Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bestival 2004 Day 2 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight

11 September 2004

The music starts again at about 10am after a brief lull with an almost non-stop party vibe in place meaning dreamtime is at a premium. A couple of hours later the main stage comes to life too as Roddy Frame launches straight into the best known work from his Aztec Camera days, trotting through the perfect pop of Oblivious followed by Somewhere In My Heart and Down The Dip. Perhaps he wants to get them out of the way first so he can enlighten people to fresh material but the strength, success and enduring popularity of his old eighties classics mean he has already given the audience what they are really after within the first 15 minutes.

Intermittent sunshine helps take the edge off the blustery weather as does the warm chocolate soul and funky guitar of the Quantic Soul Orchestra before it is time for one of Sunday Best’s own artists to take over the main stage in the form of Grand National. Gentle Santana-style guitar combines with up tempo dance beats and Lawrence ‘La’ Rudd’s deep rich vocals add to the happy, summertime vibe that runs throughout the set. Although some tunes are verging on mere run-of-the-mill chill out at times, the stand-out tracks, laced with organ driven chords, emotive guitar and Freak Power-like funk backing, more than make up for it.

Back over in the Big Top beat-breaking hip hop maestro Diplo whisks us through a varied uptempo DJ set taking in Sweet Dreams by The Eurythmics, Kelis, Daft Punk, New Order‘s Bizarre Love Triangle, some ragga and, of course, some forward thinking hip hop. This seemingly disparate hotch-potch of styles flows surprisingly well as all of the influences on the American’s recently released Florida album come together and make complete sense. He thankfully avoids playing The White Stripes‘ Seven Nation Army which, although an excellent rock anthem, seems to be on almost every Bestival DJ’s set list and its appeal is already wearing thin.

No rock anthems for the Stereo MCs‘ Rob Birch who opts to play some classic soul and funk cuts instead, he is joined on tonight’s Big Top bill by another early nineties icon Adamski, now on the comeback trail and preferring to be called Adam Sky. Expecting to see the keyboard wizard in action we discover someone who could pass for a slimmer version of eighties wrestler, Giant Haystacks, manning the decks in his place (just who it was is still unknown) so we head straight off to the main stage to see Fatboy Slim.

Unlike Zoe Ball earlier who relied on Eva McBride for some moral support, her husband manages to DJ solo and keeps the tempo up as he runs through anthem after anthem while doing his traditional rabble- rousing overhead clapping to make the crowd go barmy. Norm’ is joined later on stage by some revelers who help spread the party vibe by throwing some giant yellow ‘acid smiley’ balloons into the crowd, most of which are whipped up by the gusting wind, bounce off a few heads and outstretched arms and straight over us to be chased down by excited kids.

The build-up continues with some fat dirty bass and rave-tastic hoover tunes before a kick drum heavy version of Franz Ferdinand‘s Take Me Out is unleashed. Just as this sing-along inducing selection ends, a mini downpour makes people scurry for cover, a scene you certainly would not see at Glastonbury, and shortly after the rain eases Fatboy’s set comes to a triumphant end.

Hitting the ground running shortly after are Basement Jaxx who reel off hits Red Alert, Rendezvous, Good Luck and Romeo until we hear The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army yet again!!! But this time the famous bassline is backed up by a huge beat before flowing into an old school Italo-house piano breakdown. This is a proper live performance, not the deadweight boredom offered by many dull and dour dance acts, with Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe largely taking a backseat as barmy bongos, live guitar and an array of vocalists combine to make this the highlight of the festival, the complete antithesis to some tedious laptop acts.

The music continues to surge and pulse with one track sampling John Lennon‘s Give Peace A Chance then the excellent Where’s Your Head At? screeched by Felix himself before the encore which ends on tough party stomper Jump and Shout. The whole Jaxx collective take to the stage as the crowd are bathed in white light and streamers and ticker tape rain down on our heads bringing a richly diverse day of music to a magnificent close.

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