The thing that sets Bestival apart from other boutique British festivals — the thing that keeps me returning every year — is its apparently unerring commitment to fun. What other festival of this size books Chic one year and the Village People the next to play a mid Sunday afternoon slot? What other festival takes demands from its forum for Howard Jones to play so seriously, that not only do they book him; they also give the forum members a DJ slot for two years in a row?
Excitement for this year’s festival really stems from the number of new, smaller stages that have been devised by Rob and Josie da Bank; that’s to say a number of new means to have more fun. With ticket sales resting at last year’s cap, it feels as though an attempt’s being made at further pushing Bestival’s image as an epic playing field with quite a lot of good music too. And that too is important, because at Bestival sometimes it feels like the heart is made up by more than just music. While we don’t particularly desire any kind of nostalgic ‘festival experience’; we get genuinely excited about the opportunity to party in small, bizarre venues. The Wishing Tree, last year complete with the smallest venue on site, with miniature measures of spirits and its very own druidic cult, returns with what can claim to be the world’s smallest pub.
From the line-up, it’s pretty clear to me that we’ll be spending most of the weekend listening to things we’ve already heard, but in weird venues that wouldn’t normally exist. We’ll be spending hours in a roller disco in the middle of a field, in the company of Hyperdub Soundsystem, The Heatwave, David Rodigan, Horse Meat Disco and Azari & III; we’ll be at Rizlab with Friendly Fires and a whole host of other incredible DJs and artists; on Monday morning we’re going to watch HEALTH play in a tent called the ‘Psychedelic Worm’. Because isn’t that live music’s essence? Seeing bands that you already love, playing their instruments in a slightly different way to that carbon copy sitting on your desk. This is exactly that same opportunity, the chance to see music you love in an environment that will possibly alter your relationship with it.
Otherwise, it’s whiskey at the Swamp Shack listening to delta blues, or if that gets too much for me, Andy’s going to go and be taught how to meditate by the David Lynch foundation, in the middle of an ‘ambient’ forest. He’s still keeping his fingers crossed, against all hopes, that Lynch is going to do a late-night secret set on Arcadia; a boy can dream. This festival places dressing up at the foreground and in doing so reminds us all that people go to festivals to escape society, or the city, or something.