Big acts. Big venue. Big crowds. Big fun. Big love. Really Big Chill could not have been much better this year. Hectic does the leg work with his two part review
So with literally half a dozen day tickets for Leonard Cohen on Sunday, the Big Chill Festival 2008 is a sell out again; the big question was what the weather was going to be like.
Well after all the stress of getting to and setting up camp the last thing you want on the Thursday night before the festivities start in earnest is a downpour over the grounds of Malvern Castle in the shadows of the beautiful Malvern Hills. However the early arrivals were royally entertained by the sounds of Radio Big Chill pumping over the site (has Level 42′s ‘Autumn (Paradise Is Free)’sounded better anywhere else?). There were enough hardy souls outside the Cocktail Bar and Stage dancing aware to get the party started. But the experienced know this is a marathon and not a sprint. Rain means mud with the threat that environmental conditions could turn out worse that Beijing.
Friday, started optimistic with intermittent sun and importantly, drying winds (to the sound of Daisy and Emma Play Records (broadly reggae-ish with Santagold ‘I’m A Woman’ sounding good). So even though Mr. Scruff guesting on Peterson’s show this week wasn’t on untill the end of the Festival, Daedelus was on in the early hours and in the hectic press office (apart from the requests for Might Boosh who don’t), Fly and Manchester Fashion are after interview with Alfred (he’s such a icon). Other highlights to look out for were Yam Yam, Little Dragon, Quiet Village, Roots Manuva, DJ Krush, and Future Loop Foundation. The only downside being this mean we’d miss Don Letts, Thievery Corporation, Martha Wainwright, The Orb, The Grid and many more performers, DJs, comedians, activities and countless other goings on at the various venues on site.
Friday didn’t really get started until I got myself back to the Cocktail Bar at lunchtime this for Mr Original Big Chill Pete ‘I’m taking a backstage role’ Lawrence with a spectacular shaman of 60′s sunshine set; I swear, when he plays ‘Here comes The Sun’ it comes! Still not heard him play George Benson’s version of ‘White Rabbit’ yet but I’m sure the Chilled Cider king will soon.
Now there’s only one place to go after Pete Lawrence. Yep, it’s the Body & Soul Field. Why’s that you ask. Cos that where the cider bus is from www.ciderbrandy.co.uk with it’s finest Burrow Hill (farm pressed) Farmhouse Cider even in hot mulled flavour (11 varieties to vintage cider apples, got for the medium I’d say but there was a call for half medium an half dry; for the undecided Libran types)
What next? A touch of the CDr’s before Yam Yam. We’ll managed to miss CDr totally and was waiting at the wrong stage for Yam Yam! (Ed. Might have something to do with that cider?) Well worth the effort though as this wasn’t the small Big Chill House version but the full band with Rick Turner. For the last track, the Yam Yam’s style hadt loads of people dancing with a total festival ambiance with kids hoola hoopin’ and everyone having a good time. Who likes Congolese music? Wendo Kolosoy (RIP)
The Castle Stage is a far more relaxed affair and an ideal setting for Big Chill virgins, Little Dragon from Sweden. The sweet vocals of Yukimi Nagano lulled me into a different world and before I knew it, Martha Wainwright was on stage. Not as impressive as when she was at Wychwood a couple of years ago as the highlight was when Sholmo (the human beatbox) joined her for one song. Anyway, I should be somewhere else and blow me, I get distracted by the Open Stage with the Don of bass, Don Letts with Ty. This man has the art of playing records sorted, Dawn Penn’s ‘No, No, No’, a ska version of Gossip’s ‘Standing In the Way of Control’, a bit of Bob Marley and the Easy Star All Stars’ cover of ‘Whole Lot Of Love’ kept that crowd from Yam Yam dancing on. But wait, there’s a mass movement to the Club Tent for Sir Rodney ‘Roots Manuva’ Smith. While waiting, Ninja Tune specialist DJ Food and DK did their usual mix of multi genre mash mix up as they ‘keep the underground lit’ with Harold Flayermeyer vs. Rage Against The Machine vs. Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. We’re ready for Roots Manuva in a tent that must have been packet with 5000 people at least. Certainly no room for taking notes as this was party time, off the new album the two tunes that are standing out are the two singles ‘Buff Nuff‘ and ‘Again & Again‘. Roots messed with the crowd as he teased with the ‘Witness’ intro before launching into the classic. Quite an experience with a crowd that size signing along and all looks good for the forthcoming tour and album.
