Bluedot festival, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

The Very First Bluedot Festival

by Gavin Moulton 27th July 2016

Also the very first time I'd reviewed a music festival and was feeling a bit like an alien with a press pass. The bluedot is a whole constellation of different things to see like music, space related science talks and exhibits, all set within the grounds of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, In Cheshire (UK). But we're a music site, we know about reviewing music and not much about science, so let me tell you about the music, I'll leave the science to the experts.

But I must mention that I briefly saw the science talk opener on Friday around 5:30pm on the largest lovell stage Infinite Monkey Cage hosted by Prof Brian Cox and a bunch of wits. Brian cox posed the question "What if we removed time" and a comedian in the panel said "don't do that Underworld are on in four hours" so this astro science stuff can be music related then.


Public Service Broadcasting – (Lovell Stage)

As I mentioned in our preview for the festival Public Service Broadcasting were made for the bluedot festival and an ideal start for the main stage after 'Infinite Monkey Cage' talk. The band played along to background film footage from rocket launches to space exploration, this may sound a bit so so, but seeing it live, it really works well. For the festival they had some brass players which added to the dynamics. The band never speak themselves, but communicate via a computer generated voice which said to the crowd “Welcome to the first blue dot festival” , “how are you doing at the back, and you at the front”, “err, ok” when the crowd were a bit luke warm in responding to a computer generate voice.

Underworld – (Lovell Stage)

Underworld - Bluedot Festival, Photo by G.Moulton

I can only describe Underworlds set in one word – Epic! and that's coming from someone that doesn't know or really like dance music. But there are songs in there, people were singing and of course dancing along, the vibe was amazing. The sound made your heart and ribcage pound due to the decibel levels, great lighting effects as you would imagine. Just two guys, one on these huge decks which looked like mission control, the other dancing, jumping around the stage, managed to entertain a massive festival crowd. Everyone I met was in alignment that Underworld eclipsed most acts on at the festival. Their set went on for many hours including classics 'Two Months Off', 'Scribble' and of course finished off with 'Born Slippery'.

Mano Mclaughlin – (Roots Stage)

I'd got a tip off and a video shared with me, that a great potential live act was playing out on the Roots stage. The Roots stage is bit out on a limb, small and intimate, nearer the exit but in a forest clearing with it's own bar. It's where they had emerging acoustic singer/songwriters as the name roots would suggest upcoming or rootsy music.

Playing with a drummer and bass player, Mano was playing a Spanish guitar. Really reminded me of the band I am Kloot and lead singer John Bramwell, but without the dark twist in the lyrics. Definately worth catching live, they went down really well with the small crowd. The band jokingly remarked that with the polite quite during songs and applause after songs and the setting made them feel like they were at a golf tournament. Mano remarked that he was enjoying himself. This was the last act on the stage that night, it would've been good to have a couple more acts after 7pm because there were gaps in music of this ilk on other stages and the Orbit stage had no music on Friday.


Lanterns On The Lake – (Lovell Stage)

Lanterns On The Lake - Bluedot Festival, Photo by Moulton

Now this band really impressed me with their "Quay Sessions", so a must see. Played early at 1pm, they were backed by The Royal Northern Sinfonia such a beautiful serene sound wafted across the field, with people thankful for the soothing sound, many sprawled out, recovering from last night.

To me it's very much like the band Elbow, who I've followed since their debut. But female fronted the rhythm is very loose and spacey working so well with an orchestra. Interesting the lead guitarist was also using a violin bow, across his guitar, like many in the orchestra. Their music built into a massive crescendo on the song "Beings". They finished with the song "Another Tale From Another English Town" with such amazing lyrics I haven't heard in a long time. “We don't want to fight we want the quiet life, wish our lives, wish our lives away”

I wandered off, feeling some sort of contemplation.

The Spills – (Nebula Stage)

Bit more of traditional indie band, with their angular guitar riffs reminiscent of the band Pavement. Also sharing vocals between the other guitarist.

The Big Moon – (Orbit Stage)

It's rare to get an all female (of the species) band rocking out. Even rarer a drummer switching between keyboards and drums in the quiet parts, and a lead guitarist who could teach a boy a thing or two about guitar riffs. Great energy from this four piece, think “Elastica” if you can think back that far or borrow your parents CD's. There isn't a “dark side of the moon” you could bring them home to meet your mothership.

The WatchMakers – (Nebula stage)

A band with a heavy psychedelic sound. The lead singers voice cut through the psych sound with a Liam Gallagher / Richard Ashcroft edge. They may well have discovered some old early Verve, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets records under a dusty pile in their parents record collection with a bit of Manchester baggy action coming through. It kind of transported me back to a free festival featuring The Verve I saw some 20 odd years ago in a Preston Park.

Let's Eat Grandma (Nebula Stage)

By the time I got to the Nebula stage, there was a throng of people all peering through small hatches in the inflatable spaceship like tent, the place was rammed. They were all trying to catch a glimpse and see what all the hype was about these two 17 year girls with a band name you can't forget too easily. I caught a glimpse of their long pre raphaelite hair and them playing recorder, keyboard and mandolin. I don't think I heard enough to say hay or nay, but I certainly wasn't compelled enough to try to wrestle myself in. This was just one example of why a traditional more open tent for nebula would've allowed more people to see the popular bands, also it got hotter than mercury in those tents if they were packed.

Moon Duo (orbit stage)

Moon Duo - Bluedot Festival, Photo by Moulton

The band with a driving rhythm and heavy psychedelia sounds.

There was the occasional vocals, but weren't central to the music. The background projections of psychedelic imagery, made it a great set.

They projected a wall of psych sound in the orbit tent, which I believe was due to iffy sound mixing in the Orbit stage, the mixing desk was to the side making it difficult to mix the sound levels well, this proved a real issue with Mercury Revs gig on Sunday, you can read about that later.

The Vryll Society (Nebula Stage)

I was plugging their London gig at the Lexington back in April through ConcertFlow, tweets and social media. An exciting band I'd discovered this year, but didn't get to see them live for some reason. This time nothing was going to stop me seeing them, not even a controversial clash with Air who were playing the same time on the Lovell stage. The tent probably had around 40 people in the audience but the band did not disappoint us. There's a lot more going on with their sound, when they played Deep Blue Skies travelling through at least 3 tempo changes, from dreamy spaced out, to groovy baggy stones roses the on to epic Pink Floyd like crescendos. You can tell this bands been honing their craft, and it's such early days for this young band, I can't wait to see what they do next. Why Bluedot put the best band I heard on Saturday, on this stage, with the worst time slot, is a mystery to me.

After they finished I rushed over to catch the end of the Air set on the Lovell stage. I weaved my way to near the front, and caught their last two songs, I didn't feel like I'd missed much to be honest.

Girl Sweat Pleasure Temple Ritual Band (Nebula Stage)

The orbit stage was rammed with people actually queuing up in a line to get into see DJ Shadow, one in one out.

I went back to the Nebula stage to see a band I knew nothing about. The tent was comfortably full and the band were all dressed in these satanic ritual cloaks playing psychedelia style music. It was as their band name suggests all a bit tongue in cheek.

At one point you were almost expecting them to mock sacrifice a goat or orchestrate an orgy. Maybe the local farmers had been warned to lock up their goats because 'Girl Sweat Pleasure Temple Ritual Band' were coming to Jodrell Bank. I was quite relieved I hadn't asked that band for an interview.

Jean Michel Jarre (Lovell Stage)

Jean Michel Jarre performing at Bluedot Festival, Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre

The Saturday Headliner. Jean Michel Jarre almost invented the spectacle of the light show back in the 80's to make shows without bands more entertaining.

Fast forward 30 years with the advances in visual effects, produced what I saw can only be described as awe inspiring.

You actually had imagery, lights and lasers projected onto a thin veil which moved across the front of the stage. As you can see in this video, the highlight was an animated Pet Shop Boys singing along. They recently collaborated on Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise. I thought they may make an appearance but not in this way.


Stealing Sheep (Orbit stage)

They were on my wish list of bands to see, but I missed them. I did bump into someone who described herself as a festival virgin, who did see them. She said it was the best band she'd seen that day and that they were a mezmerising all female three piece and very original. So thank you Deborah Hudson.

The Lucid Dream (Nebula Stage)

Another band with a psychdelia style. One song in particular I would describe as Psych Dub Reggae and the lead singer really got into it at one point, with the band going into interstellar overdrive. Intricate riffs and the lead guitarist playing with the amps feedback to great effect. They're playing the psychedelia festival in Liverpool in September, well worth checking out.

Aziz Ibrahim (Nebula Stage)

Best known as the guitarist who played with Ian Brown, of Stone Roses fame. He was both technically impressive and imaginative, playing ragas and fingerstyle guitar, the sort of guitarist most bands could only dream of playing with. He was joined on stage by a tabla player. Later in set he asked the crowd “are you up for some dancing” and went into his rendition of Stone Roses "Fools Gold" – with guys in tie dye t-shirts dancing away.

Mercury Rev (Orbit Stage)

The Orbit stage was filling up with people eagerly anticipating this set. So was I, having rushed over from the Nebula stage, having briefly seen the first song from The Membranes (interesting). The sound engineer was coming back a few times to check the sound levels were good for launch, he even got an applause something wasn't right. Finally after waiting for what seemed like time warp, the band appeared on stage. The sound levels were all too high, and the lead singer asked to raise his vocal mike to compensate. It ended sounding like mush and the sound engineer wasn't aware because it was very difficult to hear, how the audience hears it, when the sound desk is to the right of the stage and not at the back. The beauty, sublety, contrast and dynamics you normally hear from Mercury Rev was totally lost. After the song Holes, I think I heard the lead singer remark “This sound guys gonna put me outta a job” I found it hard to stay and listen, so I went off and watched Caribou instead. Hopefully I'll get to hear them under better conditions.


Lastly what about the beer and food. They had a great real ale tent, it was pretty evident from the queues that it was going down well, with some eminently quaffable real ales at £4.50 a pint going down well. But the lager and cider tents outnumbered the real ale 4 to 1 and people weren't much interested in those. Food was fairly typical with most styles catered for.

I hadn't planned seeing other things like talks in the Contact stage and Mission control, whenever I did pass by and tried to catch something inbetween the music, they did seem very popular and full.

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