Random notes from a festival: Dik and Dom introducing the Gentlemen’s Dub Club on the main stage; Sooty & Sweep playing in the same tent that twelve hours earlier had hosted Laura Marling; a warning that House Of Pain’s set could include ‘explicit language’; the entire site going silent to accommodate the local church service; that tricky English National Ballet / jousting display clash. Rob da Bank promised us that Camp Bestival would be a different experience to most festivals and he’s not wrong. Imagine the Electric Picnic but with far more kids, teenagers and over 30s but precious few of the core twenty something audience. It fills a unique niche and it’s no wonder that the festival has grown into an annual sell out success.
State has arrived with its two children in tow and is also gaining a new experience. Taking a pair of under tens to a music festival presents its own set of challenges and you have to resign yourself to the fact that some of what you want to see isn’t going to figure high on the agenda of those who are ultimately calling the shots. If they don’t want to sit through Frankie & The Heartstrings, neither do you. Fortunately there is plenty to keep everyone occupied, from a skate ramp to an extensive children’s field. In fact, the non-music related stuff actually outweighs the acts on show.
As for those acts, Camp Bestival – as you might expect – doesn’t try and be the most cutting edge event of the year. There’s a fair amount to keep the teens interested (of which Katy B, Clare Maguire, Eliza Doolittle and Wrench 32 are the biggest draws) but elsewhere the emphasis is firmly on nostalgia, albeit quite cool nostalgia. ABC and Blondie headline the Friday night, the latter sounding especially sprightly, while Sunday sees Primal Scream once more revisiting Screamadelica before a spectacular firework display.
Elsewhere, we come across Adrian Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds performing folk versions of punk classics (better than it sounds actually), The Selector sounding marvellous and the Easy Star All-Stars doing their dub thing on a hazy Sunday afternoon. Pick of the old school, however, are The Wonder Stuff, who belie their advancing years (Miles Hunt turned 45 the previous day) with a sparkling set of spiky guitar pop, just as good as they were in their heyday – which is saying something.
All eyes on Saturday night, however, where on Mark Ronson. Coming on stage almost exactly a week since the death of Amy Winehouse, he opens with a sombre version of ‘Valerie’ with the Zutons’ Dave McCabe before being joined by the ever expanding, ever improving Business Intl. While mood is upbeat, there’s no escaping the events of recent days and so we get a reworking of ‘Back To Black’ featuring Charlie Waller of the Rumble Strips and a second, emotional run through of ‘Valerie’. In between there is much from the underrated Record Collection album and a lot less of an emphasis on the covers. The band have really come into their own since last year and, while this may not be the best festival show they’ll ever play, you sense it maybe one of the most memorable.
Photo by Andy Ward.