Monday, July 10, 2017

Gig: Blue Dot 2017

Lots of photos from my time at this year's Blue Dot Festival.

Following an eleventh hour change of pick up point, which some people nearly missed, the organised coach from Shepherd's Bush got us to the site in good time. Last year there was horrible congestion in the final couple of miles but not this year. The queue looked long but we were in within 20 minutes. A great welcome to the festival.

Last year I'd chosen a wooden hobbit house. For this year I just went with a 2-man tent. It would be a squeeze with two people but was fine for just me.

A quick wander around the site and we had a similar array of university science stands.

The Lovell Telescope was not moving this weekend and was in it's dormant up position for the duration of the weekend. The strongest feedback from last year was expecting this to be used for projections during the headline acts; I suspect they'll get the same feedback this year.

Just in case we didn't know where we were.

There was a good selection of food and for the most part it was all good. I had one burger on day 2 that disagreed with me but the overall quality of the food was very good.

The Mission Control stage was a lecture hall by day and a music stage by night. This stage was opposite the main stage so did suffer some sound bleed.

New for this year we had DeLoreans. It's some sort of fan club that use the cars to collect for charity

A strange little robot rabbit thing.

Both were found in another interactive science display.

The main stage felt that it had been moved further back than last year, leaving a huge central area which worked great. 

We had a new illuminarium for this year. It was a little overcast on the Friday so I didn't bother with it today. 

Following welsh crooner Meilyr Jones (who I saw at Margate so wasn't fussed about) we had Jane Weaver. Her stuff sounded OK but the music could have been provided by anyone.

Blue Moon beer had sponsored their own beer tent this year.

More science lectures.

These guys specialised in ear tech and could make custom earphones and clear your ear of wax. I've made a note of them for future enquiries.

More science lectures. The science is as much of a draw as the music with some of the people choosing to come to the festival to hear the noted speakers rather than the bands. I was trying to balance the two with science and talks in the morning and music the rest of the day

A few weeks before the festival started Blue Dot announced Leftfield were going to play a special early set for people who signed up to Amazon. Following a bit of a backlash they dropped that and made it open to all. Being a family friendly festival it meant a new generation were introduced to the Leftism album. This was good to see even the if the set wasn't as polished as their Brixton show a few weeks prior.

Lost Colours were playing twice today with a live band set in the afternoon and a DJ set in the evening. I wasn't really into their stuff although a good bit of the crowd here were. I felt in their suits they were trying to be like 2 Many DJs, so I didn't bother seeing them again later.

The main arena which was busy but not crowded. They had the capacity right.

Off in the arboretum, which I completely overlooked last year, we had a more chilled and folk stage and some art.

These balls played ambient sounds and seemed to entice people to lean on them.

Annabel Fraser had brought along an eclectic collection of vinyl. I only caught the end of the set but I liked what she was playing. 

Anchorsong I found myself not really understanding but captivated by how much sound he was getting out of what looked like a home-made controller.

I'm not sure who Hangin' Out in Space DJs but they were playing Despacio style future disco to a small crowd.

The Contact Stage was a cinema on Friday night showing Contact, Forbidden Planet and Rogue One.

Will Tramp is a well known DJ in Manchester, not so well known to me! He played an OK selection of tracks but I spent more time in his tent than intended because it was raining outside. 

The main stage on Friday belonged to The Pixies. Frank Black is a bit too shouty shouty for me.

The tent for Mr Scruff was too packed for me to spend any time in but I did have a good dance to "The Return of Captain Rock", the track that provided the sample to Prodigy's "Hyperspeed"

Evening entertainment came from some odd circus of large inflatable men on stilts and a marching band of drummers.

Brian Eno did last year's projections on the telescope. For this year they chose Daito Manabe, a Japanese dude. The display was more dynamic than last years but Eno's never repeated whereas this one did.

Closing the Nebula stage was a takeover from a number of weird psychedlic bands. This was Age of Glass who got good reviews but I didn't get it.

Lots of photos from the fire display in the arboretum, this place definitely comes to life at night! 

This was my favourite of the nighttime installations. Called Night Chorus by Kazimie it's a geometric shape surrounded by lasers that plays animal noises. When I was at it I got lots of bird song.

The little stage kept the music running through until 4am each day, but there was no way I could stay up that long.

More shots of the telescope.

Henge is odd. Way too psychedelic for me. The puppet was cool though.

My favourite act of Friday was Vitalic, an all-round electronic music making legend from France. Rather casually attired in a tracksuit he played a blinder of a set with a lot of it sourced from his latest album which is superb. 

2am and all the main stages were done for the night. Time for bed!

Day 2 and it was obvious it was going to be way way way too hot. 

A rather cute stand.

More exploring the science stands.

New for this year was a little planetarium. I could only imagine how hot it was in I didn't bother.

With it being so bright I thought it would make sense to start the day trying to beat the queue for the illuminarium. A smart move...

A mixture of shots within the illuminarium. It's stunning but the camera pulled out the colour more than my eyes could. 

More talks with my favourite being Helen Czerski's presentation on Oceanography.

