Live Music + Gig Reviews

Camp Bestival 2008, Day 3 @ Lulworth Castle, Dorset

20 July 2008

On to Sunday at Camp Bestival, and another day of glorious sunshine.

Which is just as well when there are 3,500 kids running around, having fun doing kiddie yoga and hula-hoop competitions, dancing in the kids disco and showing off their talents in the Singstar arena.

After the tragic ending to The Flaming Lips‘ otherwise superb set last night, all of the acts on the main stage were shifted half an hour earlier to avoid the same pitfall happening to Kate Nash. Unfortunately, the tannoy system to inform everyone of this wasn’t loud enough (which was probably a benefit at other points of the weekend) and as a result there were a lot of indignant attendees finding themselves missing the beginning of sets throughout the day.

Ladyhawke was on in the early afternoon, but most people didn’t realise until the electro-indie strains of Paris Is Burning could be heard from the other side of the big field. Who knows what the first half of her set was like, but the second half was decent. Her vocals were solid and the tunes were there.

Sunday afternoon offered a good opportunity to flit between the main stage and the smaller Insect Circus Stage. The two were ideally situated, a very short walk from each other, simply separated by the castle. The latter stage was in a small area, again full of various forms of entertainment there with the kids in mind. It was a peaceful place to sit and enjoy the castle grounds with a view of the coastline apparent at the bottom of the field.

The main stage featured a crowd-pleasing, beatboxing Beardyman, a Joe Lean with his Jing Jang Jong and their misplaced indie schtick and well, what can you say, The Wurzels and their, as it turns out, very well-placed odes to cider and combine harvesters. The second, more sedate stage featured the pretty harmonies and melodies of Emmy The Great, and the rambunctious, yet moving pub-folk of Eliza Carthy. However, they paled next to Suzanne Vega who appeared on the main stage to deliver a set packed full of class and elegance, ending with the killer trio of The Queen And The Soldier, Luka and Tom’s Diner. You couldn’t really ask for more on such a lovely day.

After a quick jaunt to the under-sized comedy tent to see Roy Walker cling on to his Catchphrase fame, it was time for Kate Nash to close the festival. A surprise choice for many, it became apparent why Nash took on this role. She’s massively popular with the under-10s.

Suddenly children were appearing on shoulders everywhere. Performing a strangely thought-out set, the first half full of the slower numbers and some new tracks, while she left all the crowd-pleasers to the end. She doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last year or so, although she threw in a couple of surprises. Dancing skeletons for one thing. And Billy Bragg for another, appearing on the main stage for the third time over the weekend to accompany Nash on Foundations, and on Bragg’s A New England. On the way back to the tent and even the next morning, all you could hear was pre-teens singing Kate Nash songs and talking about it. That in itself more than justified her selection.

While this was an event that could be enjoyed by pretty much everyone, it was less about the music and more about the fun. The line-up was impressive, but there were only two stages, and not very many acts. This wasn’t really a festival for young, childless music fans. While it didn’t do badly on that score, and its smaller size had its advantages, there are other festivals around better aimed at that target market. However, it offered families an excellent opportunity to get away for a long weekend and to go camping with added extras. For that, Camp Bestival excelled. It gave parents the chance to enjoy the benefits of a music festival, knowing that their kids were safe and happy, and it gave kids a taste of the pleasure that live music can bring. As Wayne Coyne pointed out on Saturday night to all the under-10s present, they should try to remember this when they’re 18, and be thankful for having had such cool parents.

If it’s back next year, lessons will have been learned. With a few tweaks here and there, better parking facilities, more toilets and more showers (particularly important if you’re there with children), this festival has found its place and has something special to offer.

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