Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bestival 2004 Day 3 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight

12 September 2004

The third and final day of Bestival starts gently with Ibiza stalwarts A Man Called Adam plying the crowd with their elegant downtempo beats and sweet sounding vocals including the romantically sentimental Estelle. Our relaxation is almost mercilessly crushed when we venture into the Big Top to see Frank Tope starting his set with, guess what, The White Stripes‘ Seven Nation Army! Aagh!!! Thankfully, it is the Nostalgia 77‘s smooth soul cover rather than the original, which now seems over-used and hackneyed.

Our relieved ears then prick up as the unmistakable sound of two cockney geezers is carried on the wind and we realise it can only be Chas & Dave making an early start so off we go to the main stage. You can almost smell the jellied eels and pie and mash wafting off the stage as the London boys run through pub classics London Girl, Margate, and Gercha with typical cheeky chirpiness. It is good to see that time hasn’t weathered them at all since their heyday – they seem permanently stuck in their fifties – as they provide us with a good old cockney knees-up and the crowd do that elbow-flailing dance usually reserved only for Baggy Trousers.

While it is all just a bit of a laugh, (Chas pointing to the two white ‘Spurs style cockerels at the front of the stage and saying “Here are two birds for us later on!”), their musicianship, and vocal dexterity when it comes to singing the breakneck Rabbit, cannot be overlooked. With Snooker Loopy aired they end their set with The Sideboard Song and its typically up-yours lyrics of “I don’t care if he comes ’round ‘ere, got my beer on the sideboard ‘ere”.

Back over at the Big Top, Frank Tope is playing his last few tunes, the tough techno of Underworld followed by a funky drums track that he eases perfectly into Joe Jackson‘s Steppin’ Out, much to the delight of the crowd and admiration of Rodney P & Skitz who are waiting to step up to the decks. Their own set starts with a nod to the Isle of Wight festivals of the sixties as they play Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones but we leave the misty-eyed nostalgia behind in favour of exploring the Bestival site further.

We catch a brief moment of Ori Jah Nal who play some nice dub and reggae on the main stage but not anything very, well, original and take a trek to the top of the hill to the cushion strewn confines of The Temple. There is only enough room for about 50 people at a time and the intimate space means everyone turns to examine any newcomers but it is here, while the drizzle falls outside, that we are given an extremely warm welcome by the personification of hedonism, Bill Brewster. Once voted ‘Cainer of the Year’ by Muzik magazine, he swigs his champagne and plays a disco laden up-tempo party set playing a dance mix of Blondie‘s Rapture along the way.

Then it’s time for Fred Deakin and his funked-up, tough electro set to get the tiny tent’s crowd moving and making shapes until we realise that it is not actually the Lemon Jelly man playing at all, but one of the barmen! He proves to be just as dexterous a DJ as he is a beverage pourer but we do not have enough time for talented imposters so it is time to head back to the real stars on the main stage.

Isle of Skye native Mylo does some island hopping to bring his own take on twisted dance to the crowd still intent on trying to Destroy Rock & Roll it seems, before the more sedate Zero 7 take to the stage. I Have Seen and Waiting Line from their ultra-successful first album, Simple Things, draw people to the stage and they then launch into half an hour of material from follow-up When It Falls. While it may have been largely panned by the critics, it is still extremely well-produced, sugar-coated chill out but their laidback, soulful sound is probably better suited to a warm summer evening than a cold and gloomy field in mid-September. Destiny gently breezes its way out of the speakers before the encore, with Distractions and Sia‘s trademark nasal “Aah love yuuuuuuuur, aah dow”, bringing the wind-whipped main stage action to an early end.

Attentions then turn to Rob Da Bank‘s grand finale in the refuge of the Cocomo Bollywood Cocktail Bar as he plays anything from the Aphex Twin to Dolly Parton‘s Nine To Five, encapsulating the anything-goes party eclecticism we have grown accustomed to over the past 3 days. His set finishes at around 2am to rapturous applause and whooping, although elsewhere the music goes on until much, much later.

When things do finally come to an end, storm-force gales and torrential rain tear many tents out of the ground and drench the inhabitants which is a big indication that the timing of this festival could have been much better. The line up may appeal to the same audience as August’s well-established Big Chill festival but perhaps throwing it the month before rather than after, when terrible weather threatens to ruin an otherwise well-organised, fun-packed party, would make more sense. Mistakes are made to be learnt from and, as long as the Sunday Best crew do, this could truly make Bestival one of the best festivals of the year.

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