Thursday, 17 September 2009

And That Is That

"Mother, I can never come home again,
cos I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere,
somewhere in a field on the Isle of Wight."
(Cocker, Jarvis 1995)

You'd hope that things can only get LESS pretentious after you open a blog post with a quote, and considering that the wonders mentioned in this edition of The Hardcore and The Gentle include a man-size, all-flashing, all-boogying robot called Titan and an eight year-old dancing around dressed as a 10 foot alien, I think we're safely moving back in to less-than-Pulitzer-winning territory. Such spectacles were, of course, to be found at this year's Bestival, during which Rob Da Bank proved yet again why his Isle of Wight shindig is really the only festival worth going to. Now, as Kanye West might interject at this point, I'mma let you finish but Bestival 2008 was some of the best fun of my life - despite a heavy mud and rain presence - so this year had a tough act to follow. Soaked in sun, however, and with a line-up even better than last year, there was little chance that Monsieur Da Bank would fall flat on his face and end up being labelled a jackass by Obama. So without further ado, here's a brief lil run-down of the weekend's cosmic happenings...


For me, Friday kicked off with an introduction to a bit of Latin ballroom dancing in the form of a Rumba lesson in the Come Dancing, er, construction. An edifice that couldn't really be described as a tent, the wooden, 1930s dancehall-esque set-up of Come Dancing is glorious fun. Hosting a number of hour-long classes which teach a variety of hops, jigs and shuffles, and led by a chap who refers to himself as 'Warren Peace', Come Dancing is great fun and an excellent way to pass time in the early afternoon when perhaps the pick of the bands and DJs are yet to come. In terms of live music, my first Bestival act was Gilles Peterson in the ever-superb Bollywood Tent. If you want to boogy, any time of day, you go to Bollywood. If you want to boogy to the most eclectic mix of world music, jazz, funk and basically everything and anything you can conceive of shaking your tail-feathers to, you go to Gilles Peterson at Bollywood. In high spirits, we mooched around the festival site for a while after GP, reveling in the colours and the costumes that had invaded Robin Hill country park for the weekend. Next came Florence & the Machine, who delivered a great set despite the sound and location downfalls that it was becoming clear were plaguing the Main Stage (relocated from last year after all the mud troubles). Next on the Main Stage came the Dewaele brothers in their first incarnation of the night, as part of their live band Soulwax, and they did not disappoint. The sound seemed to have been corrected slightly on the stage, meaning that their live fusion of original Soulwax tracks and Soulwax remixes was given the strong technical support it deserved.

Hang on, this is all going too perfectly! Quick! Someone stink the place out! Ahhh, thank-you MGMT. Someone had to take the bullet of flopping on stage, and the American 3-trick ponies decided to step up to the plate. They adeptly proved why they're only really known for three songs, and the time in their performance between Time to Pretend, Electric Feel and Kids was the kind of uninspiring filler that could be a strong contender for 'Elevator Music of the Year' award. Even when Kids finally appeared (probably at the end, no further tunes registered on my radar whether they were being played or not), the crowd seemed to be putting more effort than the band in to the performance simply by doo-dooing along to the hook, while the undynamic duo wandered aimlessly around the stage. All this after a 45 minute delay as well. What a pair of twits. After the Main Stage had been given a thorough spraying in Oust to cover up the stench left by MGMT, the first headliners of the festival, Massive Attack, made their way on stage. I still can't quite decide to what degree I liked MA; they were certainly enjoyable and the performance was good, but I didn't find it particularly captivating. They seemed to disregard the fact that Teardrop is to date their biggest hit, and quite probably the sole reason some of the crowd were there watching them, as it passed by inconspicuously in a uber-gentle and minimalistic fashion half-way through the set. Nevertheless, Massive Attack don't make music to get a crowd of 20,000 people rocking and throwing their hands in the air, and it was certainly a fine example of live trip-hop.

