Bestival 2017 @ Lulworth Estate, Dorset, 07-10/09/2017

Bestival 2017I’m pretty sure everyone would agree - from Rob Da Bank to the artists that performed, and not forgetting the wonderful punters, staff and stall holders of course - that they never quite expected Bestival 2017 to unfold the way it did. As a veteran of various festivals, I was (quite literally) blown over by the challenges the ever-changing weather would present over the course of the weekend.

At times, HMS Bestival would need all its might to keep sailing the good party for the 30,000 revellers washed inland from the Dorset storms. It would take a lot more than wellies and a good rain mac to endure what lies ahead. It would need very friendly neighbours, new-found friends, and familiar faces. A semi-drunk heroine in a pink wig to administer a couple of plasters. Plenty of booze, the odd dab, the camaraderie of my Irish housemate (DJ Wanders Off) and of course, music that can bring out the sunshine; which it did, for a short while.

Travelling down via train then shuttle bus we arrive late Thursday night. This mode of transport drops you at the opposing end to the campsite, so whilst embracing the epic walk we’re able to check out the lay of the land. And it’s not long before I’m approaching Happy Kanye’, a large inflatable of Kanye West’s face, smiling in front of a huge rainbow. It’s a glowing smile unheard of on the real man, and I’m liking this place already. As we near the entrance to the campsite we pass The Box, a stage housed in a huge blue tent, seen at most major festivals. After meeting up with friends and pitching, this is where I see my first act of the weekend, indie punk troubadour Jamie T. A bustling tent keeps me loitering on the edge as a huge sing-a-long of “Sheila” and “Tinfoil Boy” erupt back-to-back, proving his loyal fanbase is just as happy with songs from his latest offering Trick. Drawing from all four albums, he finishes with the single that welcomed him back from a 5-year hiatus, the catchy thrashings of “Zombie”. And with that, off we go into the night to see how Bestival’s new site is looking.

Friday afternoon at The Castle Stage, The Cuban Brothers are giving the crowd huge smiles with their comedy set. These guys rap while performing all manner of wacky dance moves, from head-spins to undressing, all via some wonderfully uplifting chat from the main singer Michael Keat.

There’s very little for my country folk heart this weekend, so I make sure I’m at The Box for Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit. His wonderful rustic folktales are brought to life with glorious finger-pickings that are the perfect harmony between the uplifting country stomps.

After an annoyingly long wait for Friday night headliners The XX, I give it till the third song of the set “Say Something Loving” from latest offering I See You, to come to the conclusion that the minimal electro three-piece are a little dull for the grandness of the opening night.

At my friend’s suggestion, I head back to The Box for Kurupt FM. This West London pirate radio station is the basis for mockumentary People Do Nothing. The characters form the gang of garage MCs and DJs that take to the stage to rap out songs from the hit sitcom. It’s fun and frantic and just what I need to loosen the ole hips ahead of The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show. The 6 Music presenter is a great end to the day’s music, and the first of many times that evening I hear Lionel Richie classic “All Night Long”. Upon leaving to chase the night a little further, it’s that classic song that draws me into all the smaller parties I stumble across as I attempt to make my way back to camp.

Saturday gets off to a muddy start. En route to The Smiths LTD, DJ Wanders Off decides to take an inflatable dingy down the mud-ridden Dorset hills, and I think he can go faster. In true Chuckle Brothers style, it's not long before I'm flying over the top of him and caked in mud. It’s the rare kind of dick move that deserves a cheer, and we were thrilled to get one.

Laura Mvula likes to keep it in the family, proudly announcing that her brother and sister play bass and guitar respectively in her kick-ass band. She blends R&B and soul beautifully, via a bit of funk that also sees her playing a keytar throughout her set. The only artist to bring out the sunshine on The Castle stage, she also delights with a Nina Simone cover. The letters on her big gold earrings told no lies; she sure is boss.

Anna of the North isn’t from Bolton. She’s a Norwegian singer that brings her dreamy pop sounds to life with electro percussion and synths, as she floats with wavy arms across the stage like a young Kate Bush. A talented three-piece, the music takes interesting turns when the synth player dons a guitar.

Every now and then, a voice comes along that stands alone, unique and spellbinding (think Amy Winehouse, for example). Currently melting hearts and blowing minds across the globe with vocal tones like no other, singing sensation Rag N Bone Man takes to the stage. A huge crowd has gathered, undoubtedly to hear hit singles “Human” and “Skin”. But it's only when you hear his show as a collective piece, and with his well-rehearsed band, that you realise other songs are just as capable of sounding as grand as the hits. “Grace” is a shining example; a beautiful side to this giant man is how humble he is before his army of fans. More than once he expresses his gratitude and good fortune at being stood where he is today, and just for a minute, those Dorset winds are a little warmer.

