As Rob and Josie Da Bank’s annual fancy dress end-of-season party reaches its 11th year drenched in palm fronds and disco balls, in keeping with its Desert Island Disco theme, here’s what we learned from being stranded at the Isle Of Wight’s biggest ever Caribbean rave-up.
1. Big Is Beautiful
If Bestival hadn’t pushed the boat out – literally – last year by building an entire wrecked cruise ship at one end of the site and installing a gigantic Lionel Ritchie head you could crawl into and sing ‘Hello’, this year it outdoes itself by completing the Desert Island Disco theme with the world’s largest mirrorball in the centre of the site. When it rises in a cascade of lasers during Chic’s set it’s like someone turned Mercury into one huge Studio 54.
2. Wolf Alice Are The True Saviours Of Rock
Royal Blood were just the warm-up act. Wait until the world at large gets wind of Wolf Alice, who close Bestival by thrashing through a whirlwind half hour of glorious grunge pop and piling into the crowd while dressed in their mum’s most garish old frocks. Where once they seemed to be a classic snarly garage rock band in the vein of PJ Harvey or Hole, their inner panto dames lurch drunkenly to the fore to make them the drag-tastic band of the weekend.
3. tUnE-yArDs Are The Maddest Band On The Planet
The blue eyebrows. The maniacal mid-song babbling. The disjointed afrobeat pop songs that sound like the cast of Shitfaced Shakespeare have been let loose in a jazz band’s lock-up. The bits where Merrill Garbus leads her backing band in the kind of atonal choral harmonising that you haven’t heard since the huge black monolith appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Um, did we mention she had massive blue eyebrows?
4. La Roux May Well Have Made Her New Album Specifically For Bestival
With an overwhelming hula vibe and tracks like ‘Tropical Chancer’ about being chatted up by some Hawaiian-shirted sleazebag, it’s almost as if ‘Trouble In Paradise’ was recorded as the soundtrack to Bestival 2014. Hence Elly Jackson and co play it almost in its entirety, from the lovelorn ‘Let Me Down Gently’ to the limbo lip-smacker ‘Kiss And Not Tell’. Jackson also got into the hedonistic spirit, encouraging the crowd to “put some work” into getting seriously wasted and playing her Torture Garden disco track ‘Sexotheque’. In fact, so attuned to the Bestival vibe was our Elly that you half expected her to be riding the mirrorball, Miley Cyrus-style, when it was hoisted aloft on Sunday night.
5. The Ambient Forest Is Where You Should Hang Out At Bestival Next Year
The Ambient Forest is by far the most fascinating and surprise-riddled place on site. Wander randomly through its surrealist foliage and you’ll bump into maniacal mariachi bands playing ‘Shout’ in pagodas, terrifying clans of skeletal Morris dancers or the unforgettable sight of Shit-Faced Shakespeare: a performance of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona in which one actor has necked half a bottle of gin since 9am and fucks up scenes by bringing on fire extinguishers, insisting she leaves the stage for a fag and sits down swearing at exactly the point she should be dressing up as a man to weave her way into the affections of yonder Duke.