Playback: Bestival 2017
It’s always so hard to see absolutely everything at any festival (especially at Bestival where there is literally hundreds of different things to do and see each day). Rather than go into every detail of every day, I decided to pick out the ten best things that happened at Bestival this year.
That’s not to say that the things not found on this list weren’t also amazing. Roots Manuva, Soul II Soul, and The XX put on some great shows. The Cuban Brothers put on a very entertaining set with lots of comedy commentary and a bit of nudity. Jamie T made us all feel nostalgic on Thursday night. Fatman Scoop showed us all that he’s still got the ability to get the party started with his high energy set at the HMS Bestival. And all of the famous oversized Bestival sculptures like the giant disco ball, the massive Bestival Roboy and the largest bouncy castle in the UK were all there. That being said, in an attempt to narrow things down to a shortlist, I wanted to pick out ten moments at Bestival this year that were particularly unique or memorable.
So without further delay, here are the ten best things that happened at Bestival this year (in no particular order):
The World’s Largest Confetti Cannon
It seems like every year Bestival boasts a new record setting feature. One year it was the largest disco ball, another year it was the largest bouncy castle. This year Bestival managed to create the largest confetti cannon ever made. It was big. They set the cannon up off to the side of the Temple stage. This was the stage where most of the big electronic and house acts would be playing over the weekend and the cannon was perfectly positioned to rain colorful confetti down on the dancing crowds.
The first time I saw the party weapon go off was at Annie Mac’s live set. Half way through her set, she came out on stage and petitioned to the confetti gods, “I don’t know who’s in control of the cannon but we have decided that now is the time to fire” (or something to that effect). The entire crowd started counting down from ten. Nine, eight, seven…. I imagined some junior stage tech behind the scenes who was scrambling around to find the button to set the cannon off for this unplanned firing. “Shit shit shit” I imagined he would be saying as he threw his joint out and fumbled around a couple of empty bottles of beer to find the confetti cannon remote.
As we counted down to the last three numbers there was a tension in the air…. would the cannon actually go off? Three, two, one… Everyone looked at the cannon as the music built to a crescendo.
Then the cannon erupted with colored squares of paper. The crowd went wild under a shower of confetti.
This should be at every festival.
One of my favorite things about Bestival is the way that you can stumble upon new unexpected things all the time. In this case, I was taking a break from the music on Friday night and went over to the comedy tent to see if there was anything funny going on. The next comedian up was an Irish guy named Andrew Maxwell. Never heard of him.
But boy can I tell you that my face hurt after he was done with us. I just couldn’t stop laughing. I later learned that Maxwell is actually quite a big comedian in the UK so I felt absolutely honored that I was able to see him perform in a small tent with about 50 or 60 people.
I’ve attached a couple of minutes of one of his previous sketches above because the footage I got on my phone at his show in Bestival wasn’t great, but if you ever get the chance to see this guy perform, you should def go.
Joe Goddard in the Jägerhaus
I know this will be controversial considering the other fantastic shows and artists at Bestival this year, but Joe Goddard’s set in the Jägerhaus was the best performance of the festival. Tribe Called Quest, Soulwax, Annie Mac, Fat Man Scoop, David Rodigan… they were all amazing shows! But there was something about the combination of seeing Joe Goddard in a tiny venue, spinning on decks that are right on the ground with the banging sound system that the Jagerhaus brought to Bestival this year. The Temple Stage might have had the best sound system, but there’s just something about seeing a big artist on a small stage. It was an hour of dance-your-face-off fun.
As an encore, Joe got all of his Greco Roman artists to come up on stage and take turns selecting which was also awesome.
Bestival has never been just about the music. There are loads of other things you can do. Whether it’s learning to do astronaut yoga, hold a massive owl, or chillout in an outdoor hot tub, Bestival always has something alternative to get involved in.
This year one of my favorite alternatives to the music was a “Postcard Workshop” put on by the Glasgow-based graphic design shop called Warrior Studio. You were able to create a custom post card with cutout colored paper and markers, and then they would mail it off to where ever you’d like. You can just imagine the caliber of artwork being created at a festival. It was amazing.
The organizers also provided cloth and materials to create your very own festival flag. I also took this activity up with purpose, creating a peace flag.
I suppose that postcards and flags might not seem worthy enough to make the list of amazing things that happened at Bestival this year, but it was more than just the activity. The Warrior staff really made it more than just postcards and flags. They were super excited throughout the whole project and I think that helped make it more special. The Warrior peeps get two thumbs up for awesomeness.
When I talked to them about why they chose postcards and flags, they said that it just felt like something different. I’m cool with that. It’s also really easy to lose yourself in an open-air bar out in a field somewhere creating arts and crafts. What a great way to spend an afternoon.
