Location, so they say, is everything, and the gorgeous grounds of Dorset’s Lulworth Castle provided an ideal backdrop for Camp Bestival. This offshoot of Rob Da Bank’s Isle of Wight Bestival is aimed directly at families and for some it’s their first taste of festival life.
There are children everywhere. Yet there are some upsides to what at first feels like some kind of bratogeddon; the chief being that everyone seems so well behaved and not wanting to indulge in any of the usual negative gig behaviour in front of their offspring. There’s no aggro, Ps and Qs are minded, you can get to the front without fisticuffs and the toilets are palatial in comparison to most festivals. Unless you’re a parent trying to control an unruly youngster, the atmosphere of Camp Bestival is remarkably chilled.
Because of the relatively remote location there was an unavoidably slow crawl through clogged countryside roads before hitting the site. However on-site organisation was superb and the atmosphere immediately made up for any traffic or tent pitching stress.
Sunday Best regulars Dan Le Sac & Scroobius Pip played a good set on the Castle Stage. Though some critics regard them as musically dubious, there’s no denying Scroob’s way with words – he would go on to curate two evenings of poetry at the event and even tried to turn the assembled yoofs on to Billy Bragg‘s later appearance.
Looking around it was immediately obvious how middle class the festival goers were, and at many points during the weekend you could amuse yourself by listening to the pretentious names of children being called across the fields. It was also a good day for earplug salesmen – a whole army of children ran around like hyperactive Lilliputian construction workers. If they needed calming down then 4AD’s Stornoway were a must-see. By opening their set with We Are The Battery Humans they deftly reminded everyone why they had come away from their desks for a weekend with the family. If the introductory banter seemed a tad nervous the set certainly wasn’t as the Oxfordian folksters paraded the well-crafted songs that make up their new LP Beachcomber’s Windowsill.
Tinie Tempah arrived on stage for a short set to please throngs of teenagers. His short stay belied a lack of material, but he did get everybody bouncing up and down and even ruffled a few parental feathers by announcing himself as “Tinnie Motherfucking Tempah”- resulting in hundreds of parents having to explain to their kids the logic behind Mr and Mrs Tempah’s eccentric choice for their son’s middle name.
Next up were Mark E Smith’s The Fall and suddenly all the fickle teenagers had disappeared to leave a modest crowd expecting a potential festival highpoint. With their strongest line-up in years, Smith led a tight set with his wayward curmudgeonly ranting. Those completely unfamiliar with them looked confused, but their appearance was exactly what was needed to kickstart the rockier elements of the weekend. The sight of a tot moshing away to Your Future, Our Clutter was enough to give us all hope for the future, cluttered with children or otherwise.
Marc Almond‘s showmanship and bravado meant he was one of the weekend’s standout performers. He might have alienated a few at first with new, less-familiar material, but it was carried off with such charisma that all was forgiven when the hits kicked in, particularly for a mass sing-along of Say Hello, Wave Goodbye and Tainted Love.
The evening’s highlight was undoubtedly George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Like The Fall there’s been myriad personnel changes to the P-Funk legends, but such accomplished musicianship was impossible to ignore. Clinton himself didn’t take centre stage, instead playing bandleader, letting everyone take their turn to dazzle in the drizzle. Rain dispersed some of the crowd, but the hardcore of P-funksters continued shaking their assess well into the night.