Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Big Chill 2006, Day 2 @ Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire

5 August 2006

Following a misty morning, a gloriously sunny second afternoon of the Big Chill 2006 is brought to life by late line-up additions, Arrested Development. A giant queue for the shower (a luxury indeed) means we arrive at the main stage just as they are finishing their set with Everyday People but hearing the crowd join in from the distance is still enough to raise the hairs on the backs of necks. An inspired and well-liked act to draft in.

The crowd are much quieter, though no less engaged over at the Castle Stage to see Ninja Tune beat merchant turned soulful acoustic singer songwriter, Fink. Many of his songs are about chatting girls up and surely after such an assured, heart-warmingly soulful set, including his superb cover version of Alison Moyet’s All Cried Out and anti nine-to-five grind protest Biscuits, he may just have to start looking elsewhere for inspiration.

Away from the main stages there are various other areas such as the Finlandia Cocktail Bar and Fat Tuesday where DJs ply their turntable talent throughout both day and night. Fat Tuesday consists of a bar marquee and, outside, a DJ booth and this is where A Skillz plays a brilliant mix of electro-led breaks, including his friend and collaborator Krafty Kuts‘ Bass Phenomenon, to a field of excited revellers as the sun beats down.

Shri then performs a mix of Asian-influenced dance music on the Open Air stage, with tough breakbeats, beat-boxing and calming sitar-playing including selections from his work with regular production partner Badmarsh. He is followed by Bugz In The Attic who stick faithfully to their In The Doghouse album, reproducing it live with panache but not providing enough incentive to keep us away from offbeat singing/songwriting Frenchman, Sebastien Tellier.

His powerful baritone draws comparisons with Neil Hannon but his music proves even more eccentric. Jolly at one moment and touchingly heartfelt the next, it is above all entertaining as he and his white jump-suited friend play uplifting piano with electronic accompaniment. This is singer songwriting as far away from James Blunt as you could ever wish to hear as almost everyone sits down (surely unique for a festival?) in quiet awe, the epic, genuinely moving tear-jerker La Ritournelle proving the highlight. The wild-haired one initially refuses do an encore but the crowd show their love and appreciation so he concedes, crouching down to serenade the devoted, star-struck fans at the front of the stage. He even does some press-ups, which are seemingly par for the course for his live sets at present.

Nightmares On Wax then whip up the Open Air stage performing selections from the superb In A Space Outta Sound album but we head to Blue Man Group‘s performance in the Media Mix tent. Sadly, so do a huge amount of other people and we cannot get a decent look at the West End performers. Perhaps an appearance on one of the main stages next year would make sense? Instead, we follow the sound of Lasermagnetic and hop over to the nearby Village Green stage to enjoy their techno-tinged set with Jaydee‘s Plastic Dreams going down an absolute treat.

Meanwhile back on the main stage, Sparks provide their quirky, eccentric take on pop. Brothers Ron and Russell Mael boil pop music down to its component parts before throwing it back in a pantomime style. At times their nonsensical but infectious pop echoes the theatrics of Queen but overall their music is genuinely unique. Running through tracks such as Metaphor, the bizarrely funny There’s No Such Thing as Aliens and a full chorus of cat’s meows from latest album Hello Young Lovers, they then play a retrospective selection of twisted synth-pop from their 30-year career. It all leaves you wondering just what they are really like away from their strange stage personas.

We turn to the Club Tent for something more sensible but perennial Big Chill favourite Mr Scruff is probably not the best man to turn to for sedate chin-stroking. The tea-obsessed Mancunian’s set lacks its usual potency but there are still many moments worth grinning at and flailing limbs to as he plays his usual brew of funk, disco, dance and just about anything else that comes into his head. ‘One more?’ then flashes up on the screen creating a wild response from the crowd so he closes on Ian Dury and The Blockheads‘ Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

Another memorably varied day ends as we sit down and relax by the lakeside before turning in for the night to get some energy together for the last hurrah of day three. Who knows quite what it may hold?

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