September 25, 2009
Live Reviews: Bestival
Klaxons impress, MGMT disappoint as the curtain comes down on the festical season
Bestival is on a slope. All of it. It should be called Bestiv-hill (Good one – Ed). The newly-moved Main Stage stands atop said mound, veering manically downwards. This makes things difficult. The sound follows the hill, and travels at an odd 90 degrees to the speakers. Only the very tall and those very close to screens (of which there are two) can actually see anything, which makes things even more difficult. Kraftwerk (Main Stage, Saturday), for example, rely on heavy visuals and flashy stage machinations to counteract their static presence; ‘Numbers’ sees them in LED suits and set-closer ‘The Robots’ brings out those famous automatons. It’s great, but doesn’t seem to appeal to a thinning audience who are cold and unable to see or hear. On a stage like this, you need to play it loud and, more importantly, play it to the crowd.
This is a lesson that MGMT (Main Stage, Friday) could do with learning. Skulking on to the stage on Friday evening, the duo quickly get immersed in the task of distancing themselves from ‘Oracular Spectacular’. Dressed in Lycra, they spend 45 minutes essentially playing the coda to ‘Freebird’ before finally succumbing to the crowd’s desire: ‘Time To Pretend’ is immense, but the duo just couldn’t care less. Playing in the style of a married couple having cursory Saturday-night sex, they launch into new track ‘Dan Treacy’ as quickly as they can. ‘Electric Feel’ briefly imbues us with a sense of wonder, but the cord is severed unceremoniously and the boys stride off, only for Ben Goldwasser to return to noodle with the synth in a lounge-music style. A fuck-you or just massive self-indulgence? Either way, the audience holler the riff to ‘Kids’ until he leaves; 2008’s most-hyped band can’t leave the ghosts of their past behind them just yet.
Klaxons (Main Stage, Saturday) know the above all too well. Ignoring the Bestival fancy dress code (this year the theme is ‘Space Oddity’) they come dressed in James May-style shirts, and open their set with a blistering ‘Atlantis To Interzone’. Blasting through ‘Totem On The Timeline’, ‘Golden Skans’ and ‘As Above, So Below’ in quick succession, they simultaneously embrace and shed their new rave shroud. The tracks still sound fresh three years on, but the synths and sirens have been replaced by guitars and a sampler. Without the nu-rave manacles, they’re just good songs, played by a good live band. Jamie Reynolds dedicates ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ to his mum, and announces that this is their last show touring ‘Myths Of The Near Future’. This is how to move on with class.
Elsewhere, Golden Silvers (Main Stage, Saturday) prove their mettle by exhibiting the doo-wop-meets-Mystery Jets foppishness of their debut ‘True Romance’. ‘Please Venus’ is touching and ‘Arrows Of Eros’ should be an indie-disco mainstay for a while to come.
One to watch? That’s Marina And The Diamonds (Jim Beam & Cola Bar, Friday). Her terrifying yet sultry cover of Late Of The Pier’s ‘Space And The Woods’ is like Skins directed by Tim Burton and, if ‘The Crown Jewels’ EP is anything to go by, the LP should be spectacular. Also worthy of note are karate-pop quartet Fight Like Apes, who play a supercharged if short set (Red Bull Music Academy, Saturday). Leaping and screaming, they showcase most of ‘…The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion’, along with an appetite for crowdsurfing. Singer MayKay mixes Courtney Love’s manic streak with banshee-wailed lines such as “You’re like Kentucky Fried Chicken but without the taste”. Pulse-racing stuff. It goes without saying, but you don’t need a lightshow or LED suits. All you need is to play it fucking loud.
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