Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Big Chill 2010: Keyboard Choir’s Diary

8 August 2010

Keyboard Choir played at The Big Chill this year. In addition to our reviewer reportage we asked them to keep a diary of the festival from the point of view of a band playing it. The following epic was their response…


1300- After a final rehearsal we’re off. Keyboard Choir’s travelling band includes the band (Ady, Alex, Guy and Myself (James)) alongside photographer Sonny, Driver Nige, and crew members Andrew (of The Gullivers) and Dan. Seb will be joining us on Saturday.

1330- It soon becomes apparent that this will be a weekend of constant pranks and constant rubbish being talked. Highlight so far: Andrew recounting story of train announcer at Oxford Station offering ‘TRAINS FOR THE GREAT CHILL, THE GREAT CHILL ONLY’. Early bus soundtrack is Caribou‘s excellent Swim.

1345- Stock up on stupid amounts of beer and junk food (caramel Digestives, check; Pringles, check; pointless amount of Dr Pepper, check) before properly setting off.

1430- Hit second traffic jam so far. All this is made OK by the fact that for the first time ever, Keyboard Choir are travelling in a decent van, and we’re watching Fearless FreaksThe Flaming Lips‘ documentary on the DVD player.

1600- Hit the site, upon which Alex launches into a lengthy diatribe about it being in “an area of outstanding natural beauty” and that there is “a hill fort nearby”. It is pretty, but these quotes become cannon-fodder for the whole weekend.

1700- Pick up wristbands, stroll past the band/guest area accidentally and end up on the opposite end of the campsite. I immediately regret the amount of beer and dr. pepper on my person, and my massive tent. Set up tents next to some people who, judging by the sounds, have found the worlds most plentiful natural supply of Laughing Gas. I will grow to hate that sound by the end of the weekend.

1800- After a couple of beers, Guy, Sonny, Andrew and I head into the immediately impressive site only to find that we’ve missed Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions. Bugger.

1830- We lose Guy at the Disco Shed, where he minces off into the sunset with all his mates.

1900- Due to the programmes being an extortionate 8 and there apparently being no other way of finding out what is on, it’s impossible to tell who this mad man with a Dale Cooper haircut aggressively shouting over vaguely Spanish music is.

1915- Oh. It’s Mike Patton. I’d forgotten he was playing.

1945- Meet up with Georgina, a friend who has cleverly printed out the running order and colour coded it for the different styles of music on offer. Yellow Highlighter = funky dub, apparently. A glance at the main stage order convinces us to set up shop there. Explosions In The Sky on next.

2000- Some people are rearranging the letters spelling ‘the big chill’ on the hillside.

2015- I LIGHT BELCH. Security, presumably LOLing heartily into their fluorescent jackets, scurry over and disperse the miscreants. Presumably not for the first time this weekend.

2030- Explosions In The Sky played a couple of new ones. I’d forgotten about this band. Used to love them. I might have to give The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place a spin when I get back.

2100- Thom Yorke comes on. He seems a nice fellow. I like Radiohead, but have never been a fanatic. Nor have I heard The Eraser. I like that Harrowdown Hill though. This results in me annoying our resident Radiohead-head for the weekend, Andrew, by turning around and asking him what each song is. I think he wants to kill me by the end.

2130- Sonny, perhaps not surprisingly for being a photographer, is taking a lot of photos. He’s got a tiny little stepladder that enables him to look out over the crowd and takes it with him wherever he goes. The person he’s been most excited by so far is a man dressed as Wario, which, admittedly, is rather impressive. Ah – Thom launches into Everything In Its Right Place. Beautiful. I didn’t even have to ask the title of that one.

2200- Thom leaves us with a Radiohead classic. I don’t know the title, but it was one of those ones that everyone knows. Apparently he played a new Radiohead song too.

2215- The first taste of the Big Chill’s cuisine- an impressive portion of potato wedges with cheese and beans. Festival food to the max.

2245- We realise how big the place is when Guy texts us his location and it matches ours. We can’t see him though, so the three of us are taking in Massive Attack alone.

