Bestival 2011 Clockwatch: Sunday, September 11, Part 2

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16.00: Idyllic wander through the woods and into the bandstand field is cut short upon realising that there are 55 minutes and a lot of mud to do a tent round trip for camera and rum supplies and get to the Big Top in good time for Noah and the Whale. Everyone moves so much more slowly when it's muddy, and a repeat of last night is not going to be on the cards. Spy Bearded!Justice from yesterday en route, no longer in costume but still carrying his fancy stick. As a reluctant law student, it's nice to see he's keeping it constitutional. KG

16.54: The Countdown clock was ticking there, but I made it just in time for Noah and the Whale's ever-familiar intro tape - an oompah band version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen. The front row proper kicks off, singing along melodramatically and standing on tiptoes at the barriers like meerkats so they can swoon over Charlie Fink et al at the earliest opportunity. KG

16.59: In a fit of perfect timing, the band take to the stage at this precise bit of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' to deafening squeals. The video is actually from this year's Reading festival, but you get the idea. KG

Noah and the Whale at Bestival © Kate Goodacre, 2011
17.45: Well well well, that performance from Noah and the Whale was a bit too third-album heavy to say the least - let's hope it was because of time constraints rather than any kind of external pressure to stick to the big radio-friendly hits - but it was still superb all the same.

Still, they open with a majestic version of 'Give a Little Love' from their debut longplayer before stepping up the tempo with latest single 'Life is Life', a track which may as well have been titled 'Let's Stadium Rock!' for the effect it has on the crowd. Quite how I'm not forced to ditch my camera to pull fainting members of the front row over the barriers, I don't know. Fink has even coined stadium-rock moves now, strolling out to the edge of the stage and nimbly moving in time. You almost imagine him five or six years prior practising the same moves in his bedroom, a bit like Napoleon Dynamite wearing out his tape of Jamiroquai's 'Canned Heat' in a quest for dance perfection.

The steely determination of 'Blue Skies', from The First Days of Spring, has your editor weak at the knees, while 'Waiting for My Chance to Come', with its hoedown violin sensibilities, is a natural successor to the (sadly absent) 'Rocks and Daggers'. It says a lot that Noah and Whale can reduce a crowd of thousands to gibbering, incoherent, grinning fools with a collection of songs that aren't even their best. They really are a very special live proposition. KG

18.08: Whoever is DJ-ing at the Big Top right now is my hero, as he scratches, beat-matches and generally shows off an innate disc-spinning ability. Marry me. Or open for Wild Beasts at my hypothetical future wedding. Or at least teach me how to mix. KG

18.09: A roadie appears to give the man on the decks the hurry-up (which he doesn't see), so is forced to shout 'WHOAHHHH!!!' and wave his hands around a lot. However, our resident DJ manages to bring his set to a close in style as though he'd planned it would end at that exact moment. Smooth operator. (And again... marry me). KG

18.10: With the aim of broadening my musical horizons this weekend - and having been enticed by an exceedingly good performance of The Wilhelm Scream at Tuesday's Mercury Prize ceremony - James Blake is hereby given a chance. He manages to prove far less interesting given three or four fairly similar songs in real life, although on the plus side, he does have a genuinely nice voice. It's just a bit of a comedown after that Noah and the Whale set. Looks like his high watermark will still be that Feist cover, then. KG

19.10: Sedate stroll to the Main Stage for Robyn. That 4.30pm pit stop is looking increasingly sensible. I am bristling with excitement about this performance - Robyn was an absolute revelation at my first Bestival in 2007. She played in the Big Top just after 6pm on Saturday and it was a pitch-perfect class in how to entertain fans of all genres. Hopefully tonight will offer more of the same.KG

19.25-ish: NO NO NO NO NO!!!! NOT MORE 'RUN THE WORLD', MAKE IT STOP. KG

19.28: There'll be another air horn in a minute. Bracing myself. Hurry up, Robyn! KG

19.35: She's got two drum kits and two giant plastic windmills. The windmill on the right just broke and both are discreetly removed. KG

Robyn at Bestival © Kate Goodacre, 2011
20.30: Oh me, oh my. If only every pop star was as good as this. It beggars belief that ten-a-penny female artists like Rihanna and Lady Gaga are being heralded as the saviours of pop music when there's somebody far better who's been doing it for almost three times as long as both of them. Sure, Gaga has a good voice and seems to have a kind heart and campaigning spirit, and Rihanna knows just how to play to a crowd and, like Gaga, attracts quasi-religious devotion from her fanbase, but Robyn truly entertains in the old-school style.

