Bluedot Festival 2018 review

Set against a stunning background, Bluedot Festival once again made quite the impression. Grace Price-Salisbury gives us her highlights.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 24th Jul 2018

Image: Bluedot Festival (source)

Now in its third year, Bluedot Festival has established itself as one of the best small festivals in the UK. It’s a festival that promises music, science, arts, technology, culture, food and film. It boasts one of the most impressive line-ups of the UK summer season – big names like Chemical Brothers, The Flaming Lips and Future Islands share the same bill as Booka Shade, Gilles Peterson and UNKLE

The wide-ranging crowd reflected the festival’s music palate: people from everywhere, of every age, their single uniting characteristic a sunny – but not sickly – disposition and a genuine (but not annoying) thirst to learn about each other and the world we live in.

Many festival-goers fully embraced the scientific theme by dressing up for the occasion. Bluedot saw an abundance of silver lamé, glitter beards, planet-themed deely boppers and neon wigs - we even spied someone wearing a pair of leggings displaying the periodic table of elements.

For us, the festival began on Friday evening in the Mission Control tent, hosted by Bugged Out, with a nostalgia provoking set from Holly Lester. She beautifully meandered her way through the sounds of Chicago and Detroit, throwing in the odd classic such as Planet Funk’s ‘Chase the Sun’. In the same tent, Lemmy Ashton delivered an equally impressive set. Also proving that sometimes it’s all about the classics, he treated the crowd to the likes of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ and Phil Weeks ‘It’s the Inside That Counts’. 

The highlight of Friday was undoubtedly UNKLE who brought an energy-packed set. Their set included hits originally recorded with Ian Brown, Keaton Heston, and DJ Shadow. Hellish kaleidoscopic screen visuals and moody black attire heightened the theatrical impact and sophisticated sense of drama, particularly at the end of the set when they closed with ‘God Moving Over the Face of the Waters’ and Rui Da Silva’s ‘Touch me’. 

https://youtu.be/pq0iplfH3l0

Off Saturday’s music lineup, Gary Numan bucked and stomped his boots and slammed mic stands to tracks including ‘Cars’ and ‘We are Glass’. His arrangements of these once synth-heavy and chilly tunes are now chugging with electric guitar, but lose none of their robotic luster.

Passing by the Nebula Stage, a heavenly noise assailed our ears and we were drawn inevitably into the tent’s gloom. This was one of those moments you hope for at a festival, where a band you’ve never heard of – Pearl City – produced a melancholic set, dramatic and intense. This Manchester duo is definitely one to watch out for.

Later, Booka Shade commanded the Orbit Stage with a big house set that dipped into 2013’s Eve and 2008’s The Sun & Neon Light. The German duo put on a dazzling show, working the drum pads and keyboards hard and digging deep into their immense back catalogue. The spectacle is such that it draws throngs of curious passers-by into the tent, reminding us what clubbing, at its core, is all about – bringing people together in shared spaces to celebrate great music.

The night ended with Helena Hauff. She began at pace, delivering her signature brand of energetic industrial techno. It was the kind of set that you just could not draw yourself away from, even fetching a drink seemed like an utter waste of time. The highlight of her set came in the form of MPIA3’s Acid Badger, the R&S released track had a significant effect and didn’t fail to make anyone move.

Aside from the musical lineup, the packed programme included high-brow talks from headline keynote speakers and leading scholars, to more accessible debates. There was an array of quick-fire lectures and panel talks in which leading researchers tackled the universe’s biggest topics and debated matters such as 'why you should believe in the big bang' and 'what’s next for humans in space?'

If the sights and sounds of the festival became too much, there was the opportunity to join the consistently hour-long queue for the giant luminarium – an inflatable womb-like sculpture with labyrinthine tunnels and dodecahedral domes where people could be immersed in radiant light and colour.

Highlights from Sunday included live sets from Crazy P and George Fitzgerald, however the standout performance came from The Chemical Brothers. In fact, it’s fair to say they stole the show of the whole weekend. 

They brought robots, offbeat visuals, and yes, plenty of block rockin’ beats to their headline set. Opening with ‘Go’, the duo energised the crowd from the off and served up most of their hits, which still sound crisp 20 years after their heyday. The demographic of the audience reflected a career of big beat dance tracks that have cracked the mainstream charts as well as hit clubs and festival stages over 20 years, with the clubbers of the 90s giving it as much gusto as the younger millennials. They might not be the boundary-breakers they once were, but with all inhibitions and pretension flung aside, The Chemical Brothers were able to channel the nostalgic sensation of an all-night rave into the civilised space Jodrell Bank.

Bluedot has many remarkable features, but perhaps the one that stands out the most is how brilliantly and tastefully it’s curated. Take the energising blend of science and music or the exquisite way the Lovell Stage headliner leads into the perfect after-party on the Orbit and Nebula Stages, it’s a festival that encourages it's punters to try new things, and also one that seems to bring out the best in performers.

Festivals 2018