Bestival In the Rain, Day 1: A Review

Last weekend, the UK original music festival, Bestival took over Toronto Island. I wasn’t sure what

The Church, A blow up church bought by a bloke from Wales, been with the festival ever since.

The Church, A blow up church bought by a bloke from Wales, been with the festival ever since.

to expect when I showed up for the media preview on Thursday morning. Really I was expecting another Field Trip or TURF – the latter being one of my favourite fests – I thought there would be some food, some stages and Bob’s Your Uncle! Turns out, I was greatly underestimating this event. Which, with a name like Bestival, was fairly silly of me.

From the moment I arrived on the island, it was clear to me that this was a bird of a different feather. With glitter and streamers and tents, the festival immediately had my attention (which is only in part due to the fact that I am easily distracted by shiny stuff). We started our tour with Day of the Dead face painting; the bar on the bus; the Church (a blow up church bought by someone in Wales that makes it to every Bestival); and the beach party zone on the clothing-optional beach (complete with a gentleman wearing nothing but a cowboy hat). Not to mention the different stages, including the incredibly elaborate

The Bollywood Stage, where Jamie XX played and elephants imported from the UK

The Bollywood Stage, where Jamie XX played and elephants imported from the UK

Bollywood stage with life-size elephants imported from the UK. I loved every detail. Even the #GetCurious Fido area was fun, and an impressive set-up from a sponsor. As we walked around, I watched four young women who were clearly in charge of the design details, discuss in-depth how they were going to decorate a tree. You could see this was an event that they had put love and time into.

Friday Morning I woke up ready to go. I met my friends, we bought ponchos, got in a good Sneaky Dee’s brunch, spiked our coffee and set off to the island, prepared for rain, a long festival day and some fun times.

Organization and Arrival

For a media person, arrival was breezy. I talked to a lovely couple on the VIP ferry, which brought us toIMG_4734 our own back entry where security folk touched us in places I would only point to on the dolly. It was here that I saw a couple in their forties steal some coke off the ground. All in all, delightful. My friends on the other hand, “un-media” folk who came in the front entrance, were subjected to an hour wait, lines, even further violation and dog searches, only to discover once we all met at the bar and waited in that line, that they hadn’t had their ID’s checked. They weren’t given the white ‘I-can-drink’ bracelets despite definitely being able to. So they had to go all the way back and get those.

The Festival

image3The festival was awesome. As I already knew, the design and attention to detail was unmatched by any Ontario festival I had been to so far. As I found out in the preview, Bestival is about doing things that others don’t and I have to say, they lived up to the hype. The Fancy Dress is always such a fun element. I saw a slutty Marie Antoinette, lots of animal costumes, a man in a banana suit fondling his banana, and so much more. The Day of the Dead face painting was really neat, and while we didn’t want to wait in line, we did head over to the Mini Bindi station where a mermaid put sparkles on our faces. The food trucks were plentiful and had a great range of options, even cold-pressed juice which no one seemed to want when I was there, probably because of the rain and freezing cold.

The Music

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SBTRKT. Photo by Rolando Henry via @NUndergroundTO Instagram

I mean, that’s what we were there for. I love festivals because you get to hear so much music. We caught pieces of sets from Wavves, Justin Martin, Flosstradamus, Robert DeLong and more, all of which were incredible. Some highlights include:

Jamie XX

Always good, but we were a little surprised that it was just a DJ set and he played few songs off the recently released album.

Clean Bandit

This set finished earlier than listed on the schedule so we showed up a little late and missed a bigger chunk of it than intended. What we did see was great, including their well-known track “Rather Be” featuring Jess Glynne.

                                                                                  SBTRKT

The Main Stage at Sunset

The Main Stage at Sunset

I think part of it was the ambiance of the Big Top; or maybe it was that the rain had finally stopped and it had warmed up ever so slightly; or perhaps it was that day had turned to night, but the stars aligned for SBTRKT. His set was amazing and we danced our hearts out.

Florence and the Machine

This was one of the main reasons I was there. I had never seen Florence live before and I was dying to. With high expectations like that you’d think I’d be let down, but I wasn’t. Hot off the heels of her Coachella performance where she broke her foot, Florence was back and gave one heck of performance. She has a special connection with Bestival, as it was the first festival she ever played before anyone knew who she was, and herself and the organizers have been huge supporters of each other ever since. Maybe because of that, she came out ready to perform. It seems she’s departed from the days of billowing dresses and ethereal themes, as she entered the stage in a simple red pantsuit, but that didn’t stop her from running up and down the stage. Her voice is really that amazing, I was impressed with the quality of the music live, and spent the whole time dancing and singing along. It was an amazing end to the evening.

Florence and the Machine on the Main Stage

Florence and the Machine on the Main Stage

The Ferry Home

As Bestival is in it’s first year, I expected some organizational issues, as running an event of that size in a different country is no small undertaking. Combined with the Toronto Island Ferries, this was a bit more of a disaster than expected. We left before the end of Florence’s last song, in order to beat the lines and ended up relatively close to the front of the line for the VIP ferry. There was no staff or signage which made it unclear if it was still meant for VIPs, so many people were getting in line.

At this point, we just wanted to get off the island and continue with our nights, no harm in that. There was a ferry there waiting – great, right? Turns out.. not so much. They held the ferry for another thirty minutes before letting anyone on, then kept pulling artists and media (I think) out of the line and putting them on the ferry. Because they didn’t tell us anything about who these people were and why they were being chosen, I was happy to wait and figured I’d get on soon, so I waited my turn. My turn ended up being 4 ferries later and another hour and a half. People were restless and chanting, ‘Let us on!’ and others yelling about why they weren’t being chosen to take these ferries – I mean they paid good money for their ticket. No one was especially forceful or pushing, people were being very respectful, considering we were standing on top of each other for so long after a music festival. We even, as a group, banded together and got a guy on crutches out of the line and onto a ferry.

For some reason the people in charge, while offering zero explanation as to what was going on, were power tripping like crazy. Screaming at people in line, sending ferries away half filled, and telling us it was our fault for being rowdy. It had been an hour and a half and there were maybe twenty people in front of me and none of us had been allowed on a ferry – were we not entitled to be frustrated? The security in charge kept up a constant barrage of insults, even telling us at some points “we’ll wait until 1am if we have to!” like we were little kids, just because people were chanting. All in all – it was a brutal experience. We got back to the mainland tired and frustrated. That was the end of our night. Standing in the cold for two hours had been sobering, and it extinguished all celebration and fun for the night.

View from the Ferry home

View from the Ferry home

Overall…

Bestival was incredible. I am so glad it has been brought to Canada and you better believe I will be there next year, front and center. I just hope they get different security guards, cleaner organization, and a better ferry system in place.

Thanks Bestival and we will see you next year!

 

 

 

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