Rob Da Bank’s space themed Camp Bestival has been running eight years now, throughout that time it’s won numerous awards as the UK’s best family festival. Thousands come to pay witness to Lulworth castle and its scenic surroundings and the dozens of different tents and stages filled with music, comedy, dance and weddings – Camp Bestival is the most fun family festival around. Especially when headlined by Jess Glynne, Fatboy Slim and Tears For Fears!
Over 30,000 are in attendance, many of whom are parents who come to let their (remaining) hair down and allow their children to run amok dressed as stormtoopers and aliens, whilst they enjoy a cheeky cider or two.
Friday’s proceedings featured the likes of Lazytown and West End Kids for the young uns, whilst the entire family could all get a work-out by the legend Mr Motivator. The Castle Stage paid witness to such diverse acts as X-Factor’s Reggie N Bollie and singer songwriter Jamie Lawson. During the daytime the majority of festival revelers spend their time lying on an array of tartan picnic blankets or of some rather luxurious seating arrangements. DJ Yoda performs with a trademark ‘cut n paste’ setlist of film quotes and dance/hip-hop classics to really get the festival into a swing. Not afraid to drop the odd Justin Bieber and Rhianna track, the latter even provoked an unwelcome mosh-pit of excited teenagers who obviously found expressing themselves with dancing too awkward. But Skee-Loo’s ‘I Wish’ strangely fell to death ears for anyone under 20s. Everyone else was simply loving it especially when Toto’s ‘Africa’ is played.
Squeeze, who looked rather dapper in their suits, played a crowd-friendly set that included ‘Cool For Cats’, ‘Tempted’ and ‘Up The Junction’. They threw in quite a few of their critically acclaimed latest album ‘Cradle To The Grave’ from the Danny Baker sitcom of the same name. They may have had some of the oddest videos to accompany their tracks, and they got far more of a crowd reaction from their new-wave era tracks like ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and ‘Pulling Muscles (From The Shell)’. Just a shame they didn’t have time for the classic ‘Another Nail In My Heart’. Though being sandwiched between DJ Yoda and Jess Glynne was an unusual choice – but Camp Bestival does love to mix it up.
There was some time to quickly catch Alice Jemina in the Big Top. Her trip-hop inspired pop tracks like ‘Liquorice’ and ‘So’ sounded sublime, though she still lacks some stage confidence and seemed too embarrassed to promote her own wares. As Jemina’s label being Rob Da Bank’s Sunday Best, they made sure they had staff selling vinyl to the audience during the set.
Back at the Castle Stage and after knocking over half a dozen kids and falling head over arse over one of the hundreds of trolleys (some even made up to look like spaceships) used for transporting toddlers around the site, the legions of teenagers returned after being confused by Squeeze, and the main stage had never looked busier. Jess Glynne took the stage as the first night’s headliner with a set of very polished dance-pop tracks including Clean Bandits’ infamous ‘Rather Be’, which everyone with a heart-beat must know word for word by now. Glynne was backed by a brass section amongst a parade of session musicians fashioned out with short trousers and some questionable dance moves. Glynne has a great voice and plenty of energy, but as she has only released the one record. Their wasn’t enough crowd pleasures for a headline act as such and apart from a beautifully performed ‘Take Me Home’ (which included the standard phones being waved in unisome) the set was a tad samey and as festival favourites The Cuban Brothers were about the take the stage at the Big Top it was time to make an exit.
Many had joined me in leaving early to catch The Cuban Brothers who sadly missed their usual spot on the main stage. They possess the charisma, wit and the funk that can turn anyone knew to their act into a life-long fan in minutes. They had their usual parade of inappropriate innuendos and breakdancing mixed with some funky disco numbers and some choice covers: The White Stripe’s ‘Seven Nation Army’. They call anyone who left the big top a “Tory Bastard” and jest that they are strongly not political. They end with Miguel Mantovani only wearing a thong shaped like a swan. Just standard fare for the Cubans.
Saturday was another scorcher. Kids were enjoying the ferris wheel, helter skelter and other attractions like the world’s biggest bouncy castle conveniently placed next to the world’s biggest queue for a bouncy castle. The Blue Coats were camping it up with glitter and tempting us to have a blind snail race, the Tudor’s were teaching anyone brave enough to fire a crossbow and up in the tall field was a wall of death. Standard really. Though there was a lack of jousting this year. Maybe the Black Knight just had to finally hang up his helmet.
The Chuckle Brothers and Mr Tumble caused a epidemic of beaming smiles and saucepan eyes from kids and adults alike on the Castle Stage. Eddie The Eagle and Rob Auton delighted a rammed Guardian Literary Institute tent with stories, poems and comedy. But sadly news spread throughout the festival that 90’s hip-hop legends Arrested Development had cancelled, but Django Django were going to be replacing them, so all is well as they were electric on stage. They won over a crowd of confused hip-hop fans with their nervous indie rhythms and the largest collection of tambourines and shakers of any band all weekend. They treated us to tracks off ‘Hail Bop’ and ‘Born Under Saturn’, though gained more appreciation during their rocking material like ‘Default’ and ‘WOR’. Singer/guitarist Vincent Neff had to remove his shades at one point just to take in the crowd and the castle view, whilst a topless man waved a light-sabre and cheered for an encore, his daughter just sat beneath him, hands covering her ears. Sometimes you really can’t escape an embarrassing dad.
