The Orange Ashton Court Festival has tried to shake memories of its former life as Bristol Community Festival.
Where once it was free entry, now it's £9 a head. Where once Bristol's anti-corporate undercurrent came to the fore, now official partners' logos are ubiquitous.
Where once people weed in the woods rather than the toilets... well, they still wee in the woods but you get the picture.
This year's biggest financial innovation has been the revenue-raising VIP area. Mainly for crews, press, corporate guests and ‘artists’, the festival organisers have made money selling £75-a-head tickets - an offer to which only about 100 punters of the 40,000 attendees availed themselves.
But what do they get for their money? In truth, not a lot. The VIP area is a small field at the back of the site furnished with a bar, some loos, a pie stall, some benches and tents for shelter.
Granted, there was virtually no queue at the bar or pie stall, the portaloos remained acceptable, and as festival veterans will testify, sitting down on something other than the ground can be a real luxury.
However, other than milling around with local musicians, there wasn’t a lot to recommend it.The main attraction seems to be the late bar and casino area, though again this was probably more valuable to the crews and bands.
I could have lived the high life for a day as a VIP, but, this would have meant staying in the bar, getting hammered and missing all the bands.
So, with journalistic hat on, my first and most important duty is to report some sad news: unfortunately, there have been no sightings of Thong Man this year.
For younger readers, a highlight of the festival has always been to spot the enormously fat, heavily tanned and nearly naked man who wears only a beard, boots and a black leather codpiece.
He will invariably be dancing somewhere near the main stage, either completely out of time to the music or when there isn't any music playing at all. Then, you turn to one of your mates and say, "There's your Dad over there." It's comedy gold, so it’s a real shame he’s not here. The campaign to bring him back starts here.
|The Go! Team - a "fitting headliner."|
In contrary style, I start the festival off in the Blackout Tent for a film about maverick educationalist Anton Bantock, a fascinating sweep through the history of the Ashton Court estate and the associated personal scandals of its former owners, the Smyth family.
As with so many great Bristolians, Bantock treads a unique path, and amongst many other achievements runs the University of Withywood (actually his house with a purpose-built extension housing his library.)
After eating my first VIP festival pie (delicious) I catch 10 mins of Amelia Tucker on the Acoustic stage - she's playing formulaic live drum'n'double bass with well-trained but unremarkable vocals.
It merges in my mind with The Hum on the second stage - a bit of samba, a bit of jazz, funky rhythms, white suits.
As usual, the festival has a full complement of funk-jazz-reggae crossover bands who are probably very good fun at Fiddlers on a booze-fuelled Friday but who are unlikely to make much of a national impact. The festival and the city would nonetheless be immeasurably poorer without them.
The programme’s preview of The Dirty Whites makes me slaver with anticipation but unfortunately, it's shouty pub punk with Bristol accents and a hammond organ.
After this, Nova Saints are a revelation. Melancholic, droning drug-rock with Ride's vocal harmonies and the Cooper Temple Clause's haircuts.
Emily Breeze and the Dobermen on the Second Stage are also great, though occasionally just too similar to PJ Harvey. The dynamics, the scratchy guitars, the on-edge vocals all bring back memories of Polly's brilliant early albums.
After a nutritious dinner of chips, which are literally as cheap as... it’s back to the second stage for London rapper PlanB whic is one of my festival highlights, and by the size of the crowd it looks like I’m not alone.
People are standing way past the mixing desk and over the ridge: it’s one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen.
It’s probably not surprising. Bristolians instinctively respond to grim, urban hip-hop with a determined eclecticism and gritty intelligence.
Then it's a quick trip over to the Blackout tent for local film-maker John Minton's hilarious and occasionally moving film of mad, alcoholic Scottish poet and Libertines warm-up man Jock Scott.
Then, after dark, the big light show is wheeled out for The Go! Team, a fitting headliner, since their funk-sampling indie crossover more or less makes them honorary Bristolians anyway.
They get a rapturous reception. Singer Ninja (a likely story) gets the crowd alternately chanting “Go” and “Team” and a fabulous dance rock time is had by all.
Click to find out about Sunday's highlights: