Saturday, 14 August 2010

Camp Bestival 2010 Review

Last weekend my friend Max and I ventured down to Dorset to Lulworth Castle for Camp Bestival, with two free tickets courtesy of Vitamin Water (thanks guys!). A big thank you to them for sorting that out, but a big fuck you to the four hour long traffic jam we were stuck in on the way up. Luckily, a heavy dosage of the Kinks’ BBC recording sessions and Patti Smith’s Horses was enough of a sedative to bear being sat on a road in the middle of a live artillery range for a few hours.


We turned up a day late, and with little money for the weekend, but found solace (after of course hiking with our belongings across the fields and hills that were littered with tents, far more than I had imagined would be in attendance; in fact, I had never heard of the festival before despite it’s apparent 12-year run) in The Big Top tent, where we would spend most of our weekend, with the female pop-rock US aural treat Lissie. Wearing not a dash of make-up and swinging a loose guitar full or barre chords while her dreadlocked guitarist pumped out a selection of soul-infused rock and roll riffs, Lissie’s natural beauty complimented the husky Marlboro Red voice wailing through the lead microphone. It was a shock to see such talent so early on in the day.

A gorgeous husky singer-strummer: dream?

Most of the first day we spent marvelling at the lay-out of the festival. The concept of Camp Bestival was inspiring: at several times we (and other people) put forward the sentiment “if only Reading Festival was like this”. In reality, however, there were two demographics that made up the majority of the attendees that were near-impossible to amalgamate; I am not sure if Camp Bestival was successful in doing so. For example, one feature of the festival grounds was several large monoliths proclaiming “HO-DE-HO!” were children were welcome to paint pretty sunflowers or mummy and daddy on them, with paint provided by the festival. However, on the Sunday morning a young man passed out drunk on top of one of these features, accompanied with a bottle of wine and several puzzled security guards. These demographics have obviously very different ideas to what a ‘good time’ is.

Exhibit A: Ho-De-Ho feature (see above)

As a result, there was a distinct lack of babes at Camp Bestival! There was an abundance in either 12-year old girls who were experiencing their first festival the tame way (bed before 11 and no bands in stuffy tents thank you very much) or try-hard wannabe indie girls, from the ages of 15-18, fully equipped with this week’s Topshop get-up and flowery headbands a la Peaches Geldof. It was amusing listening to a gaggle of rah-rah girls talking down Ellie Goulding for her ‘posh’ accent, despite their own almost comedic encore of ‘daddy says’ at the beginning of every other sentence. Luckily, most of the acts available across the festival was music qua music: performers doing what they enjoy doing for favourable number who actually get into what they were listening to.

Perhaps the woman of my dreams. Alas, the picture is fucked. Who cares.

We didn’t feel the need to watch a single band on the main stage the entire weekend (bar 20 minutes of Ellie Goulding, who was mediocre at best): it goes to show the sheer number of options there were to fill the time at Camp Bestival. Many hours were spent near the Band Stand where artists unknown (predominantly) provided a consistently high standard of alternative music. Skinny Lister were a notable name to remember from the festival: this London-based folk act would stop and improvise parts of songs with crowd members playing instruments (at about twenty minutes before the end, they pulled one man up to perform drums for the remainder of their set), and the female singer abandoned her post for an entire song to dance with the crowd, myself being the first member to “dosie-doh” with her.

Meh; Ellie Goulding.

Skinny Lister put Max and I into a somewhat folky mood for the rest of the day: it was lucky that the line-up was fertile in similar acts. We warmed up our evenings in the Big Top: the day’s headliner was the legendary Billy Bragg, who performed all of the classics you would expect him to, while fully acknowledging the fact that the majority of the audience was about the same age as him. Before closing with ‘New England’, he performed a ballad inspired by a powerful yet haunting speech about multiculturalism as a progressive force. While dipping into anecdotes about seeing The Clash at Rock against Racism, he reminded the crowd that going to a show and clapping along to someone’s messages isn’t enough to change the world, but spreading that message is a good place to start.

Skinny Lister, the catch of the day.

Straight afterwards, we headed over to the Folk tent for a dash of Victor Menace: after catching the end of their set earlier in the day, popular demand ushered them into a second set at 11pm. As soon as they hit the stage, the small but bustling tent burst into a frenzied jig to their folk-punk anthems, with the front row displaying an array of original dancing that seemed much appreciated by the band themselves.

One dose of folk punk, one dose of electrocution by
cucumbers and a man with better facial fuzz than me.

One thing we noticed while watching acts on the last two days of the festival was the duality of the security and staff of the festival. Whilst getting backstage was actually very easy (we had friends working on the main bar, and the production camp was part of the backstage complex where the VIP area was situated), and the ‘meat heads’ that you usually spot harassing festival goers were almost pleasant, recycling-friendly and smiley-smiley men, the moment a child’s enjoyment was compromised was the moment when the shit hit the fan. Max was asked on several occasions to put cigarettes out inside incredibly aired-out stage tents, and cans of any sort were not allowed inside the main arena (but fuck that, put them in your pants when you walk through). It was certainly a strange code of conduct for any festival.

We still enjoyed the Saturday in spite of a slight dry spell of free drinks for the day (which was heavily enjoyed on the first day, many thanks to the guys on the Drambui stand and our pals on the Main Bar, but shhhhh!). By nightfall the silent disco was a highlight of the weekend, lasting for several hours and belting out all the classics that you want to hear when you’ve drunk more than your body weight in ale. We ran into the folk you meet at every festival who live for the mash-up: ketamine-fuelled rants at bubble specialists from men old enough to be your granddad and sexy sisters with crazy hair do’s were the proceedings of the early hours of Sunday morning.

Oi girls with the sexy hair, we know where you work!

The final day brought more treats for us: we managed to acquire several more bottles of Vitamin Water from a rep at one of their stalls (spoilt us, you guys!), the Drambui stand seemed fecund in free drinks once more, and watching Medieval-style jousting was actually very enjoyable, despite the corny fa├žade and it’s orientation towards making a show enjoyable for children. The jousting actually held several recognisable faces within the crew from blockbusters such as A Knight’s Tale, both Robin Hood films and Gladiator.

This picture is a favourite because it actually
looks like a still from feudal times

Not feeling like being stuck in another long commute home amidst family wagons on the Monday morning, we decided to leave on the Sunday night. But as we walked back to pack up our tent, we walked past a costume shop with a single man playing guitar outside. We thought at first he was a Hendrix piss-take, with his Fender, large afro-like do and the distortion from his 30w amp. But as we double-backed on ourselves, we found perhaps the most enjoyable act of our weekend in Lewis Floyd Henry; what we though was a gimmick was actually the most passionate act of the day, channelling out thundering ballads from the man, his snare/bass drum/hi-hat combo that he played with his feet, his Bob Dylan-style harmonica holder and his 30w amplifier. He mixed it up with experimental blues riffs while throwing in some Wu-Tang Clan lines as his infantile son bounded round in a blues-filled Dionysian rage. A tip top way to end the weekend; a sign hung above Lewis Floyd Henry’s head that pointed the direction for ‘Something Else’. That’s how I would have described where we were.

One man plus a 30 watt pram

Props to Vitamin Water, Daisy, Ellie and co. for hooking us up with drinks, the Bubble babes, and to Max for photos. Sorry for the delay! Rich, DB x

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