I think we’re out of luck with the weather. The clouds look like they’re about six feet above our heads and they’re getting blacker by the minute. After yesterday’s techno crusade it’s time for a well-earned siesta, which means we sacrifice a few bands to escape the early afternoon deluge. The time-out also means we miss Mr Motivator again – and those crouches and stretches could’ve sorted out my slowly calcifying bones. We sleep through the Village People too – probably for the best after some girl stole my feather headdress on Friday and the sight of the Native American dude on stage might bring flashbacks.
Heading back into the festival grounds is like gatecrashing some hedonist hooley you’d read about in a fabricated ghost-written rock autobiography. Within five minutes we’re clinking glasses with Axl Rose, Slash, Madonna (with a moustache), yellow-jacket Wembley Freddie Mercury, I Want To Break Free Freddie Mercury (complete with stand-up hoover), a 10ft Robert Smith, Annie Lennox, 100 Michael Jacksons, Daft Punk in Tron suits and thousands of other ‘Rock Stars, Pop Stars and Divas’ – the theme of this year’s fancy dress. Hurrican Katia has held off but the costumes are getting ruined in the muck. Everyone’s drinking through it though.
We’re planning a more chilled affair at the Main Stage on Saturday, but Alice Glass throws a spanner in the works from early on, diving over the barriers and writhing on top of the crowd for a Crystal Castles blitzkrieg festival show that’s all bluster and no real heart. State caught Crystal Castles in Dublin’s Academy last year and it was a thrilling riot of white noise caustic synths, stagediving, Alice chewing the mic and kicking the shit out of the amps. The great outdoors swallows up calls to arms like ‘Suffocation’ and ‘Reckless’ though, and the beats and waspy synths are carried off somewhere else on the gusts of wind. Alice is standing on top of the drum kit, beating herself round the head with the mic and squealing out her banshee vocals on ‘Not In Love’. It looks like she agrees and they pack up and leave after barely a half an hour.
PJ Harvey couldn’t be more of a contrast, gliding on stage gracefully in a black feather outfit, like a majestic crow woman from a Brothers Grimm tale. It’s only a few days since she won the Mercury Prize for her eighth album Let England Shake, and her hour-long set draws heavily from her latest masterpiece. Clutching the autoharp like a newborn baby, she plucks and trills her way through the tangential folk rock of ‘Let England Shake’, ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ and ‘On Battleship Hill’, mining beauty from tales of bloody war, carnage and her nation’s crumbling empire. She’s gracious throughout, thanking her three-piece band and the crowd, and the faint drizzle as she knocks out ‘Big Exit’ from her other Mercury-winning album, Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, just adds to the drama.
And then there’s The Cure, the clincher for many people’s ticket at Bestival, playing their only festival show this year. After a self-indulgent Oxegen show in 2004 when they played for about seven hours and had to be dragged off and earned a fine for their troubles, Saturday’s three hour set could well be a streamlined show from everyone’s favourite goth-rock-pop-whatever heroes. Frontman Robert Smith’s jet black candy floss hair and slathered-on lipstick is losing a battle with the elements, but we even catch him smiling a few times — especially when he produces a custom-made Bestival cartoon guitar “that weighs as much as a car”. With 30-odd years of classics, everyone has a favourite Cure song, one that reminds them of some teenage disco, or a mixtape from years back. They play them all, in a euphoric 30-song set – from the New Order synth blasts of ‘The Walk’ and ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, to the jangly fey pop of ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Friday I’m In Love — even though Smith apologises for it being the wrong day. Strangers are hugged, hands are held, and there’s some mass feline prowling for ‘Love Cats’. The Cure: Bestival 2011 could well be a future No. 1 album, or at least a bootleg hit in the blogosphere. There isn’t a dry eye in the house, although that could be because it’s pissing rain by now.
After The Cure and Andrew Weatherall’s warm-up DJ set (props for AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’), Primal Scream’s run through of Screamadelica at the Big Top is a comedown for sure, but we’ve been told for years that was the general idea of Bobbie Gillespie and co’s 1991 blissed-out post-acid house calling card. The Screamadelica tour does more than tick off the album’s tracks in sequence – from the uplifting gospel choir on ‘Moving On Up’ to Bobbie’s spindly high kicks during ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’, the Big Top is sprinkled with some magic dust and red hues from the spectacular light show. They treat us to extended jams and even more psychedelic takes on ‘Inner Flight’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Loaded’ and the rest, Gillespie with arms aloft and visuals beaming on the walls and roof of the tent. Fancy dress moustaches are half hanging off, and fake boobs and wigs are being kicked around the mucky ground. It’s a mess, but it’s a mess that’s leading to plenty of high-fives. Primal Scream walk off and we hear they’re coming on for an encore of ‘Rocks’ so we make a quick getaway before they ruin the buzz.
It’s becoming a bit of a pattern at this stage, but we’re on the hunt for more early hours rave bleeps and we join the swarms on the way to the Arcadia Afterburner for another blast of SL2 – this time in full fired-up gas mask crazy-ass MC mode. The rain isn’t doing any damage to the 50ft flames and Mad Max steam punk rave tower. The MC is roaring “fuck the rain, we still got electricity”, as Slipmatt doles out unashamed throwbacks while everyone swings rain ponchos round their heads. The Prodigy’s ‘No Good, (Start the Dance), ‘Out of Space’, Black Box’s ‘Ride on Time’ and some skanking dub top off another auto-pilot dance-off, before they pull the plug. We lie back on the grass to get our bearings while a girl walks past in a fancy dress Bjork swan gown — and we remember tomorrow could well be even more special.