Bluedot1

FESTIVAL REPORT: Bluedot Festival 2022

When: 21st-24th July

Where: Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire

Festivals and outdoor gigs in the North West of England always have a reputation for being open to the unpredictable weather that the region often experiences this time of year. Just three days after the hottest two days in UK history, Bluedot Festival opens it’s doors to the excited hoards for the first time since 2019. Science is never going to get every forecast correct though, but it can certainly provide the setting for a good festival.

Jodrell Bank is located in the heart of the Cheshire countryside and it boasts one of the largest radio telescopes in Europe – an impressive sight and monument to the power of human ingenuity and engineering – the Lovell Telescope was used to track both Soviet and American probes aimed at the moon in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It has also provided some of the most famous and iconic images from the golden age of the Space Race; expanding our understanding of the Solar System and ultimately playing it’s part in getting us to the moon; It also looks pretty badass with a light show on it.

Bluedot scenery2

We arrive on Friday afternoon as the rain is lashing down and the thought of putting a 6-person tent up is less than appealing. Thankfully just as we’re ready to explore the arena, the rain gods relent a little and we’re able to enjoy a set from Tim Burgess. Mostly playing songs from his forthcoming 22-track double album Typical Music, he plays other solo material and adds a smattering of songs by The Charlatans to warm applause; it already looks like the lift some in the soggy audience need.

A big draw this weekend is the mercurial Jane Weaver. The former member of Britpop group Kill Laura, plays a blend of material from her solo records over the years. The visuals that accompany her performance are blindingly psychedelic in nature and provide the perfect backdrop to an exceptional set of danceable psych pop. Announced as a contender for the 2022 Mercury Music Prize, the sheer talent of rapper and producer Kojey Radical is clearly obvious. He charms the crowd on the festival’s main Lovell Stage with a fine performance full of energy.

Bluedot scenery

The first major disappointment of the weekend is the news that Spiritualized have had to cancel their set due to Covid within their camp. Bluedot worked at speed to get a fitting replacement, with Public Service Broadcasting stepping up to the plate at the very last minute. A trip to the Comedy Stage in the furthest point of the arena yields a hilarious show from Andrew O’Neill’s History of Heavy Metal. Armed with a guitar and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the heaviest riffs, O’Neill is captivating as They tell the stories behind metal and it’s subsequent splintering into subgenres and internal wars. The night concludes with dance titans Groove Armada playing a hit-heavy set from their 25 year plus career with lighting projections on the Telescope blowing minds as the crowd lap it up. Not a bad way to end an impressive first day.

Saturday is perhaps the weakest day is terms of it’s musical offerings, but it pulls out some interesting surprises. The ethereal techno weirdness of Stockport’s Norrisette is an eye-opener , especially when the set ends with cat samples peppered throughout an experimental banger. In contrast, Elizabeth Elektra prowls the stage belting out her collection of Goth-infused Synth Pop and finds plenty of new fans in the process.

Norrissete Bluedot
Norrissette

The day builds with the quality of acts increasing; a strong performance from Newcastle’s Lanterns on the Lake brings appreciate musings from a thoughtful crowd. Perhaps dark subject matter with a beautiful, sweeping indie rock soundtrack is not what everyone wants on an early Saturday evening, but it does the trick for me. To lighten the mood, a trip to the Comedy Tent to see Adam Buxton performing a version of his Bug show is our next port of call. His critically-hailed show is informative and incredibly silly, with clips of bizarre and surreal music videos analysed and bemused internet responses providing hilarity to a rammed tent.

The two strongest sets of the day belong to the last two artists on the Lovell Stage. Penultimate act of the day are Metronomy, who bring a party to proceedings with their infectious energy. The set is divided into tracks from current record Small World and some choice cuts from their impressive back catalogue. Headliners Mogwai bring a powerful conclusion to Saturday; the Post Rock legends soaring around the park with deafening beauty. Having seen the band headline Green Man last year, we took off early to sample the sound reverberating and enjoy the visuals on the Telescope.

Metronomy Bluedot
Metronomy

Sunday starts with a few hours of beautiful sunshine, but before we have chance to get used to it, the rain arrives just in time for Special Guests Sea Power. Since the slightly bemusing controversy after they dropped the ‘British’ part of their original name, the band toured the UK in support of current album Everything Was Forever, which saw the band reach number 4 in the physical album charts. They add classics like ‘Machineries of Joy’, ‘The Lonely’ and ‘Remember Me’ and the 45 minutes is far too short a set for a band this good.

The day was always going to be centred around one performance. Just to add to the drama in the hours leading up to Björk performing with the The Hallé Orchestra, the heavens open to almost biblical levels – in fact, it’s as much rain as I’ve seen in a short period of time at a festival. The mood is lifted by intergalactic space ravers Henge, who have dancing girls dressed as mushrooms and claim to be on a collective mission to save humans from the destruction of war. Manchester legends and former Factory alumni A Certain Ratio bring the funk, but the rain dampens spirits further and after retreating to the nearby Nebula Tent, we catch the effervescent Punk Pop of The Bug Club and the infectious harmonies of Peaness.

It’s obvious from here – as the rain clears up – that the crowd is going to be HUGE for Björk, as the main stage has built up heavy traffic several hours before her set. The decision to have Mary Anne Hobbs DJing before the main event is a strange one, but perhaps it slows people down a little in preparation for what is to follow.

Bjork
Björk

The night belongs to a resplendent hour and a half in the company of Avant-Garde music royalty. Impeccably and weirdly dressed, Björk has always felt like she was from another planet and maybe that’s why Jodrell Bank felt like the right place for her to do this orchestral re-working of some of her biggest hits. The backing is completely instrumental, with the beats and electronic flourishes stripped away to make it a more intimate experience. Her voice remains extraordinary, even more remarkable considering she has absolutely no backing singers. There’s a reverence rarely seen for any headline act that I’ve encountered at a festival, with the vast majority of the tightly-packed crowd adhering to her request for no photos or videos.

The re-imaging of these songs doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s spectacular. The drama is more intense and emotional for songs like ‘Hunter’ and ‘Bachelorette’, which I’m unashamed to admit make the tears drain from my eyes. There’s a fever pitch of emotions for ‘Jóga’, which positively soars to every corner of the site and ‘Hyperballad’ , which is met with rapturous applause. In the encore, Björk explains that she almost had to miss the show due to a bout of Covid earlier in the week. Thankfully it wasn’t the case and her set is a triumph, her magnetism as strong as any star the Lovell Telescope can visualise.

Björk photo: Santiago Felipe

Other Bluedot photos: Stephen Birch

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.