I’ve been quiet on here for a while, but with good reason. A couple of weeks ago I landed back in Southamptonland after a mightily enjoyable 4/5 days on The Island attending Bestival 2012 as part of the University of Southampton Roadshow. Having now had a few days to recover both my brain and body, here’s a quick summary of all of the cool stuff that went down and the major discoveries.
I’ll start with some discussion about the reason we were there: As a group, populating the Bestival Science Tent with various stands and science and stuff, and on a personal level, to give an hour-long talk in the Besti-versity Tent on human spaceflight. The Science Tent itself was open 10am-6pm Thursday-Friday, but the UoS stands inside it swapped over on Friday evening, so our Astronautics stand stayed up only for the Thursday and Friday, giving us Astro Boys time off on the weekend to watch bands and generally lark about. Thurs/Fri was pretty busy in the tent, and we met a whole load of new people to talk about space debris to and to get the involved with the DAMAGE simulation and the Space Junker games we had running. Overall, we had lots of engagement and lots of questions from lots of people, so in those terms our presence at Bestival 2012 was pretty rewarding. It’s been estimated by higher forces that we directly engaged with 10% of the festival audience (6,000 or so) and had 20% at least pass by (12,000) or so, so those are some nice statistics.
Besti-versity wasn’t running on the Thursday but followed schedule of 12pm-7pm on Friday to Sunday, of which I was the inaugral speaker at Midday on Friday. Nerves were pretty wracked beforehand but I calmed down enough to deliver everything I had to deliver with increasing confidence; I imagined a kind of blithering, Boris Johnson-style performance but everything came out relatively well and in a relatively relaxed manner, so I guess that’s a positive thing. I didn’t count the capacity of the tent, but I reckon 40 or so people watched the talk, plus a few who came through and left or just stuck their head through the door. Not bad going, given I was expecting no-one to come at all. The tent itself was pretty baking in the beating sunshine, and also very bright, meaning that it was a little hard to see the Prezi slides I was projecting, but that wasn’t too big a deal. The tent itself was populated inside by armchairs and sofas to give it a relaxed atmosphere; so much so that there were a couple of people catching forty winks in there at various points, but I’ll put that down to the festival atmosphere/too much party rather than my failings/dullness as a speaker. I had a few people come up to me afterwards and ask a few questions, and even had people over the weekend recognising me out-and-about and saying that they’d seen my talk, which was nice. I also now have an official Bestival 2012 programme with my name in it, which is a super feeling.
What of the music? Well, I went Bestival with only a few bands that I really really wanted to see, primarily Justice, Nero and New Order, and happy to wander around and discover new stuff the rest of the time without having to worry about missing things I wanted to see.
Thursday was closed on the main stage but open everywhere else, and things kicked off with The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing in the Bandstand, and my, how they kicked things off. The Men blasted out all the hits and easily were the loudest thing I heard all weekend. I had to scurry off at the end of the set in order to sort out Science Tent closing stuff, but since the bandstand was pretty much right next door, the rest sounded just as good. Alas, their second performance on the Saturday clashed with both New Order and Justice and so I didn’t see them again, but so pleased I heard them at some point. Thursday evening I went with the flow and went to the Big Top to hear Alabama Shakes, who were kind of okay but largely not my scene but everyone seemed to be having a good time. I think I poked my head into a few other tents across the night and heard some other bands, but I can’t for the life of me remember who they were.
Friday was the first main stage day, and the troops rallied to go watch The XX followed by Florence and the Machine, both of which were accomplished by relatively unknown to me. I actually preferred The XX, and they sounded epic in the live setting; much more so than on the records that I’ve since sought out. Florence was alright, and I certainly got caught up in the atmosphere and did a little dancing, but it did kind of feel that the whole set was balanced very carefully on her and she seemed engulfed by the sheer size of the crowd and dwarfed by the stage. Not bad, just a little underwhelming to a newcomer to her stuff.
Saturday was my main day, with everything building up to Justice at approx. 11pm., and I wasn’t disappointed. The Big Top was absolutely packed and full of fluid, sweater festivalgoers dancing their minds away to ‘Genesis’, ‘D.A.N.C.E.’, ‘Civilisation’ and a mind-blowingly awesome live DJ set from the French house masters. If I hadn’t already seen Andrew W.K.’s glorious I Get Wet 10th anniversary show at London Forum (probably the best gig ever, solidified by Kerrang’s unprecedented 6K review), then this would easily have been the best gig of the year. As it is, it has to settle for a (very) close second. Earlier in the day we’d watched Earth, Wind & Fire Experience feat. Al McKay, Two Door Cinema Club and the first half of New Order; all of which were entertaining and engaging, and we followed Justice up with Nero‘s late-night set in the Big Top, which was as packed and sweaty as expected, with a ground-thumping Wub Wub that could be felt from across the festival site. Badass.
Moving to Sunday, I ducked out of the Science Tent during the afternoon to go watch 2:54 at the Psychadelic Worm tent (as brilliant live on record) and then Rizzle Kicks on the main stage (didn’t know any of their stuff, danced like a loon anyway). The evening’s events on the main stage kicked off with Sigur Rós, who were spectacular. Not a band that I knew much about, but now I’m pretty much a convert. This was then followed by Stevie Wonder, who did a fantastic job of closing out the festival. Musically superb and a brilliant showman, he even took technical failure of his piano in his stride and improvised with the rest of his kit. A solid effort, and followed up with a spectacular fireworks display to round off the night. Good stuff.
Anyway, I had an awesome time at Bestival 2012, and no mistake. So much so that I’d consider going back again next year, with the Roadshow (which has been making encouraging noises about returning in 2013) or under my own steam. Who knows where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing by next September (thesis pending), but I’ll certainly keep my ear to the ground. If anyone wants to come along and join me, well that’d be rad. Godspeed.