Chemical Brothers, Big Chill

The Big Chill takes place in the deer park that surrounds Eastnor Castle, deep within the rolling hills and valleys of Herefordshire in the West of England and just spitting distance from the Welsh Border. Although as lovely as the place looked, we were not here on a National Trust weekend, we were there to enjoy the vast array of eclectic musical talent on offer, as well as some of the more obscure avenues of entertainment we expected from Festival Republic, the organisers. We were not let down, and there was an abundance of moments where we lost ourselves in the music and the moment: those YES moments we have been looking for all summer.

Big Chill 2011 - Festival Review

The Big Chill takes place in the deer park that surrounds Eastnor Castle, deep within the rolling hills and valleys of Herefordshire in the West of England and just spitting distance from the Welsh Border. Although as lovely as the place looked, we were not here on a National Trust weekend, we were there to enjoy the vast array of eclectic musical talent on offer, as well as some of the more obscure avenues of entertainment we expected from Festival Republic, the organisers. We were not let down, and there was an abundance of moments where we lost ourselves in the music and the moment: those YES moments we have been looking for all summer.

The festival had a peculiar line-up ranging from Kanye West to Robert Plant, with a bit of Dionne Broomfield, Craig Charles and 2manydjs thrown in to try and tick a bit of every possible musical box. However this melting pot of musical diversity was perfectly tempered to ensure almost everyone was happy. It wasn’t just international superstars, and a lot more obscure musicians were playing at the numerous stages across the festival arena, as well as DJs that kept the music pumping till 5:30am.

Empire of the Sun on the Friday were a particular highlight, whose electro-pop tunes got the crowd stirred up, yet seemingly played second fiddle to their interesting, glamorously vivid on-stage costumes and a similarly energetic and smashing performance to accompany this. Smashing, because they managed to destroy numerous instruments and treated the audience to the debris. Fair play, the audience loved it, one chap near me got hold of the neck of one guitar and was waving it for the rest of the night. Earlier on, my personal favourites Fenech-Soler had produced a fantastic set and got the crowd behind their wonderful music, despite it being quite a small crowd that is. Also on the Friday were the Chemical Brothers, whose set consisted of some indistinguishable songs with heavy bass that oscillated with the crowd. Their performance was set against an impressive video backdrop and a superlative laser show that mesmerised the crowd, who truly came to life when the recognisable tunes of Block Rockin’ Beat and Galvanize were played.

 
Crotch Grabbin' Kanye

Saturday was equally impressive, with a lot of running to-and-froe in order to catch the hotly tipped performers. Of note was Dionne Bromfield, goddaughter of Amy Winehouse, although lacking real hits of her own, displayed some real talent. Jessie J’s commitment to putting on a good show in spite of hobbling out with a broken leg was admirable, as was her interaction with the crowd, who all loved singing along to her recent hits. Of course the biggest talking point of the day, and the week in music, was Kanye West. I don’t want to go on about him, but whilst he performed some of his music well, his croaky voice was a hindrance, but it was his attitude and rants that were truly lamentable. The crowd even began to boo him when he ranted about the media, or about being a perfectionist, especially with the inexcusable comment ‘people look at me like I’m Hitler‘, and especially ranting about being flown 12 hours for a music award he didn’t win. In fact, I think I even shouted ‘YES’ when I heard a group of people lost in the sea of spectators shouting ‘get on with it, bellend!

Kanye Finally Fucks Off

Sunday saw great performances by Robert Plant, the local boy, who produced some of his latest music as well as reinventing some of the older Led Zepplin classics. As a big Led Zepplin fan, it was great to see him live, and although these were good and original covers, I felt they weren’t as magical as the real Led Zepplin tracks. How could I not mention Mr Scruff, and having seen him the week before, he was again on fine form! Similarly, Craig Charles, who I had seen the weekend before, was also at Big Chill, and he was once again fantastic, although the crowd considerably smaller given his early time slot and smaller stage.

Also, a special mention to Janelle Monnet, as well as being awesome on the main stage, she managed to get thousands of people to lie down on the ground in the rain!

There were plenty of other things going on across the festival – a part of the new direction being taken by Festival Republic, who aimed to stay true to the roots of the Big Chill, but also take it the direction feedback from punters has led them. So similar to Glastonbury and Latitude, the Electric Hotel was there, a silent theatre type event with headphones (which cost a £20 deposit, twice as much a deposit than at Latitude). The Enchanted Garden area was fantastic, with obscure sculptures, interesting gardens, plenty of relaxing therapies and more chilled out entertainment.

Happy Honeymoon?

What was my favourite part? That would be hard to say. I did love that the Lucozade fairy came round Friday night, leaving 4 packs of Lucozade Energy Original at the doors of every tent – much needed hangover help! I most certainly had a great time at the Silent Disco on the Saturday night, getting down to some indie disco by the legendary DJs of Propaganda. I started this at 1:30 with only 4 other people there, but by 5am there were hundreds, easily around three quarters tuned in to the Propaganda DJs. Empire of the Sun were pretty spectacular. In fact, I would say that the real winner for me were the people I was with and got to meet.

Festival atmospheres are always fantastic, but at the Big Chill people were open and friendly, interesting and engaging. We camped with some stellar people, one of which, Freya Van Lessen, even shared some of her wonderful photographs with us. We met a couple who were there on their honeymoon. At a festival… legends. Imagine that conversation “Hey darling, we are going to the Big Chill for our honeymoon. We’re staying in a tent. Oh, and some mates are coming. We’ll be dressed as hamsters. Actually, sorry, Dave already shotgunned my tent. Sorry”. Quality.

The festival was not sold out, it was under capacity by anywhere up to 40% according to the rumours. This was a surprise given the appearance of Kayne West, but perhaps the lack of other worldwide names harmed the weekend. We could blame the economic conditions, the fact that tickets the medium sized fest were only £30 less than Glastonbury tickets, or that people didn’t like how corporate it was last year, nobody can be too sure. All I am sure of, is that I hope it goes ahead again next year, because I raved, I chilled and I will want to be going back!

Colourific at the starburstKanye and his locally sourced ballet dancersSame old Electric Hotel
 

 

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