Rain and raves at Bluedot Festival as Hot Chip and Kate Tempest turn up the energy.
Local festivals like Parklife and Creamfields don a dance music legacy that kicked off in this part of the country not that long ago. But for those that lived in and around Manchester in the Hacienda days, these festivals might be too young, too druggy or too massive to participate in. For those that remember when rave was still a subculture, there needs to be a way to get their electronic fill.
Over the past few years, Bluedot Festival has quietly started competing with such festivals and in much more accessible fashion. They’ve carved their own niche with the theme of science, space and the environment holding the festival together.
From the site, which sits in the shadow of the Lovell telescope at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, to the artist selection (previous headliners include Underworld and Chemical Brothers), technology and spectacle are have become defining attributes of Bluedot Festival. Plenty of families are drawn to the festival: for the kids, there are areas, displays and activities in abundance that entertain and educate on all things science and space; for the parents, there are several stages of stellar acts and DJ’s to accommodate a drunken boogie.
2019 sees Bluedot Festival take another step up on the music side of things. The line-up announcement last November that Kraftwerk would perform a 3-D set was a shrewd promotional move; confirming New Order and Hot Chip as fellow headliners ensured Bluedot Festival were gunning to go down as one of the biggest events of the year.
Things get off to a challenging start however in true Northern fashion. There’s a brutal downpouring and thunderstorm on Friday that drenches the Cheshire countryside. Mud pits start sprouting. The punters need to keep moving to stop from getting stuck.
The main Lovell Stage hosts a number of acts encouraging a rain-dance - through the drizzle, Les Amazons d’Afrique underpins words of African feminist wisdom with sunny rhythms. The women on-stage bring distinct singing styles, turn-taking and layering to build a colourful, collective voice.
Ibibio Sound System bring even more energy, brightening up the afternoon with some Sister Sledge-meets-Fela Kuti funk, directing the crowd with some of the weekend’s best-dressed dancers at the front of the stage.
Over at the Nebula Stage, Kinkajous fly through some high-focus jazz, shifting from free-flowing to frenetic. Their mastery of changes in tempo and intensity is exactly the sort of talent that gets the brain wired and wows the crowd.
As the first day settles into the evening, Kate Tempest takes to the stage. The rain ironically decides to pass as Tempest starts on a set of downtempo beats and insightful spoken word. She spits impassioned lines ranging from the universal to the introverted; whilst her hip-hop beats inspire movement her lyrics are grounding, holding everyone still with how honest they are. Her performance takes on a stirring, transcending quality – with the Westminster shit-storm that’s always going on, it’s what every crowd in this country needs right now.
The weather holding out, people flock to the Deep Space Disco stage to get a dance in with friends just as the Maltsmith’s and Amstel’s take full hold. This is where you’ll find the parents partying to George Michael and the Prodigy, courtesy of the throwback track choice of DJ Acid Rephlux.
Everyone arrives suitably warmed up for the Lovell Stage headliners Hot Chip. The group have grown from strength to strength over the past two decades and have a deep pool of dance, indie and pop songs to choose from for this show. They shower themselves with blue spotlights, getting things started with the double-header of devious bangers ‘One Night Stand’ and ‘Night and Day’.
Like many acts this weekend, they tone down their guitarish, indie side in favour of a dancier take. They use a clubby interlude to feed new stomper ‘Hungry Child’ into 2006’s ‘Boy From School’ to show this was always their DNA. Performed live, the sheer depth in Hot Chip’s influences is heard: acid, house, soul, peaking with the phenomenal ‘Flutes’ that builds and builds alongside a light show tight as the band.
They wrap up a roaring day of music that started with the roughest of conditions. Looking up at the lightning this afternoon, some may have worried it might be too in-tents(!). But Northern resilience and taste for good tunes will always prevail; Bluedot Festival has managed to rescue the party and is ready to take it two days further.