The Big Chill 2008, Eastnor, August 1-3rd.
For the last two weeks since returning from The Big Chill I have been laid up with flu and exhaustion, another of my mates has mumps and another was on his back for a week, I do not know whether this is a sign of a brilliant or bad Big Chill. So we come to the annual gathering of the beautiful people in deepest Eastnor. This year sees better security, improved camping facilities and a massive sell out crowd all of which helps for a pretty cracking weekend in the countryside and the weather holds out all weekend it’s not too hot but it’s not chucking it down, the weather fails to stop the cracking atmosphere and bucketfuls of smiles around the site. On the whole I do not think the lay out of the site is as good as previous years, no Sanctuary stage and no reggae/ dub tent are sadly missed throughout the weekend however the inclusion of The Sunrise Celebration does expand and improve the festival site. This year the festival seems to be a little more eclectic with the inclusion of much more comedy, (loads of people are here just to see The Mighty Boosh and Bill Bailey), brilliant films, a fantastic fire on Sunday night and many more activities for children of all ages, including me throughout the day and night and well into the following morning. The music on offer as usual is diverse and cutting edge, however Fat Freddy’s Drop pulling out a few weeks ago is a big disappointment; I hope they are back next year to headline a night on the main stage.
Friday sees the big chillers somewhat less restrained from previous years and many punters are partying hard already. Roots Manuva, Krush, Vadim, Luke Vibert and Daedalus over in the dance tent all play amazing sets, Roots and MK ripping into loads of new material from the immanent new LP with the brilliant Ricky Rankin assisting on vocals. The new material seems a lot harder than previous material, the packed out dance tent love it though. The rest of the evening sees my brain malfunction and I loose track of time and reality.
Saturday sees The Mighty Boosh take over the Big Chill, I do not get the Boosh, never have, I can see why people find them funny, its just I don’t, so I unlike almost everyone else go in search of music and it all goes pretty well for a while. Fink as ever is brilliant if not suffering a bit from a rubbish soundsystem. The Hot 8 Brass Band are fantastic in many ways a perfect festival band, stimulating both to the eyes and ears, funky and funny. Matthew Herbert and his bizarre box of acid trickery liven the early evening up. I never thought mixing cabaret, brass and acid would ever work but it does, stimulating and weird in equal quantities. The Agnostic Gospel Choir not only have a fantastic name their music is pretty damn good as well, full on electric blues, think Canned Heat but more sleazy and more harmonica. As ever The Big Chill always try to do things a bit different and matching electronic pioneers, Plaid up with contempory dance troupe Random Dance. It’s very innovative and very funny watching hardcore electronic heads enjoying ballet, very forward thinking, more for next year please. Unfortunately Saturday night goes all a bit too housey for me, too the point that I retreat to the campsite. Fortunately Rinse FM had just taken over Big Chill FM (brilliant as ever) so for the next 3 hours I am treated to some of the best dubstep I have ever heard in my life, not a bad end to a good day. Sunday, well Norman Jay did bring a bit of sun, shame he did not bring a good bag of tunes or even borrow Tom Middleton’s from his cracking acid house set the night before. It’s a shame but African Head Charges first UK show it ten years is dogged by bad sound problems a real shame for the only reggae act on the main stage this weekend. Flying Lotus over in the dance tent is good but very odd, warped acid sounds mixed with jazz, dance and hardcore, it all starts to spiral out of control in my head again, time to go see Leonard Cohen. Leonard sounds great, the songs are great and the crowd loves it, I just wish I had listened to his tunes more as a teenager, depressing and miserable, no, heart warming, soulful and beautiful, yes, yes, yes. So to my highlight of the weekend, On U sounds, Adrian Sherwood and Lee Scratch Perry put on Action Dub Painting for Amnesty International. Who would have thought mixing bass and paint would work, well in the hands of the madman/ genius Scratch how could it fail to be an amazing show. Sherwood hammers out thundering dub for 90 minutes as Lee Perry paints!!!! A visual interpretation of the music being play, you have to check You Tube out for this one, a billion words would never explain the madness that happens on that stage. No Lee Scratch Perry gig will ever been the same again. Was this the best Big Chill, in some ways yes the atmosphere was better with the festival selling out and the festival became more diverse but the music needs working on a bit, with more chill out/ reggae acts and less house dj’s.
Many thanks to all the great people from Idea Generation, who made my weekend a fantastic one, see you back at Eastnor next year.
loads of pix available at facebook/markbarker.