I went to BlueDot Festival and had a brilliant time, thanks for asking. The camping was a little tough because I am now as old as a mountain, but with the help of a hastily-bought camping chair and a steady supply of Tango, I got through it just fine. Festivals are back! Woo!
BlueDot is a science and music festival based at Jodrell Bank, which is a clever science centre with a telescope that looks like a satellite dish. You know the scaffolding that Tom Baker Doctor Who fell to his death from? It’s based on that telescope. It’s a small, chilled festival full of nice people. You should go.
I’m going to reel through everything I saw and did, so brace yourself. This is a quick and dirty blog post, so it’s all first draft. No photos – you can find them on Twitter by searching for fatroland and the blue dot emoji. Right. Let’s do some words. Let’s go!
Sunday’s main headliner was the Halle Orchestra featuring Bjork. So good, I cried twice. She was as otherworldly as ever – you can google the costume she was wearing. But she was also earthy and emotional, and she did old tracks like ‘Come To Me’ which made me a very happy boy indeed. The orchestra was phenomenal, and reminded me that there are certain melodic arrangements that sound very Bjork indeed. It’s not all about the voice, as it happens.
I ought to take this chance to tell you that I have also sung with the Halle Orchestra. I was a founding member of Manchester Boys Choir, and we sung in proper concerts and everything. We even did Songs of Praise. I’m not saying that makes me as good as Bjork and/or Jesus. I’m not saying that. That is for you to decide. Ahem.
Mandy, Indiana knocked the tent pegs out of the place with their claustrophobic drums and apocalyptic Frenchness. The lead singer took a bad tumble on stage and ended the gig laughing like a maniac. Breathtaking start to finish.
This seems like stating the obvious, but Yard Act were cheeky, hilarious and very Yorkshire. I loved the bit where he railed against middle-class kids and their confectionary, then tried to list as many middle-class kid sweets as he could. Frubes. He mentioned Frubes. Also worth including in this very-Yorkshire section is the Eccentronic Research Council, whose brilliant festival-closing set involved some amazing gruffness and Maxine Peake reading out people’s dreams. Adrian really does have a very impressive hat.
It was so great to see Kelly Lee Owens, who trod a perfect line between Canderel-sweet vocal harmonies and grubby warehouse techno devastation. She clashed with Groove Armada, but this was an easy choice. Kelly Lee flipping Owens.
Anna Meredith took to main stage and converted everyone to her tuba techno and her bold, brassy, brainy beats. And her digital Tom Cruise. So much fun. Last gig of the year as she turns her focus to album production.
I got to see Koreless, my album of the year for last year. Intricate, powerful, all the good things – but cut short because I had to pop off to Squarepusher. Mr Pusher was in a furious mood, barraging us with audio fractals for a solid hour before allowing even a slight notion of melody to show its face. ‘Detroit People Pusher’ was a fractured highlight. Cracking stuff.
Jane Weaver revived the spirit of melodic 1990s indie and put in a remarkable and mesmerising set. Head and shoulders above most of her peers. I’ve seen LoneLady several times since I did my interview with her for Electronic Sound magazine, and it was good to see her on a proper big stage. Front rail, boogied a lot, sorted.
Hannah Peel and her Paraorchestra was a fine appetiser on a quiet Thursday. Norrisette brought some quirky and masked Stockport realness to the festival. Dirty Freud reminded us of 1990s trip hop. Caro C did a delightfully engaging performance of her Electric Mountain album, complete with found sounds. All rather smashing.
What else? Henge once again beamed in from space to deliver their mix of Spinal Tap and Galaxy Quest fun. Always good value. Sad Night Dynamite were fun too but probably more aimed at kids. I saw some Sea Fever, the projected by Johnny Marr’s bass player Iwan Gronow. Sounds From The Other City did a colossal DJ takeover – another great festival you should check out. Tim Burgess knocked out some Charlatans numbers on main stage, which was endearing, like watching your poodle dance on its back legs. There was Mogwai too. But I didn't watch them. Soz.
Among the non-music things I saw were Matthew Cobb talking about brains and entertaining us with AI-generated Love Hearts slogans, comedian Bec Hill and maths funny man Matt Parker doing a live podcast and Brainiac Live doing science experiments probably – I missed almost all of it because I was chatting and facing the wrong way. I caught A Certain Ratio talking about the olden days with affection and humility. Anna Meredith ran an album listening session which was engaging and funny. The spoken word artist ROY did a hugely enjoyable and expletive-ridden reading and Q&A.
Oh and astronaut Tim Peake talked about being astronaut Tim Peake. This was amazing because he’s a chuffing astronaut and I am most definitely not a chuffing astronaut. Or perhaps I am an astronaut. Perhaps I am. That is for you to decide.
A few personal things. Shout out to my camping buddies Deb and Tom and Michelle, and to the many friends I hung out with. BlueDot is a bit like everyone in Manchester dumped into a field. Hat doff to Ben, to Adrian, to Helen, to Electronic Sound, to my Blackwell’s buddies, and to Dave and Hannah whose BlueDot experience was robbed by Covid.
Would I go again? Of course. I’m addicted to this festival. It perhaps needs more stalls and traders, and more places to buy a bacon butty, and less sponsorship from Dyson which was a bit odd. But the food was immense (masala dosa!), the stewarding was great, and I got to be in a room with a flipping astronaut. Well. Not quite in a room. Outside the tent. Sat against a fence. Just enjoying the BlueDot space vibes. Brill.