Before coming to Toronto, Bestival grew from a small weekly event in London, UK to a huge festival that attracts tens of thousands of people each year. Before the start of the festival director, Ben Turner said, “With the color and creativity that Josie da Bank created and the very unique musical curation that Rob da Bank put together, people attending [the first] Bestival felt like there was a huge amount of love put into the event. Word of mouth spread into very serious momentum and it grew from 5000 to 50 000 over ten years.”
Today, Bestival has become one of the biggest music festivals in Canada’s largest city. Three distinctly themed stages featuring a wide variety of acts are the focus of weekend festivities: The Main Stage, The Big Top and The Bollywood Stage. Bestival has a heavy focus on music, but there is also the Cosmic Commune, the Bestival Chapel, a Knitting Tent and the Balearic Bar for Bestival revelers to take a break at.
The Cosmic Commune had very mellow acts. When I walked through an artist named Harmonium was performing, his music seemed very bohemian and melodious. There were also vendors selling handcrafted jewelry and fashion wear; and for the vegans and vegetarians- the Cosmic Cafe was onsite. This year the return of the Wedding Chapel which Torontonians fell in love with last year. Revelers could go in and have their own little “wedding ceremony” and get dressed up by the “bridesmaids” in fun looking gowns and tuxedos. And the knitting tent is pretty self explanatory.
Day one was incredibly hot! Walking up to Woodbine park you could feel the energy of the festival with all of it’s excitement awaiting for you inside. I arrived around mid afternoon when Rationale took the Main Stage. The crowd was small, but very excited. He was a great choice to start out the festival with as he had a very energetic performance and very smooth vocals. This was actually one of the times that I checked out someone live without knowing who they were and leaving as a fan. As the day went on, Pat Drastik and Tom Wrecks of Thugli drew the biggest crowd under The Big Top where most of the DJ’s performed. People came ready to dance and Thugli’s highly energetic set gave them what they wanted. Afterwards, I managed to catch part of Bestival founder, Rob da Bank’s set in the sweltering heat. This was my first time seeing the Bollywood stage all done up. Talk about a party! This made me incredibly excited to return when the sun went down and the pyrotechnics and light show would start.
Later on in the evening I managed to make to Tame Impala’s performance. The crowd was wild and the music was euphoric. They even did the “we’re done now…nope just kidding, we’re back for one more song” thing at the end – which made the crowd even more wild. They light show was epic and added more spirit to their performance, not that they needed that anyways. Before the evening closed out, I decided to check out the sets of Porter Robinson at The Big Top and Maya Jane Coles at the Bollywood stage. The crowds couldn’t get enough of each act and the set up between stages was really amazing. Anyone could walk about the festival and change up the scene to anything they wanted to. Saturday night was pretty much three of the biggest parties under one sky.
For Day Two I came in the middle of Grimes performance. Grimes was highly energetic and her voice was on point. Her dancers were eccentric and vigorous as she warmed up the crowd for The Cure to come on later in the evening. We then went to dance to Thomas Jack’s house-electro set. The biggest moment for me was when he played a remix of Men At Work’s Down Under invoking fun memories of long family drives when I was a kid. At one point during the set he had a pretty long build up which reminded me of Andy Samberg’s “When Will the Bass Drop” SNL skit.
Closer to the end of the night, Dubfire closed out the Bollywood Stage. The pyrotechnics and light shows for the Bollywood Stage were off the wall all weekend. During the evening sets flamethrowers blew large flames out on the sides of the stage and every color of light you can imagine seeped out into the crowds. The crowd for Tchami’s set in The Big Top was jam packed. I managed to get my last dance in as the festival was drawing to a close.
The final act was The Cure. The highlight of their performance was “Lovesong” – which has been long time classic in my eyes. There were minor glitches with the sound system which is forgivable – their set was 2 ½ hours long.
Overall Bestival was amazing. I’m a really big fan of the different themed stages and the energy put into organizing the festival. The staff and security working the weekend were really nice and helpful, which really makes a difference. There was never a dull moment as each act brought something unique to their performances and sets. It was great to see a mixture of International musicians across from most genres of music. As Ben Turner put it, “there’s a real character to a Bestival event. It’s very uniquely curated. It’s about a connection to music and the discovery of music.”
[Photography by : Stevie Gedge (Bestival)]