Brian Wilson brings fun fun fun to camp bestival

Brian Wilson playing Camp Bestival
Brian Wilson playing Camp Bestival Image credit:

Over the past few years there’s been a new ‘gimmick’ in town for touring artists. Instead of turning up and playing your songs in random order why not play a whole album and round the set off with a few of the good old classics?

When it was first released back in 1966 the Beach Boy’s eleventh album didn’t set the Billboard charts alight. Tell any American music enthusiast fifty or so years ago Brian Wilson would be playing the record back-to-back at a major UK festival and they would have thought you were pulling their leg. But Pet Sounds did wonders here on its original release peaking at Number 2 in the UK Album charts and five decades on it’s the answer on pub quizzers lips when they are teased by a picture of a group of guys at a goat petting zoo enclosure.

The record may not have aged but its creator certainly has. The Seventy-Five who was once chasing Californian Girls and Pipelines in American oceans has to be escorted on to the Camp Bestival stage before he settles behind his keyboard and now and again he will come across as a Grandpa ready for his mid-afternoon snooze. In fact this ‘headline’ set wraps up just after 8pm so Leftfield can round off the four-day festival with music so loud our poor Brian would have a cardiac arrest.

His singing voice isn’t the same as it used to be, but backed by a full band the magic is still there and despite this being billed as a Pet Sounds set Brian leaves the album for the mid-section opening with ‘California Girls’ off the Summer Days record, goes straight into ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and then tops it off with ‘I Get Around’

Another pub quiz teaser for ya – What was the first song Brian Wilson ever wrote? Treat yourself to a free round if you knew it was ‘Surfer Girl’ which is met by a devoted fan in the crowd shouting their admiration for Brian. There’s more love for another classic…’Don’t Worry Baby’ introduced by guitarist and Beach Boy co-founder Al Jardine, but Al isn’t the only band member who shares some of the glory with Wilson tonight…We mean afternoon….Late afternoon/ early evening….Oh, you catch our drift!

Blondie Chaplin plays a part in today’s proceeding and it isn’t just his contribution to ‘Wild Honey’ – there’s plenty more nectar energy from Terence William Chaplin and the full band as we catch Wilson checking his watch during the song’s instrumental break. So what is the time?

It’s actually time to play Pet Sounds in full! Camp Bestival is a family festival, most Dad’s in the crowd are half Brian Wilson’s age so there’s a field-full of people who would be astonished to hear not only did you have to go to the shops to buy your music they actually came on something called vinyl! Yeah, how weird is that? Fortunately the next thirteen tracks are performed without a scratch and come just as quick as a Spotify playlist. ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ gracefully ebbs into ‘You Still believe in Me’…We won’t go through the whole track listing here, but remember we said a few of our friends across the pond would had been surprised if this album was ever played live? There’s another couple of reasons for this and they can be found in track 6 on Side A and track 5 on Side B.

Brian produced Pet Sounds during the first few months of 1966, a year after he pulled out of touring commitments with the Beach Boys. The concept was to produce a record with no filler tracks, but some may question that bold statement today…especially when ‘Let’s Go Away for a While’ and the title track are introduced by Wilson as songs with “No voices or singing. Just musical instruments” – which don’t require a keyboard. So Brian just sits there motionless, shoulders slumped to his waist as his band do all the hard work. It kinda makes uneasy viewing!

Mind you, there’s still some belters on Pet Sounds which have survived the test of time. As Brian “Turns the record over” ‘God Only Knows’ is greeted with a huge warm welcome, but every now and then – just like the first side – The crowd are loss on the, um, tracks which filled the album. When ‘Caroline, No’ rounds everything off it’s time for a series of non-stop hits… Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Barabara Ann, Surfin’ USA, Fun Fun Fun – What a way to end a set! With a quintet of such crowd pleasing pleasures it does make you wish that Brian had just stuck to playing the album with the cover portraying a blue and white surf dude…and if you can figure that out we will crown you pub champion!

Access @ Camp Bestival

The access at Camp Bestival is improving. A couple of years ago a more stable viewing platform was introduced although this is still situated quite far back from the main stage. It’s well manned by volunteers, comes with a couple of accessible toilets and this year a BSL interpreter had their own mini stage directly in front of the platform for various sets throughout the weekend. There was an accessible toilet situated at the Big Top although there was no viewing platform.

The accessible car park was closer this year and despite this area being full by Saturday a new parking place, again close to the entrance, was found although some of the staff was unaware where this was located.

PA’s have laminates so the disabled guest can rotate who accompanies them on to the viewing platform and the accessible campsite is in an ideal spot about a minute walk from the arena entrance.

What did you think of the access?

Lewis from Wolverhampton

‘It’s okay but could be a little bit better. The viewing platform is good but it’s too small and too far away. There also wasn’t enough organisation when they cornered off some of the routes for the firework display.’