As the ferry shuttle ‘bus rounded the corner at the top of the last of the Isle of Wight’s many hills, the spotlights and lasers of Bestival 2014 pierced the sky, and all those on board – many on their fourth beer of the journey from the mainland – whooped with excitement. People stood up, people banged on the windows, people hurled each other’s coats down the aisle. It was just like coming-home time in Year 9.
Some festivals – we’re looking at you here, Reading – will open the campsite on a Thursday, but not bother with any entertainment at all until Friday afternoon. Not so Bestival: as we clattered excitedly down the long, dusty hill to the campsite, clearly the party was already well started.
In fact, by the time tents had been erected and further beers had been grabbed, Beck – and his Fedora – were arriving on stage at the Big Top tent. Given that many were still arriving on site, the crowd was enormous, and the great man seemed genuinely pleased.
The set sagged a little in the middle – too much self-indulgent noodling – but then suddenly Beck announced “..just because I can’t move [having hurt his knee falling down]doesn’t mean you can’t ..” , the band moved up a gear and the evening took off. A fabulous funky rework of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” had the whole crowd grooving, and then – after teasing the crowd (“can we do this? .. can we do this?”) with a couple of familiar chords, they rolled out a version of “Billie Jean” that had the whole place dancing
After a short break, where glasses were filled and bladders emptied (often only yards apart – who put a shadowy fence right next to a bar?) the familiar tones of Jon McClure, frontman for Reverend and the Makers, were heard. They’d had a very long festival season and – in common with many artists this weekend – this was their last appearance in a tent. The tiredness showed through on occasions, both on stage and in the jet-lagged – well, ferry-lagged – crowd, but the favourites kept on coming and he kept us bouncing ‘til the bitter end.
By the time the good Reverend departed us, it was already Friday, and the Big Top was done. The main stage wasn’t in use today, so those who’d taken it relatively easy on the long trip down headed off to The Port to dance with fire-breathers, pretend sailors and gorgeous transvestites, while those who hadn’t staggered back to the campsite via a stall that seemed to specialize in making charcoal out of pork.
Thanks Bestival – a bonus day, and a great warm-up.