Bestival brings eclectic extravaganza to Toronto's east end

  Photo:  Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Photo: Stevie Gedge/Bestival

They came from near and far, far away — east end locals, Toronto party people and festival faithful from all over — to descend upon Woodbine Park to "increase the peace" at the sophomore edition of Bestival.

The usually laidback, beachy vibe of the east end was transformed into a sonic wonderland as fans literally wore the theme — Summer Of Love — on their sleeves, and hands, legs and faces. There was no shortage of hippie chic, as body paint, glitter and henna tattoos were in abundance.

Aside from a sense of revelry among festival-goers, Bestival embodied an infectiously upbeat spirit of friendship, fun and above all, frivolity.

  Photo:  Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Photo: Stevie Gedge/Bestival

The two-day spectacle, an import from the U.K., was a celebration of mostly electronic music sprinkled with indie rock, high-energy pop and even classic goth-rock highlights. The scene was encased in a judgment-free zone with plenty of sparkly makeup and outrageous outfits, eccentric off-stage antics and activities and, of course, lots of dancing.

Saturday brought sweltering 30+ degree temps to the Bestival grounds with some attendees — sweaty and barely clothed — soaking it all up in the open. Others sought shelter grooving to the thumping beats and hyperbolic drops from under the big top, which was literally a circus tent.

Woodbine Park, having so many hills and tucked-away lawns, provided the ideal setting to stumble upon Bestival's many off-stage activities — colourful parades, vintage clothing booths, chill-out zones and many food vendors. It's easy to see why the event has gained a reputation for bringing an experience beyond just music with a list of off-the-wall attractions in store.

  Photo:  Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Photo: Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Psych-rock renaissance men Tame Impala headlined the first night on the main stage, combining dizzying visuals with their signature floaty sound that had the crowd on their feet at times swaying to and fro and at times jumping up and down in a frenzy, especially when the riffs to Elephant fired out.

Sunday's cooler weather and mellow vibe saw both the young and restless as well as mom and dads with first-time festival-goers of their own move between the various stages and attractions.

There was the Bollywood Stage, a colossal and ornate temple rigged with pink elephants, lights, lasers, spectacular pyrotechnics and the sounds of back-to-back-to-back DJs. Given there is so much love in the air in any respectable hippie-themed festival, an inflatable church performing 'marriages' on site only makes sense.

  Photo:  Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Photo: Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Watching the sun set at the Sunday Best Balearic Bar was one of the best spots to be on Day 2, a small stage hidden amongst the trees on a small hilltop pumping out relaxed house music to dozens of dancers, shoeless and feeling the grass between their toes.

English goth-rock vets the Cure topped the Bestival bill, and closed down Sunday rocking through a career-spanning set that even the casual fan would marvel at. The band used their massive catalogue to their advantage, plucking different deep cuts to showcase before the crowd.

  Photo:  Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Photo: Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Despite a good chunk of the field sitting empty, and some technical difficulties, Robert Smith and the lads powered through with tight guitar work and vocals in a two-and-a-half hour set that never seemed to drag once.

The band played both lesser-known songs and crowd favourites like Just Like Heaven and Close To Me through three encores that had Bestival fans on their feet dancing.

The energy and atmosphere took hold on the east side, and when all was said and done, virtually all of the concern and anxiety expressed from local residents about the potential for noise, garbage and out-of-control crowds was reduced to zero.

Here's to hoping Bestival makes a triumphant return across the pond and back to the east end next year.               

  Photo:  Stevie Gedge/Bestival

Photo: Stevie Gedge/Bestival