Bestival 2010 Clockwatch – Friday, September 10th (Part 2)
18.05: An ecstatic Shaun is using Twitter to talk about how Gil Scott-Heron has done 'five minutes of standup, like Chris Rock's unruly uncle'. There's a charming moment where the godfather of hip-hop underplays his piano skills in self-deprecating style. I'm in love already and he's not started singing yet. KG
18.10: Gil Scott-Heron on the Main Stage is one act I feel compelled not to miss, despite not being overly au fait with his work. He’s one of those guys who seems to have influenced almost every rap, jazz and RnB act in the last 30 years. Sitting up close to the Main Stage, the first striking thing is the man’s hilarity. I see now why he’s called a poet; his chat with the crowd is possibly the most entertaining of the weekend.
Scott-Heron’s voice is the second weapon in his armoury. It's rich and deep, and tells a thousand stories in an almost effortless way. Tales of New York and Jackson, Tennessee are sung to piano, drums and bongos with soulful backing vocals. It’s been an education. AF
18.45: We catch the end of Joy Orbison’s set in a Big Top packed with young ravers. We’re not here for early evening dancing though, we’re here to see the best band of the past year, as sealed with approval by the panel at Mercury days ago, when they named The xx’s self-titled debut their Album of the Year. Oliver Sim is the smiliest I’ve ever seen him; this may be the moment the notoriously shy group come out of their shells.
The entrance of smoke and low lighting hints that their key mysterious element is here to stay, but the raw energy feels more powerful somehow. Romy Madley-Croft’s hushed vocals on VCR still sound innocent and adolescent, however. Crystalisedwas possibly my favourite song of 2009, and it’s great to finally hear it live – the chemistry between the pair seemly more electric on stage than on record.
”This may be our last gig in the UK for some time. If this is our last song we play, we’ll be very glad,” pronounces Sim. Closer Infinity acts as a window in which The xx may move to more bold and powerful songs in future, and will also surely have the confidence for a crack at the American market. Sim smashes cymbals in perfect timing to the dance song’s perfect crescendo with wanton abandon, leaving the crowd over-awed from a magnificent performance. AF
20.00: Confess to Benjamin that I think I'm starting to 'get' The xx, having refused to since this festival last year, where Arj and Tom had an amusing argument about whether they were any good or not at 4 in the morning on Friday (incidentally, they have since reached consensus, whilst I remain in lone opposition against their musical coalition). However, O2's lacksadasical approach to sending text messages in a timely manner at music festivals means that my about-face is thankfully not revealed for another 24 hours. KG
21.15: The xx’s fellow Elliott School alumni, Hot Chip, are about to take to the Main Stage. The diminutive Alexis Taylor is wearing baggy yellow trousers and a blue blazer, along with science teacher scruffy hair and glasses. The skuzzy Over and Over from their breakthrough longplayer The Warning sets the crowd dancing as predicted. But it is material from their most recent, mellower album One Life Stand, showcased on a blustery evening on this exposed British isle, that really blows the crowd away.
One Life Stand flows effortlessly from steel drum, techno beats then early house and progresses like all great pop songs should, finally into futuristic disco; incredible. Ready for the Floor finishes a masterly set from a group at the height of their powers. AF
22.15: I've been taking some time out between Hot Chip and Dizzee Rascal in the Magic Meadow, sipping cider and playing the piano for the first time in seven years. A trio of slaughtered reprobates in their early-to-mid twenties manifest by my side. "Excuse me, do you take requests?" slurs one. Well, I say, I've not played in seven years and I'm a bit the worse for wear, but I'll give it a go. If you heard the worst version of Africa by Toto that has ever been played/sung anywhere, then on behalf of the four of us, I'm really sorry. KG
22.17: "What are you doing, Ricky?" asks one of our Toto fans as my one-note version of Africa winds towards its strangely edifying climax. "I'm fi- I'm - I - I'm gettin'her chords...the chords..." says 'Ricky', leaning on the piano and waving his iPhone around in the air. "It's OK," chips in the third of these three hedonistic musketeers, "we're in safe hands here. She knows what she's doing." And with that, off they swagger into the night, leaving me to practise my finest chillwave renditions whilst contemplating the strangest thing that has happened to me in four consecutive years at Bestival by far. And some pretty strange shit has gone on here. KG
22.30: Say what you like about Zane Lowe, but he knows how to warm a crowd up, playing radio friendly tunes that get the crowd excited for the night’s main event, Dizzee Rascal.
'The Bard of Bow' has enjoyed a sensational past 12 months, moving on from his hard-urban image well and truly into the mainstream, with collaborations intended to earn him number 1 singles. Wearing a Nirvana t-shirt to embody his genre-crossing image, he belts out early critically acclaimed songs such as Fix Up, Look Sharp before working through new hits Holliday and Dance Wiv Me.
A cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit borrowed from the aforementioned godfathers of grunge is updated, and proves danceable. The Bonkers finale, complete with fireworks, a girl baring her chest, fireworks, tickertape cannons and Dizzee entering a moshpit in the crowd is a virtuoso performance of perhaps the finest pop song from the past few years. Well and truly, Mr Rascal here has proved himself a worthy headliner of the modern era. Many attending probably didn’t expect to enjoy this anywhere near as much as they clearly did; barnstorming. AF
words: Andy Fairclough and Kate Goodacre
pictures: Andy Fairclough