Magical, manic and completely unique, Bestival acts as one last wacky weekend under the stars before the dark and seemingly never ending British winter takes over
A cultural melting pot enjoyed by all, Bestival is a place where Tarquins meet Shaniquas, and due to the creative costumes, everybody looks fabulously ridiculous, regardless of where they’re from. From stages on ships that spew fire to the vibrant Bollywood tent and the enchanting Ambient Forrest, after ten years in the game, Rob da Bank’s baby is still firing off on all cylinders and bringing something to the table that others simply are not.
This year’s theme was ‘Dessert Island Disco’, and over four days a vast woodland area in the Isle of Wight became an oasis of colour, life and some pretty exceptional looks. Taking things beyond the ripped denim shorts and the nauseating oversized flower headbands (which have spread like an undesirable wildfire over the festival season), Bestival challenges revellers to think outside the bucket hat and do something different.
Amidst the crazy, Wonderland caught up with some artists who have had a pretty major summer to get their thoughts on the festival, fashion and what the future has in store for them. “I love the care free attitude of Bestival, everybody is here to have a good time and no-one’s particularly bothered about looking stupid’, said MNEK, the innovative south London singer, producer and kufi hat connoisseur who has taken the music industry by storm as of late. “It’s my first time here but I really like it, it’s really creative open and I do love fancy dress. When I’m performing I love to wear African, and Aztec inspired prints, and I work with my stylist Cassette boy to find things that are a tribute to my heritage whilst keeping it contemporary.”
Over the wild weekend, MNEK was joined by some seriously top notch artists. Beck kicked things off on the Thursday. Serving a funk induced set with old school smashers like Loser and Devils Haircut proving why he is a musician so iconic and well respected. For many Friday was all about Outkast, who gave the crowds a performance that started strong, blasting out hit after hit from their sterling back catalogue, before dipping slightly, and then picking up right at the end, much like Andree 3000’s weave. Also causing a stir on the Friday was La Roux, who bestowed on the crowd tracks from her highly acclaimed album Trouble in Paradise. After a five year hiatus, the people were thirsty for the Bulletproof songstress, and with her sunny, fresh sounding beats.
The filthy-gorgeous and ever vividly entertaining drag posse Sink the Pink got things going on Saturday at the main stage. The London based collective brought sass and glam in abundance to the masses. As well as slut-dropping their sparkly socks off in the day time, they brought the house down each night in The Grand Palace, much to the joy of sweaty punters, who they had queuing in their droves to get a slice of the hot mess action. They passed the torch on to another London extravaganza Hard Cock life on the final night, which was turgid with hip hop beats, addictive baselines and more pumped up festy boys than you could shake your desert island disco-stick at. WIN.
Saturday also saw Candi Staton take it to church on the main stage, belting out classics like young hearts run free and you’ve got the love to inebriated, sun drenched crowds. Scottish trio Chvrches brought their personal brand of exciting synth-pop to the Big Top on Sunday. In just one short year the band have skyrocketed to stardom and have amassed a legion of fans both in the UK and internationally. Ian told us: “The songs that always go down well are the dancey tracks like Under the Tide. American audiences tend to be more outwardly appreciative, cultural stereotype but it’s true, British audiences just show it in different ways.” “Coming back this autumn from the US almost feels like a victory lap, well not quite, but it feels nice because nobody knew how far we would go”, said Martin. “We’ve been really taken back by the support we’ve had but in a good way. We found out we have sold out the Brixton academy which is just amazing.”
Later that evening, London Grammar brought an ethereal atmosphere to the main stage. Holding the audience transfixed with her cut glass vocals, Hannah sang with subtlety amidst a sea of introspective synth that made every hair on your body stand to attention. This was juxtaposed nicely by Basement Jaxx’s rip roaring set of classic early noughties bangers such as Good Luck, Romeo and Where’s Your Head At, alongside some pretty kooky but well received new stuff from their latest album, Junta.
Closing the fiasco, Sunday saw 2014’s hot ticket Clean Bandit take to the stage to deliver an upbeat and energetic show. The classically inspired four piece from Cambridge hit the jackpot with their incessantly catchy Rather Be in January, and since then they have barely had a day’s rest. Ahead of their set violin player Neil and caught up with Wonderland for a chinwag. “We have two singers who come with us everywhere we go but depending on convenience we have some of the 12 singers from the record to do a show which makes it quite exciting for us and the audience,” he said. “This year has been amazing and next week we go to America to take our quirky Brit blend of strings and electronics over there!”
As evening dawned on the final night there had been whispers that living legend Diana Ross was to join Chic on stage to close proceedings. This rumour of course had almost every gay man foaming at the mouth with anticipation, as they flew into a diva induced disco-fit. Sadly this never materialised, but by the time the world’s largest glitterball was raised and the band played life affirming anthems like Everybody Dance, I Want Your Love and Le Freak, Diana was a distant memory and Bestival was in a state of utter Euphoria.
Bestival brings some of the biggest artists on the planet together for one big blowout from the iconic to those on the cusp of stardom. It also brings out the best in people. The diverse line up, mish mash of people, absurd outfits and Laissez-faire attitude all make for a scintillatingly off the wall experience, that’s well worth the week it takes to fully recover.
Words: Josh Willacy.