A selection of the beer. They had a number of mainstream beer tents and this one that did a cask selection. This was better but the cider ran out too quick :(

On the second morning the main stage had a brass band playing some cool stuff including a recreation of Tubular Bells which is great but people only know one bit of it (the exorcist part) and then quickly get bored with the rest of it. The same was true here.

Horsebeach were forgettable, so much so I had to go and figure out who this was when writing this.

More talks...

Bruno Spoerri is a Swiss dude in his 80s who played an odd selection of electronic instruments including one that had him waving his gloved hands in front of a webcam. Bonkers but it worked, and he was accompanied by a drummer who freestyled along.

After them we had the amazing Radiophonic Workshop, a bunch of elderly and very talented musicians who have been around since 2009 keeping the sounds of the disbanded BBC organisation. Doctor Who was a theme for this Blue Dot and these guys played a version of it which was incredible!

The main event of Saturday was Orbital but the only major clash for me had DJ Cheeba on at the same time. He played to a near empty tent unfortunately but I spent most of his set down at the front giving him the support he deserves. This was his Double Trouble which I'd seen before.

The best act on the Saturday was Soulwax who brought the same show as the one I'd seen on the South Bank. This was incredible, and being at the front I was able to get a closer look at the drummers. The female drummer, Victoria Smith was insane! Also the left hand drummer and the keyboard player are Igor Cavalera (former Sepultura member) and Laima Leyton AKA Mixhell.

I'd heard a lot about Max Cooper with what appeared to be procedurally driven music. I tried to like his stuff but couldn't get into it. 

Finishing up in the Nebula stage for me was the Galaxians with a singer who looked just like the one that sung with Lost Colours. It turns out it was Emma Mason and Lost Colours were just the 2-suited guys and they'd pulled a band together including a couple of people from this band. A small world.

More shots of the telescope light show.

Joel Goddard from Hot Chip was the final main act of the night but I'd seen him twice this year already and didn't feel like sticking around to see him a third time, so I finished up with a little bit of the chill out sounds in the Arboretum. 

Sunday morning and I spent 3 hours attending a panel debate on Fake News and Big Data. Insightful stuff such as knowing that Uber knows people are prepared to pay more when the battery level in their phone is running low. A little scary that as a country we don't have a plan to protect our data which is being sold to business.

Playing with the exposure in the camera.

Using the main stage to give a lecture on pulsars. Loving the geekiness!

Josefin Ohrn, the first act on the main stage was a bit too psychedelic for me. An OK sound though, just not my thing.

The illuminarium and telescope.

Rival Consoles was ok but reminded me of John Hopkins, I guess that's a recommendation.

Anna Meredith was my must see for Sunday and didn't disappoint once the sound was turned up early on in the set. The epic sounding Nautilus didn't feel as much of a barrage with the sound a little lower than usual. Great performance all round and Anna continues to have humble and amusing banter with the crowd, which I love.

A space themed puppet show attracting as many big kids as little ones.

One of the campsites.

Another psychedelic rock act Ethan and the Reformation were not my thing. I left after one song. There seemed to be quite a lot of bands featuring people in 60s fashion. Not my thing I'm afraid.

The surprise act of the weekend was Shobaleader One, a 4-piece band lead by Tom Jenkinson AKA Squarepusher and they're playing Squarepusher tracks. The bass playing from Tom was incredible but it's the drumming that blew me away; he was so good. I also liked their LED visor/kendo look. Something was going on with the levels during this show that angered Tom quite a bit, he got more and more animated through the show before playing closer to the drums; I would guess he couldn't hear the drum on his monitor. His anger then had him removing a cameraman who was partially blocking the view of the crowd. At the end of an incredible set he gave us the thumbs up and the sound guy a thumbs down. He could then be seen verbally ripping into the guys after the show; not a happy bunny but clearly someone passionate about his performance.

The Mission Control stage became home to a conglomerate of AV and musical coders under a title of Algorave. These guys worked in rotation to code music, which was interesting to watch even if I didn't understand the language being coded in. It's an interesting scene that I ought to investigate a bit more. 

I think these are The Early Years, a local band that have been around for 10 years but I'd not heard of them. Their sound didn't really resonate.

The headliner on Sunday was Alt-J, a band that I just don't get. They sounded really good live but I just don't like their sound. It's that singers singing voice that grates. What I saw of the live show was pretty good with the band members separated by LED columns. I'd not seen that before. 

Rogue Emperor is a new band debuting their live performances at this festival. They're use to playing live though as one is from the band Doves and the other from Elbow. They sounded great, one to keep an eye out for.

I finished my Sunday seeing DJ Yoda who was bringing his History of Video Games set to Blue Dot. I'd seen the show before but at a sit down show at the Imax, so it was good to see it in a less formal environment. 

So BlueDot was done and dusted for another year and I still enjoy going to this. There were some issues with their inaugural festival last year but they've really listened and improved the festival. It's very family friendly, attracts a more intelligent crowd (it does) and has a great mixture of bands and lectures. As long as I'm not doing anything next July I can see myself coming back. 

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