Review by Mehek Seyid & Dakota Arsenault + Photos by Neil Van & Sean Chin.
By the time the second day rolled around, things at Bestival had changed a bit. Gone was the scorching weather that made everyone melt in the sun and in its place was a mild day; attendees seemed more accustomed to the Bestival space, water stations were less chaotic and even the scene across each stage seemed to be less frantic. Attendees came and went without issue or concern for not being able to see, as there seemed to be more room for all.
That was certainly the case during Pusher’s set at The Big Top, the circus-tent stage that housed a few dozen people, leaving room to dance, chat and get close to the stage. This quickly changed when Unlike Pluto brought in droves of people with hard bass drops and palpable enthusiasm. Perhaps his sense of humor appealed to audience members even more than his genuine excitement, as many enjoyed hearing an almost a capella version of “I Love Kanye” from West’s latest release The Life of Pablo.
As the afternoon peaked, the festival started to show signs of slowing down, a stark comparison to the vibrant ways of the first day. UK indie folk Daughter nestled onto the Main Stage with their gentle sounds, encouraging many to have a leisurely sit down. While Daughter have a massive fanbase in Toronto (and sold-out two shows at The Danforth Music Hall earlier this year), there was an odd side-effect of sharing such intimately beautiful music midday at a relatively fast-paced and loud festival on such a large stage. Though songs like “Home”, “New Ways” and Internet sleeper hit “Youth” still conjured nostalgia and gut-wrenching feels with punching sounds and lead singer Elena’s intensely appealing vocals, the set may have been better suited for a smaller stage at the onset of twilight.
A mere hour later, the melancholy morphed into what ended up being a clear standout at Bestival, helmed by Vancouverite Grimes. Expressing joy to be back on her home turf, Grimes shapeshifted into a convincing commander-in-chief with sharp moves, even sharper backup dancers and facial expressions that drew in a massive crowd to the Main Stage. With extended plays of several new pieces from 2015’s Art Angels, Grimes led the audience straight into to an uninhibited dance party, akin to the many found in her music videos for an hour. While Art Angels found Grimes elevating her experimental synthpop to newer, more EDM-influenced pastures, older material including “Oblivion” and “Genesis” found their place alongside the incredibly popular “Flesh Without Blood” without any dips in performance. Her PSAs about a cold ruining her ability to vocally deliver were lost on an audience consumed by the intensive energy rippling from every song, an atmosphere that reached new heights when Grimes closed her time, far earlier than one would wish, with “Kill v. Maim”.
As soon as Grimes ended her set, Thomas Jack the Aussie Tropical House DJ started spinning in The Big Top. His summery vibes were perfect at the festival. Jack’s music had nonstop thumping bass, and it seemed like almost every other song featured blasts of steam coming from the front of the stage, getting people overly excited each and every time it occurred. With a mix of corny (he played the befitting “Down Under” by Men at Work Australian anthem) and sensual (a smooth remix of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love”) music against a timely neon rainbow coloured backdrop, Jack’s set felt like a dose of heaven on earth.
Amidst the swirls of peace, love, neon outfits and bindis, the one truly authentic reminiscent element of the entire Bestival weekend came in the form of The Cure’s highly anticipated closing show. Unfortunately, technical malfunctions and a partially enthusiastic crowd plagued their whopping twenty-five song setlist for the better part of the night, despite a strong showing from the entire band. As the night beckoned, the moody blooms took effect and attendees slowly hopped on board for the journey down memory lane. The addition of three encores and a closing performance of The Cure’s classic hit “Boys Don’t Cry” strengthened the end to a fairly strong showing from Bestival.