Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Big Chill 2005, Day 2 @ Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire

6 August 2005

Another balmy summer’s day begins and is complimented perfectly by Trojan Records’ takeover of the Open Air stage. Horace Andy plays some deep dub reggae cuts followed by Tippa Irie‘s light, lilting reggae, including 1986 hit Hello Darling, which sounds so right on such a sun-baked day. In fact everyone seems to be in the mood to celebrate the weather: the uncomplicated, easy chill out of Urban Myth Club may not break any new ground but is great for laying back and soaking up the rays to, while over at the Village Green people take their partners by the hand for a barndance hoedown accompanied by feisty folk band Whapweasle. Meanwhile, Daft Pink (sic) get thumbs in belt-loops at the Strongbow Bar by playing Status Quo‘s Down Down.

High levels of exuberance are hard to maintain in such high temperatures and the perfect antidote to such manic tomfoolery comes in the form of Lunz over at the Chill Stage. The duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster fame, and acclaimed US composer Tim Story are accompanied by the unobtrusive strings of Stefan Steiner. Their compositions of calm piano and hushed electronics match the beauty of our surroundings with the seeming simplicity of the pieces belying their immense emotional depth. Half Cousin‘s Kevin Cormack adds his own half-sung, half-spoken accompaniment as he takes to the stage to perform his reinterpretation of Dew Climbs.

We briefly catch the end of Malian group Tinarawen‘s truly unique mix of traditional African folk and electric guitar, but are soon back at the Chill Stage to absorb the gliding tranquility of Robert Fripp. Building layered washes of sound on guitar, Fripp’s calm, quiet and peaceful style truly defines the concept of ambient as his freeform music becomes an organic part of the surrounding environment, it demands so little of the audience yet proves immensely rewarding.

Tuning into the ever-useful, you-never-need-miss-a-minute Big Chill FM on a trip back to the tent, we hear Anglo-American four-piece, The Earlies gently jibing that “the only person you listen to is yourself” before trotting back down the hill into the valley to catch Treva Whateva. His contribution to the Ninja Tune Special in the Club Tent mixes funk, hip hop, disco and many shades in between, the only proviso of the infectious party music being that it has to move feet and put smiles on faces.

Grins also prevail at the Open Air stage as Saint Etienne provide perfect pop for a summer’s eve. Old hits like Who Do You Think You Are? rub shoulders with new material from the Turnpike House album and singer Sarah Cracknell is in particularly good humour as she excitedly reveals during Only Love Can Break Your Heart: “Even I bought this! I wasn’t in the band then”. They finish on another classic double with Nothing Can Stop Us giving way to the high energy of He’s On The Phone, complete with a backdrop of fantastically camp and kitsch visuals.

Bill Brewster’s Fat Camp were one of last year’s main stage hits and this year the DJ plays classic soul, acid house and anything with a bongo on it to a rammed Strongbow Tent as the crowd are whipped up by a singing, shouting, potty-mouthed MC. It proves stupidly good fun. And talking of fun, remember the KLF? Transit Kings is the latest venture of old Justified Ancient of MUMU, Jimmy Cauty and The Orb‘s Dr Alex Paterson. The euphoric chords, duo of female vocalists, trippy electronics and use of spoken word just add weight to the fact this could well be the KLF Part Two. Watch this space.

Tonight’s main draw are The Bays who improvise every note meaning each off the cuff performance is absolutely unique. Tonight the quartet treat us to a full on late night set taking in house, drum and bass and whatever else comes into their heads. One track segues into the next as hooks, beats, samples and melodies are all put together on the spot with remarkable skill. You can’t help wishing you could keep this absolutely amazing foray into dance music but all you are allowed to have is the memory – and what memories. There is an energy and focus to their music and a cohesion that you would only think possible from months of practice but, as the big screens tell us, there are no record contracts, no rehearsals just the music and us, the shouting, screaming, encore-demanding crowd.

Still buzzing with excitement, we make our way to the art trail where there are all kinds of sights and sounds to captivate beguile and at times confuse. There is a tree with seemingly disappearing water flooding from its branches, a film of the last moments of a dying wasp, laser horses galloping across the branches of the surrounding trees and a 1950s house. Most amazing though, is Peter Hudson’s bike-powered wheel of sculpted swimmers that are made to look as if they are actually swimming by a strobe-induced trick of the eye. There is a sense of magic about this place and as shooting stars fizz across the sky it is easy to forget your worries, lay back and just chill.

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