The theme for Bestival this year was “Summer of Love”, and it seems like every person who attended was there for peace, love, and good vibes. In fact a security guard even noted that he had not had to throw a single person out as everyone was behaving so well.
Looking around, it definitely appeared that way. The atmosphere was that of a grassroots masquerade ball, or if Woodstock had been designed by a surreal artist. Many people were in costume and checked out attractions like a “Cosmic Commune”, an inflatable church, an impromptu parade featuring a giant unicorn truck, and of course the various music stages.
Jamie xx, of famed dark poppers the xx, played selections decidedly different from his original band. Mashing up classic soul tracks with cutting edge rhythms and beats, his songs were ideal for the sweltering, hazy heat. With Jamie xx, you know there’s gonna be good times.
Trippy duo Odesza are also sample-based, but their music could not be more different from Jamie xx’s. Where his is more about the vibe and the groove, Odesza are all about the beat and the melody. It’s about the immediate impact. Each song has a surgically perfected earworm of a hook that plays alongside a hard-hitting rhythm section. It’s glacial, monolithic music meant to jump to- precisely what the crowd did.
The first day was closed out by psychedelic Australian group Tame Impala. If there’s any current band that’s perfected the art of “retro-futuristic”, it’s these guys. The visuals, attire, and music are all a perfect hybrid of 70s rock and modern music. It was a very mellow end to the day, with many slower tracks like “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” in the set, although the occasional up-tempo jam like “Elephant” did pop up.
Day two featured bands like The Wombats, who despite the name are not from Australia but from Liverpool. They play a straightforward, very modern brand of alternative rock not unlike Joywave or Smallpools. Guitars, keyboards, big hooks, tons of energy, and a fun attitude. One standout was the immediate hit “Give Me a Try”.
Daughter followed them with a much different approach. They blend indie folk and shoegaze together into a spectral, haunting sound that floated out on the summer breeze in the form of chiming guitar chords. Frontwoman Elena Tonra was very gracious and almost a little bit bashful, focusing very intently on delivering her wistful guitar melodies.
The stage was then taken over by the irrepressible, effervescent Grimes, aka Claire Boucher from Montreal. It was chaotic in the best way possible. Grimes would bolt from one end of the stage to another, jumping, rolling, crawling, and generally just have a lot of fun. She admitted that she had a cold, but if she hadn’t mentioned it then it’s doubtful anyone would have noticed. Playing a set mostly comprised of songs from last year’s critically acclaimed Art Angels, she had the crowd transfixed with explosive jams like “World Princess part II”, “Kill V Maim”, and “Flesh Without Blood”.
The set up for headliners The Cure was incredibly efficient, and the legends went on stage in what seemed like no time at all, to the point where it felt like they were early. Robert Smith was extremely charming and in good spirits through the whole night, joking even when there were a few minor malfunctions. When the sound cut out on his guitar he quipped “it’s kind of nice when it does that, like when you zone out and your mind goes elsewhere. I do that all the time on stage.”
They played hit after hit, from “A Walk” to “In Between Days” to “Pictures of You” and “Just Like Heaven”. Listening to all their songs in succession you begin to realize just how important they are to the current musical landscape; there are few modern acts that aren’t indebted in one way or another to The Cure’s legacy.
True to Bestival’s “Summer of Love” theme, they played “Lovesong” which Robert Smith sang in an even more plaintive melody, if that’s possible. There were three encores, the third of which was jam packed full of hits: “Let’s Go to Bed”, “Why Can’t I Be You?”, “Close to Me” all made an appearance, with “Boys Don’t Cry” finishing off the set on an upbeat note. The weather might have been a bit cooler on the second night, but the crowd still left Woodbine Park feeling warm inside from two fun summer days of cool sights, great bands, and good vibes.
June 11-12, 2016
Photos by Stevie Gedge/Bestival and Walid Lodin – http://www.flickr.com/people/digitalathlete