Camp Bestival

Friday 30th July - Sunday 1st August 2021

Lulworth Castle, Dorset

No live music for nearly two years, so what are you supposed to do with your spare time? Well, whilst you are pondering that answer, little Evie arrived in my life which may partially answer what I got up to! However, she is now nine months old and has created another live music conundrum for me - how can I get to see live music with a baby in tow? Well, Camp Bestival seemed to be the perfect solution! A music festival aimed at families with young children. Sure, you have to put up with Mr. Tumble and Dick and Dom, but surely that is a small price to pay to get to Rock out again?

Camp Bestival is based in the grounds of Lulworth Castle in Dorset on the Jurassic coast, very scenic. It is just off the Isle of Purbeck, so the site is quite hilly but very well drained, so no mud baths here. The camping facilities were not bad for a festival site, there were even hot showers if you were quick enough in the morning. The site was quite expansive with food stalls from every corner of the globe and entertainments aimed at the young and young at heart. The festival is mainly aimed at the nineties Rave generation, so lots of DJs, silent discos and kiddie Raves were on offer, plus later night proper Raves for those inclined.

Still with Covid-19 in mind, we all had to present our Covid NHS passport or evidence of negative tests, but being outside felt pretty safe to me. Covid still had its impact though - The Friendly Fires had to pull out due to a positive test to be replaced by the very pleasant Blossoms and a personal tragedy for me, Sophie Ellis Bextor’s children caught Covid, which meant no live version of her lockdown ‘Kitchen Disco’. Sophie is one of my guilty pleasures and I followed her since her time in the Audience, so I was very disappointed that an Abba tribute act got to replace her! Well what about the rest of the music on offer? Fat Boy Slim and Groove Armada don’t rock my boat to be honest, so I took a time out with the kids back at the tent whilst the other half boogied the night away. That said, even a mile away back at the camp site, the boom beat from Norman Cook still rattled my fillings. The report back was that the light show was pretty good and all the hits were duly played.

My time was to come later, however. The following day I made my way to the beer tent, which was sponsored by Thatchers, so armed with a cold pint of cider, I settled down with the kids on the picnic blanket to educate them on some West Country culture. The Wurzels took the main stage for some ‘Scrumpy and Western’! It must have been because I was drinking cider that some dark corners of my brain were involuntarily unlocked as I seemed to know all the words to their songs! “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key”, “Blackbird I’ll ‘ave ‘ee”, “I am a cider drinker!”, which was true, I was, and I sang along heartily to prove it. They finished off with a cover of the Kaiser Chiefs ‘Ruby’ with numerous “ooh arrs” thrown in, by which time the kids thought their Dad had gone completely crazy!

One of the best things about a music festival is that if you hunt though the smaller tents and bars you often come across a surprising gem. And so it was when we popped into a small beer tent on the back field and encountered the ‘Johnny Cash Converters’. They play hits from the 80s and 90s in a Johnny Cash style - weird but surprisingly entertaining! The other thing about festivals is that 6 degrees of separation nearly always kicks in and it turned out that the lead singer’s daughter knew kids from my son’s school, and so we bumped into several families from our local town to dance away to versions of The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’, Ylvis ‘What does the Fox Say’ and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’. It shouldn’t work, but it really did! Try them out on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

My reward for hiding away from Fat Boy Slim and looking after the kids, was to be allowed to venture up to the front on my own for a couple of bands I actually really wanted to see. The first of these was The Sherlocks, a youthful band from Barnsley who had embarked on a epic 10 hour drive to get to Dorset. A hard working band, who are now beginning to get their just rewards as they smashed their set. The festival set was limited to 10 songs, but they filled it with some of their strongest. Kicking off with their first ever hit, ‘Will You Be There’, from the debut 2017 album ‘Live for the Moment’, the melodic Indy guitar riffs soon had me back into the live music groove I had been so starved of through the years of lockdown! They were really tight and slick giving a highly polished performance of Alt Pop Rock. The 90s Rave generation were a little taken aback, but duly sat and listened, with the kids safe with ear defenders, sat in their pull along carts rented for the weekend. As we ploughed through the very danceable set list, the ‘mosh pit’ grew to maybe, three of us. A big shout out to Andy from Weymouth, who was the Sherlock fan of the day wearing his Sherlock T shirt and singing back the lyrics to the band, as we danced (socially distanced of course) at the front of the stage. Hard to tell if the band won over any converts from the Rave crew in the audience, but I had a fantastic time as they played the best from their two albums. ‘NYC (Sing it Loud)’ had us singing loud, ‘Magic Man’ has a pretty magic riff, and the new single, ‘Falling’, had us falling in love with this band! Ok I will stop with the cheesy lines, but The Sherlocks have musical maturity above their age. The new album, ‘World I Understand’, is due out in November with a UK and European tour in support, and I would highly recommend checking them out. The Sherlocks closed with ‘Chasing Shadows’, another highly catchy tune for us to dance to. A very satisfactory way to break the enforced live music fast, and even better that the band found the time to meet us and chat after the show (in spite of the stage manager trying to stop us and a long drive back to Yorkshire - it takes perseverance to be a Wrinkly Rocker!).

Another benefit The Sherlocks bestowed upon us, was to warm up the Bestival crowd for the next Rock act to hit the stage - Reef. Formed in the 1990s and from the South West, they had less distance to travel and had more chance of being known by the crowd as the demographic profiles were more aligned! I still remember the Sony MiniDisc 1995 advert that showcased the band’s first hit ‘Naked’, with its powerful rolling bass line. That was followed by the ubiquitous ‘Place Your Hands’ and ‘Come Back Brighter’, that helped define Rock and Roll in the 1990s. I was intrigued to see how time had treated the band and these famous tracks. I was pleasantly surprised. The band had grown a bit hairier and slightly greyer, but the tracks have lasted well and were blasted out in front of the Castle to a warm reception from the 90s generation. Gary Stringer on vocals has a great Rock voice and was rousing the crowd, not quite into a frenzy, as there were kids to look out for, but certainly a bit more than appreciative swaying. Reef were good festival value (and have played Ramblin’ Man before) so another one to look out for on the festival circuit.

That was the end of my mosh pit pass, and back I went to the family waiting patiently. Our fun was not yet over, with the famous firework and light display using the Castle as the backdrop on the last evening. In spite of a rather unpleasant encounter with storm Evert on the first night, where we nearly ended up in Kansas with Dorothy and Toto, we had a pretty good time at Camp Bestival. Live music is back and the whole family had an adventure too!

Chris Bourlet