Rob Da Bank and DJ Tayo (not pictured) took the Purple Rave to HMS Bestival again this year (yes! HMS Bestival was back!). It was a little over an hour of Prince remixes in honor of the artist formerly known as Prince. How can you go wrong with Prince songs? Especially when you have Rob Da Bank and Tayo at the helm? It was non-stop dance and sing-along. And that’s saying something considering that the festival was shut down only hours before because of dangerously high winds.
Most people were only just arriving back to the festival site when the Purple Rave began. It was the first performance to go on when the grounds re-opened. And the weather was still questionable at best. The wind had died down but it was still raining a bit. That didn’t stop anyone from getting their moving and shaking on. The Purple Rave will always go on.
Soulwax pushed the boat out for their show in a way I was not expecting. The stage was set with a giant glass disco ball head in the center of the stage. Multiple DJ stands were positioned along the front and two elevated glass cubes on the sides of the stage that housed drummers. Another drummer was elevated even higher in the center of the stage behind the DJ stands. I know that the Soulwax sound is heavily driven by percussion, but this looked impressive. The two Belgian frontmen were dressed in what looked like white lab coats and everyone else was dressed in white tops and black pants. I could try to describe how amazing the set sounded but I’m not sure I would do it justice. I will say that towards the middle of the show, that giant silver disco ball head started spinning which was pretty awesome. It kept going faster and faster with all the lights shining on it projecting out into the crowd. it was wicked.
The Kanye head
Bestival always has some incredible sculptures on site. Whether it’s giant stars, massive raving astronauts or a party robot, Bestival does a great job of dressing up the area with interesting things to look at.
This year the prize for best festival sculpture has to go to the massive inflatable rainbow with Kanye West’s face sticking out of it. Hilarious? Ironic? Humbling? yes, yes yes. It just put a smile on your face whenever you passed it. I wondered what Kanye would have thought if he’d seen it.
At night the giant inflatable Kanye lit up. Dozens of people (high off their face presumably) would be sat starring at the balloon when you would walk past at night. One time I was passing it and there was a drunk guy standing right in front of his face just yelling “fuck you Kanye, fuck you!” hahaha. Jokes!
A Tribe Called Quest
If I had to pick the best headline act of Bestival this year I think I would have to say it was Tribe. There’s a couple of reasons for that. I’m from New York… Long Island in fact, and so I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to support some New Yorkers while I was in the UK. It was going to be an hour or two of good music and good vibes.
Another reason to be there was to see how the guys were holding up after the loss of Malik Izaak Taylor (aka Phife Dawg). Phife died last year and as the man who was best known for championing the peace and love aspect of hip hop. He went up against all of the “macho posturing” going on in the genre during the time and in deed, most of what Tribe was all about was this mindset. Hip hop and rap doesn’t just have to be about guns and women. Or if it does talk about those things, it could be done in an intelligent and respectful way. As Phife championed over and over again. It was good to see most of the show dedicated in a very heartfelt way to their departed bandmate.
Another reason is that This is Tribe! How often do you get to see good hip hop groups that are actually from the mid 90s. Especially a group as big as Tribe Called Quest is. And the fact that they are still touring after so many years is pretty impressive.
The Ambient Forest
One of my favorite parts of Bestival is the Ambient Forest. A forest taken over to hide secret DJ booths, stages and bars which you are left to explore in your own way. Since Bestival moved to a new location this year I was worried that the Ambient Forest would lose a little bit of its charm. However, the Bestival staff did a great job to recreate the feeling in the new location, complete with real peacocks, wispy white hanging sculptures and hidden stages.
Finale fireworks over the castle
The last best thing to hit Bestival was the closing show with the Pet Shop Boys and a massive firework finale over Lulworth castle. Oh yeah, did I mention that there was a friggin castle on the grounds of the festival. Not a bad back drop for the main stage.
And then after the Pet Shop Boys show was over, the top of the castle erupted in a conflagration of fireworks. It was pretty special to behold.
I should also mention that the Pet Shop Boys set was pretty special as well. I mean, I was not going to miss their show, but I can’t say I am a die hard fan. Sure, I know “Go West” and “West End” girls, but I’ve always thought they were a band that stop making music in the 80s. Boy was I wrong. They sound just as relevant as most of the other bands on the electronic scene today. Of course they played the hits, but the show got full on ravey towards the end. I had a proper dance.
Also, this guy next to me got full naked and just stood up on his friends shoulders for an entire song. Legend alert:
I have to shout out a couple of people that didn’t make the list before I go. First I want to thank the lovely team at Pitch Village. Besides the fact that Pitch Village is an awesome way of camping at a festival, the team that runs the campsite are beyond friendly and super helpful.
So here’s a little note to say thank you for being fantastic Pitch Village team. And also, here are the selfie’s you took on my phone when I left it on charge on your office. It made me laugh for a few minutes when I discovered them the next day.
And finally, I would like to give a shout out to the people running the Rac Shack in the food hall tent. They had by far the most energy of any food stand I have ever seen at a festival. And the food was pretty banging awesome. Here’s a video of the shack just making food as normal: