All pictures courtesy of Danny Wood.
This time last week, I was soaking in every minute detail of the deer park that Big Chill Festival hijacked for 4 music filled, bass stricken, dance fuelled days. With an unbelievable madness erupting in London that the world hadn’t seen in 20 years. On the other side of the country in Eastnor Castle situated somewhere in between Wales and the Midlands, since the Thursday that I arrived, myself, @def_danny and some good friends had happily had a constant flow of good music to take our attention and our minds for at least 12 hours every day. Bliss.
The day of arrival, things had not completely kicked off – music wise and gave us time to take in the sights of the festival arena. The main stage, two large dance tents, a kids section – Little Chill, a Ibiza inspired Barcadi hang out, plenty of bars, makeshift clubs and outdoor soundsystems aplenty alongside what felt like a 100 stalls of various cuisines from around the world made up the little village that became home.
James Blake, the only act performing for us early birds, eased us into the Big Chill with his introverted, blip beat emo led mystic. For those who weren’t as familar with the haunting sounds of ‘To Care (Like You)’ or the frail fragmentation of ‘Why Don’t You Call Me’, started to develop a bit of a lull throughout the set. At times I wasn’t sure if Blake was the right backdrop for such a mainstream festival, but then I realised this is what seperates the Big Chill from other summer fests, they always sit slightly left of the norm. Content in knowing this, Blake continually thanked everyone for coming out to watch him on the first night, since the same time last year, he was working on a food stall only yards away from the stage. Gotta love the Cinderella story.
Fresh and ready for a full days worth, the gang and I headed over to The Revellers’ Stage to watch the kooky eclectic Cubic Zirconia outfit. With frontwoman Tiombe Lockhart in skin tight leopard print leggings and a Barbie blond, hair sprayed coiffure, there were definitely indicators to an electro funk era circa mid 80’s. Subtle sexy dance moves balanced with tongue in cheek, lustful lyrics from favourites such as ‘Hoes Come Out At Night’ and ‘Fuck Work’ got the crowd in the mood mid afternoon.
The rest of Friday we fluttered from stage to stage watching PinBoard favs Aloe Blacc, Electric Wire Hustle, Ghostpoet, Starslinger and Ladi 6.
Eventually, we pitched a spot main stage and watched the Swedish soul legend, Neneh Cherry, at the ripe young age of 47 climb off the towering stage, racing into the crowd to hoards of Big Chillers reciting ‘7 Seconds’ . One of the stand out, unique moments of timely music. I caught the last twenty minutes of the Chemical Brothers big beat electronic extravaganza and even at the back end of the audience, the panoramic view alongside the light show was a stunning spectacle that engrossed the whole deer park.
Also known as KanYe Day, the whole festival had a distinct buzz around it that hadn’t occurred on the previous days. I bumped into friends that had made the roadtrip up from London and beyond up to the Big Chill just for the day specifically to see Kanye West perform his only UK date this year. Expectations were high to say the least.
Starting off at midday with the God daughter of Amy Winehouse, Dionne Bromfield kept Amy in our minds whilst taking on a touching cover of ‘Love is a Losing Game’. The 15 year old, bought a tear to many of the audience’s eyes and another thought went out to the loss of the young singer.
Missing out on Andreya Triana, but catching some of Submotion Orchestra’s euphoric set, I thought it best to position ourselves by the main stage for a good view for later that night. And we were right to do so. By the time The Bullits et al (Lucy Lui, Idris Elba, Jay Electronica) filled the stage, the rain started to trickle yet the crowd had grown in multiple numbers.
Highlight of the afternoon was definitely the ArchAndroid herself, Janelle Monae and her uniformed full band. She shaked her tailfeather, she painted, she James Brown’ed around and even instructed us to kneel down as the rain fell at the most perfect moment. Proudly taking credit for it, Monae told us she “made that happen”. Weird? Yes. But all apart of the enticing, endearing eccentricity of the Wondaland Arts Society. Janelle had the crowd on her side so much, I wondered why she was not the precursor to the anticipated ‘Ye. Instead a summer bay Metronomy set and a regal Jessie J sing down later, the countdown to ‘Ye began.
In the hour or so wait, the crowd moshed, fought, pushed and shoved their way as close to the front as possible. Cups of water were handed around the front few rows, fans were escorted out of the crowd by security as it was hotting up and people were fainting. It felt almost surreal and reminscent of old school Michael Jackson pandeomuim. Just after 10pm, in the middle of Herefordshire, Kanye West came on stage.
Well actually he started from the sound tower which was in the middle of the crowd. When he made it on the front stage, he was joined in tow with a minimal 3 piece band all dressed in angelic white and a dozen or so swan like petit ballat dancers fled the stage with their long limbs and elegance. For nearly two hours, Kanye tried his utmost best to keep to his promise earlier saying: ”For me, this is the most important show of my summer. I’m going to try my hardest for y’all.” And aside from the 15 minute rant (I can’t say I didn’t expect it) and the hoarse voice at times, there were clear moments of genius and multiple reasons why we (I in particular) love ‘Ye.
Performing tracks from his debut LP, we travelled together through all 5 albums until we caught up to the beautifully produced MBDTF. Hit after hit, the crowd and I sang back each word to him. Basking in complete glory has never been ‘Ye’s style, so rather than close on a classic track and have the crowd roar happily, he finished on an awkardly placed, but touching Amy WInehouse tribute. Playing two of her songs then stating “Thank you for protecting your artists that are still here. This is for McQueen, for Amy, for Michael and for all the media, can you lighten up on all your artists that are still here.” Ahhh KanYe.
The day after the exclusive Mr West infiltration, the festival found it’s chilled out nature again and world music took a shining alongside the sun. The afternoon was filled with Femi Kuti’s political afrobeat stance and call for a better Africa with his Postive Force. Art rockers Warpaint followed shortly after and were a favourite of mine. Friend of PinBoard, Jamie Woon grew even more since the last time I saw him. I’m sure main stages and headliner spots will be commonplace for Woon’s dark soulful, futurist R’n’B next summer festival season.
While I was dancing away in the Big Chill Radio Tent to Norman Jay and Mr Scruff Live on 6 Music, @def_danny was grooving to the incredible Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Heading over to the main stage one more time for the guitar brillance of Rodrigo y Gabriela and Chris Cunningham closing, it was a shame it had to end. One last Big Chill gift was a 2 hour DJ set by Jamie XX over in the People’s Ear Tent. He drifted between deep electronic sounds,to old school Oxide and Neutrino and closed the show with his remixes of Gil Scott Heron to play us out at 3am. And with that the festival was over.
Although the cries of original Big Chillers of the late 90’s/early noughties are convinced yesteryear was better, my first experience was nothing but one of my best weekends this entire summer. Big Chill – see you next year!