Camp Bestival 2009
Lulworth Castle, Dorset - 24-26 July
Justin Madgwick - 28 July 2009
Camp Bestival is set in acres of stunning, gently undulating land with views to sea, moors, woodland and
rolling hills. This weekend sees some 10,000 adults bring 5,000 kids to Bestival's baby sister in the grounds of Dorset's
The weather defies the earlier predicted patchy rain on Friday and Saturday and gives the capacity crowd the added bonus of dry and warm spells. Performance-wise, Rob da Bank and the team have crammed a huge amount in to this festival covering a variety of musical taste from hip-hop, jazz and indie to dance and funk.
On the Friday, VV Brown, resplendent in technicolour coat and silver leggings takes to the main stage and belts out tunes in her crisp and well-honed voice, even her wardrobe malfunction (the back gave way on her leggings) couldn’t put her off her stride as she delivered Kings of Leon cover ‘Use Somebody’.
Florence and The Machine, later that afternoon on The Main Stage, gave the outstanding performance of the day. Haunting, pitch perfect and energetic, a bewitching Florence flowed around the stage in a white nymph-like dress, which could have been from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream - a complete contrast to her black-crow Glastonbury set. Tracks from current number two in the album charts, ‘Lungs’, had everyone following her every move and she engaged with the crowd at every opportunity.
Hayseed Dixie encourage us all to "drink to the point of puking without actually puking," – an interesting instruction at a family festival as the great battle of banjos played out in the evening sun. Mercury Rev were second fiddle to Kid Creole's headline slot, but also gave a polished and well received set reminiscent of a prog rock show of days gone by against the castle silhouette in the now darkened sky.
The Kid and some very stunning Coconuts sourced from London, Bratislava and Sweden brings the evening to a close with a tight, brilliant set including his tribute to all the illegitimate children in the audience with ‘Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy’ before encore ‘Stool Pigeon’ gets everyone that wasn't already "grooving" on their feet.
Saturday awakes to clear blue skies over the magnificent setting - the sun beats down on an already buzzing and crowded kids field as Mr. Tumble's "secret set" at midday on The Bluecoat stage draws a huge crowd of screaming 2-8 year olds and of course, twice as many adults.
Activities for kids and families dominate with painting, modelling (clay and fashion), tattooing, football games, break-dance lessons (along with Mambo, Salsa, Lambada, Hip-Hop), book readings, Ferris wheel rides, crazy bikes, circus acts and more, while Beardyman keeps the flow on the main stage with excellent tunes and great crowd interaction. Goldie Lookin’ Chain, ubiquitous festival animals that they are, dish out the tunes again from the Big Top early in the afternoon, many a youngster will now look at their mothers very differently.
Being a family festival there are bigger queues for ice cream, churros and face painting than those for bars - so much so, the bar next to the Big Top isn't open 'til later in the day while the afternoon tea sessions at Tofflins burlesque tea-room (bookings only) is fully booked all weekend and the WI tea and cake stall is hugely popular with the scrummies. Frisky and Mannish deliver a concoction of witty ditties from Noel Coward in a Lily Allen style and vice versa then a mad take on Girls Aloud's ‘Sound Of The Underground’ replacing lyrics with nursery rhyme pieces.
Laura Marling packs out the Big Top. She observes "half this festival is under 5, so here's a song we don't normally perform, so have your kids dancing at the end.” As Laura roles out her down-folk, Crazy P delivers a great set on the Main Stage, a scantily clad, highly energetic Danielle Moore getting young and old moving to their disco beats and funky rhythms including tracks from new album ‘Stop Space Return’ and brilliant cover of Shannon's ‘Let The Music Play’; meanwhile, Spongebob takes control in the Kids Fields.
Post church silence, there is a sense of anticipation for the legendary Roy Ayers on the main stage whose performance is greeted with cheers heard all the way to the Tipi fields. His performance is heavily jazz, which isn't what everyone was expecting from the funk master, but quality performance none the less.
Rob da Bank scores a great goal for Camp Bestival with an awesome set from Bon Iver in the Big Top. Packed out with a large crowd outside watching on the big screens too, Justin Vernon delivers a beautiful performance of ‘Blood Bank’ as the sun starts to slide away.
Various hideous foil helium balloons are lost throughout the day, a Spongebob unwittingly released getting cries of "no, Spongebob, don't leave, it's not that bad," from a cider gang sans infants: how do they know who Spongebob is?
