Live Review

Bestival 2012 (Day Three)

Come next September, DIY will be first to storm the site in full costumes.

It’s Sunday morning, and as we crawl from our tents bleary-eyed and slightly dazzled, things have taken a turn for the worse. Gone are the crisp blue skies which were strewen with the occasional cloud of spun-candyfloss, replaced by an ominous blank grey canvas. Walking to the portaloo, we feel similar to how we imagine it feels to walk through the aftermath of an apocalypse. Tents are being flattened by the wind, poles and peg bags lie strewn across the grass. Hungover people are hanging out of their doorways peering in desperation at their tent walls billowing in the wind, but the freezing cold headwind battering everything in sight prevents any real action.

We huddle by the Tea & Toast van clutching a piping hot coffee for a while, and then arrive at the conclusion that we need to escape this desolate scene. Luckily Rob da Bank’s Replay stage comes up trumps yet again, with the latest new darlings of hype land, Palma Violets, playing a set there. Considering we’ve only heard one actual song from the band, along with the odd live recording from their tour with Savages, we’re intrigued and more than just a little skeptical. We pop along, in all honesty, simply to satisfy our curiosity. Mentally preparing ourselves for the good, the bad and the ugly, it comes as a brilliant surprise when Palma Violets do take to the stage. Singer Sam Fryer has a particularly charismatic, and very easy presence, and his booming vocal has a hint of the Ian Curtis about it. It’s a set of equally likeable music. Halfway through, the keyboards cut out – an event which could cause a lot of new bands to sulk or stand there awkwardly – but Palma Violets plough on admirably with a catchy rock n’ roll tinged number about writing ‘radio friendly’ hits. Meanwhile a girl on somebody’s shoulders mistakes the tent for a go-go club, and proceeds to remove her top and whirl it round her head. The adorable keyboardist, who is currently unable to play his instrument, can do nothing but look on in sheer, awkward bemusement as the gig continues around him, and the entire scene is hysterical. Eventually, just in time for lone single ‘Best Friends’ a heroic friend of the band steps in to hold the cable jack in place, and full keyboard duty is restored. After more nudity, a crowd-surf, and the amusing revelation of the drummer standing on his stool in a Victorian nightgown, the set ends to whooping and jubilation. It’s always nice when a band lives up to the hype, isn’t it?

Next it’s onto Psychedelic Worm, for a musician who deserves every single syllable of praise around her music. As we arrive, the beautiful Elena Tonra is sound checking all the instruments herself, scurrying busily between different guitars and occasionally flashing a shy little smile at the growing sea of mesmerised fans. The huge level of support doesn’t surprise us one bit, but as the packed tent hangs on to Elena’s every word, she is clearly taken aback and a little dazed by the whole experience. Her voice live is even more spellbinding than it is on Daughter’s flawless EPs; if that is even possible. ‘Landfill’ sends shivers down our spines, and as the whole tent sings the chillingly simple refrain “I want you so much, but I hate your guts” Elena steps back from the mic, visibly shocked and trying hard not to beam from ear to ear. It’s hard not to feel the same way from the audience, because it feels as if she is singing each song to you, and only you. The connection Daughter makes is electric. Sharing her intimate, darkly-centered folk music with us all as darkness falls, Daughter is perfectly understated live, and it’s really impossible to pick a highlight; although of course ‘Youth’ and ‘Candles’ prompt the biggest cheers. As Elena Tonra ends her exquisite set to rapturous applause, it feels like a very important gig for Daughter cementing herself as one of the most gifted songwriters around. We confess we do feel a bit teary, bless us. Like everybody else in Psychedelic Worm on Sunday night, we have fallen completely in love.

From a day of rising stars onto an established legend now, tonight belongs to the biggest name ever to headline Bestival. Having grown up in a house that regularly blasts out ‘Superstition’ and ‘Place In The Sun’ as standard, the chance to see Stevie Wonder live is personally very sentimental, and for all generations present, he undoubtedly holds a special place. Providing some free publicity for Obama, as well as giving his two-pennies-worth about racism - “I don’t care what colour you are, I can’t even see y’all anyway” – Stevie Wonder is essentially preaching to the converted. All the hits are reeled out with bells and whistles, of course, along plenty of covers, including a funked up take on Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, and classic sway-fest ‘Imagine’. Stevie Wonder is, as we’d expect, incredibly polished after decades of experience, and his voice is strong too, as full of soul as it was years ago. The only slight hiccup comes when he asks ‘London’ if we’re feeling good – but once ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ starts up, all is more or less forgotten.

The set ends with ‘Happy Birthday’ and, the classy birds we are, we whip out the dirt-cheap white wine in celebration of a birthday within our rabble. Spinning round for some incredible fireworks over the Magic Meadow, it is yet another perfectly choreographed but spontaneous feeling Bestival moment, the ‘oos’ and ‘ahhs’ uniting the crowd with plenty of arms round shoulders and warm embraces.

We all trot off to see Four Tet playing alongside Caribou at the Roller Disco tent, which is so squished and full of people that the tent-ropes seem on the verge of straining and pulling out of the ground. Inside is like the sweatiest, darkest sauna we’ve ever been in, and the wusses we are, we start to fear a little for our well-being as we threaten to topple over every couple of minutes. Beating a hasty retreat, we instead opt to take residence in one section of a sawn up caravan, and with the backdrop of Four Tet, we absorb everything we can like slightly inebriated sponges. Heading up to the calming surroundings of the Bandstand, we survey the sights before us, and realise it’s nearly over. We almost begin to feel sad that so much is still unexplored; we never made it to the Wall of Death, we forgot to go and stand under the sparking branches of The Wishing Tree, and the chance to injure ourselves on roller skates sadly never materialised.

Then, looking across the spectacle before us again, we realise we’re being soppy old gits for nothing. All good things must come to an end, but next year we will be back here for sure. Trading in our overpriced coca-cola mixers and badly thought-out, personality-less corporate arenas for the imaginative flair of Bestival is one of the best decisions we ever made, and with Bestival reaching it’s tenth birthday next year – Robin Hill had better brace itself. Come next September, DIY will be first to storm the site in full costumes. We’ll even bake a cake.

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