A Festival Mixtape: Bestival 2012
Construction is underway once again at Robin Hill Countryside Adventure Park on the Isle of Wight, and it's time for one of the finest, most fun, most lovingly-curated festivals on the calendar. In spite of its explosion in size and popularity over the past five years that the Motel has been in attendance, the level of planning, thought and care that Rob da Bank and co put into Bestival each year is still apparent. It's no wonder that the festival has received near-consistent critical acclaim and won countless awards over the years.
As always, the breadth and depth of the musical bill is beyond compare, and this year's programme sees many seasoned favourites navigating the Solent to entertain the masses. Here's the cream of the crop:
1. Justice - 'One Minute to Midnight'
Ed Banger's darlings Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay walk the line between Friday night rave-up and arms-aloft stadium pop/rock with just the right amount of assured swagger. Their eagerly-anticipated second album Audio, Video, Disco received a largely positive reception and verges towards the more commercial end of their catalogue, but it's 'One Minute to Midnight' from their debut † that is guaranteed to have hearts racing on Saturday night.
2. Hot Chip - '(And I Was A) Boy From School'
Hot Chip definitely qualify as Bestival veterans by now, and are a class live act to boot. Their Friday night performance in 2010 - setting the scene for Dizzee Rascal - was more satisfying than 2008's similarly-positioned Saturday night slot ahead of then-headliner Amy Winehouse (although kudos to the band for their medieval-themed fancy dress outfits). While Andy F praised Hot Chip's material from One Life Stand two years ago, this track was my personal highlight on that evening.
3. Dirty Beaches - 'Lord Knows Best'
A Motelvision 2011 contender that cruelly lost out in the early rounds, 'Lord Knows Best' is the perfect introduction to one-time Polaris Music Prize nominee Alex Zhang Hungtai, aka Dirty Beaches. Its lazy minor-key piano hook burrows into your brain, and ethereal yet impassioned vocals from Hungtai set this track out ahead of the arftully bored, lo-fi landfill that's (still just about) on trend.
4. Bat for Lashes - 'Horse and I' (Live at Bestival 2007)
Natasha Khan returns to Bestival once again having sent crowds all of a flutter on previous occasions. Hopefully she'll treat audiences to material from her forthcoming third album The Haunted Man. Here's the Mercury Prize winner in typically striking action with the superb 'Horse and I' back in 2007 - and look, she even answers a frivolous question so wonderfully before footage of the performance! Khan's showmanship has only improved since those early days, so rest assured that you're in for a treat.
5. The xx - 'Crystallised'
The xx return to Robin Hill Country Park days before the release of their second album Coexist. Lest we forget, last time they were here, they'd just won the Mercury Music Prize for their self-titled debut longplayer - and won over cynics such as your editor with a solid Friday evening performance. If you've previously considered them a bit boring, then at least pay them a visit during their set - you may find yourself rapidly eating your words, particularly when the brooding hook of Crystallised kicks in.
6. Stevie Wonder - 'Sunshine of My Life' (Live at the Rainbow Theatre, London, 1974)
A (slightly) lesser-known track from Stevie's cavernous collection here - and one with personal significance, as it was a favourite of one of my two A-Level music teachers during school choir rehearsals. Often covered and rarely bettered, it's full of Wonder's musical optimism and there's some sweeeeeeet key changes. Everyone loves a bloody good key change, after all. The question remains though - will Rob da Bank join Stevie on stage, Michael Eavis-style, for a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' to close proceedings on Sunday night?
7. Emeli Sandé - 'Next to Me' (Live on Later with Jools Holland, 2010)
Emeli Sandé is a rarity in that she sits in the very small section of the Venn diagram where my music taste crosses over with my mother's (further artists therein include Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac and, er, early Simply Red, from Picture Book to A New Flame*. You get the idea.) Anyhow, while she may have been ubiquitous to the point of annoyance during the London 2012 Olympics' closing festivities, Ms Sandé is an altogether more appealing pop proposition than the Rihannas and Flo Ridas of this world, and follows in the spirit of previous Bestival bookings such as Kelis, Florence + the Machine and the simply sublime Robyn - who, quite frankly, deserved to headline last year. Here's Emeli's best track rendered live and acoustic, to best show off her fine pair of lungs.
*[This is not a joke and I can't believe I have just admitted to this in public]
8. Young British Artists - 'Everything in Front of You'
Those of you feeling a little unclean after that S*mply R*d revelation can breathe a little easier now with the inclusion of perennial Motel favourites Young British Artists. The progress that they've made as a live band over the past three or four years - without once compromising or watering down their lived-in, lo-fi sound - is superb, and it's truly wonderful that they will get to entertain a receptive audience on the Isle of Wight. 'Everything in Front of You' is a majestic torrent of noise that takes you hostage - willingly, we hope - in its own frenzied energy.
9. Warpaint - 'Burgundy' (Live for the Rough Trade Sessions, 2011)
This contemplative session version of 'Burgundy' shows Warpaint at the height of their mesmerising powers (I wanted to write 'bewitching' originally, but, while accurate, it felt like too gendered a term... ah, language, eh?) Minor-key harmonies intertwine effortlessly, guitar lines meander along like there's all the time in the world and Stella Mozgawa proves why she's in the top five coolest drummers of the moment by making it look so bloody easy. Bestival, please welcome this particular awesome foursome back to our shores with open arms.
10. Willis Earl Beal - 'Evening's Kiss' (Live version, date unknown)
Willis Earl Beal was an absolute revelation at last month's Beacons Festival. You will either walk away feeling impressed - and perhaps slightly violated - or a little clueless as to what his performance was all about. Either way, his debut album Acousmatic Sorcery makes much more sense experienced live. I implore you to give him a go - his stage presence may not be your cup of tea, but his voice is genuinely one of the most remarkable that I've heard in my life.
11. Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo - 'Pause' (Theme from The Shadow Line - Live in Bern, Switzerland, March 2012)
The Shadow Line was one of the most memorable - and at times downright disturbing - TV shows of last year. A brutally honest examination of how absolute power corrupts absolutely in the police force and the criminal underworld, its gorgeous cinematography and first-rate performances from a respected ensemble cast have made it one of my absolute favourite series of all time. Emily Barker's delicate theme tune has a haunting undercurrent which means that it burrows into your brain both at the top and end of the show and as a standalone track.
12. Sigur Rós - 'Starálfur' (Live at the BBC Electric Proms, 2007)
Sigur Rós went from best-kept indie secret to relative household names in the UK when 'Hoppipolla' was adopted as the theme tune for the BBC's stunning wildlife documentary series Planet Earth. The band celebrate 18 years in the business this year, and on the basis of past evidence they will deliver a cracking show. But while 'Hoppipolla' will have you nodding along in self-satisfied recognition, it's 'Starálfur' - the stunning centrepiece of the band's second album Ágætis byrjun - that will always stop even the coldest of hearts in its tracks. I blame the string section.
mixtape and pictures by Kate Goodacre
Bestival takes place between Thursday, September 6 and Sunday, September 9 at Robin Hill Countryside Adventure Park, Newport, Isle of Wight. All general admission tickets are sold out, with a handful of premium camping tickets remaining. On-site camping opens at 12pm on Thursday, September 6 and closes at 2pm on Monday, September 10. Shuttle buses will run from all major ferry ports on the island - click here for the timetable and pricing.
Please be sure to read the key information on the festival's official website before setting out. To see the site as it's being built, check out the #bestivalisbuilding hashtag on Twitter, and remember that this year's fancy dress theme for Saturday is wildlife!