Bluedot 2018 Review

Another year at Jodrell Bank, Bluedot continues to show that their science, space and music festival at the most gorgeous location on Earth can’t be beaten.

Plastic Mermaids open our day, which is very slow, unfortunately there’s not much musically to wisk you away. Although, Plastic Mermaids quite nail their introduction. Their sound is massive and wide, while not all the way there, the potential is too hard to miss.

Hot Chip‘s Alexis Taylor holds off the main stage on the pretty quiet Friday, and doesn’t vault far. His piano-led stylings aren’t lyrically attracting nor energetic to keep us entertained. It’s world’s away from Hot Chip, which is fine, of course, however we’re hoping that it’s just an off-night.

In the Orbit Tent, Flaming Lips‘ leader Wayne Coyne sits in conversation with Jodrell Bank‘s resident astronomer, Tim O’Brien. It’s an endearing and funny half-an-hour long conversation, where the two discuss each other’s roles in detail, mostly with Coyne interjecting with his thoughts on the universe.

Public Service Broadcasting bring their idiosyncratic sound to the Lovell Stage as the subheadliners for Friday.

Public Service Broadcasting match up their progressive-esque instrumental rock with vocals taken from old fashioned public service announcements, with themes of miners, mountains and of course space frequently explored. It’s a supurb choice for the time, while their performance just sits as alright for us, nothing more or less.

The Flaming Lips enter to frontman Wayne Coyne telling us that he’s sorry for the wait, and that the show will start now. The band slowly preform Richard Stauss‘ signature “Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30” moments before confetti flies from every angle into “Race For The Prize“.

It’s got to be noted, the sheer amount of confetti and smoke going everywhere, is simply the introduction. It’s as-if we’ve stumbled upon a royal celebration in the colourful kingdom of The Flaming Lips.

Afterwards, you stumble for a second, that could’ve been the entire show and you’ve blinked. Coyne exclaims “That was fun!” before entering “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1“, showing that this isn’t a band like any other. They play the best of what they have, when they have it.

Center-Stage is consumed with a massive pink robot blow-up, as Coyne stops to explain that the audience must participate. The crowd obliges for the karate-chop yell. They follow with “Fight Test“.

The mass sing-along continues into “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song“, which bleeds the colourful fun that the Lips abide by. Following up, “There Should Be Unicorns” has Coyne sat on a giant unicorn, like it’s his mighty steed, throwing glitter and confetti from his pockets. Alternative anthem “She Don’t Use Jelly” doesn’t come long after, proving the actual headlining power of the Lips.

The blow-up hamster-ball shows itself next as we enter an emotional and very appropriate Flaming Lips cover of David Bowie‘s “Space Oddity“, with Coyne in his ball walking among the crowd.

The words are sung, by everyone. There’s not a place better than this moment for it.

After the song has been done, and Coyne escapes his ball, he returns with balloons taped to himself. “The last time we played here David Bowie was alive”, he says with an exhale. Coyne by himself slowly enters the chorus of “Starman“, as the crowd joins along. Time seemed to have stood still, in unison it was a moment for Earth’s resident alien, who went away.

The long pause, as Wayne Coyne, strapped with a huge balloon structure, visibly sheds a tear or two, “Look at me, I here dressed like this, and I’m sad that David Bowie is dead”. The feeling is mutual.

How??” follows up, as the Lips start to wrap up their magical endeavour. Ending with “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” setting up a huge rainbow in the center, The Lips retreat away to a huge applause. They came and they conquered.

Finally, they return for one more, and of course it is their grand closer, “Do You Realize??“.

This is the Bluedot moment you will always remember, and it’s only fucking Friday.

Saturday seems more extensive, with a few more to take fancy. Don’t get us wrong, the line-up is brilliant, but full of clashes and generally, not as good as last year. There is a lean on verbal talks and doings, rather than music. However great, the balance still to be figured, but we’re sure if anyone can do it, it’s Bluedot.

The Radiophonic Workshop opens the Lovell Stage, with their thematic work that only few are like. It’s sound strange, with the catalogue of work and their left of the mainstream audience, Radiophonic Workshop are the closest to Kraftwerk we’ve gotten at Bluedot. Their set is wonderful, filled with themes from the heyday of BBC television, and the debut of new material featuring the late Stephen Hawking. It’s a terrific job done.

Hookworms played a set in the Orbit Stage earlier in the afternoon, their visceral, technical psych noises will never get old.

