I used to love Bestival. So much. The first couple of years, before it was expanded, were an utter delight. I had one of my favourite gigs ever, in the Secret Disco, coming on after Sean Rowley's Guilty Pleasures. The toughest act I've ever had to follow. That night will stay with me until I die.
Quickly, however, the rot set in. While it was a lovely idea, that came from the heart of a talented and extremely nice man, it soon became apparent that this festival was only about one thing. Making money.
Don't be fooled by the hippy veneer, Bestival is as corporate as they come. Secret Garden Party has a zero tolerance policy on brands, there is not one logo on that site. At Bestival your retinas are bombarded by brands and their logos and sponsored stages.
While SGP was capped, by the organisers, who refused to dilute the experience just for money, Bestival was expanded to bursting point and then cynically expanded some more.
Last time I was there I recall spending most of my weekend in a massive queue for something, anything. I remember being outside, away from all the stages, yet finding it hard to take a cigarette out of my pocket and light it, there were THAT many people around me.
The back-end organisation is the stuff of legend. Every Sunday Best artist knows it's a festival organised by absent minded, hapless souls devoid of the organisational basics. Its amateur hour. One year they incredibly changed my set time, stage and day, then failed to let me, my manager or my agent know, so I got there a day late (as originally planned) to a massive chorus of disappointment from all the people who'd turned up to see me play.
One year they changed it when I got there, and my fans and friends went to one tent, while I was playing in between bands in an empty tent, staring at a man in a Zildjian T shirt with a clearly visible bumcrack who stood in front of me and shouted 'two - two - two' over most of the set.
The year before last they changed my slot 3 days before the event, I knew from previous experience what happens and because I've always done Bestival as a favour to Robby (Bestival organiser, Radio 1 DJ and Sunday Best owner Rob Da Bank) it always cost me more to do it than I ever made from it. So I cancelled, with a heavy heart.
Last year Robby and I talked about it in April, he said 'sorry man, I'll make sure you get a great slot this year and don't get jerked around...'
In the run up to the event, my agent called, emailed, called again, emailed some more, the organisers got back to him the week before but nobody knew if I was playing, or where...Robby was onsite and had bigger fish to fry, understandably unavailable.
I knew it would be another pointless, expensive journey, to an over crowded, terribly organised party in horrible weather, so again, I cancelled everything and saved the ferry journey and the embarrassment of playing in an empty tent while my slot was given to somebody else.
Robby sweetly insisted later that I'd always been on the bill, but the head hadn't communicated this to his arms. It's classic, and so many friends signed to Robbys label have echoed this same frustration.
We all fuck up sometimes, where there are humans, there is error, and God knows there have been enough fuck ups by me or the team at SGP's Remix Bubble over the years...but the point is that every time there is a fuck up, I personally make sure that it's sorted the next year, and whoever got screwed gets to come back and shine with a better slot, or louder sound, or better tech spec, or whatever. Doesn't matter how little or how large the artist is, I've done the same for unsigned bands as I have for chart-botherers in this situation.
So this year, for the first time ever, my live agent (for my band Losers) called, months ago, with an offer to play 'The Afterburner Stage' at Bestival. I explained the history to him, and we agreed that the only scenario this gig could happen, would be not in the nice-handshake way I'd done my business with Bestival in the past, as that was clearly just a signal to the organisers that I could be fucked up the arse at a moments notice, but that the gig should be contracted and set in stone. I concurred. The gig was negotiated, agreed, contracted and effectively sealed in blood.
I was delighted that, for the first time in years, I'd have a stress free Bestival, playing the stage I was supposed to play, on the day I was agreed to play it, at the time I was allotted and contracted to do so.
The annual email, therefore, came as something of a surprise.
The organisers sent us the running order for the stage we'd contracted all those months ago. Losers were not on it. Our slot had been given to Jaymo and Andy George, Radio 1 buddies of Rob. Obviously they will have no idea, they are very nice chaps, unaware the slot was already contracted and they were double booked by somebody at Bestival HQ.
As I write this, just a matter of hours before Bestival opens, I know that if we go, all our fans will turn up at the Afterburner stage, that's been on all our websites since springtime, and we'll end up in some shitty, empty little tent, in the middle of the day, while everybody else is in a queue for the loo, or for some food, or a drink.
I'm truly sorry Losers didn't make it in the end, I had so many nice emails and messages from people looking forward to seeing us play, and I'm so sorry that Bestival is like the kiss of death for me every year. I promise this will never happen again, the only way I can guarantee this is by vowing, here and now, that I'll never believe anything the organisers of Bestival say, or write, or promise and I will never play Bestival, either as a DJ or in a band, again.
There. Problem solved. I'll never tear my hair out in the first week of September again.
Started by a lovely guy.
Ruined by greedy shareholders.
Organised by idiots.
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