We attended Blue Dot Festival – Here’s what happened?
Bluedot where the science of space and music collides
After a three-year covid break Cheshire’s most unique and beloved weekend Bluedot festival made a triumphant return to Jodrell Bank. Where the science of space collides with boundary-pushing electronic music.
The main stage appears under the shadow of one of the world’s largest telescopes the Lovell making the site itself quite honestly the most stunning venue for a festival you will ever experience. You can wander through a fire-lit passage of artworks, guided by Luke Jarman’s astonishing Floating Earth sculpture, attend Jedi training and listen to science talks from the likes of Tim Peake, plus workshops, and stargazing and interactive family-friendly space themed activities throughout the weekend.
Despite the slightly wet and soggy start to Friday, spirits couldn’t be dampened. Music highlights include east London Rapper Kojey Radical, who made his glorious Bluedot debut with his genre-warping amalgamation of hip-hop, grime, neo-soul, jazz, and blistering guitar solos.
Closing the main stage was a stunning live set by Groove Armada the duo’s headline set marked one of the last ever stops for the revered live shows, and it was clear both fans and the act loved every second. Fan favourites like Superstylin and My Friend sounded larger than ever thanks to help from long-time vocalist MC MAD, plus a funked-up version of ‘I See You Baby’ saw the fields of Jodrell Bank shaking throughout. Drawing the set to a close the iconic trombone riff of ‘Down By The River’ by Andy Cato sang out across the arena while a spectacle of projections danced across the face of the 250ft high dish. This is what a festival headline set is supposed to feel like, thousands of joyous people dancing in a field, coming together for a love of exceptional world music.
On Saturday the weather stayed grey and grim, our first sight of the main stage saw a lacklustre vocal from Elisabeth Elektra who struggled to raise the crowd from the covered real ale tent or the much livelier set from the Bhangrasize fitness class. While Gretel Hänlyn charmed the Orbital tent with her rich husky vocals that land somewhere between London Grammar’s Hannah Reid and Florence Welch.
A highly anticipated act for me was Metronomy and they definitely did not disappoint. Over the last 13 years, the band have established itself as one of the most interesting and well-respected bands operating out of the UK. Playing a festival best-of set from their eccentric 6 albums happily performing a number of songs with no vocals and the frequent occasions where drummer Anna Prior would take the lead exercising the band’s unique qualities. Bass player Olugbenga Adelekan is always an impressive site and huge cheers erupted across the audience as the band broke into their quirkiest synthpop hit ‘The Look’.
We were back in the arena just missing the Sunday downpour watching Chester indie punk act Peaness on the Nebular stage. They combine reflective often anxiety-driven lyrics and offset them perfectly with sugary, beachy pop melodies that provided a perfect bit of escapism on the drizzling day. With a well-deserved reputation as a DIY act to watch with a strong live following, they are a good edition to any festival stage attempted to break out of the sea on soundalike indie boys doing the constant rounds.
Sunday of course was all about the Queen of the eccentric oddballs Bjork, appearing with the Halle Orchestra. Before her appearance, the announcement informed the audience not to use phones or cameras it was clear this was going to be a serious piece with fun not being the main aim. Full disclosure I’m not her biggest fan, she twirls herself across that fine line between genius and insanity, at times I find her excitingly unconventional but at others, I just don’t get her peculiar appeal. But this is Bluedot where the unexpected thrives so I was eager to see the spectacle of the Icelandic wonder with the hale but found myself unenthused and indifferent to the set.
Stood in the damp field with no view (seriously Bluedot why didn’t you have screens????) it closed the main stage in a true lacklustre way, definitely not the spectacle that was expected or hoped for. Add to this the beautiful Lovell projections which are a stunning and unique addition to the headline performances, were turned off at the request of camp Bjork. Ending the festival without the space-themed backdrop lighting up the skies left the whole park disappointedly grey and subdued.
There was also no alternate act as Bjork also requested there be no other live music during her set. This may have been her headline but I wriggled on wellies and got out of the water to attend the full Bluedot festival, not a Bjork concert, removing the audience’s ability to choose other music defeats the whole point of attending a multistage festival.
Overall Bluedot is a musically stimulating and visually breath-taking festival with aims to create an intellectual family-friendly event. They more than achieved this with Tim Peaks’ talk at Mission Control spilling out into the field surrounding it. There is an undoubtedly a place for inimitable Bluedot in the never-ending sea of middle-of-the-road noughties indie throwback lineups with its brave and distinctive curation and celebration of all things space culture and I for one will definitely be attending again.