Bluedot reaches its finale, delivering its best, most diverse day of music yet.
The fierce elements that kickstarted the weekend come back when Anna Calvi takes the Lovell Stage. The three-times Mercury Prize-nominated songwriter takes things to another level with her endearingly dark rock music. Don’t be fooled by the occasional poppy moments – Calvi is a truly ferocious force. She takes a catchy two-pronged assault to the crowd with a gorgeous raw for a voice and guitar playing to match; if her voice doesn’t stun then her soloing certainly will.
Bringing the eccentricity to Bluedot is the Golden Dawn Arkestra. As the name suggests, the space jazz of Sun Ra is there, but the outfits, the band size and the funk-focused music are much more in keeping with the likes of George Clinton and Isley Brothers. The dancer-singers help carry the show, choreographing a party in the Orbit stage tent that could go on all afternoon.
John Grant follows the lead of many of the weekend’s other acts by stepping up the dancier side of his music. Grant explored his electronic ambitions on last year’s ‘Love Is Magic’ and with the support of the Lovell Stage PA, takes his new taste for synths and bass to impressive heights. This is best demonstrated by ‘Preppy Boy’ which is starkly 80s sounding with pounding keyboard lines and cheesy melodies. Grant takes to the piano for ‘GMF’, a tongue-in-cheek anthem of self-esteem that he dedicates to the crowd, who are wholly won over by Grant’s sarcastic charm.
On the Orbit Stage, Gogo Penguin makes a serious case for the set of the weekend. The Manchester jazz mavericks make some of the most incredible music you can hope to see live. Taking inspiration from experimental groups like Phronesis, the three men on stage all perform meticulously and effortlessly – the speed and hand stretching that go on makes each song seem like it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever had to play. Gogo Penguin’s influences range from drum and bass to rock, to the point it doesn’t even feel like jazz; on ‘Protest’ they sound more like Rage Against the Machine than Roy Ayers. The cinematic visceral quality is heard best on ‘Hopopono’ and the overwhelming ‘One Percent’. The intense precision of Gogo Penguin’s performance is ideal for a science-themed festival like this.
Festival headliners New Order are one of the most important artists in the histories of both Manchester and electronic music. Their Bluedot spot could not be more fitting and the Hacienda-children-turned-parents have been waiting all weekend for New Order’s return to Jodrell Bank. The band smashed the ‘80s for balancing their post-punk guitar sound with dance music vocoders and synths. Tonight they emphasise the latter, turning the guitars down and the bass up. The laser display that accompanies songs like ‘Singularity’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is phenomenal, whilst the beefiness of the beats turns Bluedot into the North’s biggest night club.
Classics like ‘Perfect Kiss’ and ‘True Faith’ sound revamped with synths to become entirely electronic. One song needs no such updating however and that is ‘Blue Monday’. The timeless track gets the whole field bouncing and belting out the iconic “How does it feel…” With the rain coming down and the festival in full rave mode, something feels very right about this moment. New Order wraps up a weekend that’s given its attendees, and especially those of the Hacienda generation, plenty to dance to and depart with a smile.
There are infinite reasons why Bluedot has gone down so well. The festival’s insistent focus on science and space gives it an atmosphere that others lack, whilst the line-up this year has been as good if not better than many more experienced festivals. It has provided an important space for the rave lovers of the 80s and 90s, old enough now to want a weekend away with the families whilst having a day dancing to some fantastic electronic music, both new and nostalgic. From Kate Tempest to Jarvis Cocker to Kraftwerk, the performances have been universally on point, ensuring the weekend’s early storms have been well and truly weathered.