Kicking off Bestival’s Satturday line-up, barefoot politi-folk singer Beans on Toast opened up the Big Top to a surprisingly big crowd for a midday start, swigging from a hipflask and charming the gathering with songs about festivals, drugs, love and the price of chicken. Songs ‘M.D.M.Amazing’ and ‘I Can’t Get a Gig at Glastonbury’ seemed to really strike a chord with those struggling with a day-three sized hangover, and the shambolic singer charmed every woman under the roof when he sung the simple yet adorable love-song ‘My New Number One’ about his girlfriend Lizzie, who was bobbing around at the side of the stage.
Following Beans with an abrupt change of style was the Jaipur Brass Band, adding a splash of colour to the stage putting a smile on everyone’s face. The exuberant group pair Indian sounds with western brass instruments, making for an interesting and unique sound. More importantly, the players danced around on stage with such smiles on their faces that it was impossible not to be drawn in to the fun, and were joined halfway through their set by a performer swallowing swords, juggling and wowing the small but intrigued gathering. Those who missed the early afternoon set, however, could be sure to bump into the band as they popped up in various places the site, bringing their impromptu trumpeting to the whole of Bestival.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor attempted to reclaim her old crown as Queen of Disco, and took to the main stage in a glittery hula skirt that wasn’t quite a costume, but was at least a nod to the ‘desert island disco’ theme. The singer had a lot of energy and was keen to engage with a crowd that seemed more interested in sitting down in the sun with a drink and bobbing their heads in time than getting up for a dance. As she closed her set with a pair of nineties classics, however, the floor-fillers ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’ and ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ showed they had stood the test of time, and thousands of people stood up almost in unison to show off some true disco dance moves.
Meanwhile, over at the Reggae Roots stage the vibe was a lot more suited to a laidback sunny Saturday afternoon, where Bristol singer/songwriter Eva Lazarus won over the festivalgoers recovering in hammocks and lying around the wishing tree with her easy charm and upbeat sound.
Bestival veterans Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip took to the Big Top in late afternoon and were greeted by the biggest crowd the tent had seen all weekend to perform their last ever show together as a duo. The pair were introduced by Rob Da Bank himself, a testament to their keen support for the festival in the eight consecutive years they’ve played there. Le Sac vs Pip classics like ‘Letter From God To Man’ and ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’ were greeted with a wall of sound, as every fan who knew the words screamed along with bittersweet excitement, and the change in lyrics in the latter to ‘thou shalt not question Rob Da Bank’ was greeted with an appropriately enthusiastic cheer. The energy in the densely packed crowd was absolutely electric and the perfect send-off for the duo as they move apart to focus on solo careers.
One of the most earnest and enjoyable acts of the weekend was Kate Tempest, who played to a medium sized crowd in the new Invaders of the Future tent. The rapper and poet absolutely captivated her audience, and it was impossible not to hang off her every word; even though the tent was by no means small she succeeded in creating an atmosphere of intense intimacy. Her set-closing plea to everybody to leave the festival and to keep the atmosphere alive by throwing themselves into creativity – “whatever it is you do… go f***ing do it, do it, do it harder” – was an incredibly profound moment in the midst of a festival that prides itself on being frivolous and not taking itself too seriously.
The Kooks turned out to be the surprise act promised in the late afternoon mystery slot in the Big Top, and were greeted with a decent-sized crowd but drew less attention than expected, perhaps because of the last-minute announcement of their set or perhaps because they didn’t quite fit the vibe of the festival. While Bestival is no stranger to indie-rock crooning, its line-up is typically more disco and dance based, and The Kooks may have been slightly too far off the indie deep end to appeal to this year’s desert-island disco-ers.
DJ collective 1800-Dinosaur, headed by James Blake, were a perfect fit for the atmosphere over at The Port, keeping the huge, ever-dancing crowd in front of HMS Bestival for the best part of three hours. Alongside James Blake, Dan Foat, Airhead and Mr Assister collaborate under the guise of 1800-Dinosaur to produce an eclectic mix of sounds. The team were joined on stage by acrobats suspended above the crowd as well as fire breathers and extravagantly costumed dancers atop the vast ship, which boasted a light show to rival the rest of the festival.
Indie-rock old hands Foals headlined Saturday night, returning to Bestival for the first time since their appearance in the BBC introducing tent seven years ago. The Oxford quintet provided a lively and energetic set, and recent hits ‘Inhaler’ and ‘My Number’ were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd, as pint-sized frontman Yannis Philipakis threw himself eagerly around the stage (and later, into the audience). Saturday night’s crowd, however, was substantially smaller than those drawn by the huge names of Outkast and Chic, perhaps because festival goers were split by the choice between Foals and the electronic stylings of Bonobo, SBTRKT and Basement Jaxx, whose back to back appearances filled the big top to the point of overflowing for hours.
As ever at Bestival, music continued well on into the early hours for those who couldn’t quite stop dancing, and Annie Mac’s DJ set ran until 3am. On Saturday night, however, many festival-goers seemed to head back to their tents at (slightly) more modest times, to brace themselves for day four and the inevitable cumulative hangover.