Katy B made a happy return to the festival and the stage was transformed into a pyramid with her tour DJ and backing dancers by her side. Decked out in glorious silver and glitter, B ran around the stage throwing shapes and treating us with a career best of that included ‘Lights On’, ‘Crying for No Reason’ and crowd-pleaser ‘Katy On A Mission’, and a bonus cover of Baby D’s ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’ that got the older ravers jumping. Katy B can put on a show though it lacked the live element one would expect from a festival performance.
Fatboy Slim certainly knew how to play a festival and proved that one man with some decks can still be a visual delight. He walked on in an apt astronaut outfit, backed by a gigantic stage filling video screen. This would delight us with a mix of visuals and live camera footage of Norman Cook wearing an array of masks dancing alongside Chewbacca. Though lacking in actual Fatboy Slim originals, the playlist included ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’ a mini tribute to Prince, Marvin Gaye and a ripping version of the ‘Rockafeller Skank’ mixed with The Rolling Stone’s ‘Satisfaction’. The night ended with a proposal, though without there being a microphone we just had to presume from the kissing and dancing that she said yes. Another wonderful way to end a night at Camp Bestival. And for anyone with any energy left Altern 8 and Sasha were playing tunes at the newly open air Bollywood Tent until the early hours of the next morning.
Sunday and still not a drop of rain down in Dorset and the final day of the festival was the best lineup. Comedy in the Big Top came from Kieth Farnan, Kerry Godliman (star of ‘Derek’) and Jasper Carrot (star of ‘Golden Balls’) whose material seemed a little bit dated with topical gags on Ken Dodd’s tax evasion. Though it was sad that there wasn’t an actual comedy tent this year.
After a quick tour of some of the other aspects of the site like the re-energising Slow Motion tent, the insect circus and the Dingly Dell forest, Brand New Heavies were glamming it up ’80s style with some smooth tracks; middle-aged mums swayed to the summer breeze to ‘Midnight At the Oasis’. Guitarist Simon Bartholomew, dressed up like Mick Ronson in space, did complain about a lack of sound-check, but they still sounded fantastic and even got an unscheduled encore -which hardly ever happens.
KT Tunstall and band were also up for the outer-space theme, decked out in gold lamé and the bassist with silver-foil hair. Tunstall kicked off proceedings with ‘Fade Like A Shadow’ and was having a blast sticking our her tongue to the camera men and dropping ’80s pop covers like The Bangles ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ into her set. She was in a very chatty mood and warned us of the woes of long distance relationships before playing ‘Other Side Of The World’ and made sure we knew the chorus for her new track ‘It Took Me So Long To Get Here’, as “festivals are all about singing along” so why should we miss out – and we certainly didn’t. Tunstall treated us to the hits including a stripped down ‘Black Horse And The Cherry Tree’ (which went into The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’ – the third time it had been covered during the festival) and climaxed with ‘Suddenly I See’. She clearly loved her first time at the festival and said that “in today’s world we should have more joy” and to “enjoy ourselves” – that we did KT, that we did.
Bananarama (backed by a band who looked more at home playing AC/DC covers than cheesy ’80s pop) attracted a keen posse of very excitable mid ’40s ladies armed with inflatable bananas. Their kids looked confused as their mums remembered the dance routines to ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’ and ‘I Heard a Rumour’. Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin just looked like a couple of mates having a laugh, and they joked and performed the tracks with a ‘not giving a crap’ attitude, but that’s what Bananarama were all about. Before playing their cover of ‘Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’ they welcomed some of the crowd onstage to dance along to their top ten hit. Though this slightly backfired, when about 50 ladies and gents ran to get on stage, leading security to step in and hold up proceedings for a couple of awkward long minutes, which cut too much into the band’s stage time meaning they were asked to leave shortly after the track.
Anne-Marie was the penultimate act on the Castle Stage, which seemed an odd booking as she has yet to have an album or a top ten single. The Rudimental vocalist and Karate champion performed to a rather sparse crowd. Though that didn’t put her off bouncing around the stage smiling and joking with the audience performing her drum ‘n’ bass tinged pop and a cover of Susanne Vega’s ‘Toms Diner’. Anne-Marie can certainly belt out the tunes and ‘Alarm’ and ‘Boy’ were well-received, but wouldn’t a newer act like this be more suited to the Big Top or lower down the bill?
As the sun began to slip away behind Lulworth castle, the crowd began to swell to see the festival closers (and festival virgins) Tears For Fears. It was their first UK date in over ten years and they kicked off with the big hitters; ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ and ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’ in quick succession. A brave move for most bands, but the Bath duo kept up the quality throughout and reminded everyone of just how many classic tracks they have written. ‘Break it Down Again’ and ‘Pale Shelter’ sounded fatter and certainly improved on the recorded versions. Both guitarist Roland Orzabal and bassist Curt Smith sounded superb, as well as their backing singer Carina Round.
The band played a careerspanning set including tracks off their last album, 2005′ s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, though sadly some of the red wine-lipstick brigade down the front decided to not give any newer material a chance and decided to repeatedly sing the chorus to ‘Shout’. The band had previously cancel a US tour due to a family illness and they hadn’t played many dates in a year, which could excuse them for the couple of slips during ‘Memories Fade’ and ‘Advice For The Young At Heart’. They closed with ‘Head Over Heels’ and with no surprise they shortly returned to play a beautiful version of ‘Woman In Chains’ that showcased Round’s perfect vocal and of-course ‘Shout’, though the previously mentioned ladies had by this point staggered off – we could all sing at the top of our voices, arms raised, in peace. A great track to end a great day of music and not forgetting an exquisite firework display to David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’. Same time next year then Camp Bestival?