Saturday, 13 August 2011

Big Chill Festival 2011, 3 days of music, sunshine and camping

The big chill campsite, looking towards the main stage from the guest area

This was definitely one of those trips where the journey was an integral part as leaking what smelt like a large quantity of petrol from Bristol, we shambled our way down the motorway towards the picturesque Eastnor deer park with most windows open and the small black Fiat threatening to be driven apart into pieces at any moment (mum don't read this!). We actually managed to put the tent up in daylight, a step forward on last years pitch black pitching, and tented ourselves near a tree (theory being a good landmark makes it easy to locate).

Having done the transporting and pitching, we made it down into the main stage for Chemical Brothers Friday headline slot after being drawn to 'cubehenge' for some jungle. Chems put on a fantastic show though, dropping their hits in all the right places and with some expansive visuals on the big screen to support the Djing and samples. Our tickets were a kind gift from Vodafone so we were amongst the few who made it into the TV gallery, looking over the 30,000 strong crowd, it was a great experience.

Janelle shakes her Monae maker

A 3am finish, we woke on the Saturday and hastily set about making a plastic cups worth of tea, and eating disco's (the crisps). First up after we'd managed to get down to the main stage was Janelle Monae, who put on a great set once again (I was lucky to have seen her at wireless festival earlier in the season). Towards the end of her show she likes to put people to sleep, the aim being everyone at the front sits or lies down, as the band wind down and pretend to go to sleep on the stage, then kick right back up again with some rawkus. This also brought rain, which amusingly resulted in the guy in front hastily shaking his fist in anger at the sky. Luckily this year an umbrella was to hand.

Saturday night and we went to see Aloe Blacc play in the Revellers Tent, he created very much a lounge vibe and enjoyed one of his best album tracks in Green Lights before we skipped out to see if Kanye had turned up yet. Half an hour late he did but the performance, or what we saw of it, was fairly flat. Starting out singing from the tv tower, which turned heads (literally), he moved to the stage and sang a further 3 album tracks, before launching a 10 minute monologue about being lonely, persecuted, picking up a dud award at the German MTV awards and complaining he had lost his voice to 'bring y'all a great show, a great product'. It was a strange but also a sad moment. The crowd had been upbeat; now those who had been seeking to hear a carousel of his hits were leaving in their droves. From there we went to see Buraka Som Sistema with some samba house and set about finding a fire to sit round in the guest area.

Sunday AM heralded sitting in the tent rustling up some fish sandwiches,  getting through the remaining supplies and reading the newspaper whilst listening to the excellent Delta Swamp Rock compilation on SoulJazz. We wondered down the hill to the stage area and the sun really did come out with DJ Derek's brilliant reggae set and Norman Jay before that with his mix of dnb, house and good times. On the Saturday a hyperactive but enthusiastic Craig Charles brought us some of his favourite records on the cubehenge stage, the former Red Dwarf actor and Robot Wars host turned 6Music DJ and funk champion.

Wearily returning to London late on Sunday night meant I missed Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings which was a shame, but for what was to become a week of riots and madness, Big Chill did not disappoint, and is still one of the UK's best festivals for dance, pop, soul and reggae fans.  ****

DJ line up in the guest area

Sunset over the site

A magical setting for Aloe Blacc

Cubehenge, where DJ Derek & Craig Charles played