Preview of Bestival 2011

As the 2011 festival season draws to a close, there's one event outstanding that seems to attract punters far and wide every year since it was first established back in 2004. Bestival, the brainchild of celebrated Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank, may have started out as an experimental gathering of musical diversity back then. However its growth from 10,000 people in its first year to 55,000 in 2010 speaks volumes for its reputation as one of the most forward-thinking, and generally friendliest festivals of its kind anywhere in Europe.


Situated in the Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle Of Wight, it's a four-day extravaganza of musical delights, secret stages, all night rave parties and even an inflatable church where Saturday's traditionally held as the annual fancy dress theme day (this year's being Rock Stars, Pop Stars and Divas). Bestival can also hold its head aloft at being one of the few UK festivals to completely sell out its entire allocation of tickets well in advance this year, once again highlighting it as a focal event on the festival calendar, whatever your musical preferences may be.

Kicking off next Thursday (8th September) and running through to the early hours of Monday morning (12th), one quick glance through the hugely impressive line-up boasts a plethora of exclusive artists both past and present as well as a deluge of up and coming talent from just about every genre you can think of. While we could sit here and probably list at least fifty acts we're itching to see, Contactmusic has narrowed it down to a dirty dozen we think you'd be stark raving bonkers to miss.

As exclusive headliners go, there's probably no one that fits that description anywhere this summer more than Robert Smith and co., a band who rarely venture into the UK these days let alone play a festival set here. With a back catalogue that simply oozes quality all the way from 1979's debut 'Three Imaginary Boys' to their most recent long player, 2008's '4:13 Dream' and pretty much everything in-between, it will be something of a minor miracle for The Cure to keep their set time within the allotted two hours. Indeed, their show at Sydney Opera House in June stretched to a mammoth four-and-a-half hours and they still didn't play 'In Between Days' and 'Just Like Heaven', arguably their two best known songs. Nevertheless, this rare opportunity to see one of the most influential guitar bands ever will undoubtedly be one of the musical highlights of 2011.

Another exclusive in the fact that Bestival represents the only outdoor festival show Bjork will be playing this year, not to mention giving those of us not fortunate enough to get to Manchester earlier this summer an opportunity to see her audio-visual project 'Biophilia' in all its sophisticated glory. Closing the main stage on the Sunday night, expect Ms. Gudmundsdottir to bring festival to an unforgettable climax.

Again, this former Beach Boy and all-round musical genius should need no introduction. With over fifty years songwriting and performing experience behind him, Brian Wilson has earned the title "musical legend" thanks to a lifetime of masterful and truly innovative creations. Having toured his 'Smile' opus in 2004 to universal critical acclaim, the one-time recluse has played numerous live shows since and once again, has given Bestival something of an exclusive with his only UK festival performance of 2011. Not to be missed.

"Ba-dey, Ba-dey, Ba-waddle-ey-dey.", yes you know the one, 'On A Ragga Tip', unmistakably groundbreaking upon release in 1992 having paved the way for drum'n'bass while taking such a specific genre to the upper echelons of the pop charts. Initially the brainchild of DJs Slipmatt and Lime having formed in 1985, they remained a pivotal duo at the forefront of the UK rave scene and its numerous offshoots until parting ways in 1993, their legendary status as dance music innovators cemented. Now, having reformed for this one-off performance here, expect a history lesson with beats that's worth the admission fee alone.

As possibly the most original, politically outspoken and ultimately controversial outfit to emerge from the New York hip hop scene, Public Enemy remain as one of the true greats for a genre that's had many ups and downs along the way. 1988's 'It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back' is still regarded as one of the finest albums ever released to this day, while the likes of '911 Is A Joke', 'Fear Of A Black Planet' and 'Shut Em Down' still sound like nothing else on this earth, offering thought provoking lyrics and hard-hitting beats aplenty. Although only three members from their formative years remain (Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff), expect nothing less than a rabble-rousing performance that puts many of their more youthful contemporaries to shame.

