One of the things I liked about both festivals was the travel. Electric Picnic by plane and Bestival by Ferry gave them a real sense that I was ‘getting away’. However it also means that if things go wrong it’s bloomin hard to correct it without a good blag.
Luckily I had one available as I turned up at Bestival to discover my name wasn’t on the list. Now I don’t necessarily condone blagging for the sake of it, festivals struggle as it is to reclaim revenue, but when I’d been offered a few ways in and the one I took was a shambles, coupled with the fact I was supposed to be deejaying at a couple of places anyway, I had no guilt in pulling one out the bag this time. That wasn’t the end of my problems however.
Now I wouldn’t normally trust anyone with my tunes but traveling by train meant I was limited to what I could carry and so it seemed like a good idea to leave them with somebody else to bring… it wasn’t. My tunes didn’t arrive! Neither did my tent or the majority of my clothes. Not the greatest start you might say but that wasn’t going to spoil my fun by any stretch. I had brought some clothes with me, enough to see me through but not enough to get creative. The good fellows at Tangerine Fields hooked me up a tent once I’d explained my situation and much as I was looking forwards to playing, it was nice to have the freedom to see what I want when I want and not have to worry about leaving them some place safe.
There were only two other obstacles to overcome. Due to losing my cash card I was relying on meal tickets to keep my body fueled up for the fun. Unfortunately with the lack of list came lack of tickets, I wasn’t exactly penniless but by this point the insane mud situation was becoming an issue and I wanted to keep some cash back for emergency bailing out if necessary. Have to give my great respects to the fellas up at Solace with their free tea and cake (and pot noodle) for keeping me going for most of the time. Sometimes food isn’t top priority at festivals but after such a major mash up weekend before I’d decided to stay straight and sober for this one… and I pretty much did I have to say, it’s so nice to wake up on the morning after a fantastic weekend without any hint of regret or self loathing in tow.
Anyway, to the mud. I’ve been to every Bestival so far and have never know it to be muddy at all, this year it made up for all 5, with a quagmire to rival Glastonbury at its worst, although not quite as bad as some of the mud pits from last year. There were literally floods of mud. It flooded tents, teepees, stages, the Pie Minister truck, took out electrics for the BBC Introducing stage so that many of the acts were either pulled or had to find slots on other stages, and generally reeked sludgy havock on the site.
A complete nightmare you might say and I’m sure many at home who didn’t manage to sort tickets were consoling themselves smugly with the news reports, but did it ruin the festival? Not a chance. Certainly it made every journey an effort and the vain had no chance to retain their vanity, but everybody was still smiling, still partying and still made a fantastic effort with their costumes for the fancy dress parade (my favourite being a half Transformer, half cephalopod – Octopus Prime). Infact there was the sort of ‘we’re in this together’ camaraderie one might expect in a war zone (only with less crying and no dead people thankfully) and the fixed friendliness that seems to define the Bestival crowd. Actually this is probably one of the main factors of the Bestival’s superior status, there is no topping the Irish for natural charm and hospitality and this was made very clear at Electric Picnic, infact they’re practically spoilt with happiness. The Bestival crowd tend to be those who don’t have such a privilege, they might long to smile and chat at the person next to them on the tube, or school their landlord /boss on the notion that ‘it’s not all about the money man’ but unfortunately many have one leg trapped in the rat race, which has them running round in circles for 360 days of the year. So for these 4 days in a field, when they finally get a chance to shake off their shackles, they positively brim with goodness and are literally happy to be happy. You can see it in their smiles and their cheery morning greetings, they can’t quite believe that everyone else is smiling and saying hello back, but they love the fact they are. It is this subtle difference that pushes the atmosphere at Bestival just slightly over the top of the warm Irish reception at Electric Picnic.
But what about the music I hear you cry. Well yes I actually saw some of the people I wanted to see, had a few nice surprises and very few disappointments. It’s probably a good idea to go through the relevant ones I remember step by step from Friday night.
First band I caught were Ebony Bones in the Big Top who were lively and interactive enough but not quite what I was after at that time, what I wanted was some dirty beats to lift me up out the dirty surroundings. I found them on the BBC Introducing stage courtesy of two DJS who I believe go by the joint name of Good Books. They were dropping such booty shakin’ Hip-hop remix gems as ‘Still Dre’ (by Tenzin I believe) and DMX ‘Up In Here’ (by Mightyfools – see below), and even though their crowd weren’t quite as lively as the music demanded I was determined not to be a ‘stick in the mud’ (boom boom) and bubbled there til it was time to bimble off again and find some friends to play with before going to catch Santogold.
It is tempting to include some of the adventures and encounters over the weekend that would probably fuel a tabloid gossip column for a week… but this isn’t that type of blog I’m afraid and so aside from my personal revelations, what happens in Bestival, stays in Bestival… on with the music.
