Festival Frolics: Saturday, Bestival 2012.

Saturday begins, as many a weekend often does, with a hefty head soon to be inflated with the air of disappointment. Much has already been made of Sydney afropop pretenders Jinja Safari and, like an infantile Vampire Weekend fooling about down by the schoolyard, they've come one heck of a way only to infuriate intensely. Elsewhere if there has thus far been something of a deficiency in disco and therefore a forsaking of Rob da Bank's disco penchant then hallelujah! Praise Nile Rodgers for the reemergence of Philly sibs Sister Sledge. Sure they ain't no Chic, but by Gawd do they alleviate some of the sag from a few spirits come some time round three as they nonetheless précis both the essence and the ethos of Bestival.
With this year's official #Wildlife theme now in full effect gorillas, ladybirds, dreadlocks and other endangered species jive to the positively feel good vibrations of He's the Greatest Dancer (co-written and co-produced by Nile Rodgers) and Lost In Music (again, co-written and co-produced by Nile Rodgers) amongst others. The latter aptly elongated a little excessively to incorporate band intros; their subsequent solos; even an excerpt of Rodgers' own Le Freak, the 'Sisters are somewhat lost in it themselves by this point in proceedings as the involving influence of the Chic honcho hangs over the set like the iron fist of some omnipotent groove overlord, the man's very spirit furnishing us with yet more Good Times. Yet most impressively, they never succeed in losing our attentions; not even for a moment and We Are Family births a sense of great unity and belonging into the afternoon. Just as the Village People did last year and Rodgers did himself the one before, it's the unscripted anthem of the weekend and if the show goes on to propel Sister Sledge to the sort of renaissance currently being experienced by Chic – that inspired by their 2010 coming – then that can only be a familiarly good thing.
Like playing out a home game against some relegation-threatened, shin-splintering brigade from Mancunian suburb or indulging in an unofficial specialist subject down the pub quiz, there was an inordinate amount of pressure on John Talabot, the latest bewhiskered electro whiz to bring some beat Balearic to the top table, when he played his hometown Sónar back in June. Then, to revert to analogies aforesaid, like drawing in enervating fashion or scoring anywhere shy of full marks, he disappointed a little. Today however, providing the sonic backdrop around which a ring of skaters roll, he excels. The sun melting into the horizon and the Roller Disco both sheltered and smoky, it's the apposite ambience for his humid, house-infected tropiphoria and from the soft undulations and moody interludes of Depak Ine, to the soft throb of ƒIN impact anthem Destiny, to the gated pulses of the forbidding Missing You the record spins into a life you never quite knew it had squirrelled somewhere within.
De La Soul chip in some quintessential, if unanticipatedly crap hip hop by numbers – threes to be precise in Me Myself and I, Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey), and so forth – whilst Actress, fresh from rigorously smashing it with the astonishing R.I.P., plays out a 12" masterclass that is both imperious and utterly effortless. Tonight rolling up with a smattering of old school hip hop and winding down with some minimal house, the RizLab not only lucks out on the quality of his early evening ninety, but also on getting two of the most illusory artists active today in he and DOOM down to actually play.
Something you wish Diplo never did do on the evidence of his Major Lazer ram-a-jam in the Big Top. Shit gets hot and eyelids become increasingly heavy throughout as his cut and paste approach to contemporary pop culture bores, despite sounding as though it may well blow a few eardrums. Far East Movement's boorish Like A G6 gets mashed – and unfathomably messily so, dare I say it – with Calvin Harris' heinous Awooga; Flux Pavilion's diabolical I Can't Stop wibbles and a-wobbles into Niggas In Paris etc. as attentions opt to amble off elsewhere. Deplorably, there's even time for Turn Up The Bass. The overpowering feel is therefore one of grubby dubstep abetted by a harem of inessential hype men and women, and lapped up by the odd sozzled topless wonder dotted about on shoulders buoyed by inebriety. And for the most part it sounds like the world's worst iPod Shuffle at its most atrocious best, or like The Very Best at their very worst. Either way, Thomas Pentz' prime felony is in the maiming of Get Free: tacked onto the end of another dubious amalgam of faintly dubby schtuff, it's barbarically mutilated and hacked up into nothing more than a groggy thirty-second washout. Major letdown.
New Order do their baggy-eyed, dispiritingly hoary old New Wave thang on the Main Stage, drawing the dots and dashes between Bizarre Love Triangle, and True Faith, and Blue Monday as Justice pack the Big Top to the darn rafters. Stumbling out to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, throwing a few empty gesticulations and staggering through the faux-heroics of Genesis, their parodical electro-prog has aged about as well as Bernard Sumner, really. Beginning to gently burgeon, though, is Kwes. You don't have to flick all that far through the annals of memory to happen upon a time in which Lewisham's finest would've been "bending backwards" to worm his way out of fumbling through a live show, and inevitably reticence tonight returns. It's later than he'd have liked to have played, he continuously avows although under an ebony darkness saccharine pop confessional Honey shines, as does everything he lovingly tends to. For as far as soulful, R'n'B-flecked 'free-pop' may be concerned, Kwesi Sey's fingers have been gilded with a Dionysian grace. He may now be revered – whether he likes it or not – as the man with the Midas touch, and lgoyh is the nugget which glints most prominently. Staged to perfection over seven of the weekend's most bedazzling minutes, we've waited years for Kwes. to be capable of this sort of show and it was worth every last restive second, reluctance 'n' all.
Plateauing in quality on what becomes a quite startling night, we move onwards and sidewards toward The Psychedelic Worm where Rock Action Records' finest purveyors of 'post-electro' tension, Errors equate to the unexpected success of this year's edition. Granted; many are lost somewhere in something of a dazzze, although when attentions slot into undivided alignment, the Glasgow trio compute incalculably better than any 404. All swimming pool predilections and bold, angular stylisations A Rumour In Africa is a revelation. As are they to we.

Josh Holliday. 
Supplementary photography courtesy of Tom Rhys.