Bestival Toronto 2015: Powerful Performances Highlight A Middling Festival


Popular UK music fest, Bestival, arrived in Toronto this past weekend for its first outing on this side of the pond. Though the weekend was punctuated with strong performances from artists such as Zhu, Florence + The Machine, Flume, Jamie xx, Caribou and a few others, the festival itself was a rather middling affair.

Kicking off on Friday, the weather certainly wasn’t working in the orgnaizer’s favor, as heavy rainstorms pounded down on the city, leaving the festival grounds muddy and wet. The crowds were considerably smaller as well, given the weather and the fact that it was a work day, which led to Hanlan’s Point (where the fest took place) feeling rather empty at times. Even the big guns, like Florence + The Machine, failed to completely fill the main stage area.

While there was nothing that could of been done to prevent the weather, it certainly made it tougher to enjoy the music. The torrential rain left the grounds a disaster and festivalgoers were forced to wade through sticky, wet mud to get to food stands, stages and more. Again, you can’t really blame anyone for it, but it definitely made it a bit harder to enjoy everything.

Also making things more difficult was the fact that there seemed to be some disorganization on the media side, which led to members of the press being given limited or no access to photo pits when they had been promised it beforehand. Several photographers and journalists that I spoke to throughout the day relayed frustrating stories to me of how they were having a tough time doing their job because of the logistical nightmares going on behind the scenes. Obviously stuff like this won’t affect the average festivalgoer, but it certainly was an issue throughout the weekend and left a lot of media people with a bitter taste in their mouth.

What would have affected festivalgoers more, however, was an underwhelming VIP section, tucked away rather far from the entrance. Consisting of little more than a bunch of couches under a tent (which weren’t all that useful since there were many lounges/seating areas spread throughout the festival) and some private bars/washrooms, it admittedly wasn’t a far cry from the typical festival VIP section, but like so many other events, it definitely wasn’t worth shelling out the extra money for. That being said, I do find that very few festivals offer a VIP area that’s worth the extra dollars, and most of them end up being something similar to what we saw here.

All that aside though, there was one more major issue that undoubtedly left a very, very sour taste in the mouths of those who attended. Seeing as Bestival took place on an island, the only way for people to get back to the Toronto mainland was a ferry or water taxi. Getting there wasn’t a huge deal, as people came at different times throughout the day and lines were never terribly long. Getting everyone off the island at the end of the night, however, was a total disaster. A massive clusterfuck in every way imaginable, the mission to get back to Toronto at the end of the night was something straight out of a horror movie.

Where do I even begin….

For starters, absolutely nobody seemed to have any answers. Whether it was the excessive amount of aggressive police, festival security, or just anyone at all who was working there, it seemed that no one was able to direct you to the correct line. From what I had been told, there was a VIP/media ferry somewhere on the island at the end of the night, but not one person was able to tell me where. It was also very unclear which line was for the ferry and which line was for the water taxi. I somehow ended up in the water taxi line on night one, unintentionally, and luckily, got off the island fairly easily. At least, relative to most other people. Night two, however, was a whole different story.

Though I actually left the festival grounds about 20 minutes early to avoid the rush, I ended up being caught up in what could only be described as an absolute nightmare, full of aggressive cops, angry mobs of festivalgoers, security who were next to useless and disorganization at its finest. Oh yeah, there was also a riot at one point.

Without going into more detail, I’ll just say that the entire thing was a giant shit show and while I was lucky enough to sneak onto a ferry during the aforementioned riot, some people I know didn’t get home from the festival until about 3:00am, and the last act ended at 11:00pm. To have people waiting on the island for that long is completely unacceptable and to be quite frank, I’ve never seen a situation handled more poorly than what went on during night 2 of Bestival as people attempted to get home.