Camp Bestival 2011

Lulworth Castle, 28-31 July

cbfire2In a crash course for the ravers, Primal Scream went hell-for-leather to recreate the heady rush of the early 90s by tackling their Screamadelia opus (almost) in its entirety. That they did so as part of Britain’s most polite festival experience says much about what has happened to the chemical generation. Two decades after they smashed it up in warehouse parties and infused country air with the aroma of Vick’s, rave’s initial vanguard is now packing up the kids for a weekend away where the messiest it gets is when the wet wipes run out.

With its mind-bending blend of house music, rock ’n’ roll, free jazz, dub, soul and gospel Screamadelica all but reinvented indie back in 1991, making it OK for rockers to loosen up and, well, “have a good time…”

These days the record is no less extraordinary, but what’s changed is Primal Scream’s ability to tackle its studio-crafted nuances and confidently translate its quieter moments. So, for all that Movin’ On Up, Loaded and Come Together moved the masses, the band showed its true class in the country twang of Damaged, the woozy I’m Comin’ Down and the emotionally charged Don’t Fight It, Feel It.

All of which, coupled with the subsequent fireworks and art projection on the Castle walls, provided a fittingly euphoric end to a pleasant valley Sunday as 15,000 men, women and children blew out any remaining cobwebs and prepared to head back to the real world.

cbbobNobody goes to Camp Bestival to dance along culture’s cutting edge.

They go there because it is well organised, relentlessly safe and planned with kids in mind. People are in a good mood, kids can enjoy plenty of freedom and there are good things to see and do as well.

Friday night’s headliners – Blondie and ABC – acquitted themselves well, if not exactly memorably. And the same is true of Saturday’s star turns, Mark Ronson and Groove Armada.

Ms Dynamite arrived late, Nero didn’t make it at all, The Wonder Stuff did themselves proud, as did Laura Marling, Eliza Doolittle (pictured) and The Correspondents’ blend of broken beats and music hall found favour.

DJ Derek’s vintage reggae and DJ Yoda’s trademark video scratching were reliably decent.

Ed Sheeran and Claire Maguire failed to impress, unlike Yasmin whose dub-based pop deserves the success it will surely generate.

As ever though, the real interest lies in what happens away from the main stage. From the remarkable Insect Circus rope acrobatics, to the silly arsing of Sly & Reggie with their (right-at-home) Middle Class Sound System and Gavin Turk’s travelling art circus, The House of Fairy Tales, the spirit of discovery is richly rewarded.

cbeliza2The likes of Marcus Brigstocke, Simon Day and Carl Barat made the East Lulworth Literary Institute tent one of the biggest draws of the weekend – so much so that very often there were as many souls left outside and as could be accommodated on comfy sofas inside. Alex James wandered around with his family, Keith Allen mooched about with everyone else’s. Diarmuid Gavin was at large all weekend and Friday afternoon’s strollers met Bobby Gillespie and Debbie Harry on the Castle steps. Some say Steve Coogan was spotted.

So, all very nice then. Unlike Screamadelica, Camp Bestival probably won’t change anyone’s life, but in common with a record that is maybe only now being fully (and more soberly) appreciated, it does make life a slightly better place to be.

And that’s no bad thing.

• Photos: Jack Churchill

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