Mostly leaning of their latest release, there aren’t many out there like them, and this packed tent knows.

Before headliners warm the night, we’re treated to a set by an electronic pioneer who is largely better than ever, as Gary Numan brings Savage to Bluedot.

With his latest effort being ripped from his own attempted book about a dystopian future following pollution and climate change, and his pioneering hand in electronic music that only few can best, it’s perfect that Numan is here.

His performance is based heavily on the album, his jolty-electro sound from his heyday is mushed with his industrial sounds, it’s loud and great.

The Fall“, “Metal“, “Halo” and “Cars” land early, and the crowd in palm theory stands, “A Prayer for the Unborn” follows, and then Numan brings out his daughter Persia, a sporadic appearence on this tour, to preform the latest album’s standout “My Name is Ruin“. It’s wonderful.

Love Hurt Bleed“, “When The World Comes Apart” move the set towards its end and “Are Friends Electric” finally finishes it. What a remarkable performance.

Finishing the main-stage on Saturday, was the sublime sounds of Future Islands.

Saturday’s headliners are much different than the others, they’re definitely armed with a catalogue of brilliant songs, and they’re still one of the best rising bands around, however they aim for a more subtle and laid-back approach.

No frills, no screens or confetti, their visual mark is simply blank. However, it works far too well. They don’t need to have a giant stage-show, like Bluedot‘s other two headline acts, they’ve got their own style.

Opening with “Back in the Tall Grass“, the band are perfect in sound. They’re almost underestimated.

Future Islands are one of the best live acts around, as we’ve said before.

It’s hard to think how long Future Islands have been around for, they were playing and releasing way before their album Singles hit, but it’s great to how they’ve evolved since. Their latest, The Far Field, is by-far their best effort yet.

Early appearences of the likes of “Ran“, “A Dream of You and Me“, and “Time on Her Side” show variation in the band’s back catalogue behind their hit indie single. It continues, with showings of “Doves“, “A Song for Our Grandfathers“, and more in their set.

However, when it does eventually land, the crowd is ready. Herring‘s infectious dancing allows the crowd to move with him, and there aren’t a lot of modern frontmen capable of holding their audience in this way for this long. Alast, the highlight of “Seasons (Waiting on You)” shines, with growls, beauty and all.

This is a victorious festival headline slot from a band who many were worried could actually pull it off. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Sunday arrived and the culture programme was packed, but like everyone else, we were either waiting for Slowdive or The Chemical Brothers, who were clashing.

Little Dragon bring their beat-pop to the Lovell Stage, and danced their way through forty minutes, and had the crowd bouncing, even if they did keep calling us Manchester.

The anticipation is in the air, as Junior Parker‘s almost-tranquil rendition of “Tomorrow Never Knows” plays over the sound-system and repeats, quite possibly the greatest live electronic act on the planet, The Chemical Brothers finally show themselves to an uproar.

For the next hour-and-a-half, The Chemical Brothers proceed to play a set that no other can do, starting with “Go“.

The early half of the set awakes the weekend campers again, “Do It Again“, “Free Yourself“, “EBW12” and “Believe” blast out of Bluedot‘s famous overly-loud sound-system, the atmosphere is jubilant, to say the least.

It’s half-way through the set as the famed beat and green-lights synchronise for “Hey Boy Hey Girl” which at the end doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, into “Saturate“.

The Chemcial Brothers promised a new show, and they’ve never been shy of stunning live visuals. The day before, visual artist Marcus Lyall showed concepts of The Chemcial Brothers‘ takeover of the Lovell Telescope and it didn’t live itself down, as the projection matches the famed visual aspect to the beat.

Under The Influence” arrives with “Snow” and “Surface to Air“, as their two massive robots descent into the stage with lasers firing on all cylinders. It’s a sight to behold.

Galavize“, “C-H-E-M-I-C-A-L“, “Leave Home” and “Song to the Siren” follow and continue the sonic assault, before the duo end on the high, with “Blast Rockin’ Beats“.

There aren’t many bands with a show like The Chemical Brothers, and after The Flaming Lips triumphant extravaganza on Friday, we didn’t think they’d be topped performance wise, we could be wrong.

All words by Jack Cinnamond, photography by Jessica Sharpe.

[Editor Note: All photography of The Chemical Brothers were prohibited afterwards by Zeitgeist Agency and are unavailable]

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