Live Music + Gig Reviews

Camp Bestival 2009: Day 1 @ Lulworth Castle, Dorset

24 July 2009

Camp Bestival 2009: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Arriving at Camp Bestivalin thegrounds ofDorset’s Lulworth Castle for the first time is quite a strange experience.Thefirst impression of this festivalis thatyou have just entereda field hostingthe world’slargest nursery playgroup for the under-fives.

Although many festivals have tried to caterfor both parents and childrenin recent years, Camp Bestival has elevated the status of the festivaltoddler to a new level of importance.The Kids’ Garden field presented opportunities for kids to get involved in a number of arts, crafts and games. Dance and book events for childrenwere also being organised byEnglish National Ballet and Penguin Books in the samefield. For the particularlyyouthful festival music fan,there was even a ‘Baby Chill-Out’ tent.
Wandering beyond the Kids’ Garden Field, the excellent Victorian-style theatre of the Insect Circus proved that there was entertainment at the festival which could appeal to children and adults alike. The opportunity to take part in the Animal Magic themed fancy dress event on Sunday seemed to have both adults and children prepared to take part.

Leafing through the Camp Bestival programme, it seemed that the musicline-up at this medium sized ’boutique’ festival was as varied as any bill organised in the past by Rob da Bank and the Sunday Best team.

Hayseed Dixie have been performing their acoustic bluegrassversions of AC/DC and other familiar rock songs for a number of years. Their highly original attempt at covering Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls wasa big improvement on the awfulbombastic rock original andwent down particularly well withthe crowd at the Castle stage. Some of the children in the audience may have had problems grasping the humour behind theirShe Was Skinny When I Met Her song though.The encore of Dueling Banjos proved what fine musiciansHayseed Dixieare when they’re not justperforming for laughs.

The audience at theearly FridayeveningCastle stage was rather too crowded for the recently Mercury-nominated Florence and the Machine, so heading over to the Bandstand stage seemed like a good plan. But despite the attentive audience, The Smoke Fairies didn’t seem to be particularlyenjoying their performance on the small stage, but the guitars and violin which accompanied theclose harmonies of the two female singers combined tocreate a captivating andhaunting sound.

Midway through Mercury Rev‘s Friday night Castle stage set, charismaticlead singer Jonathan Donahue proclaimed that Camp Bestival was “one of the most beautiful festivals we’ve ever played”. Asweglanced backat an illuminated Lulworth Castle in the distance on a mild July evening, it was clear to see what he meant. As well as playing extended versions of the more experimental songs from last year’s Snowflake Midnight LP, Mercury Rev also performeda selection of morefamiliar songs. Versions of Goddess On A Hiway, Holesand The Dark Is Rising were particularly impressive. Without a doubt, this performance wasFriday’s Camp Bestival highlight.

Kid Creole and the Coconutsproved that they remain ahugely entertaining live act when theyrounded offFriday night’sproceedings on the mainstage with a big,colourfully choreographed show. It helps that the band have such a large selection offamiliar twenty-year oldsongsto draw on, butAugust Darnell, dressed in his characteristic 1940s stylehigh-waisted baggy suit,and his new group of Coconuts performed the likes of Stool Pigeon and Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy with an enthusiasm which made the songs sound as fresh as they originallysounded in the early 1980s.

Although the non-appearance of Red Snapper on the Bandstand stage was a bitdisappointing, there had been plenty to entertain since arriving at the festival on Friday afternoon. We had also somehow missed the classic ska and reggae sounds of DJ Derek in the Bollywood tent earlier in the afternoon. With a wide variety of spoken word, DJs and live music on offer during the weekend it became clear it wasn’t going to be possible to see everything during the next two days of the festival.

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