The otherworldly festival has finished for another year, after some unforgettable moments and experiences. Here’s our review:
Opening up the festival on Thursday for the earlycomers was the soft and somewhat uncertain feelings of newcomer Kathleen Frances, who clearly set the tone for the Thursday of the festival, a meek and beautiful evening.
Following on, the Paraorchestra introduce themselves with Charles Hazlewood conducting, and the remarkable Hannah Peel at-front, preforming their collaboration The Unfolding live for possibly the final time.
There have been times where we’ve spoken about Bluedot‘s infinite possibilities regarding divisity and change, being a festival that’s built of the prospects of togetherness in the uncertain world, and this performance holds dear to those possibilities.
The game-changing Paraorchestra, an orchestral ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians, being placed centrestage as a headliner of Bluedot is really a key moment in the life of this, still somewhat, young festival.
Their performance is stellar, crafting a unique and beautiful sound, vibrant and alive. Peel, notably for her links between electronic sound and classical, is a hand is making this sound ethereal.
The Unfolding sounds wonderful when transported from record to the live stage, especially with interlinks of Peel‘s music box work.
Sure, the Friday was smattered with a little rain, but that didn’t stop the day. LYR opened up the Lovell Stage with their idiosyncratic sound, telling small stories by meshing beautiful soundscapes with the spoken word of poet laureate Simon Armitage.
Following on from them entered Katy J Pearson, a fast-rising magnetic Bristolian artist. Pearson showed us why she was featured in our preview over her 30-minute set, leaning into her recent sophomore record Sound of the Morning, with airings of “Beautiful Soul“, “Talk Over Town“, and the fabulous “Howl“.
There’s a uniqueness to Pearson‘s voice, sure it’s a bit Parton-esque, but wholly a voice of her own. All lovingly feels like a bit more of a nuanced Shocking Blue. Nearing the end of the set, Pearson always brings out the final track of the aforementioned record, a cover of Paul Giovanni‘s “Willow’s Song“, from the score of The Wicker Man, a piece of British iconography.
Tim Burgess made his appearance next, the Charlatans frontman with his own band. Opening with “Lovely Creatures“, Tim has a knack of sheer positivity that’s perfect for the the Lovell Stage, with a loving crowd hanging for every bit of Burgess, including a live peak of Charlatans‘ “The Only One“.
Meanwhile, starting a tad late in Nebula was the emerging South London artist Donalee. Donalee‘s set mostly consists of her debut EP, the brilliant Cerebrum, which sounds down-to-earth and copacetic in the live space, backtracks of intimacy and sharp lyrics that are aired out in many different ways.
The limitations of Donalee right now is the lack of sharpness preforming here, moving from piece-to-piece, interacting etc, but that takes time, especially with somebody who could be so notable in years to come.
In Orbit, the LA-based songwriter NoSo captivates a small crowd with tales from their debut record Stay Proud of Me, standing alone on stage with a full-band caught as a backing track. Their set is transfixing, seemingly as intimate as you can be here in the early afternoon. Certainly one to keep an eye on, especially when NoSo is back over the pond in March.
A little later on, Sad Night Dynamite made their presence known on the Orbit Stage, with their 30 min set coming like a bat-out-of-hell. The Somerset act brought energy that hasn’t been felt yet, with back-to-back sure-fire selections.
The group were livewires, bouncing from each side of the stage, even chipping their own teeth on the mics in-an-effort to steal the show at Bluedot. The crowd was specially alive during “Demon”, a song later in their fierce set.
From start-to-finish, Sad Night Dynamite are like a flash of lightning, already armed with killer cuts and explosive energy.
Jane Weaver took to the stage later on, showcasing a strange diversity of sound that this stage had to offer on a Friday evening, the soft sounds of NoSo, the loud n’ brash noise of Sad Time Dynamite, and now the electronica from the psychgiest herself.
It’s no shock that Weaver‘s set was fluid, brilliant and attracted a decent crowd, playing through for forty five minutes, mostly hinging on her latest acclaimed effort Flock.
Peruvian producer Sofia Kourtesis was on next, backed by a beautiful visuals and joined by her bandmate, Kourtesis showed off her uber-positivity, and electric sound, unconventional and unique cuts, interwoven with spots of Kourtesis‘ shining personality.
The currently unreleased “I Protect You“, and her cult hit “By Your Side” highlight the set, but her connection with the loving Bluedot crowd is the key here. During her final song, the electronics failed cutting off the song. The crowd, patient as Kourtesis and crew find a fix, come alive as she apologizes, showing their connection. Finally, it’s back on to uproar, as she finishes her set with “La Perla“.
