Live Music + Gig Reviews

Camp Bestival 2008, Day 1 @ Lulworth Castle, Dorset: Day 1

18 July 2008

Rob da Bank’s empire continues to grow with this festival, a three-day sister act to compliment his other venture, Bestival.

With Camp Bestival however, he’s moved off the Isle of Wight and onto the mainland and the inspired surroundings of Lulworth Castle. A coup indeed.

The stated aim of this one was to provide punters with a more intimate, more family-friendly event, and so to find a new corner in an increasingly competitive market.
With first-time festivals, there’s always a risk of teething problems. And despite his experience with Bestival ‘proper’, Mr da Bank couldn’t escape them here. With doors only opening on the Friday morning, nobody could get in to set up camp the night before, which led to chaos for much of the first day. Anybody attempting to arrive at lunchtime was destined to queue for hours to get into the understaffed and undersized car park. Anybody aiming to get there in the afternoon was lucky to have put tent to soil by nightfall. Bad news for anyone wanting to see the likes of thecocknbullkid or Eliza Doolittle.

However things began to take shape by the time Kitty Daisy & Lewis took to the main Castle Stage. As with other signings to Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best label, they were given preferential treatment over the weekend with labelmates popping up all over the place But they deserved their spot. Fun and energetic, these three infuriatingly young siblings charmed the slowly-gathering crowd with their bluegrass rockabilly tales of the Deep South of the USA via their comprehensive school in North London.

Looking around the grounds, it’s clear that this is a good venue for a boutique festival. The main area is situated in one medium-sized field, with the main stage at the front, and various other tents towards the back. Remembering that this festival is aimed at families, there are dressing up tents, and jousting areas (with real horses and knights doing what they do best). There are unusual play areas and treasure hunts and generally lots of things to keep the little ones entertained. Which is just as well, because clearly a lot of parents took the publicity at its word.

When Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip appeared they were one of many acts over the weekend to comment on how many kids there were, and how this was the first time they’d encountered a notice asking them to leave their filthy language backstage. Which they didn’t really stick to very well. Bridging the gap between Carter USM and The Beastie Boys they offered a highlight set of the weekend with their charming brand of post-modernism, stirred with a heavy twist of irony. A manic version of Prince‘s Cream and a rousing Thou Shalt Always Kill raised the bar and brought the music side of the festival to life.

With darkness descending, Friday’s headliner Chuck Berry appeared. Upright. Standing. At 81 years of age. And he remained standing throughout his hour-long set which kicked off with the Pulp Fiction-revived Never Can Tell and ended with a lengthy piece of improvisation and instrumentalism led by the big man’s son Chuck Berry Junior. A privilege to see a living legend and thankfully by now the festival and the field were full.

Away from the main stages the usual selection of food stalls served till late, and there were a couple of late night venues for those wanting to stay up. However, both the Balearic Bollywood Bar with its cocktails and starry line-up of DJs, and the Come Dancing arena packed out very quickly. Hopefully they’ll organise some larger dance tents for 2009.

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