After the main bands, I set off on the dance tent circuit. Justin Robertson delivered a typically strong set in Bollywood, and was followed by Fake Blood, who was equally great. We decided to leave mid-Blood to catch the last bit of 2manydjs' set in the Big Top, which wasn't a particularly worthwhile move for me personally as it turned out to just be exactly the same set I'd witnessed in Benicassim a few months earlier. Bit boring, but the set itself is pretty entertaining.


This "brief lil run-down" is promising to turn in to a post that is neither brief nor little, but is definitely run-down. Festival-wise, the dilapidation carried on nicely in to Saturday, where Diplo and his Mad Decent Soundsystem were bringing the tropical noise in the Big Top. The skankin' kicked off for me with Major Lazer, who all you The Hardcore and The Gentle nuts out there (your numbers have reached 277 million in 26 different countries, according to most recent statistics) may remember I was sceptical about in a previous posting. The scepticism still lingers, seeing as their album just isn't anything that special, but their live act is pretty solid. While the MC stormed about the stage, bumping and grinding with the dancers and scaling the rigging of the tent, Diplo and Switch dutifully pumped out their brand of tropical baile funk, albeit with a lack of anything extraordinary. Major Lazer were then made to seem even more average by their successor to the Big Top stage, Boy 8-Bit, who delivered one of the best sets of the weekend, which included his recent ace Florence & The Machine remix (available for download below). Next came my second favourite Portugese export of all time (after Nandos), Buraka Som Sistema. The level of crunk-ness instantly rose from 'fairly crunk' to 'you crunk my battleship', and the predominately white middle-class crowd was flexing like a bunch of Angolan street dancers, getting down and dutty to the sound of kuduro.

As with many things in life however, this dancehall madness was to be interrupted by a group of knob-twiddling Germans dressed as robot dummies. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Kraftwerk, but they ended up producing one of my favourite shows of the whole festival. Standing almost motionless behind their laptops for the entire performance, their gently pulsating low-key techno washed over the Main Stage field, full of delightfully rubbish lyrics and accompanied by a spectacular light show. Then over to the modern-day kingpin of techno, Erol Alkan, for what was probably his best set of the eight times I've now seen him. Surely electronic music can't get any better than what I'd already witnessed tonight? Oh. Wait. DJ Yoda. Right. It would be hard to imagine that any of the other 200 or so performances at this year's Bestival were more entertaining than the one delivered by the Jedi master of turntablism, performing his live audio/visual show which chops video and sound clips together at an amazing rate. Yoda is the king at knowing just what the audience wants, and his 1 hour and a half set opened with a clip from Rob Da Bank's own video blog, and included shoes being thrown at George Bush, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Tetris, Susan Boyle, Inspector Gadget and a fat man singing along to Paper Planes, all soundtracked by a mash of electro, dubstep, hip-hop, drum and bass, classic rock, Tetris theme tunes... you name it, Yoda played it. A truly awesome show, the chants of 'Yoda, Yoda' at the end are probably still echoing around the depths of the Isle of Wight countryside.


This post is really starting to bug me, due to it's length, the fact that I'm now writing it a good week and a half after the festival finished, and not least because in doing so my heart is aching to be back there and I'm having to resist the urge to straight away splash what little money I have left on a ticket for next year. If you've actually read this far in the blog then congratulations, you've read further than 98% of other readers who probably rightly high-tailed it off this page after scrolling down and seeing just how long this post is. But for those who have made it thus far, as a little treat we'll take a break from all this text for a moment and gaze at a picture. The picture is actually of a naked man collapsed on the floor of a Bestival disabled portaloo, with excrement smeared on various parts of his body and the toilet crammed to the point of overflowing: Let's just for one moment ignore the likelihood that, due to being in the disabled toilets, this man could well be disabled and this scene may be the result of a horrible accident relating to his handicap, AND also ignoring any sense of puzzlement as to how I came across such a picture and why I decided to repost it on here, and let's just concentrate on having a jolly good giggle at some naked poo bloke's expense while heartily spewing up our guts at the same time.