I’ve mentioned my toddler’s attention span at Festivals a few times and Bestival is not necessarily any exception. I saw Grace Jones play ‘Pull Up To My Bumper’ and that was good enough for me, the other surprise set from The Specials kept me entertained for a tune or two but believe it or not Santogold kept me there for the whole set. Not that it was a spectacular stage show, or it included wild diversions from the expected set. There was no glammer and glitz here, just straight up heavy beats, good songs, the occasional rhyme and relentlessly tight Paula Abdul style dance routines. There is something about Santogold and crew though that makes it easy to underestimate the stage presence and charisma at hand, an effortless cool leads to a powerful understated performance indeed. Plus after experiencing Creator blasting out of the monstrous Big Top system I doubt I’ll ever be satisfied with hearing it on any other speakers again.
Saturday was definitely DJ day for me, after missing A Trak at Electric Picnic I was determined to catch him here, but before him in the Bollywood Bar was supposed to be South Rakkas Crew. Now I’m pretty sure it was Alex G from the Florida based digi-dancehall kings, but Dow Jones was certainly nowhere to be seen. Still, whoever it was absolutely tore down the roof of the marquee. Definitely my favourite set of the Festival with sheer dirty and disgusting beats and basslines that dared you not to dance, I had to literally drag myself away to go check Roots Manuva in the Red Bull tent. That turned out to be a waste of time. The tent was wall to wall revelers and was spilling out the doors. It was far to ram up to even attempt to have a good time in there so I headed back to catch some more of the Rukkus (probably).
Eventually A Trak came with a selection of the phattest, nastiest house tracks, which was actually something of a surprise but far more favourable then the follow up set of classic Hip-hop intros, juggled faster then a Jamaican sound system and to be honest, slightly worn by now, especially with DJs like Yoda doing exactly the same thing. The crowd were happy enough but I decided to wander off to find more inspiring pastures anew. They appeared in the shape of Radio One DJ duo Bobby Friction & Nihal. After following the Pied Piper of Dubstep into the Klub Dada tent the pair proceeded to slam a set of the heaviest D&B from the criminally under represented (and possibly unfairly pigeon holed) ‘British Asian’ scene followed by a few timely classics to top things off.
Next up came Natty who had been forced off the BBC Introducing stage earlier and reappeared at Klub Dada. A shame really as earlier on I might have been well up for some of his sunshine brand of gentleman reggaeness but unfortunately by this time of night it was starting to lullaby me and so I had to move on. I didn’t quite move to the right place however. Found myself heading to the main stage to catch a bit of Amy Whinehouse but was forced to leave after two and a half tunes before I caught the full brunt of her butchering ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’. I have to say I like Amy and was generally gutted for her, but even though when I returned a while later to meet some peeps she had perked up slightly, half the crowd had already decided to leave her to it.
By the night we had picked up a fair posse of friends and followers so it was quite hard to maneuver effectively, but we did mange to catch the end of Hercules Love Affair and the beginning of Aphex Twin. Being right at the back meant we couldn’t feel the full force of the Warped one and a splinter group of us decide to jump ship for the Bollywood Bar which had been pretty consistent so far. It didn’t let us down this time either. We arrived just in time to hear Annie Mac drop a plethora of party tunes from Baltimore Mash Ups to D&B Bangers and every other form of ‘get the f**k up’ in between. Once again I found myself staying the course.
The rest of the night saw us trying to squeeze into the remaining tents and catching the last few tunes of 808 State and the last few of Babyhead but after that the party was sadly lacking. The only place we could all find to fit was the Cinema tent who praised our perkiness but politely asked if we could refrain from dancing round the whole tent and keep to the sides… time to move on but we slowly wilted to one and so I decided it was time for bed.
Sunday saw something of an early exodus as the mud finally started to break down the wall of fun for many… but not all. The rest looked spaced and slightly battle scarred but still had those winning smiles. If the party at the end of the world looks anything like this, we’ll all be okay as long as there’s enough fluorescent wigs to go round. For me though it was time to go and so, forsaking most of the Dubstep and another chance to see Roots Manuva, I headed out early with a bag full of muddy clothes, a smile and a bunch of good memories (that I was thankful and somewhat surprised to still remember) from the weekend, and waved goodbye to the summer festival season for another year or so.
(YSI) DMX – Up In Here (Mightyfools Remix)
(YSI) Santogold – Creator ((Mumdance Mix ft Jammer, Badness, Chronik Rage, Slikman & Tempz)
(YSI) South Rakkas Crew - Mad Again (Boy 8-Bit Remix)
(YSI) Kanye West – Stronger (A Trak Remix)
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SOME OF OUR OLD SKOOL MIXES
Chrome Kids - Pyjama Ban
Welsh Electronic Mix recorded for BBC 1Xtra (Jan 2010)
Chrome Kids - Knowledge Me
Mix recorded for Knowledge Magazine (Nov 2009)
Chrome Kids - Pimp My Tour Bus
Mix recorded for Adam Walton's Mystery Tour on BBC Radio Wales (Oct 2009)
Welsh Hip-hop Mix Recorded for Rob Da Bank & Friends on BBC Radio 1 - Nov 2008