Review: The Highs and Lows of Bestival 2014


This year’s Bestival, with its Desert Island Disco theme, felt – on the surface – like an eclectic bunch of artists. However, having experienced what Rob da Bank and co. have envisioned for the past 12 months, it definitely felt like there was a coherent disco vibe running as an undercurrent of the entire festival. It even meant that the odd choice of Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the Main Stage, kind of made sense with her ‘nu-disco’ vibe (if you could call it that; it was nothing short of a cringey wait for ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’). Anyway, here are my highlights from the four days at Robin Hill Country Park.


Lethal Bizzle (Special Guest, The Main Stage, Fri 3:15pm)

The special guests at Bestival are usually something to watch out for, and this year was no exception. In the distance I heard a scream of ‘Leave it yeah!’, and knew immediately that one of this year’s guests was the one and only Lethal Bizzle. His high energy set was just what everyone needed to cure their hangovers, playing the likes of ‘Pow 2011’ and his brand new single ‘Rari Work Out’. He not only showed talent and experience in what he does, but also an unrivaled tirelessness that got the crowd ‘pumping’; check out the ‘Rari Work Out’ music video, and you’ll see what I mean. I’m not joking when I say that I now have repetitive strain injuries in both my elbows; thanks Bizz.

Sam Smith (The Main Stage, Fri 6:30pm)

Last year at a small festival called Blissfields, I was one of 20 people to see up-and-coming artist Sam Smith perform in the sweltering July heat. From then on we have all witnessed his stratospheric rise to fame and subsequent cracking of America, and I don’t know anyone more deserving than Smith. He performed tracks from his debut album In The Lonely Hour, and songs such as ‘Restart’ showcased how he fitted right into the Disco theme. See Sam Smith while you can, before he becomes untouchable.

La Roux (The Big Top, Fri 11:45pm)

After the disappointing Outkast set, a welcome change came in the form of the stunningly beautiful La Roux. Since her new record Trouble In Paradise exceeded all my expectations earlier this year, I have been waiting with bated breath to see the 26-year-old (now solo) artist perform. The Big Top has provided the setting for many of my favourite shows, and La Roux now joins them in the hall of Bestival fame. Having read about her anxiety issues in her recent press interviews for the new record, I did not expect the confidence I saw in her set to exude from such a shy individual. She strutted across the stage showing the crowd at The Big Top that she is back and here to stay. Flawless vocals, an amazing band, and also an advocate for everything I believe in, La Roux was the highlight of my Bestival.

SOHN (The Big Top, Sun 16:45)

The Big Top was hosted by BBC Radio 6 Music this year and one of the artists that they have been playing a lot recently is SOHN. He gathered quite the crowd which was understandable considering the calibre of his debut album Tremors. I didn’t know what to expect from him in a live setting as his music is very production-heavy, but he exceeded my, and the rest of the crowd’s, expectations. An incredibly talented man with an amazing voice, and The Big Top proving once again to provide a great ambience for artists such as SOHN.

Basement Jaxx (Secret Set, The Bollywood Tent, Sun 11am)

An early morning stroll around the Bestival site was met with a lovely man telling me and my friend that the Basement Jaxx were performing for ‘Morning Gloryville’ in The Bollywood Tent. ‘They’re just in there’ he said, I almost called ‘bullshit’ but thought I would check out his legitimacy first. And he wasn’t lying, there on the stage was Felix from the dance music duo, surrounded by some colourfully dressed fitness instructors thrusting to the beat. It was the best wake up routine I’ve ever had at a festival, and it eased the pain of missing them the night before on the Big Top.

Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip (The Big Top, Sat 4:45pm)

This performance is the last for the duo. After many years of impressing crowds with their merge of spoken word-rap from Pip, with Le Sac’s talent for beats, the duo are calling it a day, and what a way to end this fantastic journey than where it all began, at Bestival. Rob da Bank introduced the duo onto The Big Top stage after declaring he never does this for acts but Le Sac and Pip have a special place in his heart after being signed to da Banks’ record label Sunday Best. Their performance was nothing less than spectacular, they pulled out all the stops for this final show as well as giving the very dedicated crowd exactly what they wanted in the form of all of their best songs. The duo will be sorely missed in the music industry, but lets keep our fingers crossed for a reunion.

Skindred (The Main Stage, Sat 12:45pm)

Skindred are always a pleasure to watch. They were the first act I saw on my Friday of Bestival and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off a day of great music than with the Newport Ragga/Metal bruisers. Moshing at quarter to one in the afternoon is highly recommended if you want to shake away that cider hangover and witness a thoroughly entertaining festival act.

Chic feat. Nile Rogers (The Main Stage, Sun 8:15pm)

Bestival is known for having legendary headliners, with Elton John and Stevie Wonder playing this Sunday night slot for the past two years. However, for Chic, this has not been a one off performance which led to rumblings about their legitimacy in headlining. However, I can safely say that by the time they were 15 minutes into their set, it was clear to see that everyone at The Main Stage had forgotten these worries whilst dancing to all of Disco’s greatest hits. With Chic, you not only get their sheer talent and experience, you also get the charm of Nile Rogers. This set was a particularly emotional one for the Disco legend after losing one of his close friends and roadies moments before the show, he dedicated the show to ‘Terry’ and it was heartbreaking seeing him welling up when trying to talk about it. Despite being ‘one of the hardest shows ever’ Nile Rogers and Chic did stunningly well and quashed all the grumblings about their ability to headline.


Sophie Ellis-Bexter (The Main Stage, Sat 2:45pm)

I guess I don’t really know what I was expecting when I rocked up to see early noughties one-hit-wonderess Sophie Ellis Bexter, but it wasn’t the most comfortable experience of my life. She began by singing songs from her new record Wonderlust which is painfully boring, but in between her songs, she was unbearably cringey in the way she addressed the crowd, including plugging an award she had just won. Although, it wasn’t all bad, towards the end of her set she really got into the Dessert Island Disco vibe and stripped down to a hula outfit before singing a medley of Disco tracks.

Major Lazer (The Main Stage, Sun 6pm)

I’d heard about Major Lazer’s ‘crazy’ sets way before seeing them at this year’s Bestival from the likes of Ibiza and Majorca, and other places where you have to extremely off your face to enjoy anything. However much Major Lazer entertained the crowd, their music soon became repetitive as their set reached almost two hours long. Yes, Diplo did that thing where he goes into the crowd in a big Zorb, but by that time I was more offended by their two twerking dancers to care much for these frivolities. Everyone around me seemed to be having an amazing time, but they were also chewing the crap out of their cheeks and seemed more wired than the average festival goer.

Outkast (The Main Stage, Sat 9:55pm)

The ‘Sold Out’ price tag attached to Andre 3000’s jumpsuit made perfect sense during their banal Friday headline set. Outkast have done their rounds at many festivals this year and Andre 3000 showed this with his little outfit stunt. Not only was their set boring and not headline-worthy, it was horribly misogynist. Fair enough, rappers love to shout about women and their ‘parts’ but the video tapes showing naked women swaying along to the their most offensive lyrics really put me off the popular duo. These women were simply there as a demonstration of the ‘objects’ Outkast rap about. Not only did this make my feminist blood boil, but during ‘Hey Ya’ it looked as though they’d cherry-picked some women from the crowd to stand gormlessly behind the duo, ‘shaking it like a polaroid picture’. I won’t be rushing to see Outkast again anytime soon, which is a real shame for one of the most hotly anticipated headline shows to date.


About Author

I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.


  1. You missed London Grammar!!! They absolutely killed it. My highlight of the weekend.

    Also, Paloma Faith was a big disappointment.

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