Phoenix, on the main stage, turn out to be a surprise hit, delivering a Strokes inspired set with a poppy and funky edged set. Watch this space for the Parisian foursome.
PJ Harvey completely fills the Big Top again, her unique ability to provide such a powerful one-woman show is a huge success and the crowd get to enjoy a touching moment when she unwittingly disconnects her drum machine and shows a rare laugh. It’s a great performance for her fans, with striking, if not completely flattering, lighting.
The Cuban Brothers close the Saturday night of the magical family event with Miguel Mantovani arriving in an armchair bedecked with tropical flora and held high above the crowd. The show is typically Cuban Bothers - funky, cheeky, contentious - Gary Glitter and MJ anecdotes and plenty of swearing, but they keep their clothes on this time - well, their underpants remain in place. Unusual for this event, there is some booing and some kids are calling stop swearing - at 11:45pm it's probably more the parent’s responsibility than Messrs Cuban.
Sunday is an overcast, cooler day, but the activity-laden festival doesn't slow up at all, even when rain starts shortly after lunch. To give a flavour of the diversity offered at Camp Bestival, a genuine jousting tournament competes with Beardyman on the main stage where earlier the Golden Silvers were head to head with the fancy dress parade judged by the now god-like Mr. Tumble. Lee Mack gave a good old adult comedy set to which even he was surprised at the number of kids watching him in the Big Top, he was followed by The English National Ballet who in turn give way to DJ's and Red Snapper.
The Dub Pistols try and succeed in raising the crowd interaction bar against now steady rain, which makes ‘Cyclone’ now seems appropriate. They close with ‘Gangsta’ before Rob da Bank takes to the decks with a Daft Punk track - could this be a hint at 2010?
Kids, adults and the inbetweenies gather for the tea-time headliner Will Young, who, in ringmasters coat and top-hat prances onto stage and starts a typically jolly and note-perfect set, complete with circus drum "tada's" punctuating his 'humorous' anecdotes - "a grown up, 'fit' Mr. Tumble" remarks a fan near the front. When you can sing this well you can get away with the cheesy.
The rain is now persistent. The bars that have played second fiddle to kids’ activities are now full, kids, oblivious to rain, force parents onto queues for ice cream and cash points.
Roots Manuva, sporting a raincoat and pink sneakers arrives. Big beats blast Camp Bestival, coupled with a kiddie tinkly twinkle twinkle before asking what ice cream flavour is the crowds favourite. ‘Again And Again’ gets everyone jumping in the downpour - the crowd won't let the weather spoil the festivity.
First lady of southern soul, Candi Staton, takes to the main stage as the penultimate live act. Her introducer confuses Dorset with London, but all is forgiven as the diva gives the drenched crowd a reminder of why, at 66, she still commands top billing. Belting out her 70's disco-floor filler ‘Young Hearts’ alongside Elvis covers including ‘Suspicious Minds’ her raw and ravaged vocals have everyone moving - from Viking hatted tattooed men to fairy faced kids to burlesque dressed pig-mask wearing six foot five geezers. When ‘You've Got The Love’ starts as her closing contribution to Camp Bestival there isn't a stationary soul in the field.
From camp Will, to hard roots to classic Candi, the evening is to close by the one and only Nile Rodgers with the latest incarnation of Chic. Nile, approaching his 57th birthday this September, comes out with his own camera to film the crowd awaiting the funk disco legend. When his guitar fails he doesn't fluster and his charm keeps the hungry crowd from getting restless, instead impromptu bouts of ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ start.
Finally they kick off and the next hour is back-to-back hit after hit - brilliantly delivered, sexily pushed out by his new Chic ladies and the man hits the guitar like it is his one love in life. The aforementioned hits are joined by ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Lost In Music’, ‘We Are Family’ and one of the best ‘Let's Dance’ versions - the man has worked with everyone and this year they tour with his music, not just that by Chic - without question, one of the best live performances of the weekend.
And just when everyone thinks it's over, Rob da Bank swaps festival director hat to superstar DJ and gives a 25-minute set as diverse as the festival itself - who else would mix Cliff Richard's ‘Summer Holiday’, ‘Summer Loving’ from Grease, Queen's ‘Don't Stop Me Now’ with Massive Attack's ‘Unfinished Symphony’ and ‘Chime’ by Orbital - and all to the most impressive fireworks display since the year 2000 - awesome.
Then it is over, unless of course you want to head to Bollywood for tunes or the Big Top for a silent disco.