Music: Bestival 2011 – the music


Patrick Wolf 

He was as enigmatic as I had expected him to be. I’m always entranced by solo performers who can capture a crowd and fill a room in such a lively way. It takes a certain someone to master an audience with such encouragement and excitement, but Patrick Wolf really did that. The whole crowd in the Big Top stage moved to every beat, and were suitably wowed by his musicianship – it’s not every performer who plays a harp on stage!

Patrick Wolf on stage at the Big Top

Graham Coxon

This was really disappointing. He was the epitome of a middle aged man trying to stay young; his scissor jumps in the air with his guitar causing embarrassment. Everything sounded too fast, and we weren’t the only ones who left midway through the performance because of it.

Magnetic Man

I don’t really listen to the radio, but I’ve heard the odd song by Magnetic Man and found it quite catchy, despite not really liking the whole grime genre thing that people of my age are supposed to like. However, despite the admittedly innovative beats, I had to stop watching through sheer frustration with Magnetic Man himself. Why he kept repeating his name over and over I have no idea, but it was highly irritating. There’s only so much of that you can take before you want to move away. Swiftly.

Crystal Fighters

So catchy! A mixture of what seemed to be calypso, electro and pop, the Big Top stage was packed out for this, so we sat just outside on the grass and listened from there. I’d definitely go and see them again at a gig of their own as the crowd seemed to feed off the band’s enthusiasm and, frankly, manic presence on stage. 


Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

Easily my favourite performance of the weekend. They created a fever in the audience that continued to rise with every song; everybody unable to resist moving when the beat kicked in. For me, I love this pairing because of Scroobius Pip’s lyrics. They are passionate, political, relevant and inspiring. Sadly in the tent, the words weren’t always heard, and the irony of everybody dancing to a song about suicide wasn’t lost on the performers’ themselves. The passion and fury in every song was enough to catch everyone’s imagination (although Ms J, my festival buddy, was not so impressed!) and many people agreed that it was the show of the weekend.

Scroobius Pip on stage at the Big Top

Paloma Faith

She has the ability to hit the mainstream and be gloriously bizarre at the same time. Her pop star status is the highest it’s ever been, and she is considered a fashion icon by all the glossies, but her performance reminded me that she isn’t a celebrity, she is a musican. And a bloody good one. Her voice has a strength that resonated through the entire audience watching the main stage, and her infectious personality shone through her frankly bizarre make-up (full silver face paint anybody?) to keep the audience engaged and singing along. Her new material didn’t disappoint either; it looks like she won’t be suffering from ‘difficult 2nd album’ syndrome that’s plagued so many others!

Paloma Faith on the Main Stage

Crystal Castles

I was dubious about seeing them live because their music is so inherently electronic that I thought it may get lost amongst the enormity of the open air stage. Luckily that wasn’t the case, the addition of live instruments particularly a drum kit, helped to transfer their uniquely artificial sound for a festival audience. Alice Glass (lead singer) has always freaked me out slightly – I’m not sure what it is about her, but she makes me feel kind of uneasy. And Bestival reinforced that with me. She threw around the stage in a way that didn’t seem excited, just unstable! 

PJ Harvey

The twice Mercury Prize winner didn’t disappoint in the crazy headwear stakes, but, and I hate to use this word, she was pretty boring. She didn’t capture any imagination and she left out any of her more upbeat and anthemic tracks which left the audience tussling with whether they should stay or not. It’s not that I or the rest of the crowd don’t appreciate the beauty and talent of PJ Harvey’s music, it’s just that the pace of her performance that day didn’t inspire me as I hoped it would.

The Cure

2 encores, 2.5hour set. You have to hand it to them, The Cure were more than worthy of their headline slot. Starting off a little slow, they soon got into the swing of things – the main stage crowd filled to capacity with a variety of people: young, old, drunk, sober, and all of them ridiculously excited when they played ‘Lovecats’. I’d forgotten how many songs I actually knew by The Cure! Their time on stage didn’t drag as they pretty much continually played, with very little space in between songs. And they weren’t like other bands I’ve seen from the same era who are visibly past their sell by date and cringeworthy to watch, rather they were still fresh and exciting to listen to. My particular highlight was ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and Robert Smith playing a customised Bestival guitar!

The Cure on the Main Stage

Click here see what else I got up to at Bestival (including leaky tents and lost ferry tickets…)!


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