The sun always shines at the Big Chill, or at least it seems to. As you’re probably all too aware though, the sun has been hiding while the torrential rain pours unceasingly until recently. In fact, the beautiful location of Eastnor Castle Deer Park – just 12 miles from Tewkesbury, one of the worst-affected areas of the recent floods – was under water just seven days before the festival was due to start.
So it’s something of a miracle the site has been drained and cleared up in time (barring the odd bit of boggy ground here and there) for the weekend’s festivities. The soft ground does mean pitching the tent takes no time when we arrive on Thursday afternoon mind you.
The only real action on Thursday evening is Tom Middleton‘s sunset set on the back of a mirror-bottomed boat on one of the small lakes, which we sadly miss. Friday morning brings bright sunshine but some less optimistic news is announced on festival radio station, Big Chill FM: Mika has lost his voice meaning the festival has lost the evening’s main headliner.
The Big Chill has never been about big names, however, so people do not seem too downhearted to be missing out on the much-hyped, 21st century Leo Sayer. Instead, we settle down with the ducks for lunch while listening to the chef-hatted DJ from Cookshop Records playing some off-kilter downtempo tunes from the Finlandia Bar.
The Big Chill is never just about the music and there is a huge Body & Soul area offering every treatment you care to name and many others beside. Opting for straight massages to ease away our cargo-carrying shoulder pain, my treatment helps relieve some stress but my companion finds herself dowsed in cooking oil – not an essential oil that one, unless you fancy a fry up. Mr Hudson And The Library can be heard wafting on the breeze, performing signature tune Too Late as an impromptu trip to the heaven-sent hot showers is arranged to remove the pungent smell of a thorough basting.
We return in time to see New Young Pony Club on the turreted Castle Stage. Their energetic indie tunes are delivered faultlessly, fronted by the charismatic Tahita Bulmer. Listing a range of desserts she then surges into best-known tune, Ice Cream. Their set takes a more dance-oriented turn as Bulmer shouts, “It’s a dance track but it’s still daylight. How are we gonna react?”, to which the crowd go loopy with hands in the air. It still begs the question: what exactly is new rave anyway? On the strength of this display though, NYPC are worth the hype whatever pigeonhole they get forced into.
Over at the Open Air stage, the Cinematic Orchestra offer a marked contrast. Having released one of the albums of the year so far in Ma Fleur, this is a must-see set and it doesn’t disappoint. Soulful, mellow and passionate, Jay Swinscoe and co. put in a memorable performance featuring dexterous musicianship and beautifully crafted songs before closing on old favourite Revolution.
Kruder & Dorfmeister are next up and its clear from the start their set it’s a far cry from the chilled K&D Sessions album they made their name with. A muted, deep electronic house version of Tom Petty‘s I Won’t Back Down sets the tone then the tempo steadily rises. This is full on dancefloor action where the music is hard and gets progressively harder yet retains its soul. An MC and vocalist liven things up as do the mesmerising visuals before Peter Kruder’s own Voom Voom material gets an airing as they close. This was a brilliant show, even if it didn’t meet with people’s preconceived expectations.
Over at the Finlandia tent, Tom Middleton plays a hybrid mix of You’ve Got The Love Orbital‘s Chime and Voodoo Ray then drops Big Fun by Inner City. The bearded maestro certainly knows how to please a crowd! Meanwhile, over at Fat Tuesday, Ashley Beedle plays Numero Uno and with the amount of unchilled dance music flying around the Big Chill could well be flouting the Trade Descriptions Act. But Middleton then drops Kids In America while Beedle plays Billy Ocean to readdress the balance… well, to a point!
This just exemplifies the anything-goes spirit that dominates the Big Chill, as demonstrated by the variety of artists crammed into day one. It just serves to whet the appetite for what the next 48 hours may hold.