Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Big Chill 2004, Day 2 @ Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire

31 July 2004

Aside from losing a stone apiece in the sun-baked tent, day two of the festival begins quite sedately as we tune into on-site radio station, Big Chill FM, and listen to some classic reggae and rump-shaking dancehall from Bristol’s finest DJ-ing pensioner, DJ Derek, followed by some ice cool downtempo soundtrack forays courtesy of Norway’s Flipside.

However, things take a surreal turn as we settle down by the Open Air Stage for the DJ/MC/live reggae collective, Orijahnal, who make constant references to how stoned or drunk the crowd are in spite of it being only 2.15pm. Our sobriety is then called into question when an ancient bi-plane appears above us trawling a banner across the sky saying: “BOG WILL YOU MARRY ME? [HEART] WHIP”.

Normality, of a sort, returns shortly after as New Sector Movement play some of their soulful, quirky-beated R ‘n’ B, and the sun beats down as we feed bagels to the frighteningly over-friendly and viciously ravenous ducks down by one of the lakes. It is then time to hop over to The Chill Stage for veteran DJ Bill Brewster’s exquisitely funky Fat Camp.

Combining dance, disco and ground-quaking bass with live guitar and bongos they produce a joyful atmosphere and even have the cheek to throw in a sample of ’80s boyband Bros. It may sound awful on paper but anyone who can give When Will I Be Famous the funk must have something special. Add to this some Afro-house and the crowd go absolutely mad.

It is enough to send one chiller over the edge, however, and he starts doing naked handstands before the stewards have a quiet word with him and dowse his over-excitement before he gets sunburnt anywhere too intimate. As if this wasn’t enough, a woman, (a white witch from the huge mind, body spirit area?), points out to us that there is an upside down, smile-shaped rainbow in the sky directly above us. It lingers there for half an hour and we rub our eyes in amazement while we dance in the afternoon sun.

Fat Camp prove a hard act to follow but just as Bonobo‘s jazzy take on chill-out starts to flow they get pulled off the stage, much to the disappointment of the crowd, not to mention the baffled band themselves. Quite why, nobody knows, but early finishing becomes something of a theme. Ralph Myerz And The Jack Herren Band provide some Western-style whistling along with the chunky disco of Think Twice, and the band best known for the snail-racing Guinness ad anthem, the Quantic Soul Orchestra, start off with a cover of fellow chill artiste Mr Scruff‘s Get A Move On before slipping into some smooth, golden brown soul.

Hopes of catching a post-split Phil Hartnoll of Orbital are then dashed as he promptly finishes his set early with One Perfect Sunrise just as we arrive and the Asian Dub Foundation Soundsystem step up to replace him. Their jacking beats and dark, tough-edged rhythms are immensely danceable but we are in need of some humour so who better to turn to than Lemon Jelly?

Starting with ’70s pop sampler Soft followed by Big Chill anthem Nice Weather For Ducks and a beefed-up version of Page One with its deep spiritual monologue, the band seem to be having as much fun as the smiling, jostling, flailing crowd. A remix of Ramblin’ Man with a huge ’80s electro synth-line and a filter disco floor-filler (or field-filler in this case), all backed by their striking self-made visuals combine to make Fred Deakin and Nick Franglen’s set one of the highlights of the festival. They end on the crowd-pleasing strum of The Staunton Lick with Franglen taking the track’s sampled guitar lesson live on stage to mark a humorous end to a funny old day.

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