First of all, a quick word about festival fashion for those of us who wish to keep up with the latest trends. And let’s face it, who doesn’t? Well, for girls bottom cheeks are very much exposed this year, wellies seem to be almost a legal requirement and moustaches seem to be making a surprisingly high showing. For men, overstuffed Ramones t-shirts would appear to be exceedingly popular and the must-have fashions seem to be either too tight or too baggy trouserings and a thousand yard stare. On a side note – why is it that when women attempt fancy dress they look cute, funny and even sexy, yet when men do it they just look like dicks?
The first act of the second day was another must-see act for me – Cranes. Again, it has been many years since I last saw them live, and I was intrigued as to what sort of crowd they would pull. But, for some god-forsaken reason or other, they had been placed on the Sailor Jerry’s stage, a small scaffold affair miles from anywhere. Surely a band of their stature would have been better placed on a more high profile stage, preferably at a more suitable hour. Anyway, they drew a fair crowd and went down extremely well with the old goths and Japanese girls that had made it to see them. Alison Shaw doesn’t seem to have aged a jot, although the same cannot be said for her brother who now very closely resembles John Peel, complete with grey beard. I still can’t get used to seeing bands grow old, surely something can be done about it if we complain to the government long enough. Can’t it? Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the old magic is still there and that they sound as good today as they ever have, with an all-too-brief set. I was disappointed by the lack of Adoration, but a complete treat to see them again. A reunion that I hope bears new recordings and a few tours at the very least
Following Cranes the heavens opened with a torrential shower, forcing us to take shelter in the Big Top to catch the beginning of Dan Le Sac. Fortunately the rain turned less torrential so we were able to escape back to the tent before hearing too much of the shouty vocals/ball-bearings-being-thrown-downstairs percussion that seems to characterise their sound. Phew! However, the rain leaves Bestival a muddy version of its former self for most of the rest of the weekend. Damn shame, as a muddy festival is a very different beast from a sunny one, and some of its shine starts to be replaced by a feeling of having to slog it out
The rain also made me miss Skream and Benga, which is a shame, but it let up in time for me see the Village People take the main stage. I’m not sure how many original members are still in the line up, thinking that some type of Sugababes-type of refuelling is surely in effect, but their brand of hi-camp retro pop had everyone marching, pointing and generally whooping it up right through to the inevitable mass YMCA singalong. Good harmless fun, and perfect for a festival of this nature. Which is more than we can say for the DJ who fills on the main stage before the next act! A man seemingly infected with catchphrase tourettes and incapable of playing a single record without shouting banalities over it, his constant cries of “Don’t be shy show us your pie”, “look at the bangers on that one” and (bizarrely) “Don’t be sad, have a laugh” make me wonder who booked this ridiculous man and how he still manages to find bookings in this day and age. Or maybe anyone whose solution to the grey times that surely haunt us all is “Don’t be sad, have a laugh” is blessed with a so simplistic a worldview as to leave us pure green with envy
Next up is the splendidly bonkers Paloma Faith, who appears with her entire face painted bright silver. Entertaining in a good old fashioned way, she wins the crowd over with a mix of tunes old and new, although she loses several points for saying “this is a new song” before playing a 40 year old Betty Lavette cover. A song about cellulite closes a very enjoyable set
It’s main stage all the way now, as Grandmaster Flash has the whole field up and about. Now there I was, thinking how clever and eclectic his set was, as he mixed and mashed songs by Nirvana, AC/DC, Skee Lo and others into one great big ball of fun when my good friend Greg turned to me and said that it was like listening to a NOW CD on Preview/Shuffle. And you know what, I think he has a point!
PJ Harvey takes the stage next and, after countless, countless attempts to get the audience to engage in some sort of ritual participation (“When I say Hey you say Ho” – Erm, actually no. You’ve been paid vast sums of money to entertain me. This is your job, you do it – do I ask you to defrag my hard drive!?) she comes up with what seems like a novel approach, where she is quite happy to let her songs speak for themselves and for her and her band to stand or fall on their own merits. They stand of course, quite magnificently. Drawing heavily on her Let England Shake album, fresh from scooping the Mercury Music Prize, she delivers one of the best sets of the day with ease. Result!
AS PJ finishes, the crowds start to gather for the band who seem to be headlining the whole festival, not just the Saturday night – everybody seems to be talking about The Cure. Playing a two and a half hour show, and with such a diverse back catalogue, they have something for everybody. Their set seems to be in sections, with songs for fans of GothCure, PopCure, PsychadeliicCure and all bases inbetween. They look great and sound great and the recent gigs playing their ‘dark trilogy’ of 17 Seconds, Faith and Pornography albums has inspired them to play a good selection of their older songs. Plainsong, 100 Years, Open and A Night Like This are quite simply a pleasure to hear and Robert Smith must surely be headed for National Treasure status by now. Having said that, the Coolest Man at the Festival Award goes to the seemingly ageless Simon Gallup, who reminds us what a writer of classic basslines and all round cool dude he is. By the time of the two encores, we’re back to the Cure as a singles band, and they wheel out a huge selection of their greatest hits. This section is usually my least favourite part of a Cure gig, but everybody else seems up for it, so it would seem churlish to criticise them for it, especially at en event such as this. There is however something odd about hearing Killing an Arab, that tinny sounding debut single I had on 7” being played to such a large crowd on such a large scale. That is in no way a bad thing tho
The next treat for us is Primal Scream playing their Screamadelica album, with Andy Weratherall playing a DJ set either side. I was looking forward to this, despite my having seen them on the Screamadelica tour back in the day casting doubts as to whether they can still pull it off. But any doubts I may have had scattered to the plentiful winds as they deliver an interpretation of their greatest album rather than a carbon copy. The only reason to feel cheated was that they didn’t play the more downbeat end of the album, choosing to instead close their set with more upbeat stuff such as Rocks from later albums. Screamdelica was a journey – we don’t want to get off before the end thanks very much. In the meantime, the rains have started in earnest once again, and the drying up process that had started is reversed – rivers of mud are in evidence and Sunday looks like it’s going to be an uncomfortable one
When I saw that the next band, LFO (another surprise reformation/reappearance) were given the 3.00 – 4.00 am slot I had visions of them playing to a half empty Big Top as people sloped off to bed, but I was reckoning without the Bestival crowd’s almost insatiable appetite for entertainment, and they play to a very sizeable crowd indeed. Those who stayed the course are treated to a set of very dirty electro. Seemingly down to just one man now (didn’t one of them go off to write for Bjork?), he/they played it fast n furious for an hour. Their best song (and one of the best singles of all time) Tied Up is despatched fairly early and at breakneck speed and the beats are so frantic that I’m left fairly windmilling by the halfway point. So another 4.00 am shutdown has caught up with us and it’s time once again to scuttle off to whatever is passing for home these days and prepare for the day ahead
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