Live Music + Gig Reviews

Bestival 2008: Day 2 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight

6 September 2008

It’s Day 2 at Bestival and the weather hasn’t improved.

We force ourselves to venture out of our warm, dry tent, only to discover that finding our way back to the main arena has become something of an obstacle course – routes we took yesterday are currently cut off, or diverted around while they are de-mudded or so that punters can be protected from disappearing into them forever.
By now, probably the only thing that wouldn’t surprise is us rounding a corner to find that Marlon Brando is alive and well and has made friends with some hostile-looking natives.

At least the power problems seem to have been sorted, and most of the day is due to be back on schedule. In the press tent, Channel 4’s Nick Grimshaw is getting into the Bestival spirit by dressing up as a giant fish he christens Cod Stewart. People capable of keeping a sense of humour in these conditions deserve to be acknowledged. With interviews scheduled and band times noted, we breathe a sigh of relief that deep as the mud is, at least it’s not actually raining again (yet) and relax to the happy tunes of Kitty, Daisy And Lewis. Somehow, watching them in mud-encrusted clothes, feeling as if we’ve lived in a barn for the last week, seems not inappropriate.

Next, we decide to venture up to The Village, which may be taking our lives in our hands considering the steepness of the track that leads there, but what the hell? There’s a bandstand, the inflatable chapel of love, and more to the point, the WI with tea and cakes. It has to be done.

One local produce market baked potato and beans later, we’re sheltering from the rain in the not-quite-miniature-but-not-quite-full-size village which freaks us out, though not enough to stop us from wondering if anyone would object to us setting up sleeping bags in its wooden buildings tonight? Once the weather has decided to tease us that it might be getting better again, we head down to the (now repaired) BBC introducing tent, where we have been promised Will Young. Elsewhere, Hadouken! have not kept their promise to tell us the meaning of life, the universe and nu rave. Grrr.

When we arrive, The Duke Spirit are still on stage, Leila Moss managing to look as perfect as ever and magically avoiding the mud. If they weren’t such a damn good band you really would have to hate her.

Then we’re ready for good old Will Young. His music might not be to everyone’s taste, but at least he knows how to put on a show, taking to the stage dressed as an admiral in three-cornered hat and white breeches, sending the middle-aged ladies in the crowd apoplectic with joy even before he starts to remove one item per song. We wander off halfway through in search of unexpected treats, and find them in the shape of Tofu Love Frogs, a folk-punk tent-full of energy who prove to be well worth leaving the lisping one for.

Happy that the weekend can still please us, it’s off back to the main arena for the surprise guest of the day, who it turns out is the resplendent Grace Jones. She looks magnificent and mud-free as she belts through a greatest hits set with as many costume changes as memorable tunes, proving that she still has more than it takes to beat any new century newcomer. The back-to-the-’80s fun continues with The Human League, equally excellent, shiny and crowd-pleasing even though they dare to throw in a few new songs alongside the golden oldies.

We’d have been happy with this all night, but newer music deserves its time in the spotlight as well, and the beatbox vs scratch and video extravaganza prepared for us by DJ Yoda and Shlomo is perfect. We don’t even care (too much) that it’s pouring with rain and we’re soaked again. We’re kind of seeing it as inevitable now.

On the plus side, elsewhere, interviews have been procured with Late Of The Pier and Florence And The Machine, who turns out to be thoroughly lovely. Hoorah! See, Hadouken!, someone loves us.

Hot Chip follow, with a lightshow that fights through the drizzle, stepping up from last year’s mid-afternoon set to make the festival their own. Such a pity that tonight’s main act couldn’t put in the same effort. Amy Winehouse is, to put it mildly, car-crash festival watching.

La Winehouse turns up nearly an hour late. With a main stage curfew to fulfil, this means that her set is curtailed to little more than half an hour, approximately 15 minutes of which is taken up trying to introduce a band whose names she doesn’t know and quite often forgets again once they tell her. Apparently, she didn’t know they were going to be there, which is presumably an additional clue, for anyone who somehow failed to notice, that virtually no rehearsal or preparation seems to have gone into this performance.

Not that any clue was needed, mind you. Had you been in the audience, you’d probably have noticed yourself, from the way she seemed incapable of keeping in tune or time with the band. The performance is atrocious and not helped by constant insults to the audience that make it clear she doesn’t want to be here. So why is she? Joking aside, this is a serious question we should be asking: she seems incapable of performing live, doesn’t seem to want to, and at best the audience are getting a freak show out of it, ambulance chasing a woman who needs to be removed from the spotlight for her own good.

By the end of this debacle, the audience has thinned to less than half of the size it was at the start, the majority of them enjoying it no more than she seems to be. They have wandered off in search of the 24 Hour Field delights of Aphex Twin and 808 State that are yet to come, or perhaps just to take their lives in their hands on their way back to the camping areas, the routes to which now resemble something between an East European battlefield and the no-man’s land of WWI.

Oh well, at least there’s only one day left to go…

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