Bestival 2016 - Fun in the sun! (and rain)

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BESTIVAL now in its 13th year is one the UK’s most well-known and anticipated events on the UK festival calendar and is located at the stunning robins hill country park on the isle of wight. 

According to others the layout had slightly changed this year but as this is my first visit was none the wiser, everything looked fantastic as I arrived in the Hazy September sunshine late Thursday afternoon to check the site out we found Batala Portsmouth performing a fast paced brazillian styled percussion feast that left us transfixed for a while before we moved on to check out the rest of the vast site. This years theme was ‘The Future’ so costumes ranged from star trek, futurama and a hell of a lot of storm troopers!

Into Thursday evening, we started at Caravanserai which is quite literally a festival within a festival concealed in its own walled enclave next to the big top - its name meaning ‘an inn with a central courtyard for travellers in the desert regions of Asia or North Africa’ imagine an atmospheric Moroccan courtyard with a bar full small alcoves and circus performers, dancers and a loud lively music arena this is fabulous. If I wasn’t working I could quite easily have grabbed a beer and stayed here for the remainder of the evening, but we were off to see thursdays headliner’s Hot Chip next door in the big top. These guys have played at Bestival more than any other band to date and played to a full house with songs ‘And I was a boy from school’ and ‘don’t deny your heart’ ending with an epic cover of springsteens ‘Dancing in the Dark’. 

Friday started off with ‘The Cuban Brothers’ with their utterly hilarious parody act and crowd interaction was a great way to start the day off. Other highlights included Danish Singer/Songwriter MØ (pronounced Meu) who is better known for her collaboration with Major Lazer with the track ‘Lean’ and the chart topping ‘Years and Years’ who packed out the main stage arena with glitter canons pumping into the sky to ‘Foundation and ending with the epic ‘King’and the amazing Damian Marley, son of the legend himself Bob Marley. The headliner for the evening was Major Lazer with Diplo running around the crowd in an inflatable plastic ball who seemed to like squashing photographers! The night continued with far too many huge parties across smaller stages on the event for me to cover in this review. Bestival really is epic you have to experience it for yourself to understand.

Even the future couldn’t stop Saturday’s major downpour that went on into the night. My heart sank as this could have been a show stopper but the Chuckle Brothers who are legends in their own right!? Still managed to pack out the arena and did again even whilst the heavens opened and the ground turned to sludge. The sunshine was brought back for a while by the several times over Platinum selling Craig David best known for the hit song ‘Seven Days’ who hails from just over the water in Southampton. Many other acts here including the incredible Izzy Bizu in the big top but what I was waiting for and boy was I excited was Saturdays headliner ‘The Cure’. Some thought a 2.5 hour set was going to be too long but the quintessential legends rinsed out their entire back catalogue from old to new and it was bloody incredible. Starting with ‘Open’, ‘High’ and ‘The Walk’ some of the audience might have been too young to know some of the older stuff but when they played ‘Friday I’m in love’ everyone was singing along. 2.5 hours too long? Thousands were chanting ‘more, more, more!” at the end so clearly not long enough. As if this wasn’t epic enough, Leftfield were playing in the big top from 1-2am. For me it does not get much better!

My heart sank a bit as the rain got heavier and went on well into Sunday morning, however despite the mud the show went on and Bestival revellers took advantage of this and Glastonbury-esque scenes occurred with people surfing (and falling) across the mud on binbags and whatever else they could find. And then as if by magic, and mainly by me praying to the imaginary sky gods the sun came out again twice as bright and hot as it was before so we headed down to the ‘SpacePort’ right over the other side of the site. The mud had started to dry and the sky was clear blue and I had to pinch myself it was just so damn beautiful to see a few thousand people in fancy dress dancing away. I hadn’t actually looked at the spaceport lineup for Sunday and who came out? Candi Staton! Hits like ‘young hearts run free’ and the anthem ‘you got the love’ plus the weather and amazing crowd really was a sight to behold. 

The headliners tonight were Sean Paul, Wiz Khalifa and The Human League. My tastes in music don’t account for the first two but alas, the arena was jam packed so Rob and jose da bank knows what they are doing when it comes to booking acts. For me, the Sunday headliners were The Human League with their spellbinding brand of pop music performed all of their most popular hits. Phil Oakey who is now 60 years old came on to stage kicked off with ‘The Mirror Man’, ‘The Sound of the Crowd’ and ‘Love action’. As a photographer you usually only get the first three songs in the pit but was one of the few gigs I ventured into the crowd and stayed the whole way through for – amazing!

The Grand Finale was Fat boy slim at the spaceport. I’ve seen him a few times now and his set had always seemed to be very similar, but there was a lot of new stuff here this time. Several thousand people here in the crowd made this a truely fantastic way to end Bestival 2016. What an experience. I hope to be back next year!

Published on 15 September 2016 by Russ Collins

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