2330- This really is good. Massive Attack have an impressive light show, maybe too impressive. At points I forget I’m watching a band and feel like I’m reading a paper or watching a documentary. One of the headlines they project is “Lily Allen is Preggers. All very interesting though – especially the transcript of a helicopter pilot being ordered to attack a building. Anyway, back to the music, but you get my point.

2345- An excellent, beautifully fragile version of Teardrop. They crack out Inertia Creeps, and end with an encore of Unfinished Sympathy and a track I didn’t recognise (I presume it’s from Heligoland) which had furious, all encompassing bass. I can’t express how amazing the bass sound for this set was.

0030- We meet up with everyone else back at the tents and exchange opinions on Massive Attack. Guy wasn’t the biggest fan. Everyone else is shocked.

0200- We’ve had a few beers and everyone is feeling a bit tired. We NEARLY go to bed, but in the end Andrew and I decided we’re only here for a few days and head back to the site.

0300- There’s still plenty on and we wander between tents and outdoor weird areas before settling with a beer or two on the hillside next to some giant white balls randomly lighting up. Somehow, I don’t think this place is designed for alcohol.

0400- After we wimp out of attempting to chat up some girls we head back through the site and, with a beer on the way back, hit the hay.


1100- A nice seven hour sleep means I’m feeling pretty refreshed. I’m sleeping on a bed roll which has ‘Happy Glasto ’95, Tom’ written on it, which I found in the shed in my garden.

1230- Rainstorm keeps us in the tents for an hour or so. We drink some morning beer, and talk crap.

1330- Sonny directs us to the milkshake stand. I have a mint Aero shake and some breakfast and we settle down in the sun towards the back of the main stage arena. At this point we’re joined by Ady and his friend Anna.

1345- We check out Lazyland, the stage we’re playing on later this afternoon. It’s up a steep, steep hill and the only road access is a five minute walk down a hill. We’re worried no-one will come and see us but also about lugging Seb’s oversized pedal board up the hill. It’s a beautiful little stage though – playing some chilled disco when we check it out and surrounded by large trees. Everyone is laying down in front of the stage and enjoying the sun.

1445- After lazing around for an hour, Chrome Hoof are on – bizarre. Heard a lot about them – they remind me simultaneously of Sun Ra, Yes and Parliament. Very interesting but not really my thing. Excellent costumes though!

1545- In the gap between bands I brave the price tag and buy a programme. Good decision.

1600- Seb turns up with our stylist (oooh – get us!) Gemma and we head up to Lazyland having arranged to meet Nige with the gear at 1630.

1630- Completely shattering our fears of having to carry our gear up a hill Miguel Indurain would be proud of conquering, Nige appears backstage in a jeep driven by a Rambo lookalike with all our gear.

1700- Gemma styles us all up. She’s got me a Daniel Johnston T-shirt. I like getting free stuff. Guy has a selection of vomit inducingly colourful (more on that later) t-shirts and Adrian has some excellent graphite/tan/BROWN things. And a shirt with some blue on. Only joking, Gem does an excellent job and makes us look cool and stuff!

1730- We’re on. Good crowd of 150-200, all lazing in the sun, and wait, what’s that? It’s our bloomin robots! I knew they were coming but hadn’t seen them all weekend. So yeah, four fantastic robots dancing around in true Keyboard Choir fashion.

1800- At the moment we have a very clear divide in our music between the ‘bangers’ and the ambient tunes. Today we started with the fluffy calm tracks and will end with the big ones. Hang on, is that a Robot Bundle? I think it is!

1830- So after an hour and all five of us giving 110%, it’s over. We leave the stage to an excellent round of applause and start the wind down. There was a LOT of white noise and craziness in today’s set.

1930- Get all the gear in Rambo’s Land Rover, say goodbye to Seb and Gem who are back off to Oxford and drive down to the tour van to load back up.

2000- After a whistlestop drive as fast as possible back to the other side of the site, we zip back to the tents and mix up a few drinks, hide them in Sonny’s camera bag and sprint to Caribou, who have already started!

2020- Walk up to the Clash Stage just as Odessa starts. Perfect. At this point, it’s Andrew, Guy, Alex, Dan, Ady, Sonny, Nige and myself and we get our dance on in a big way. It’s almost impossible not to!

