With the small but perfectly formed festival site buzzing all weekend with an amazing end of summer party spirit, Bestival 2005 was truly like no other, mainly because, in just two years, organiser Rob Da Bank and his team have somehow managed to achieve what many have tried and failed to do, to take the best bits of Glastonbury and twist them into creating the next generation of small festival; something truly interactive that demands every visitor gets properly stuck in (those 'civvy-dressers' who felt stupid during Saturday's fancy dress party will know). A gamble perhaps, but one that paid off. Just ask the punters who cleared up in the casino.
And there was no better example of universal crowd involvement than the record breaking Fancy Dress Party on the evening of the second day, a massive party where more than 10,000 giggling child reverters became bumble bees, tee-pees, gorillas, stilted fairies and even more bizarre incarnations, while the majority followed the 'Cowboys & Indians' theme. The site of the multi-coloured procession snaking down the thoroughfare of the site was unparalleled, and what coming to these events should be all about. The following day, people packed the Hidden Disco for the 'Stick It On' session, where wannabe DJs were given the chance to play to a crowd for their 15 minutes of fame - able to go home and say 'I played a festival'. Also, for the first time, live festival sets were made available for download directly from the site (click here), a free newspaper was distributed daily, cricket fans were given big screens to cheer on England, and all around there resonated a sense of cooperation and a true togetherness, aided by the snug, channelled layout of the site; the main stage at one end and smaller, but heavily populated bars and tents extending all the way down to the campsite at the other.
The most interesting and best programmed of these was the Weird West Big Top, which hosted an indie night on Friday, drum'n'bass, techno and house on Saturday, and a matinee puppet show among other quirky live shows on the Sunday. (Click here for the full review). Almost opposite was the ever glamorous Bollywood Bar, catering for the more energetic Bestival-goers of the weekend who were treated to blinding DJ sets from hosts Bobby Friction & Nihal, Annie Nightingale, and the highlight, a Balearic throwback set by the mighty X-Press 2. Other musical moments from the smaller tents included Bez in the Hidden Disco, Four Tet in the JD Set Lounge, and The Hat in the 24 Village.
But it was of course the Main Stage where most eyes were fixed. Friday's best bands included electro folk fiddlers The Earlies, the unstoppable electro of Mylo, headliners The Magic Numbers, and a rare set from the legendary Two Lone Swordsmen. Norway's Royksopp showed their class on Saturday night, headlining the stage after Ulrich Schnauss and Soulwax put in solid performances - although the hilarious and much naked Cuban Brothers stole the day with their debut 8-piece live show. But the set of the festival came on Sunday with the pulsating energy of The Go! Team, the perfect spectacle and energy high before the Super Furry Animals smoked out Bestival 2005 with laser suits and their unique brand of spacey guitar dub.
Of course, all this would be nothing without the 10,000 or so Bestival heads that made the festival one of the most enjoyable of the entire summer, and the perfect season closer. The magic was evident from your first few steps into the site, with the fancy dress party merely maintaining the momentum throughout the rest of the weekend. The debut teething problems from last year were nowhere to be seen and now Bestival stands out on its own, its perfectly formed party spirit the central plank of a now solid identity - one that reads simply 'Fun'. Next year's promises to be even better yet.