Saturday; now when you’ve had a late night and you can’t quite remember what’s gone on the night before (although Daedelus re-affirmed his position as top live act and album of the year), after being woken up early, it’s easy to think up a list of the worst things in the world; the sound of flip flops walking past a tent, ditto welly boots, refuse vehicles going up and down the service road, someone in a neighbouring tent saying stuff like “you make me feel sexy”, “I love you”, “I must put my make up on”, the guy farting long and loud (same tent!). There’s only one thing for it. Breakfast and tune in the Big Chill Radio for Guy ‘Yam Yam’ Morley and Biggabush their “mildly inappropriate” selection of tunes. Along with ‘Bokoor Sound System’ off the Lightning Head EP, they played other soul lifting afro beat including Ebenezer Obey (known as “you must” to his friends) and had a cover version selection with ‘Heard It Thorough the Grape’ by the Slits, The Ruts’ ‘Babylon’s Burning’ (Cosmos Mix) and Senor Coconut’s ‘Smoke On The Water’.
By Midday we were back Open Air Stage with a rare outting for The Irresistible Force (aka Mixmaster Morris) with John Sharp (aka Spacetime Continuum) who great mid-afternoon jazzy ambient. So good, it meant I’d missed The Blessing who were on another stage. However, The Blessing were on the Big Chll Radio later on with a proper eclectic mix of Ivor Culter, Blondie & Blurt (no wonder their are wonky rock-jazzers)
Following The Blessing on the Castle Stage is Lykke Li. Another Swedish vocalist who is hot at the moment as she rallies the crowd, “lets pretend its night time at the disco”. This Bjork meets CSS good-time music might make you think that it’d be a tuff act to follow for the Portico Quartet. But these are now the Mercury album of the year nominated Portico Quartet and they turn out just as great live as they do on the CD, Knee-Deep In The North Sea. Especially as Nick Mulvey plays two Hang, sometimes single mallet that give a steel drum sound (where’s that Caribbean food and Coconut vendor) and sometimes double mallet, for a more vibraphone affect. ‘Dawn Patrol’, ‘News From Verona’ and a new one, ‘Full Catastrophe’ were all brilliant. No chance of wining Mercury Prize but don’t let that put you off. Top tune, ‘Steps In The Wrong Direction’.
Big crowds for Bill Bailey and my one concession to the many Comedy acts was to listen him on the radio, “it’s the joggers I don’t trust ‘cos they’re always first to find the bodies”. It’s a long walk to the Club Tent and there’s loads going on; and even though I didn’t buy anything, I had to have an addicts flick through the records in the second hand record stall stuck mid-field.
Saturday then became all about the Club Tent. The Souljazz Orchestra were already playing when I arrived. They are all funk, jazz, soul and afrobeat with a mighty 3 horn section. I got there just in time when they shouted, “Do you wanna hear some Fela Kuti?” Of course, we did and it set us off. The title track of new album Freedom Never Dies (out on Do Right! Music) was also killer. Apart from the normal crowd, 5 Mexican wrestlers (with masks and capes) and 4 Bananas knew where to be. The last song deserved the mass participation it got as it went La, La, La Lay de La, Lay Se La etc.
