Could Blue Dot Be the Best Festival Yet? We’d Rate it as a Strong Contender…
This year in the balmy beginnings of a hot July Jodrell Bank’s Space Discovery Centre once again played host to its second Blue Dot Festival. Though still in its infancy Blue Dot is one of those wonderfully rare events that mashes together a delicious cocktail of science, space, and music to create a festival that is very much something else.
Basking under the shadow of the gargantuan Lovell Telescope, the festival kicked off with the Mancunian poet Tony Walsh. His set was a colourful if not a little confusing mix of science and poetry beginning with a mesmerising reading of the piece ‘Zeros and Ones,’ which is undoubtedly a sort of Bill Bryson esk condensed history of the universe, everything and all who sail in her.
Elsewhere on site hot topics of discussion blazed away with lectures from the most prestigious scientific minds of the day. ‘Dot Talks‘ included ‘Why Should We Believe in the Big Bang?’ ‘Sending Humans into Space? What’s Next?’ And, of course what kind of space festival would be complete without stargazing with the presenters from The Sky at Night.
In amongst all of the learning you’d expect that music wouldn’t have much room to move, however an impressive list of artists headlined the Lovell and Orbit stages from dawn until dusk.
Heading the mix were Leftfield who pulled an energetic performance at the Orbit stage on Friday evening followed by the Poppy-Electro lot Boxed In, Shura and Goldfrapp on Saturday night. Shura was a delightful addition to the line up with her seductive powerful voice and seemingly unending ability to play more than one instrument at the same time. She perched on the stage in between songs giggling like a lost 10 year old and then blew away an enraptured crowd with impeccable vocals and catchy beats.
Goldfrapp were inevitably impressive beyond expectation, particularly if you were lucky enough to find yourself a spot at the much coveted centre front. Alison Goldfrapp wafted onto the stage dressed head to toe in what looked like a catering tin foil incident. Her backing vocalists and musicians were ever busy flitting between playing two synthesizers at once, the key-tar or messing around with buttons on various launch pads. And, although Alison took the centre stage it was difficult to tear your eyes away from the musicians buzzing busily around her and their equipment. The band gave a great performance ahead of Orbital, so much so in fact that it was difficult to summon the energy for the main event.
After a nice long five year hibernation Orbital took the stage for the stage for the Saturday night finale. It was their third appearance after vanishing from the industry and their homecoming was welcomed by a field stuffed with sun beaked Blue Dotters all anticipating a good old dance. They weren’t disappointed. Following the theme of the weekend Orbital opened against a backdrop of psychedelic lights and shapes with the ‘Pulse of the Universe’ – the Lovell telescope’s radio sound of a dying star which was seamlessly intertwined with the heavy beats of the opening of their show. The dewy evening light against the Discovery Centre gave Orbital’s set an ambience that would be difficult to replicate. Where better for a psychedelic rave duo to drop their beats than a British space observatory?
The Sunday line up coupled with a full and dusty coloured moon hanging heavy in the sky gave the final day of the festival that little something extra to chew on. Flamingods brought a cultural edge to the stage with instruments and influences from across the globe and The Whyte Horses Experience were certainly and experience, mainly one that merits one of those confused face emoticons but they definitely brought something interesting to the table.
Highlights of the day did of course include composer-producer Anna Meredith, the legendary and fabled Warpaint and ostensibly, Alt J.
Now we’ve got a lot of time for Warpaint at Vulture Hound so it’s difficult not to let them have the monopoly here. They were though as ever on top form; wonderfully punked up but with that trademark air of nonchalance that marks them at sub zero on the ‘coolness’ scale. Despite a few technical issues involving tumbling broken microphone poles their set was as equally ethereal and gothic as ever with lots of hair flicking and anxiety inducing riffs. The experience as a whole was an absorbing concoction of old and new all the way back from Exquisite Corpse through to their most recent album Head’s Up. The second that telltale hum of Jenny Lee’s beloved Rickenbacker wafted out from behind the stage people were wrestling with one another to make it right to the front for a prime viewing spot. They were of course battled backwards because a select few die hard fans had posted themselves there six hours earlier and were not going to be swept away from the dreamscape before them.
Despite the heaviest of touring, Warpaint have not lost their edge or their love of performing. Their set was an impeccable hour and a half of the most glorious screechy vocals and far-away soundscapes. They even threw in a few old long lost one off songs as a treat which slid on down like a spoonful of honey. Yes Warpaint, we like you very much.
Alt J did of course take the last word at the festival as they ended the Sunday night with an awful lot of lights and smoke machines. This was another stop in a long leg of touring for Alt J since they hit the mainstream and the vocals and harmonies rung out once more without falter. Their stage presence though, perhaps left something to be desired; there was the sense that the drama of the lighting was in an effort to make up for the lack of movement or interaction from the trio.
Regardless they are what they are and that is a Fleet Foxes like group of choir boys with a wealth of exceptional musical talent between them. As a result there was very little room for manoeuvre in amongst the crowd that they drew in and it seemed as though the entire festival had arrived at the Lovell to watch the boys do their thing. They left the stage that Sunday night with an air of anticipation in their wake. This year’s Blue Dot was only the second in its running, and, if the people at the top could muster a line up like that for a project that’s really still just a baby who knows what’s on the horizon in coming years. It’s well worth keeping your eyes peeled and your ears to the wind.
For more reviews and photos from Vulture Hound’s weekend at Blue Dot watch this space, we’ll keep you posted as
All photos by Thistle Prince.