancing bodies and had people stopping on their way past to join in as close to the tent as they could possibly get.
Saturday was full of surprises, mainly how great Craig David’s TS5 was. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved him and grew up on his classics, but had no idea his live performance was just him. He was his own DJ, hype man for the crowd, and of course, provided those silky-smooth, panty-dropping vocals you don’t soon forget. He had the crowd as his background vocalists, filling the main stage field with fans.
Also on Saturday, the moment I was living for, The Cure played (really slayed) for three straight hours. Playing hit after hit as the crowd could only dance with their upper bodies while their feet sank deeper into the mud left from the rain earlier in the day. Everyone was moving and singing along as The Cure sounded better than ever, led by Robert Smith putting on the best show and acting out each legendary song. I left that show floating on a cloud, but really skiing through the mud back to The Spaceport to continue my Saturday night dancing to Skream. Later in Bollywood Tent, Evian Christ played to a massive crowd covered in fog so thick you couldn’t see your neighbor. Crystal Fighters ended the night at The Big Top with another epic singalong dance party.
Sunday came too quick, and it was bittersweet knowing it was the last day of the festival. Sunday was also one of my favorite days. With clear blue skies and sun that dried up most of the mud from the day before, it was the perfect day to explore the festival grounds and art installations throughout the festival while catching more great music along the way. Some of my favorite artists played Sunday, including Honne, Mura Masa and Jagwar Ma.
Aussie babes Jagwar Ma ended up being one of my favorite shows at Bestival. That band gets better and better every time I see them. Seeing Jagwar Ma is like watching The Stone Roses play dance music- it’s addictive and mesmerizing and you never want their shows to end. Sean Paul and Wiz Khalifa drew massive crowds at the main stage, while Fatboy Slim lit the dance floor on fire at Spaceport. Sunday night’s dance workout was enough to last you until Bestival 2017, and lucky for us, early bird tickets are on sale now.
I’ve already got mine, see you there!
TheWaster.com | UK