Festival Frolics: Sunday, Bestival 2012.

A stone's throw from civilisation – if Island life may be deemed thus – The Hare & Hounds atop the Arreton Downs is as good a place to start one final summer day's drunking as any, whilst awakening to a certain someone sound checking with Isn't She Lovely is just so within a considerably more musical context. Beneath a stifling September heat however, as the skies drip vitamin D Little Dragon wither slightly, even with the divinely proficient Håkan Wirenstrand returned to the ranks. Precious becomes a befuddlingly muggy psych wig out; Nightlight a frenzied hop 'n' skip as fidgety as any addict's nicotine-tarred fingertips; Please Turn the perfect slo-fi jam, although their every action is underpinned by the magnitude of this, the Main Stage.
Rob da Bank's Replay stage then teems with Charli XCX looky-likeys and the kooky clichés they may bring. Musically, hers is a set stippled with an overriding epicness the Hertfordshire goth popstrel is nowhere near meriting. Feel My Pain comes across as Where Is My Mind? savaged by coarse synth presets and, at one song in, there's already a percolation of person filtering out. Friends inject some intravenous shit-funk chic into the Big Top, the show only of any note as it marks the end of bassist Lesley Hann's involvement with the band. Her replacement has tagged along for the ride, although by the seems of it it's to be a case of new bassist; same old cack what smacks of naff.

Here to peep through the dreariness of a Sunday early afternoon like one of Madonna's rays of light peering through the blankets of overcast greys overhead are Sunless '97: Ed Leeson's off his chops, although extraordinarily on the ball as he and they tumble through a sumptuous Illuminations with quite some guile. DOOM, accompanied by the same cronies as he was for his JJ début earlier on in the weekend, does more or less the same nonsense with the exact same delay. At half an hour late he does anything but endear immediately or indeed thereafter, as he proves to be more conversational than in any way convincing. Rob da Bank observes the nothingness, perturbed. DOOM does eventually materialise – masked, even – and da Bank justifiably evacuates the place. As do we following a minute or two of "Madvillain shit" in Accordion. Given the ghastly sounds of it, I couldn't hope to have put it better myself.
Following this downward curve in listenability are Palma Violets, who trend in a concertedly gritty and knowably ramshackle kinda throwaway rawk raucous that's best discarded as whimsically as cigarette cellophane. Rizzle Kicks get Down With The Trumpets out in the only mottle of drizzle to tarnish the weekend, although it's Big Dada's Bang On! – a scrawny MC endowed with a mouth filthier than a Drug Amnesty Box bursting with unclassified mephedrone – who finally ratchets the ambience back up. Like a Scouse take on The Streets, Drink n' Drugs ensures hilarity ensues within the RizLab as the heavens above get plugged. Yet as the rains subside, the crows arrive to herald the arrival of Bat For Lashes: Natasha Khan, despite being more in keeping with the folksier frolics of Latitude, seems rather less tightly wound this time around. Whether that's purely due to her having been afforded a little more time to grow into new material is a tenable reasoning for such change, but this is conspicuous and, needless to say, it's a real change for the better. Even the usually mawkish Laura sings like a classic ballad to love and lose to.
Which is precisely how every Sigur Rós song ever penned sounds, were such glee and grievance played out in some thalassic Utopia. Embarking on their voyage of a show around half six, it's both too early and too light for Jónsi et al. to do any real justice to the cataclysmic, lullaby-like Í Gær, or the faint and phantasmal Ný Batterí into which it spills. There's a paralysing majesty to Svefn-g-englar irregardless of an all-pervasive daylight, whilst tasselled sleeves, terrorised bows and momentary tranquility establish Sæglópur as a wondrously disorientating experience. For experience – or rather the generating of is the substance from which Sigur Rós are formed, as is an idiosyncratic form of polyphony by which the Icelandic post-rock behemoths never intermingle as much as they ceremoniously marry cacophony and quiet in the most holy of matrimonies. The slo-mo crescendoing of Glósóli benefits from this blurring of loud and hush most beautifully, whilst the emotive denouement to Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust standout Festival sounds as though the official soundtrack to a celestial ascent: the final act of the living and the first of the absolved departed.

It suddenly feels fitting therefore, that as the sun sets, we may be here in the company of Sigur Rós. For theirs is a heavenly power and with hair brushed with the last of the Sunnudagur light, that streaming down from the world to come, Með Blóðnasir only enhances my misguided impression that they're too special, and with it spectacular a band to be connected to the mundanities of our waking reality. Even above the omnipresent thud emanating out from elsewhere, and above some contemptibly incessant chatter almost everywhere Hoppípolla is nothing short of life-affirming, even at the second time of asking. First stunted by technical issue, they return to it to lavish us with the finest of sendoffs and with it, the first incomprehensible phonetic-along of the soirée. Evidencing the linguistic universality of music, it has been outrightly overwhelming throughout and not often enough is this so. As charged with an intensity to numb the senses for a period far more protracted than their hour and a half, they too appear overwhelmed as drums are violently decomposed and picks are hurled with fervour. Hallowed, be their name.
Thus as Sigur Rós restore our perhaps misplaced faith in humanity, Stevie Wonder rams us and with it the festival season home into autumn and beyond. A celebration of "some of music's pioneers that time will not allow us to forget", the boy Morris preaches of the wonders of Michael Jackson, and John Lennon, and Marvin Gaye in an explosive celebration of soul. As jubilant as any headlining stint witnessed this summer, Stevie keeps adults, adolescents and anyone else in attendance smiling for two flawless hours, only for every beaming grin to then reflect the florid tones of the most elaborate fistfuls of firework. Flung skyward, as they burst apart to glow the nostalgia begins to settle: Bestival successfully filled the void entered at the turn of the year, and despite the goofball pop of Grimes' Vanessa and craftily warped reworks of Circumambient, Be A Body, Genesis and other chapters of Visions lifting us forever higher as we get down and dirty beneath the Replay dome, the true stars of this show were those twinkling away behind the scenes. Those igniting fuses beside the Main Stage; those to have solicitously compiled every immaculately produced piece of artwork strewn both about this most idyllic of sites and the schedules to dangle from every other neck; those to have welcomed us to roam.
Bestival does suffer a dearth of genuinely decent venues – the sort you hallucinate seeing Bowie, or The Jesus and Mary Chain, or Daft Punk strut and/ or swagger about (please, Rob) – although in its attentive intricacies this year lay a fairly accurate representation of perfection. Paired with a great, and indeed greatly discernible absence of branding within fields in which advertising has now become an inescapable inevitability (and in the case of this edition aided by rays unblemished by the sort of Biblical downpour expected when camped out in said fields) it has been little less than a tour de force on the exact year the providing of such an experience was all but imperative. And for three days I was but lost in music, adoration of, and admiration for Rob da Bank. For it was, undoubtedly, his finest festival yet.

Josh Holliday. 
Supplementary photography courtesy of Tom Rhys.