Festival review: Bestival 2010


‘Moment of Noise’, Duy Huynh

For the uninitiated, Bestival is a UK music festival on the Isle of Wight (a small – you guessed it – island off the south coast of England), which started in 2004, growing from an attendance of 10,000 in that inaugural year to over 50,000 this summer. With a wide mix of bands and DJs across a mammoth seventeen stages, Bestival is hugely ambitious without trying to be a rival Glastonbury. Here’s the Bestival official site if you’d like more info on the overall scope.

On first glance, the lineup didn’t inspire me hugely – the festival has a huge number of bands on, but not many are household names – but I was impressed by the bands I saw over the weekend, and pleasantly surprised by the quality of music I heard. So, without further ado, here’s a rundown of what I managed to catch across three days of festival fun.

Friday

The Bookhouse Boys – One of the more bizarre collections of musicians I’ve seen, combining elements of surf-rock, blues and all-out audio assault. Highlights were the ridiculously hard-working rhythm section and male vocalist Paul Van Oestren, who alternated between sounding like Thom Yorke and Matt Bellamy. My friend described them best: “good at making sound, shame they can only make one of them”. Samey stuff in the main, but semi-enjoyable in spells.

The Jolly Boys – Saw the end of their set on the main stage by accident. A mento reggae band who played covers of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’,‘Rehab’ and ‘Ring of Fire’. Six Jamaican guys playing Johnny Cash in a reggae style will always get my vote. Loads of fun.

Phosphorescent – I’ve been recommended this band a host of times but never listened to them, so decided to go along and check them out. Glad I did. One of the best shows I saw all weekend, a mix of folk and alt-country with a few heavier tracks, and frontman Matthew Houck was vocally superb as well as a great stage presence. Attracted a good crowd and I didn’t hear a single naysayer in the bunch. Highly recommended.

Hot Chip – If you’re English, you likely already know who Hot Chip are. If you’re not, they’re an electro-pop-experimental five-piece who specialise in synth riffs and catchy hooks. They were brilliant, playing some crowd-pleasing hits like ‘Boy From School’ and ‘Over and Over’ as well as some new material, all of which prompted widespread dancing and singalongs. If you’re not already familiar with them, Hot Chip are well worth your time, live and on record; they were great on Friday night too.

Bombay Bicycle Club (secret set) – Another peculiarly English group, BBC are a disgustingly talented group, none of whom is older than 20. Dwelling on this is very upsetting, but their music is, in the main, fabulous. They played a secret acoustic set at the tiny bandstand stage on Friday night, and were excellent. I only caught half of the set, but what I heard was excellent, no surprise to anyone familiar with BBC’s output.

Saturday

Darwin Deez – OK, go easy on me here. Darwin Deez – he of ‘youuuu are a radar detector’ fame – played The Spider stage (which itself is worthy of note, hit the link for info), with a fair-sized crowd in force, and the set wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Deez himself looks like some kind of hipster rabbi, and he and his band didn’t take themselves too seriously, and the 90s music dance-offs which occurred every few songs were good fun. Their music wasn’t great, but their lack of pretension was refreshing in an era of prima donnas, and the fun the band was having rubbed off on even some more cynical members of the audience.

Jónsi – Anyone who read my recent review of Jónsi’s album should already have guessed that this was the highlight of the weekend. A small initial crowd quickly swelled as the enigmatic Icelander powered through some epic tracks, complete with a trippy background video projection and a shaman-like headdress. The performance exceeded even my very high expectations, and Jónsi blew away the entire tent-full of people. Astounding.

Caspa & MC Rod Azlan – Ten words needed for this: Filthy filthy dubstep, crowd went bananas for it. Good fun.

The Flaming Lips – Completing this bizarre series of music styles – post-rock to dubstep to psychedelia – were The Flaming Lips. A huge band with more on-stage panache than any other I’ve seen, Wayne Coyne (high on more than just life) flung himself about to epic electronic strains. Smoke machines, crazy background videos and more confetti than I’ve ever seen. The Lips only played about 8 songs in an hour and a half, but each was loud, brash and entertaining, Coyne the conductor of a bizarre, tripped-out orchestra of electronica. Closed the night brilliantly with the still-unbelievably-good ‘Do You Realize???’ (<— this link will give you an idea of how crazy/brilliant the song was live) and was probably the most innovative live show I’ve seen. If you can catch them live, it’s well worth doing so.

Sunday

Beardyman – A human beatbox without compare, you might know Beardyman from this insanely brilliant YouTube video, and there’s no doubting that the Englishman has got, as they say, mad skillz. Live he mixes together all his mouthmade sounds into tracks, which is still impressive, but I would’ve preferred a live break or two. With a MacBook and some decks in front of him, the impact was lessened somewhat. Still good fun though.

Caribou – Having only listened to the new Caribou (the brainchild of Canadian Daniel V. Snaith: solo on record, with a band live) album once before seeing them live, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got, however, was a superb performance that had perhaps the best crowd reaction of any at Bestival. As electro-experimental sounds sailed through the Rock and Roll stage, everyone got their head nodding and by the climactic rendition of ‘Sun’, the audience was rapt. Excellent.

LCD Soundsystem – Another solo-project-with-live-band saw out my Bestival experience, this time in the form of James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem. I’m a big fan of Harper’s disco-electro-irony rock, and he didn’t disappoint, playing some of the best his wonderful Sound of Silver album has to offer, as well as hits from his other records like ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’. The highlight, as expected, was the triumphant ‘All My Friends’, and it was a show befitting the end of festival season.

All in all, Bestival was excellent. The mix of bands was eclectic and intriguing, and there is genuinely something for people of every taste. Jónsi and Phosphorescent stole the show for me, but there was so much music to enjoy that no doubt I missed some other great shows.

Better get my name down for next year, then.

Luke Grundy is a fervent assimilator of media living amid the bright lights of London, England. If he’s not watching films or listening to music, he’s probably asleep, eating or dead. An aspiring writer, journalist and musician, he is the creator of movie/music blog Odessa & Tucson and lives for epistemology.