Due to the realisation that I've just used up valuable music reviewing space with a review of a shit-smeared muggins, and a desire to get this post over and done with pronto, Sunday's spectacles will be summed up in bullet point form:
  • Speech Debelle - No point in disguising the fact that this post has had a massive drop-off in quality for quite a few lines now, so might as well come clean that I actually saw Speech Debelle on the Saturday, not Sunday, but forgot to include her in that bit and am too lazy to go back and correct it. Drawn by her recent Mercury Prize win, I was pleased to have seen her live but her show was a bit boring, and she was slightly swamped by the large setting of the Big Top. Songs sounded better on the album.
  • DJ Derek - A fairly non-spectacular daytime line-up meant that it reached 7pm before we finally felt compelled to head to the arena, seeking out the veteran beats of 67 year-old reggae spinna DJ Derek. His set was packed with reggae and ska classics and left me cursing the fact that I hadn't visited the Afterburner stage before now - a flame-shooting tower that had apparently been borrowed from Glastonbury, this stage definitely seemed like a winner and will hopefully return next year. Here's an interesting nugget of information by the way: according to Wikipedia, DJ Derek has visited every single Wetherspoons pub in the UK. Blimey.
  • The Field - I was muchos excited about seeing this Swedish producer performing in a live set up, and I was not to be disappointed. Accompanied by a very good drummer and some other bloke doing something with some machinery, The Field played a mix of songs from both his new and old albums, adding a new dimension to each track through the live performance. Great set.
  • Squarepusher - The second instalment of Big Top Sunday madness came from Squarepusher, performing on bass guitar with his laptop and other electronic instruments as well as a live drummer. I was really quite sure that I knew what 'mental' meant before this set, but as it turns out - I was wrong. Squarepusher himself was clad in an orange tracksuit and a little floppy hat, and his on-stage routine consisted of slapping away at his bass like there was no tomorrow, then pausing briefly to give a little point in to the crowd, before merrily resuming his slapping. This cycle occurred many times during the performance, while all the while the crowd was half-dancing, half-spasming to the incessant scattering of beats and funky bass. In many ways, a really mind-blowing performance.
  • Carl Cox - Rounding off the night in the Big Top was techno legend Carl Cox. Playing an old skool set consisting of early 90's rave, which was often gloriously cheesy, Mr Cox proved just why he's known as one of the best DJs on the planet. And as if the night hadn't been barmy enough up to this point, he was joined on stage half-way through by a 'robot' the size of a tall man, who proceeded to plod around the stage and do the robot, metallic suit flashing all the while. After a while Carl decided to have a chat with his companion, asking, "Alright Bestival robot, how ya feeling?", to which the robot, in a fully robot-y tone of voice, replied, "This insanity just gets crazier, and crazier".
And that, I feel, is the perfect quote to end on. Nothing sums up the nature of Bestival like a giant flashing robot addressing a crowd of people dressed as a variety of galactic beings while in the middle of an old skool techno set. Fun, freaky, fantastic. See ya next year, Rob Da Bank.

Five of the best of all from Bestival

  • Major Lazer - Pon De Floor - This song was everywhere over the weekend, including appearing 3 times in as many DJ sets we witnessed on Saturday night alone.
  • M.O.P. - Ante Up - This was oddly probably the second most played song I heard over the weekend, with inclusions in DJ Yoda's set and Rob Da Bank's festival finale set.
  • Kraftwerk - Computer Love - An example of the many fine tunes that the German outfit played suring their Saturday headline set.
  • Squarepusher - A Real Woman - The type of bonkers hyper-funk that the 'pusher performed.
  • Florence & The Machine - Drumming Song (Boy 8-Bit Remix) - THE tune of the weekend. Dropped at the end of Boy 8-Bit's own set, it was made all the sweeter having seen Florence belt out her original version on the Main Stage the day before. Immense remix.
And now, following growing worldwide frustration that culminated in these angry scenes in Bolivia which were attributed by local media to "a lack of peng beats", here is the long-awaited return of...

Songs I'm Currently Loving:
Much Love.

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