Our writer Adam heads back to Bestival for Round 2…
Minus the Island, keep the beach & the vibe
The UK festival is always held on the Isle of Wight, just off the coast of the south of England. As much as I enjoyed the panoramic view of the skyline as I sailed off to our local island last year, you can’t rely on ferries and a change of location was much needed for Bestival’s second instalment. This year the festival has migrated down to The Beaches with the event being held on Woodbine Park. Nicely accessible on the 501, complete with extra buses later on when the festival had finished (nice to see the TTC do a good job). From the moment I arrived Woodbine Park felt like a perfect spot for a music festival. Tucked away in a little valley and surrounded by trees on all sides, the park was decked out for this year’s ‘’Summer of Love’’ theme and was a party atmosphere as soon as you entered.
Saturday was also the day that England played their first match of Euro 2016 (I know you all really care), we didn’t win, and it was a tie game in the most disappointing fashion. I didn’t really feel all that sad for that long though because I was already pretty boozy and I was somewhere reminiscent of a Mediterranean beach party. Bestival was sweltering, drenched in a summer sun as hot as we’ve had all year. So hot infact that the visiting Australian, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, remarked ‘’I didn’t know Canada could get this hot’’ as he came on stage later on that evening. My pale English skin didn’t know what was going on but that didn’t stop all of the hip, young Torontonians in attendance from stripping down in their best interpretations of this years ‘’Summer of Love’’ theme = Hippie’s Gonewild.
By the time Jamie XX took to the stage, the Saturday afternoon sun was slowly setting and the crowd swelled in the shadow of the main stage. After watching him play last year and at the Danforth, this was by far my favourite show. Maybe it was the alcohol that got us all dancing or maybe it was the balearic beach ambiance drifting around the festival. That feeling lasted throughout his set, stayed with me while took a little break to eat a delicious Cubano Sandwich from La Novela (look up these guys, two of them managing the whole truck on their own & making great food) food truck and lingered on throughout the night. Post Jamie XX and pre Odesza was time to explore the festival and all the wondrous things that go on there behind the music, including the inflatable church and costume parade complete with a float full of drag queens fresh from their croquet tournament. Then came Odesza and one of my hightlights of the festival. What a show these boys put on. The live horn section & drums capped what was an amazing live performance, perfect for building up to the headliners and enjoying the setting sun in the backdrop. With a lot of dance music you usually get a pure DJ set rather than the bare bones of the instruments behind each track, seeing all of this coming together live was special.
Before you knew it Tame Impala had taken the stage and Saturday night at Bestival was coming to an end. After seeing them last year at Massey Hall in a rather restricted setting, it was refreshing to see them in an environment so suited to the music they play, whilst having the freedom to actually dance around. They ripped through a set featuring the bulk of latest album Currents, including a delightful extended version of ”Let It Happen” to start the evening off, mixed in with songs from Lonerism, Innerspeaker and a lovely inclusion of the Mark Ronson produced ”Daffodils”. Sounding amazing, with mind-bending visuals and a couple of psyche jam-outs that no Tame Impala gig would be complete without, this was a perfect performance. By the time the last song of the encore rolled around everyone was singing along to ”New Person, Same Old Mistakes” and I was definitely still humming it as I dozed off on the streetcar home.
The problem with music festivals that don’t have camping is if you go too hard on the first day then you wake up a hungover, muddy mess in your own bed the next morning. It can be difficult to convince yourself that more beer is the right option when you’re nursing a bad head and your significant other is shaking their head at you from across the breakfast table. If you wake up in a tent on the festival grounds, no matter the weather or how awful you feel, more beer is the only option and it does (disclaimer- in most circumstances) make you feel better.
Sunday was cooler (Thank God), very windy and just a whole lot more chill than the day before. Bestival wasn’t as party-party as it had been on Saturday but I guess if you spent your Sunday camped out around the magnificent Bollywood stage or in the Big Top Tent you’d probably disagree with me. The chill mood certainly suited the mainstage as headlining later on that evening were The Cure, with fellow British rockers The Wombats and Daughter to come before them. Daughter were so good live, I haven’t seen them before but I was not disappointed and I hope they come back to Toronto some time in the future! Before The Cure came on I killed a bit of time by meandering between seeing the excellent Lee Foss at the Bollywood stage, I got there as he dropped Hot Natured’s track ”Reverse Skydiving”, one of my favourites. Between that, a freezing cold and disappointing cheeseburger & fries (for $12! If La Novela can serve good, hot food with just the two of them then these guys need to step it up) from Wannaburgerto and watching a family of 4 rave to Thomas Jack in the Big Top, I was more than ready for my dose of new wave melancholy in the form of The Cure.
What an experience to see these guys play live, most of my friends back home won’t get the chance and when you’re watching them play it hits home that you won’t ever get a chance to see the likes of The Smiths, The Clash or Joy Division play. I don’t think the average Bestival punter was very suited to The Cure though. You put on a festival aimed at young people, packed with EDM and house DJS and a bunch of cool, young bands and then you stick The Cure on as main headliners. If we were in England then it would have been packed as far as the eye can see but we’re in Canada and the younger crowd coming to the festival didn’t grow up with The Cure and probably, didn’t give a fuck about some old English dudes. I gave a lot of massive fucks though and thankfully so did quite a few other people. It wasn’t a perfect gig, the odd technical hiccup here and there left us without sound on three occasions but aside from elements outside their control The Cure, and in particular frontman Robert Smith, sounded so so good. As the night grew darker and the stage projections became a lot more dramatic the gig had a more intimate feel to it. This was The Cure in their natural element with all the showmanship and drama surrounding them on stage and they glided through three encores, ending ultimately with ”Boy’s Don’t Cry”.
I can safely say that I (almost- maybe 1 tear) didn’t cry as the fireworks were going off and The Cure were exiting the stage for the final time, I did sing myself hoarse though so that’s something.
Thanks so much Bestival, such a bloody good weekend! I’m so excited for what you’ve got in store for us next year.