Robyn can sing and dance - usually simultaneously, as is proven when she sounds out of breath towards the end of her set (hardly surprising, given she barely stops moving in 50 minutes). She can be coy. She's capable of being overtly sexual without once becoming tawdry or trashy. She can be feisty and she sings and writes or co-writes her own material with such overt feeling and pain, and has done for years. She should have been headlining a night of this festival, really.

Anyway, point made. Let's give you the evidence. The Terminator-style opening isn't to my personal taste - it's the only part of the set that feels a bit gimmicky - but it's so professionally executed that it's pointless splitting hairs. 'We Dance to the Beat' is a haunting floorfiller. 'Be Mine' speaks to anyone who's ever had their heart broken (plus it has a textbook Killer Pop Chorus), the frank words of 'Call Your Girlfriend' are refreshing and 'With Every Heartbeat' is pure electronic pop brilliance - ever-so-sad lyrics juxtaposed with synths that make your heart soar. It's one of the finest examples of how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and just bloody well get on with it even if it kills you to do so that's ever been put into song. What a show. KG

20.44: Another roadie at the Big Top stage trying to get a DJ to stop playing. Good luck with that. It's actually much easier this time - a conspicuous thumbs-up does the trick. Again, the resident plate spinners sign off in style with a Sesame Street sample telling the crowd just which letters and numbers the performance was brought to you by. Educational. KG

20.45: It's going to be difficult for anyone to top Robyn's set tonight. But, as this accidental ladies' night continues, step forth Zola Jesus, who, in another round of nightmare set clashes, has the unenviable task of being on at the same time as Bjork.

It's sadly all too brief a visit, but Nika Rosa Danilova and Alex DeGroot impress in that brief time. It beggars belief how such a loud voice can come out of Danilova's tiny body as she confidently swirls around the stage during songs; indeed, long after departing the tent for Bjork you can still hear her, clear as a bell, from the back of the Main Stage area. KG

Zola Jesus at Bestival © Kate Goodacre, 2011
21.15: Bjork has begun promptly, I've missed David Attenborough's introduction (sad times!) and the crowd atmosphere is a little bit odd. Having expected reverential silence (or near silence), there's so many people talking, and far too many of them to start shushing individually. I'll be here all night. It makes her set hard to get into at first, but a swift relocation closer to the front but off to the right-hand side of the stage helps matters.

Bjork is showcasing her new project Biophilia tonight. The photo pit is closed to all but her official photographer; but some concerted staring reveals that she's wearing some sort of bizarre unicorn's horn thing on her head (it's actually shaped like a clam, on even closer inspection) and a very tight blue and silver dress, with the same flame-orange hair that she had at Manchester International Festival in July.

Truth be told, it takes a while for things to get going, and she even apologises about two-thirds of the way through her performance for it not being very festival-friendly. Her line in patter is brief, yet suitably cute - she succeeds in getting whoops from the crowd for introducing a touch-screen (well, we are in the 21st century, after all), which she uses to play what looks and sounds a bit like a pipe organ.

It's a heavenly rendition of 'Hidden Place' that finally brings the set to life and sparks some sort of emotional reaction in the casual listener - the choir that has joined Bjork for Biophilia work so well on those high harmonies.

Of the new tracks, 'Mutual Core' is the best - using the earth's movements as a metaphor for love as video footage of the planet spinning on its axis plays behind her. 'Crystalline', with its irregular, jagged beats and tribal chorus, comes a close second. The visuals - pointed shapes and vivid colours - match the music once again, too.

As the set progresses, old classics begin to creep in. 'Jóga' sounds exquisite, and that choir comes into its own once again, and the simplicity of 'Sonnets/Unrealities XI' grabs your attention. Damn, those dischords sound beautiful. In contrast though, 'Declare Independence' feels a bit like an anticlimax - dashed off all too quickly. A solid and thought-provoking headlining set to close the Motel's 5th Bestival anniversary, with some moments of sheer, euphoric brilliance. KG

words: Shaun Curran, Kate Goodacre and Benjamin Thomas
images: Kate Goodacre

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