I mix things up considerably over the next two acts going from delicate folk flower Lucy Rose (who, for me, had one of the best voices of the festival), to Jaguar Skills. Expect fun mashups from the DJ with an identity crisis.

Sound problems saw songs from A Tribe Called Quest struggling to reach the capacity of The Castle stage. I was somewhere in the middle, and hearing the lyrics was a struggle at the best of times. This is the last ever European show for the hip-hop pioneers, so die-hard fans were in the right field to see their heroes put an end to their legacy, though some were disappointed.

The final day of Bestival 2017 arrives, and the weather is at its most ferocious and merciless. Too Many T’s take to the stage full of optimism in front of a near-empty field. The crowd starts to gather as the rap group put everything into their live show, for which they are airing their yet-to-be released debut South City in full, from start to finish. The duo were really hitting their stride by track 5, but sadly mother nature had to fuck it all up, forcing the stage management to make the unpopular safety decision to pull the plug. As my friends and I seek cover in Stacy’s, where reggae tunes spin and the worlds greatest domino players are battling it out, it’s not long before security are herding up the hardcore campers, explaining that we must all evacuate the arena (a festival first for me). At this point, morale is at an all-time low, and with the remaining acts (including headliners Pet Shop Boys) hanging in the balance, talk soon turns to jumping ship and heading home. As we vacate the arena, the weather starts to improve, but stories filter back of big metal panels backstage coming loose and flying at people in the artist camping area, and it really feels like this is the end of the line.

But somewhere in the distance, I hear a familiar horn sound; it soon becomes a familiar horn section, and soon after a full-on brass ensemble. Ladies and gentlemen, thank god for Dat Brass. They’re raising spirits by parading through the campsite with a carnival of followers, belting out all manner of classic songs from “Seven Nation Army” to Backstreet Boys' “Everybody”. With crates of beer clearly abandoned, once again I’m hitting it hard and shaking my ass. With that, a security guard has a polite whisper in the trumpet player's ear. Huge boos ring out from the party gang and as I ask the guard what he said, he simply replies, “I just said could he announce to his followers that the arena is back open, and everybody booed me”. He looked heartbroken, poor sod. So it's back on, and although Loyle Carner’s set was cancelled, we still have two fantastic acts to see out the festival in style.

The set-up for Soulwax is phenomenal. Three drum pods, recording desks, synths and an array of other instruments fill the stage. I couldn’t tell you how many people are in this band, but they're all wearing white labcoats. Their set is electric and furious, with heavy beats and dirty bass sounds that only ease up to allow the melancholy tones of founding member Stephen Dewaele to hypnotise the crowd. After the day I’ve had, this is a wonderful moment.


Now, if you'd have told me twenty years ago that I'd be having the time of my life singing along to the hits of electro popstars Pet Shop Boys, I’d have laughed in your face and swaggered off singing "Rock N Roll Star". But tonight, Matthew, I am Neil Tennant (minus the space helmet and glitter suits). They unite the crowd in joyous singalongs with hits like "It’s a Sin", "Go West" and "Left To My Own Devices", as lasers and visuals illuminate the famous Lulworth Castle. After an encore of Elvis's "Always On My Mind" we only have to turn 180 degrees to bear witness to the grand fireworks finale, a spectacular reminder that the festival is drawing to a close.

Festivals with a solid reputation like Bestival always become much more than just the music. It’s the people, the atmosphere, the adventure, the parties, and of course the weather that collectively create a great spirit that unites us all in enduring whatever lies ahead. And by god, that was Bestival. If dance music is the genre that defies you, if you relate more to DJs than singers, you won’t be disappointed with Bestival. I came to listen and gain a better understanding of this much-celebrated genre. What I learned from the line-up and the people I spoke to is that, as far as dance music and DJs go, Rob Da Bank brought the cream of the crop to Bestival 2017.


One Response to “Bestival 2017 @ Lulworth Estate, Dorset, 07-10/09/2017”


    1. Bestival @ Lulworth Estate, Dorset, 07-10/09/2017 – Live List - 18/09/2017

      […] post Bestival @ Lulworth Estate, Dorset, 07-10/09/2017 appeared first on […]

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.