Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bestival 2008: Day 1 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight

5 September 2008

Come on Bestival, you are having a laugh. Encouraging everyone to have a massive fancy dress party every year, dressing up as astronauts and pirates is all well and good.

But having an underwater theme and then opening the heavens to piss down on us in a way that Glastonbury could only dream of is taking it too far. Really.
Usually, Bestival is one of the more reliable festivals, weather-wise, but this year the rubbish summer has got the better of it and we arrive on site to as much of as mudfest as everything else has been so far in 2008. Boo.

The main stage kicks off around three hours late as desperate attempts are made to waterproof the arena – this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the weekend.

Suddenly, the our now well -practiced coping strategy, honed to perfection from other festivals, kicks in: no matter who’s playing in an indoor tent, they are a much better prospect than anyone who isn’t, so we grit our teeth and venture out of the sumptuous press lounge in search of indoor beats.

Damn those Foals, though. To get to anywhere under cover, we have to get past their set on the main stage and, of course, we’re soon too distracted to move on, preferring to stand in the rain while they plie their jangly guitars in our direction. As soon as they’ve over though, we run before the same thing happens again and head for the 24 Hour Field, where not only are we promised indoor fun, but also an interview with The Shortwave Set.

Or so the plan went. Not only is power down to the BBC Introducing Stage, where the world’s least likely supergroup are supposed to be appearing, but this change of affairs means they’re not in the mood to talk about it, either. We decamp to the comedy tent, which is fairing no better: as we arrive, a thoroughly peed off compere is announcing to the audience that if any of them fancy standing on stage telling jokes while holding a sodden microphone channelling electricity through increasing amounts of water they’re welcome to, but he and everyone else on the bill isn’t.

The audience are told they’re free to stay inside the tent though, which even without entertainment, is by now about as an attractive proposition as they’re likely to get. Most of them do. We make a bit more effort (though not much) and head next door to where some madly dressed electro-pop tarts are making cheery noise to a crowd so appreciative they’re even allowed an encore.

Oh, alright then, the crowd are encouraged to shout for an encore as the next band on’s tour bus is currently stuck in the mud about half a mile away and they won’t be showing anytime soon, so the previous one might as well play on. We have no idea who they are, but by this stage, as long as they’re indoor and have power, we don’t care.

We hang around the 24 Hour Field for a while, trying not to outstay our welcome in undercover cafes and tea stalls until Alphabeat brighten the day. Indoor, on time and on top form, they’re so good (or perhaps the roof is) that the end of their set suddenly seems a better prospect than the first half-hour of My Bloody Valentine. Who would have thunk it, eh?

Still, we can’t resist Kev’s charms for long, and though the journey to a very inviting tent and sleeping bag would be quicker than a hike back to the main stage, off to MBV it is. And, of course, it’s well worth the trip. We may be cold, wet, miserable and a bit fed up, but an hour of guitar feed, screeching and a damn good light show does make up for it. They are superb, and despite the outside setting, as loud as can be – there are no compromises for the local residents or the ears of the audience.

The rain even lets up for the grandparents of shoegaze. It’s almost dry. The set finishes on ten minutes of feedback screech, held for as long as possible just because they can, and as we head back to the tent through the rivers of mud, we do so with a warm feeling that it has been (just about) worth it. Besides, the weather can’t possibly be as bad tomorrow, can it?

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