Bluedot Festival 2016 review

Thomas Whitehead is enthralled by a multi-sensory experience at Jodrell Bank observatory, with sets from Underworld, Jean Michel Jarre, Caribou and more.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 12th Dec 2016

Image: Bluedot Festival

The recent space mission, which saw British astronaut Tim Peake blasted into the stratosphere has reignited our islands interest in space exploration, and the arrival of the new Bluedot Festival could seemingly not be better timed.

Based at the Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire, the festival promised a blend of music, science, arts, technology, culture, food and film. Its hefty line-up included live performances, DJ sets, comedy, talks, workshops, and live experiments. 

Space exploration might be a quest for the brave but so is heading to a festival. The winding country roads leading to the Jodrell Bank were packed full of revellers geared up for a weekend of music and space-themed fun.

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We finally made it onto site and took in the breath-taking surroundings. There was no time for education though and we headed straight to the main Lovell stage to witness George Fitzgerald's set.

He poured out a mixture of melodic, progressive beats, as more and more festival goers joined the party. The DJ then raised the stakes by dropping Chemical Brothers' 'Star Guitar' into his set, to the euphoria of the crowd.

Next up on the main stage were headliners, Underworld. It's been a big year for the pioneering dance duo and they've spent much of the year touring and have also released their ninth studio album to glowing reviews. They opened with 'I Exhale' and followed up with classic songs like 'Dark and Long - Dark Train'.

As the sun began to set over the Bluedot crowd, 'Two Months Off' blared out and the park danced in unison. Whilst 'If Rah' played, a small burst of rain poured down from the heavens, but it almost felt like part of the show and did not hinder the vibes.

The performance continued at a blistering pace and Underworld finish with 'Born Slippy. Nuxx', which sent the audience into the stratosphere. One night in and Bluedot had already delivered an iconic moment.

The main stage was now closed but it wasn't quite time to head back to our tent and DJ Yoda was keeping the party going over at Mission Control. The cut and paste specialist was in good spirits and had a permanent grin etched onto his face.

His set delved into a host of genres moving from drum and bass to a collection of classic hits like Toto's 'Africa' and Prince's 'Raspberry Beret'. The dance floor was packed full and the good vibes were almost visible. DJ Yoda played out to mass applause and we all then headed back to our tents to digest the first day of musical fun.

As Saturday arrived it brought good weather with it and the perfect conditions to properly explore the full catalogue of activities at Bluedot. All ages were in attendance and there was a wide host of talks, presentations, and live shows for everyone to enjoy.

Highlights included the mind bending KATENA Luminarium that could only be described as some giant artistic bouncy castle. We were able to explore inside the giant structure, which was inspired by Islamic architecture. Its tunnels glowed deep reds and mellow blues, an ideal playground for both children and adults.

On the main Lovell stage there was blissful music to please the chilled daytime listeners, courtesy of Lanterns in the Lake, who were accompanied by the Royal Northern Sinformia. Mellow compositions like ‘Another tale from Another English town’ were perfectly suited to ease us into another day of music and exploration, and Hazel Wilde’s powerful vocals floated around the Jodrell Bank.

As the day drew on DJ Shadow was on hand to chop up bassy beats like the seasoned pro he is. Hordes of people piled into the tent to witness his set and their efforts were well-rewarded. He put a real stamp on his set by using hi-tech visuals, as well as live instruments, which seemed perfect for the festival.

Shadow drummed along to his own classic hit 'Six Days' and played a remixed version of 'Building Steam with a Grain of Salt'. By the end of his set the tent was in awe of the DJ’s craft and he left to the stage to much acclaim.

The backdrop of the lovell telescope couldn’t be more fitting to an artist than Jean Michel Jarre. He was headlining the main stage on Saturday evening. The French producers music could probably not be much more fitting and if we were to soundtrack a Skiddle trip to the moon then Jarre would certainly be somewhere on the playlist.

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His show was a mixture of brilliant laser visuals, and masterful electric composition. He even combined these two elements when using his hands to play an instrument that consisted of strobes of green lasers projected in front of him. Jarre delighted the audience with some of his most famous tracks including 'Oxygene, part 4' and 'Stardust'. His futuristic performance brought down the curtains on another great day at Bluedot.

Sunday had arrived and the final day of the Bluedot festival was already upon us, but there was still a stellar day of music to be heard. I like Trains were heading up the main stage and their sound, particularly the lead vocals from David Martin echoing Ian Curtis’s tones, were reminiscent of Joy Division.

At the Orbit stage Stealing Sheep were performing. The Liverpool-based psychedelic pop three-piece blared out their electro tinged music in front of a backdrop of silver balloons. 

Later on Steve Mason was performing and delivered a great set full of confident Scottish swagger. Dressed in a green parka jacket the musician interspersed his hits with political and social commentary, whilst still keeping it fun and not alienating the audience.

His hits like ‘Hardly go Through’ brought a much needed rock edge to proceedings. The crowd were visibly glowing by the end and even Mason had removed his parka to reveal a pair of high-waisted trousers and braces. 

Caribou is one of the most respected producer and DJs in the industry and his set was set to be one of the weekend’s highlights. Accompanied by his band and dressed in all white the Canadian performed live renditions of tracks like 'Odessa' and 'Silver'.

The electric melodies ensured the crowd was swaying and when 'Can't do Without You' was played we were all transported into musical ecstasy. The headliners performance had produced a fitting end upon the Lovell Stage.

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The big headliner had finished but we at Skiddle love to keep the party going and who other than Thundermuscle to play us into the night. If you don’t know, Thundermuscle is actually snooker legend Steve Davis. The cult hero has carved out a great deal of respect in the music scene and his set at Bluedot exemplified why he has become so popular.

Almost everybody in the vicinity wanted to bump fists with him and he was more than happy to oblige. The set was a perfect way to end proceedings and we danced into the techno-tinged realms of night.

As a festival concept Bluedot certainly stands out and nestled in the Cheshire countryside with the Lovell telescope as the backdrop, there probably couldn’t be a better setting for it. It was a truly multi-sensory experience that catered for all ages.

The space theme was perfectly translated through everything they did and the lineup of artists were perfectly selected. With Bluedot 2017 already confirmed we can't wait to head back into space.

Grab your Bluedot Festival 2017 tickets below 

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