If it’s August it must be Big Chill time. I think this was my fourth. Now, obviously this festival has a reputation for being safe, middle class, white, and generally unthreatening. Which I wouldn’t expend too much time disputing (although apparently the Lost Vagueness tent included live onstage auto-fisting this year). My retort would instead be that I am no longer sufficiently “edgy” to see the benefits of taking my four year old to some kind of illegal ket-fuelled teknival to listen to harsh techno for a week.
One of the Big Chill’s particular talents is to not bother with any massive headliners but instead to focus on very good music that most people haven’t heard of. They also allow established groups to stretch out a bit, more of which later.
We went down mob-handed, a little encampment set up with mates and their kids. This meant we kept very different hours from the more rave-tastic types at the other end of the site. Indeed most of the weekend was spent lodged between the kids’ tent (puppet shows, craft-type stuff, rocking horses and general kiddy socialising) and the Castle Stage (less-banging than the not very banging other stages and quite banging club tent).
Lilly Allen. She must have been booked before all the recent furore. I thought she was great – nice tunes, bit giggly, good lyrics, all that. Plus she gets bonus points for getting Studio One music to the top of the charts where it belongs, yes? (And, as Matt Woebot has pointed out, she may have been steeped in reggae from birth by her father – like him or loathe him).
Bikini Beach Band. Doing surf guitar versions of pop classics (Blue Monday, Teen Spirit, Hey Ya, etc). There ended up being a lot of this sort of recontextualisation (ooh!) what with Nouvelle Vague, The Ukelele Orchestra and the accursed Guilty Pleasures. But BBB have a special place in my heart because they are from down my way, wear Fezzes and apparently some of them have some distant connection to The Godfathers.
Amadou & Mariam brought back a lot of memories of listening to their stuff on the road in Uganda.
What I heard of Jerry Dammers set of library records was excellent and he was camping about two tents away from us in the family field. Respect!
Sparks were a fantastic surprise – they played all of their new album which is GENIUS. Proper electro-pop with funny/clever lyrics which weren’t wacky or up themselves. Plus some great interactivity with the visuals – Ronald having a fight with his video doppelganger etc. Then the 2nd part of the set was a look back at their other 19 albums (!) including yer “This Town” and “Number One Song”. Stunning. Not everyone’s bag, but definitely mine. I can’t think of any other festival that would have Sparks on as headliners and allow them to play such an extended set – it was clear that the band were loving it as much as we were.
Big, Broad, Massive-and-Hard Highlights
The Funkywormhole tent was tucked away right down at the other end of the site from our main base and I only made it down there on Sunday after salivating over the line up all weekend. The soundsystem weighed a ton and made all the right noises.
Manasseh were on! I was very excited about this as they’d done two of my favourite tunes from 2005 (remixes of Emilian Torrini and Twilight Circus). They were on top form, playing some of their own new stuff and also some tunes I put on the first Shake The Foundations mix back in 2001, heh! Is their album finally on the cards, or what?
Bam Bam is Johnny Clash and Duck and they were just great with proper party ragga jump up bizness, ably assisted by MC Kwasi who apparently just showed up and asked to play with them. Good job too. They played a load of stormers with big stupid grins on their faces, skanking about behind the decks like nobody’s business. It was infectious – comatose people came back to life, people wandered into the tent to get a beer and stayed… I had to get back to the posse, but apparently it continued to go right off…
Listing the big musical events is much easier to write about than the rest of the festival, but I think it is probably “the other stuff” which really makes the Big Chill the Big Chill. I had a great time not striving to particularly catch anything, wandering about, talking nonsense with mates in the campsite and, uh, “chilling”. Best BC I’ve been to as a Dad, I reckon.