Pop review: Bestival 2008

Robin Hill, Isle of Wight

It is 11 o'clock on Friday night, and all the jets in the world are simultaneously taking off in the middle of the Isle of Wight. At least that's how it seems during the 13-minute hurricane of noise which climaxes My Bloody Valentine's set. At once unbearable and hypnotic, it is not your usual first night headliner. Bestival demonstrates how much diversity a festival can accommodate once grimly competent indie music is eliminated; you could start Saturday with Laura Marling and end it with Aphex Twin. After four dry years, the rain pummels Robin Hill like it's making up for lost time, carpeting the site in ankle-deep chocolate soup. You have to salute the fortitude of anyone prepared to wade through gloop all day disguised as SpongeBob SquarePants.

But the best dressed person at Bestival is surprise guest Grace Jones. She has come as herself, which is costume enough for anybody, during an imperious Slave to the Rhythm, her headdress and billowing cloak create the illusion of some brilliant exotic bird. She is part of a Saturday bill that might have been assembled by the producers of Ashes to Ashes: Gary Numan, Terry Hall playing Specials hits, and the Human League, whose glamour and modernity transcends nostalgia. As a reminder that this is, in fact, 2008, Hot Chip's exuberantly unpredictable set resolved the strange convolutions that make their records hard to love.

Then, alas, there is Amy Winehouse. Her band has come as sailors. She has come as a bad Amy Winehouse impersonator. If joy is too much to hope for at this stage, then any improvement on confusion and contempt would be welcome. As she slurs and scowls though 45 minutes that make her Glastonbury set look like the last night of the Proms, it is hard to tell which she hates more: her songs or the crowd. Rehab is bitterly ironic, You Know I'm No Good merely a statement of fact. The crowd treats Winehouse's meltdown like the mud: just an obstacle to be cheerfully overcome - dressed, if necessary, like SpongeBob SquarePants.


Dorian Lynskey

The GuardianTramp

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