Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bestival 2006, Day 3 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight

10 September 2006

Sob! After today we will have to go home, and we never want to leave. Even though, as all festival goers know, Sunday is usually Prog day at festivals, when too much exposure to local cider and hippies means you’re usually happy to sit in front of 18-hour guitar solos for most of the day because it’s easier than moving. And this festival hasn’t been exactly devoid of prog already…

We try to head this off by starting the day by seeing Feeling Gloomy in the Bollywood Bar as he/she/it has the best name of the festival but we fail miserably by oversleeping. Sorry Gloomy! Our punishment is to sit through 15 minutes of Tunng, who start off promisingly with Mexican-tinged outdoors summery … yes, prog, but veering towards the good, folkier/stoner end… but then descend into dreaded guitar noodling while they complain that they wanted to be more metal but couldn’t get a stomp pedal. This means they are almost post-rock, but not enough, so we run away.

Up the hill in the village, we hear rumours that Jake Shears has married himself in a mirror at the inflatable church. We have no proof, but it seems more likely than him marrying a laydee.

The nice people at Quinn’s fruity alcoholic drink stall whore themselves at us with freebies en route back to the Jack Daniels stage, where Vetiver are transcendantly lovely (facial hair aside) in front of a crowd clad in sunflowers bought in aid of the Earl Mountbatten Hospice in Newport. Vetiver are on a ‘Crimes Against Pop’ bill, and although there’s a no-show from buddy Devendra Banhart (of whom more later) they’re great, with their drummer toeing a careful line between powerful and lazy in the way that only someone with a 12-inch beard can. Their folky, gentle set includes a cover of the ’70s classic Long, Long Time to Get Old amongst their own songs.

Back to the Main Stage for surprise hit of the day (if not the festival), The Stranglers, who play a greatest hits set including Golden Brown and a fantastically punked up cover of The Kinks‘ All Day And All Of The Night to the biggest crowd so far, who love every minute of it. The bass reverb in particular is unparallelled, particularly in the lovely, sumptious Peacock Press Lounge, where musicOMH is complementing Rob Da Bank on a truly fabulous festival. Check back soon for full interview!

Next up are Hot Chip, thanking a bigger crowd than they played to two years ago for coming today. Their strong beats and marraccas work well out of doors and their electronic eccentricity has the crowd dancing away – as do The Rumble Strips over in the JD tent. Art rock with saxophones (there’s definitely more brass around at this festival than has been seen since the ’80s) is where it’s at, although the Strips can deliver a riff and a half with the best of them as well.

En route to Devendra Banhart on the main stage, musicOMH runs into Hannah Bayfield, who is cradling one of Jim Noir’s gnomes from yesterday, completing our ‘festival goers with stage props’ collection of photos that, Snappy Snaps willing, will soon be developed for your pleasure.

On the Main Stage, Devendra Banhart has taken the mike. We try to avoid making weak jokes about this festival and cheese, but can only half help ourselves. Besides, while we’re making our minds up, Devendra cedes the mike to any singer-songwriters in the audience, and up comes Rob Miles from Brighton, confidently delivering for a good five minutes before handing back to Devendra and the boys (mostly from Vetiver) for the rest of the set. He’s drawn the biggest celeb fans of the evening, with Lily Allen, The Mighty Boosh, The Young Knives and many others on the sidelines. Rob Da Bank is also there, getting a chance to enjoy his efforts.

Back at the Jack Daniels tent, Bat For Lashes are having the techincal problems the Main Stage suffered yesterday, with their set starting 20 minutes late. Natasha Khan and her accolytes recover well, changing the set list to accommodate as they go along. Dressed as Red Indians in glitter, their ethereal vocals and shamanic beats are another ideal sound of this festival, and the huge soap bubbles blown across the heads of the crowd add to an already lovely scene. The delicate bubbles vibrate and change shape to the music in a timeless festival moment. They are pixies in the dark, delicate and otherworldly. If only there was more – happily we’ll be taking in their full London gig on Tuesday, so there will be.

Past a banging Bollywood Bar we wait for the Scissor Sisters, who are everything you’d expect. Bold, brash and brassy, they start with a bang and continue through past and present (number one) hits. In a weekend that’s been all about dressing up, Jake Shears and Ana Matronic still manage to out do the audience, dressed as a Cruella de Vil/Poirot melange and a scary Harlequin respectively. They shoot wigs into the audience from a cannon and finish on a fantastic rendition of Filthy/Gorgeous as Ana asks the audience when they started to menstruate (she was 10). Surrounded by 10 foot clowns on stilts, they acknowledge that England made them and offer thanks. And England loves them, now and for a long, long time to come. They are the perfect Main Stage closers.

But this is Bestival, and Bestival understands that the Main Stage is not the beginning and the end. So as the Scissor Sisters prance and prune, up on the hill, at the Village, there is the bandstand. Here, under a huge harvest moon, with the lights of the festival beneath us, Hush The Many are playing their delicate cosmic folk to barely 200 people. They have played at Green Man and Spitz already this year, and will play in London again on 28th September at the Cobden Club. Their music is spiritual and cosmic, not necessarily for the masses but no weaker for it.

Bestival understands this. It understands that a festival is about the spaces, about the lights on the hillside and the moon, where morris dancers and trance DJs sit side by side as past, present and future of our musical heritage, drawing the lines and the links between them. Soon, we will go to bed, but not until we’ve seen Carl Cox, Rob Da Bank and Psapp and then sung-along-a-Grease with The Laundrettas until 4am.

This is a festival. This is Albion. Thank you Bestival. Can we come again next year?

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