A quick switch to see the Hot 8 Brass Band at the open stage was called for. If you were at the back it didn’t sound too good so get down to the front for this musical version of New Orleans. Fantastic and you can tell George Clinton / Snoop Doggy Dog that this is how it’s done doggy fashion ‘What’s My Name? (Rock With The Hot 8)’. Sousaphone jazz-funk is back. Got to chat with Alvarez “B.I.G. Al” Huntley afterwards and he tells me they’ve done a collaboration with Basement Jaxx recently, are shortly recording a new album and coming over for a Tour in October. Ended the set with a truly emotional cover of ‘Sexual Healing’ that had almost choir like qualities as the sing-a-long went from start to end. What would Natural Self and Ben Lamdin do with these guys?
Talking of Souza, more Souza action coming via the BiggaBush but it’s the Sauza tent next. Missed CDr, but by now Saturday night was being dominated by the huge crowds for the rock version of the Mighty Boosh. That didn’t put off loyal fans of Nick Lawrence in a bar tent/bar that was at the ends of the world; big tune was the Moody Boyz remix of Erykah Badu‘s ‘Honey’ before the d’n'b massive took over in fancy dress and finger puppets. So while Nick went off for a bit of tuck, Benji B was playing in the massive club tent. Apparently he played a great set at last years’ festival and for the small but appreciative crowd of soulful funk Latin House. There’s more to Mr. B than Deviation it seems. This is the dance tent after all and we danced. A bit of a false ending but it was a shame that he couldn’t set up a mix with the live band that followed him. A bit of ‘more cowbell’ style Moodymann into Christian Prommer’s Drumlesson. With Christian (percussion) and Roberto Di Gioia (keyboards) leading from the front, the tent steadily filled after Mighty Boosh ended, this band just grew with every track and stole the show. No more so than with ‘Strings Of Life’. Currently they are the best band in the world but it was time to check out the former holder of that title, the Matthew Herbert Big Band (of course, they would be right the other end of the festival site). Eska is new vocalist and wherever she performs, you hear it again and again from folks in the crowd, “she’s amazing”. And she is. Perhaps tricky to get into but Herbert’s performing and orchestration skills are second to none.
Should have stayed at that stage for the James Brown tribute (with the benefit of hindsight) but happy to get back to that Sauza bar for a Coldcut DJ set for a bit and then Derrick Carter at the overflowing Rizla ‘amphitheatre’. This guy is legend and anyone who plays Caroline Crawford’s ‘Coming On Strong’ is fine with me (Funky respect to Hamilton Bohannon). A quick look in on the Disco Shed on my way home found it was a bit lame in comparison but what a brilliant day I’d had. And one more to go at that!
Sunday Radio with Mr. Scruff. Usual heady mix for lying sweaty in your tent of soul funk reggae soul disco old and new (with the odd enforced live vinyl mix). But the weather didn’t seem to know what it was going to do; I feared more rain. Sunscreen and raincoat type weather.
Find out what happened at the Big Chill Festival 2008 Part 2 HERE.
Photo: Simon Faithfull’s Fake Moon rise for the first time at 10 pm on Friday night at the Fetzer Tent, opposite to the main stage.
Goa Fish Curry from Mevagissey – 2nd Best Food stall @ Larmer Tree 2007, Best Food Larmer Tree 2008.
Ledbury 2miles away, no idea Big Hill was happening
3rd August – Hereford County Show Nr. Ross on Wye
DJ History Breaking secret code of all DJ’s by telling you what the records are”.
August 2, 2008 www.timesonline.co.uk Wendo Kolosoy: pioneer of Congolese rumba, born in 1925. He died on July 28, 2008, aged 83.
The Big Chill’s Art Trail Artists (Alice Sharp, Curator): Gavin Turk and Deborah Curtis, Lucienne Cole, Simon Faithfull, Paul Gittins, Kathleen Herbert, Juneau Projects, Helen Maurer, Francis Upritchard, Grace Ndiritu, Melanie Stidolph, David Bickerstaff