Bestival may well deserve its endearingly corny name. Since its inception in 2005 it has been voted Best Medium-Sized Festival at the UK Festival Awards no fewer than four times, although it isn’t quite as medium-sized as it once was: visiting numbers have swelled from 17,000 in 2005 to last year’s attendance of 43,000.
In terms of the acts’ commercial profile, the 2010 line-up is heavily front-loaded. Go beyond the top 10 or so acts and you quickly start hitting names like Beardyman, The Vegetable Orchestra and – gulp – Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip.
But what a front load it is. Although their best work is a good 13 years behind them, The Prodigy still know how to work a big crowd – especially when that crowd comprises predominately thirtysomethings under the influence of 1990s rave nostalgia and, er, possibly some other things. Given the bleakness of his 2003 debut, the Mercury Prize-winning album Boy In Da Corner, it’s simultaneously confusing and pleasing to see Dizzee Rascal transform into a festival crowdpleaser, but that’s exactly what he is these days and his headlining slot is well merited. The most recent album by The Flaming Lips – last October’s Embryonic – harked back to the dark psychedelia of the band’s pre-balloon-throwing days. But The Flaming Lips are wise old coves: as a result, they’re unlikely to trouble the crowds with Embryonic’s more difficult moments and loads of fun is bound to ensue.
On the line-up’s second tier, Hot Chip, The xx, and LCD Soundsystem provide a solid, hipster-appeasing backbone. It’s testament to the enduring influence of the mighty Roxy Music that their name doesn’t look out of place among such modish company, and nor should it: as well as being armed with a huge arsenal of great songs, Bryan Ferry and co’s suave pop continues to exert an influence over the 2010 music scene even as Ferry prepares to unleash a new solo album in the autumn.
While the fame levels of 2010’s acts may drop off markedly after the glittering names mentioned above, the quality certainly doesn’t. There are plenty of enticing propositions studded around the bill’s lower regions, including Wild Beasts (gradually building a growing fan base off the back of last year’s excellent Two Dancers), Four Tet, Flying Lotus, Joy Orbison and Hurts (playing lower down the bill than their current profile merits). A late addition to the bill is the lauded new talent of Janelle Mone; her set’s not to be missed.
There are some intriguing veteran acts, too. Recent form suggests a Gil Scott-Heron show could go either way, but he’s worth a punt. There’s also the curiously-titled Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers – curious, given that Nile Rodgers is one of Chic’s founding members; perhaps it’s a rueful reference to the fact that he’s the only one left alive. Still, with classics like Le Freak, Good Times and Everybody Dance set to decimate the dance floor, the appellation will matter very little. Elsewhere, it’ll be interesting to see if the ’80s pop of Howard Jones strikes a chord in this post-La Roux world, or whether it just sounds a bit rubbish. There’s even a set from Marc Almond, whose constant evolution as a performer has ensured he’s transcended the “’80s act” ghetto.
And there’s plenty more to Bestival than live music. There are big name DJs (including the missing-in-action Mylo), comedians and – if all the above gets a bit too much – massages, manicures and facials in The Pamper Lounge.
In light of all that, it’s not surprising that Bestival is considered one of the best, er, “ivals” around.