The name Joseph Saddler might not be familiar to many, but as hip hop DJ Grandmaster Flash, Saddler can lay claim to being the first underground artist from that genre to take rap music and its mixing techniques into the mainstream. Instantly recognisable as being the guiding force behind unmistakable hits such as 'The Message' and 'White Lines (Don't Do It)', Grandmaster Flash is more of an iconic figure when it comes to scratching and sampling both from a club DJ and studio perspective. Surrounded by legends in their own field, there's nowhere else more appropriate for someone like Grandmaster Flash to make his only UK appearance of the summer than Bestival.

It's noise kids but not as we know it. As one of the most uncompromising outfits to emerge from the other side of the Atlantic in recent years, LA's HEALTH have carved out a reputation for being an almost unparalleled force on the live circuit. Their guitar-heavy, two-drummer assault mixes gargantuan riffs with beats not that dissimilar to what you might hear in a club. Although 2007's self-titled debut initially brought them to the attention of UK audiences, it was the follow-up 'Get Color' two years later that really established them as one of the most unique collectives on the planet. Prepare to be sonically annihilated.

Perhaps better known as a seaside resort for retired couples and the name of a hit from back in the day for career cockneys Chas & Dave, the sleepy Kent town of Margate isn't somewhere you'd associate with being the epicentre of rock and roll. However, excitable four-piece Two Wounded Birds could be about to change all that if they have their way. Initially spotted by Jacob Graham of The Drums and subsequently invited on tour, their pulsating mix of surf pop, new wave punk and C86 orientated indie has gained them a host of newly acquired devotees this year culminating in current single 'All We Wanna Do' landing unceremoniously on Radio 1's daytime playlist. Bestival, get ready to be rocked.

Although often categorized as a shoegaze band, Portsmouth's Cranes are something of a curious anomaly when it comes to genre classification. While similar in style to bands like My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins, the experimental nature of their recorded output and distinctive tones conveyed through Alison Shaw's vocal make them distinguishable from all of their peers and contemporaries. Having been fairly prolific throughout the 1990s, the band split up only to re-emerge again in 2000 with a new line-up and more ambient sound. Their most recent long player, 2008's 'Cranes', drew comparisons with Aphex Twin of all people. We can't wait to find out where their heads are at this present moment in time.

Yes, we've all heard those stag and hen party staples 'YMCA' and 'Go West' while pretending to camp it up in the middle of Yates' Wine Bar. However, as party anthems go, the Village People probably wrote the manual back in the late 1970s when they first emerged from the Greenwich Village underground gay scene. While only Native American Felipe Rose and American G.I. Alex Briley remain from the original line-up, there'll be no better way to get the Bestival party in full swing than spending forty-five minutes or so in the company of this lot.

As pioneering artists go, there can be none with any less credence to that claim than Leeds duo LFO, whose bass-heavy take on the acid house scene of the early 1990s undoubtedly changed the way dance music was created. Their first release 'LFO' launched both them and a then-unknown independent label from Sheffield called Warp Records into mainstream territories, and subsequent releases 'Advance' and 'Sheath' led the way for newer acts like Mount Kimbie, Becoming Real and the current dubstep scene to launch their careers. Now just a solo project for founder member Mark Bell, this rare live outing should be no less compromising yet unmissable all the same.

Multi-faceted and extremely talented musician Catherine Anne Davies is a rare breed among today's fame obsessed artists. Born in the home counties but now based in London, she has turned her hand to pretty much every type of instrumentation worth mentioning while crafting a collection of songs that could turn the most steely-nerved men to tears. Currently recording an album with former Mansun frontman Paul Draper, her music could be described as eclectic, soothing and ethereal whilst never really settling into any one sphere for too long.

And there you have it, just some of the artists we're counting the days down to see at the aptly named Bestival next weekend.

Dom Gourlay

Site -