2100- Caribou main man Dan Snaith has the entire crowd in the palm of his hand. The sun is setting and the throng is bouncing. It’s brilliant. Sun, Jamelia and a few oldies pass by and they leave the stage triumphantly. For us, it’s onwards to the main stage and Roots Manuva.

2145- Rodney drops Witness and the crowd goes insane. More food for me. I buy some sliced potato with a sausage and gravy and it does the trick! We finish the litre of rum and everyone is well on the train. This is going to be a messy one.

2200- Back to the Clash Stage for Liars. They are very good, but I question the scheduling. Caribou should surely be on afterwards – I think that would have benefited both acts as, at this point, when people want to dance, Liars’ impressively scuzzy art-rock is watched by less than 400 people.

2300- Main stage – M.I.A. is shouting something. Her lights are impressive. Enjoyable but somehow too sickly-sweet. I can handle half an hour.

2330- Clash Stage – Mt Kimbie – excellent stuff. Moody, laid back dubstep. Apparently we missed a stage invasion at M.I.A. but it was worth it. #2 for the day for me, behind Caribou.

0000- We head over to one of the massive tents for Mr Scruff‘s mammoth three-hour DJ set. His visuals are full of his cartoons and he plays a load of new stuff. Very very sweaty and very very fun. We dance with loads of people and generally have a great time. One person at a time disappears off to the bar and…

0300- …by 3am we don’t know what planet we’re on. We all head over to catch the end of Henrik Schwarz and by the end of that I’m bushed. Me and Sonny head back to the tents and I’m out like a light the moment my head hits the pillow.


1000- Back at the tents following a half decent sleep, Andrew informs me that he hasn’t slept, and Guy, Nige, Alex and Dan are nowhere to be seen. Ady appears as fresh as a daisy and Sonny is looking pretty fresh too. Which is apparently more than can be said for me.

1100- Nige and Guy saunter back into the tent area and explain that they had left the arena on the other side the night before and as such were denied access back across. This meant they had to wait until the arena was open again OR take a walk around the hills. They waited, while Alex and Dan took the walking option. I think it’s pretty disgraceful that a festival would deny people access to their beds.

1330- Alex and Dan appear after their epic walk. Looking fairly bedraggled.

1500- After a protracted period of rest Sonny, Andrew and I move out. We have a very welcome fry up and go down to the Clash Stage, where James Yuill is peddling his Calvin Harris-esque music. It’s perfect music to ignore, and we lie back and watch the clouds.

1645- Joe Worricker is on next. I think he is seriously wack. I don’t really know what it is about him but it really isn’t my thing. It wasn’t that he was technically bad, it was just incredibly bland.

1715- Andrew and Sonny disappear off to Lazyland before Roger Eno, whilst I head back to the tents for some free food. Our circle of tents resembles a bomb-site. Guy and Nige are crashed out and dead to the world, whilst Alex is rhythmically tapping his foot while sleeping in an attempt to get enough shuteye before The Bug tonight.

1830- I make my way back up to Lazyland, where Roger Eno is setting up. I’m a big fan of Brian Eno, and the Apollo soundtrack they collaborated on with Daniel Lanois, and felt we really should go and see him. The small crowd is appreciative, and Roger Eno is clearly a born showman, with anecdotes to burn. His set-up is simple with loop pedal, accordion, guitar and CD player, and some of the music he plays is the most affecting I’ve heard all weekend. Especially the accordion tune in memory of a friend recently deceased.

2000- Gregory Isaacs is on. He has an excellent hype man. He bids farewell with a genuine “asta la vista”. He’s very very enjoyable.

2200- We watch the beautiful closing fireworks prior to Lily Allen‘s set. I’m not usually a fan of fireworks but these really are special. It culminates with a giant egg exploding into flames. Very shot away.

2215- Crash out in front of alucidnation. Perfect crash-out fodder. Excellent stuff.

2300- The final standing, Andrew, Sonny and I are forced to admit defeat and the Big Chill is over for us so we hit the hay early! Getting too old! Back next year for sure.

  1. The Big Chill 2010:
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
    Keyboard Choir’s Diary

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