Bestival boasted the most diverse, and - let's be real here - best, lineup of any of this years Summer festivals. The Isle of Wight played host to acts from all spheres of music, as grime, shoegaze and pop overcame the mud to deliver some of the best music we've heard all year. Of all the festivals, this one did pretty much the best job of representing the music tastes of young people, whilst providing more than enough to class to reel in an older fanbase too.
On a site that boasts more alpacas than any other festival (I've not researched this fact and I'd like to be proved wrong). as well as countless quirky places that boom music out late into the night, Bestival has it's own really distinctive feel. Public art hung from trees in the Ambient Forest, sculptures of spaceships overwhelmed the Port stage area, and of course, the theme of 'The Future' was apparent throughout the whole of the site. The site was pretty incredible, but the music on offer was so damn good that it was easy to completely forget that the site was veering on the magical.
The next day threw up even more variety. Skepta pulled the biggest crowd of the day, in a set that served to show pretty much why he is the man of the moment. He started off, not quite hitting his stride (but of course, the crowd lapped it up anyway, whilst dressed up as roadmen, before they inevitably went home to focus on their business degree at Exeter University), before an electric duo of Shut Down and Man to close the set was actually nothing short of brilliant. The Big Top saw sets from Petite Meller, a French popstar who brought her album out that very morning, and MO, who's one of the fastest rising prospects in pop music. MO had the hits, but was kind of underwhelming, whilst Petite Meller made up for her lack of universally well known hits with some sensational choruses and huge sax parts.
The Cure headlined the Saturday, and the weekend basically belonged to them; to me, nothing quite beat the iconic goth group's two and a half hour set that including everything you could ever ask for. "I was here last year, saying 'come on! Play the singles, Duran Duran'" Robert Smith said, "so I'm sure you're all here, too, saying 'come on! Play the singles, Duran Duran'", as the band launched into a whirring version of 1985's Baby Screams. But once the band had gotten into their groove, you could get instantly over the fact you were shin deep in mud, the hits came thick and fast; In Between Days, Lullaby and The Caterpillar came in a trio, and from the first sung note of In Between Days, it was as if Robert Smith's voice was restored to it's mid-80s peak. Robert Smith was the perfect rockstar noir, the singles were all you could have ever wanted and more, and well - when they did lurch into oddball 90s album tracks like Doing The Unstuck and Burn - the band's classic dream-pop guitars were given a big, shoegazing upgrade, causing huge guitar-based sonic echoes across the whole of the island. The band were recieved so warmly that they got egged on for 3 encores, before closing once and for all with Why Can't I Be You, which inevitably left the audience asking exactly that.
Saturday also saw Ride, the greatest of all the shoegaze bands, blast through a set that - quite excitingly - saw them play their first new songs in over 20 years. Any other night, and Ride, with their heart-wrencher Vapour Trail and dynamite avant explosion Drive Blind, would have stolen the show, but they couldn't quite reach the heady heights of The Cure's set. Wolf Alice preceded them, and although - let's admit - Ellie Rowsell is a totally incredible rock star, the band just don't have 45 minutes worth of great songs, so were forced to rely a bit on early b-sides, which are kinda only b-sides for a reason. Giant Peach was pretty seismic, and You're A Germ is an eternally brilliant crowd pleaser, but She and 90 Mile Beach alongside album track duffer Lisbon showed the band aren't quite the headliner material many think they are just yet.
Sunday saw an abundance of bands everyone should see as soon as poss; and I'm not just talking about the Human League, and their life-making performance of Don't You Want Me. Jagwar Ma's transformation from indie-dance curiosities to tropi-techno warlocks served a treat, whilst Will Varley proved a bit of a highlight on the intro stage. Battling through the fact you could hear the droning voice of pop music's most beige troglodyte Dan From Bastille! in the distance, Varley roared through a variety of perfect parables, taking a satirical swing for the advertising industry, Theresa May and uhh, talking cats, making his set perfect Sunday afternoon listening. Aldous RH were the new band of the festival, mixing funk, dream-pop and psychedelia with an enigmatic frontman to set the Jagerhaus alight, whilst Sunflower Bean were everything you wish DIIV still were; intense, charismatic, noisy, but still a total aquatic serene dream. Closing out the weekend, for me, anyways, was the duo on the Invaders of the Future stage of the ever-brilliant turbo sludge of Peterborough's finest sons, The Wytches, who sounded darker and dirgier than ever, who were followed finally by Nimmo, who married ready for the floor techno with oscillating euro-pop to ensure the festival closed in the most amazing manner possible.
Bestival, in conclusion, is a festival that's always had a unique pull - it has all the charisma and boutique feel of End Of The Road and Green Man, but the youth pull of Reading and Leeds (with a ten times better line up). It's a pretty quintissential festival, and the perfect way to see out the summer, with a lineup that gets the perfect balance of classic and emerging artists.
photos come courtesy of bestival 2016 (the cure) and victor frankowski (the first photo), a huge thanks to all that made this weekend possible!
(Words: Calum Cashin)