First Night: Bestival, Isle of Wight

Mercury nominees make Bestival a very hot ticket
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The Independent Culture

It is a testament to the appeal of Bestival that the thousands that make the trip across the Solent to the Isle of Wight do so with such anticipation. Only in its sixth year, it has quickly become a well-loved institution for music lovers as the last hurrah of the summer.

Last year Bestival paid the price for bringing up the rear of the festival season, as rain and mud descended on the revellers. Thankfully, this year the forecast promised to be somewhat kinder, with the crowd enjoying a dry first day.

Although Bestival may be growing in size and popularity – more than 43,000 were expected to arrive this year – it remains one of the most distinctive festivals. There can't be many more beautiful sites than Robin Hill Country Park, and the organisers have added their own touches, such as huge fluttering flags.

Topping the bill last night were trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack, who are releasing a new EP next month, and they played an atmospheric set to a packed main field. Before them on the main stage were MGMT, who at first received a rather lukewarm reception from the crowd. However, a soulful "Electric Feel" was a highlight and "Kids" meant they ended on a high.

With the event famous for encouraging fancy dress, a few brave souls had already donned their "Space Oddity" costumes yesterday, adding to the party feel. Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine also got into the spirit, covering her flame-red hair with a sparkly gold bonnet. One of the most anticipated acts of the festival, a riotous "Kiss With a Fist" went down particularly well on the main stage.

Earlier, the US group Passion Pit received a half-decent response as their synth-pop got some people up on their feet, but many chose to stay basking in the sunshine. Friendly Fires's upbeat music had more success, producing a carnival atmosphere for the dancing crowd.

Yesterday's line-up was dominated by Mercury Prize nominees, of which Florence and the Machine were just one – The Horrors, Friendly Fires and Bat for Lashes were all on the bill for the first day, with La Roux and the winner, Speech Debelle, set to appear later in the weekend.

That not everyone flocked to the stages at first was not too surprising, given the twin factors of the weather and all the extra activities going on. Tents offering massages and face paints were just some of the attractions on the sidelines, and at one point a rather ramshackle marching band traversed the field.

The music continues today with Lily Allen, Mika and Little Boots all appearing on the main stage, which is being headlined by Kraftwerk. Elbow close out the festival on Sunday night.

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