Tim Hughes reviews Bestival, which went up from the 5th-8th of September in Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight. 


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Fatboy Slim, Snoop Dogg and Elton John. These three main stage headliners of Bestival this year perfectly illustrate the festival’s appeal and demonstrate why it is so great. Having three such disparate headliners showcases the eclecticism that is felt throughout the festival, not just in the acts but also in the surroundings and various activities. This variety contributes massively to the wonderful atmosphere of the four-day event. Bestival prides itself on being a slightly more subversive and alternative festival than its contemporaries, and it succeeds in providing a genuinely different and unique festival experience independent of the usual boozy shout-along in a commercially sponsored field.


Bestival kicked off with the inimitable and ever-aggressive Wu-Tang Clan. Despite being on during a slightly puzzling slot in the mid-afternoon sunshine, they put on a great show. Their microphones drowned out slightly but they still pulled out all the hits and brought the motherf***in’ ruckus. From there on in, bar Snoop Dogg, I only saw DJs. The DJ line up at Bestival is much more vast and impressive than any other UK festival, yet again setting it apart.


First up on Friday was Mele, as part of David Rodigan’s Ram Jam line up in The Bollywood Tent. He absolutely murdered his set, pulling out banger after banger from all different genres. There was grime, there was techno, there was house; from the off he has a tent full of sober festivalgoers bouncing: an impressive feat.


Joy Orbison, undoubtedly one of the UK’s finest producers, played one of the sets on Friday night. It wasn’t a crowd-pleasing banger after banger set, but a much more nuanced, flowing set comprised of house and techno. He dropped some classic productions from himself in the form of ‘Donnell’ and ‘BRTHDTT!’ but also brought in a fair bit of old-school house that flowed seemly throughout his lush and euphoric set, a set I never wanted to end.


Saturday came and that meant one thing: Snoop Dogg.  Snoop was a slightly strange prospect as a headliner; he went from classics such as ‘Gin & Juice’ to getting a lap dance while a Calvin Harris track played in the background. He then performed Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’. And then ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. Luckily, his charisma carried him through all his missteps and overall it was a beguiling and ultimately satisfying headline set from the former P.I.M.P.


After Snoop, we headed to the Port for the remainder of the evening. What followed was easily the set of the weekend and one of the hardest, heaviest sets I’ve ever witnessed. What made Glasgow’s very own Hudson Mohawke’s set so good was the way he built the tracks up for so long before dropping absolutely monstrous beats and bass to massive effect. He didn’t actually get through many songs but the ones he does hit hard. He also dropped a few unreleased cuts that made the set that much more special. The biggest exclusive of them all was the new Pusha T tune which went over HudMo’s infamous unreleased Chimes beat; it went hard and blew the socks off everyone in attendance. It was the set of the weekend by far.


Sunday brought a downpour of rain that continued throughout the day. The unrelenting rain was, however, the only blot on a great closing day of music at The Red Bull Music Academy Stage. Oneman was followed by the Swamp81 crew consisting of Mickey Pearce, Boddika and Loefah, all MC’ed by Chunky. Oneman, as usual, killed it. His set drew upon all different musical styles from grime to house to hip hop to techno; every track played was mixed expertly. It was a rapturously received set from one of the UK’s finest DJs. Up next was the Swamp81 crew. Mickey Pearce was probably the pick of the lot with the inimitable style of hard beats and rhymes. Next up was Boddika, delivering one of his finer sets in recent times; he opted for the less obvious Swamp81 cuts and pulled out some undiscovered gems. Swamp81 head honcho Loefah then stepped up with a crowd-pleasing but fairly predictable set. Chunky’s playful and energetic MC’ing stopped it from becoming too boring and carried the set through the torrential rain to round off an amazing weekend.


Bestival once again proved to be the best alternative to Glastonbury in the UK, combining both crowd-pleasing headline acts like Elton John and Snoop Dogg with the best of the underground dance scene through Joy Orbison and Hudson Mohawke. And it was all contained in a nice and friendly party atmosphere set in beautiful grounds on the Isle of Wight. A great way to bid farewell to the summer in the UK.


Tim Hughes

Photo Credit: Tim Hughes