The hoverports at Portsmouth and Ryde must have been eerily quiet over Bestival weekend. While they’d usually see crowds in their thousands, armed with back-packs bigger than themselves, dragging worn bags for life full of exploding Strongbow cans or one-wheeled trolleys stacked with Stella, there was no need to cross the sea to get to the site this year. Unless, of course, you live on the Isle of Wight. And even if that is the case, it’s doubtful that the staff panicked at the prospect of those numbers.
Rob & Josie Da Bank’s festival moved sites for the first time in its history, from Robin Hill Park (where it’s held the unofficial summer closing party since 2004) to Lulworth Estate in Dorset. The castle and grounds of Lulworth aren’t new to the Da Banks, as they’ve held the family friendly version of the festival, Camp Bestival, here for the last few years. But how would it fair with a crowd who wouldn’t be as mesmerised by middle-aged acts and magicians?
Here are the important points from Bestival 2017:
- You can’t blame for Bestival for everything that happens at Bestival.
Imagine an argument between a Christian and an atheist. The atheist asks how God can be so good if there’s bad in the world – the Christian replies that God creates humans, but doesn’t control everything they do. Where am I going with this? Well maybe the Christian has a point. And in this instance, Rob is God Da Bank. He’s created this bizarre world we inhabit for four days, with far more acceptance than majority of Earth, where bankers can wear bandanas before resting on the fifth, sixth and seventh day. But unlike actual God, he doesn’t control the weather. Sure, it was an absolute pain in the arse when the site was shut down on the Sunday, but would you rather you was decapitated by a flying church? That’s the sort of shit God would probably, possibly do.
- The headliners were strong.
The XX’s Friday night slot was a moment. While their previous live sets have been pretty monochromic affairs, Bestival’s colour theme clearly rubbed off on them. That, alongside Jamie XX’s influence on recent album, I See You, made for a set to not only swoon and maybe shed a tear to, but also DANCE! PROPERLY DANCE! Dangerous and Loud Places (Jamie’s Romy featuring track, technically). Likewise, Pet Shop Boys set was nothing short of spectacular – and not the sort of Greatest Hits set you’d expect from old-timers. Tracks from the last album took over (The Pop Kids and Burn were particularly outstanding), while The Sodom & Gomorrah Show and In The Night were just as welcome as It’s A Sin or West End Girls. Didn’t see ATCQ, soz.
- The other major acts were strong.
Dizzee Rascal, Rag’n’Bone Man and Jamie T all delivered decent sets over the weekend, across various stages. Yeah, that list is pretty small compared to previous years, and there was scope for more major acts in all honesty. One band stood out though, and should be considered to headline in the future…
- Blossoms are da bomb.
Thursday festival slots have a tendency to showcase the “not quite good enough”, but not at Bestival. I’ve seen Hot Chip (twice), Alabama Shakes and Gary Numan on many a Thursday evening under Rob Da Bank’s careful care, and one of this year’s acts was no exception. Blossoms blew the roof of The Box, delivering a set packed with electronic-influenced indie anthems, placing them somewhere almost exactly between Oasis and Duran Duran. They’ve already played to a sold out crowd at Castlefield Bowl, so a headline slot (Bestival 2018, with a new album to showcase) would be ideal.
- The weird and the wonderful was the strongest.
When Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon and Sink The Pink overtaking a ship like some scantily pirates appear “normal” (gross word), you know you’re in a good place. Bestival showcased 50s bands featuring tap dancers, brass (all of the brass, in fact), Disney Rascal (a reggae band covering Disney tracks, and a performance that saw the guitarist proposing to his other half), hit after hit after hit covered in a different style after style after style, a bit o’ skiffle, queer-rock opera-esque colour troupe HMLTD, Annie Mac setting off the world’s largest confetti canon while live on air on Radio 1 (it was an avalanche!) and so much more.
- The Haus of Jäger is also da bomb.
An abstract wooden structure in the middle of an estate, specialising in NON-JÄGERBOMB cocktails, and with an outdoor area you have to access through a wardrobe of (faux) fur coats? What’s not to like. The JägerHaus isn’t a small pop up featuring a few nobodies you might like the sound of in passing, it features the best of Bestival in a different setting, with Blossoms hosting their own DJ set, Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard showcasing his recent collection Electric Lines, and other acts from across the weekend delivering seconds sets.
- Size isn’t everything.
Bestival at Robin Hall Park was an amazing maze of sites and ships and and trees in a valley across the sea. Bestival at Lulworth Estate, while featuring familiar landmarks, is a much smaller affair. That isn’t always a bad thing – the separate sections were clear, and the sound from HMS Bestival to The Temple to The Box, The Castle Stage and The Invaders of the Future tent didn’t ever mix badly, and it was quicker to get to each one! The festival began “boutique”, and according to one vendor, 25,000 tickets were sold for this year’s festival, compared with twice as many in 2010. Then again, Rolf Harris was on the bill then so it’s not all good.
- Bestival will be back.
Mr. Da Bank has already started booking acts for Bestival 2018. Will it be back at Lulworth? Who will headline? Will smiling Kanye return? Will actual Kanye headline? Will the theme be Kanye? Watch this space…
Main Image: Garry Jones, Lovebot: Victor FrankowskiThe XX: Sam Neill, Pet Shop Boys: Mike Massaro, Happy Kanye: Jordan Hughes