Bestival review: The Sugarhill Gang

They've come to get down, old school on y'all! But why bother to invite fans onstage to prove what we've always known - that a UK audience can't rap

Who: The Sugarhill Gang

Mark out of five: Four. Would have been five, if the MC competition hadn't dragged on like a one-legged dog.

Dress code: Gold chains, moustaches and V-neck jumpers. Blinged-out golfers with attitude.

Who's watching: Everyone. And we do mean, *everyone*. Since this set kicked off straight after Amy Winehouse had brought the main stage to a close, people from all four corners of Bestival made a bee-line for the Red Bull 54 Speakeasy. At one point the sides of the tent ballooned out to a dangerous degree. We should know – we were squashed into the canvas.

In a nutshell: The loudest crowd of the weekend. Rabid with anticipation, slow claps gathering speed, electricity in the air as the Gang come on. Singing, nay, shouting along with all the lyrics as they open with Eighth Wonder.

The sound quality isn't the best, but mercifully improves swiftly. The call and response is perfect, and to their credit they don't over-egg it (like some acts did earlier - Lethal Bizzle, we're talking about you), but it doesn't matter, since the crowd won't shut up anyway. Then somehow, the crowd get even louder for Rapper's Delight. "We came to get down, old school, y'all!" Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee have the crowd in the palms of their hands. They even play some of their new stuff, which has a dirty south flavour, mixed with Run DMC. It's good. And then - something strange happens.

In order to prove "people in the UK can rap", they drag a handful of people from the crowd on stage to rap as the Gang play instruments. No one can work out whether they're being sent up or not, since the band chop and change musical styles without giving any of the volunteers a chance to gauge the beat. They are, with one exception, booed off stage. This goes on for much longer than it needed to, and some people leave the tent (to be quickly replaced by others who have been standing 10-deep outside).

Even odder, they then begin the second half of the set playing an instrumental funk-rock number which sounds for all the world like Good Morning, by US southern-rockers, Blackfoot. Then they break into Apache and it's like the whole surreal incident never happened.

Booking them as a Saturday closer was nothing short of a master-stroke, but we're not alone in thinking their bizarre ventures in rock and amateur-rapper ridicule should have been left out, particularly when their new stuff is good enough to be of interest alongside the old classics.

Bestival: The crowd's palpable anticipation followed by the unalloyed joy as the Gang take the stage.

Worstival: Dragging hapless amateur MCs on to the stage and then throwing them upon the nonexistent mercy of the crowd - who understandably came to see the Sugarhill Gang, and not the guy who's had one too many standing next to them.


James Anthony

The GuardianTramp

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