Throwback: Bluedot Festival

Bluedot Festival opened its festival doors for the first time this summer: Based just south Jodrell Bank Observatory this year back to the home to the ‘Lovell Telescope’and with a focus on space exploration as its theme, in many ways it could be seen as the perfect setting for such as festival, especially with famous physicists like Brian Cox pencilled in to give guest lectures. The festival promised an opportunity to learn about science and cosmology as well as dance to great array of electronic and non-electronic music.

When I arrived parking was plentiful and I was fortunate to experience some pleasant weather which as we all know improves the experience at any festival. It was very family friendly with plenty of things for children to do to keep them pre-occupied: At the ‘Mission Control’ tent there were games, scaled down models of satellites out in space and one of the mars rover, in the other side of the tent there was a big screen with ample seating to get comfortable and watch a documentary. I managed to catch a documentary about Tim Peake and his experiences as an astronaut, covering the testing of his space equipment and putting his body through various challenging situations in preparation for his mission. The British Science Association also had a great stall, which explained the science behind music with very fun family friendly inventions like the slinky lightsabre! The food on site was excellent with a wide variety from gourmet burgers, flatbreads, gourmet pies and pizzas to curry’s, noodles and sweeter options, there was also plenty of vegan/vegetarian options. The on-site staff were pleasant and helpful which helped breathe a relaxed atmosphere into the occasion.

After exploring the stalls mainly through the early parts of each day I turned towards the vast amounts of exciting electronic music on offer over the weekend. One of my first experiences of the main ‘Lovell stage’ was hosted by Tom Middleton. Middleton played an interesting set, fitting for the time of day and occasion, serving up a set of bass heavy breakbeat, drum and bass, dubstep and post dubstep. Tracks were carefully crafted with specific synth sounds and textures in mind for the occasion. A few euphoric moments thrown in there that certainly lifted the spirits of the crowd as they responded enthusiastically. Moon duo at ‘The Orbit Stage’ were also a real treat. A 3 piece band I wasn’t aware of before the festival, aggressive and yet minimal with unrelenting drums and nice synth sounds. The Vril Society at the ‘Nebula Stage’ played an energetic rock n roll set, playing songs at breakneck speed, distortions and included their well-known favourite ‘Monotone Face’ which was very much enjoyed.

Floating points was on later at the ‘Orbit Stage’. This was the act I was really looking forward to. The live performance from FP is quite removed from what we’ve got to know him as a DJ. This live performance seemed to be aimed much more at your jazz lover but there were moments where it was quite ‘prog’ also. In truth, I was really disappointed. After taking time to reflect it was a very self-indulgent performance and not so much better than the average jazz/prog band that you may come across at a lower scale festival. I commend Sam Shepherd for stepping out of his comfort zone and offering something different but it just simply wasn’t very good. However it is early days in this new project and one would hope with time it will improve.

Jean Michel Jarre at the ‘Lovell Stage’. Jarre is an acquired taste but experiencing him in a live setting on this scale makes it much more of an experience rather than it just being about the music. Despite our differing musical tastes you can only admire the boundaries that Jarre has pushed in Electronic music. The visuals, the epic synth sounds, watching him play music with light; it was a pleasure to experience. Jarre’s performance was totally fitting for Bluedot festival and was perfectly in keeping with the crowd present who could relax and take it all in comfortably on rugs and deck chairs.

Well known and revered local DJ Krysko also played a strong set at the ‘Orbit Stage’ containing Acid, Electronica, techno and house. It really picked up the crowd who at this point in the night were ready for what they were hearing. Krysko read the room perfectly, and it was a good transitional set signalling a shift in foregrounding and focus onto the music.

However this shift entered quite a stuttered phase when Ben UFO stepped up after Krysko. I’ve seen Ben many times beyond count; as an electronic dance music fan, this was it. UFO is a master In playing to any occasion, but at 11.30 there was an issue whereby every single stage only had middle and treble with no subs, very little bass and totally no punch – this was a total buzz kill. Having failed to get a clear answers on the night It would’ve be nice for more clarification on this and I looked out for tweets or some sort of comment on this issue from the festival but found nothing. Perhaps they wanted to keep it quiet thinking ‘no harm no foul’. Bluedot isn’t strictly a dance music festival so perhaps they felt they could get away with this going unnoticed due to the fact that dance music enthusiasts were in a minority but I’m sorry, you can’t book acts like Ben UFO and then provide no bass for the performance. Ben played Midland’s new and totally killer release ‘Final Credits’ – it was a moment that should have been met with feelings of overwhelming joy and euphoria but with no bass, I had to leave.

Moving elsewhere I entered the ‘Mission Control’ stage which had been very impressively transformed from its day time purpose into a tent were festival goers could party in the evening. Lunabombers were playing a disco and house set to a packed out crowd, the lack of bass seemed a little less noticeable with disco being less bass heavy than the selection of music being played by Ben UFO. There were some really interesting edits of popular 70’s and 80’s electro/funk/pop that I hadn’t previously heard. The crowd was lapping it up, singing along and dancing away.
The variety of acts on show was great over the weekend and was epitomised by Algorave: Algorave used a unique way of creating sounds through live computer generated code with assistance from 65dayofstatic member Paul Wolinksi. Underworld were also fantastic, a performance never in doubt.

I’d like to call Bluedot a resounding success and in many ways it was but the bass issues at the end of the night were a problem. There are many people who will have spent their £140 on a ticket for some of the DJ’s booked to be able to enjoy themselves thoroughly in the evening and if you were one of those people you might fell just a tad cheated and disappointed. If you aren’t one of those people, and in the grander scheme of things you could still call Bluedot a success. Regardless, these issues can be rectified and ironed out and all things considered Bluedot is a welcome change to your average humdrum festival that looks and sounds like any other, it’s different, interesting, left field, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable for everyone.

Neal Burton

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