The hyper-positive house sounds brimming from Sofia Kourtesis’ personality are truly a wonder to see, an act that truly loves to do this.
While Groove Armada headline the Lovell Stage, the Welsh sonic star Kelly Lee Owens takes to the Orbit Stage to give the alternative choice.
Owens returns after her acclaimed 2019 performance, and again finds a way to bring another mesmerising, extraordinary set to a Bluedot stage.
Owens captivates with early appearances of “Arpeggi“, her sublime Radiohead recreation, and the shattering “Re-Wild“. Showing that the main stage isn’t always the place to be, the Orbit tent is pretty much full for Owens performance, likely some returning from her last outing.
The minimalistic set-up of Kelly Lee Owens, with the visuals behind her, is key to how supreme of an artist that she is, tackling sets with such effortlessly cool energy. Other cuts like “L.I.N.E“, and the fantastic “Jeanette” all made appearances.
There’s a lack in this year’s top-billing, and clearly, Kelly Lee Owens proved with this performance that the Lovell Stage is calling, and when it finally happens, it’ll be one of the finest headline sets we’ll see at Jodrell Bank.
Following on, unfortunately earlier in the day it was said that Spiritualized were off, and replaced by Bluedot fan-favourites Public Service Broadcasting.
“Well, this is unexpected…”Public Service Broadcasting speak ahead of their set.
Diving straight into “Im Licht“, Public Service Broadcasting return to Bluedot under surprising circumstances, but a welcome suprise nontheless.
It’s only been a few years since Public Service Broadcasting conquered the main stage, but tonight feels more unique and special. Their setlist spans across their catalogue, pretty equally in-fact, with it feeling like every two songs airing out another record.
PSB has always felt excellent live, rather than on record, mostly for the visual element that is so woven into their set. “Progress“, and “People Always Need Coal” are early showings of this, with Pathé-esque public service films flicking in time behind them.
The performances of tracks from The Race for Space, for obvious reasons, get large reactions, with “Sputnik” coming early, and the end of the set holding “The Other Side“, “Go!“, and of course, “Gagarin“. It’s a great end to the opening day of Bluedot.
Saturday is marred by rain, something that comes and goes throughout the day and evening for the rest of the festival. Unfortunate with the heatwave just days before.
Highlighting the day would be events taking place in Mission Control, which this year is a collection of the old Mission Control stage, and Contact, which is somewhat missed.
Previously, the Contact Stage housed late night films and entertainment, such as the brilliant Elvis Dead several years ago, which I feel is missed this year.
Although, late in Saturday’s afternoon, the great Adam Buxton brought his music video skewing series BUG to the Mission Control stage, with two hilarious shows to a full-house, tackling videos by artists like Pharrell Williams, festival players Yard Act, and even funny Prodigy-backed home videos.
On the Lovell Stage, the electronic poppers Metronomy made their stand, bringing much needed electricity to Bluedot.
Opening with “Love Factory“, quickly backed by “The Bay“, Metronomy show that they’re here to have fun. The aforementioned “The Bay”, “Corinne“, and “Everything Goes My Way“, a lot of English Riviera love on-early, with the positively beaming “It’s Good to be Back“, and “Reservoir” in there too.
The band are loud, and their vibe is infectious. After “Boy Racers“, “Salted Caramel Ice Cream” come out to play, the band playfully mess around with a fake love song, before sliding quickly into the opening keys of “The Look“, which gets the reaction that they hoped for. Followed by a much more rounded, and fuller version of “Love Letters“, the band finally close out with “You Could Easilly Have Me“, the opening track of their 2006 debut, which sounds wild and brash to close.
After seeing Metronomy before, it’s easy to say that the band were on really fine form here, buoyant and sublime, and an act that should be on last.
Shortly around 9:20pm, Mogwai finally make their presence known on the Lovell Stage for their headline set. Their set opens with “To the Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth“, and others from their latest acclaimed effort.
Their set is crushingly loud, with smoke engulfing the band on-stage as they start. “Ritchie Sacramento“, “Dry Fantasy” follow in quick succession.
Unfortunately, on record, Mogwai are one of the most creative bands around, but tonight, their set feels flat and lifeless. The band is still, and their noise doesn’t bring excitement, the drifting crowd seems to point that there’s a similar mood.
It’s unfortunate that Metronomy were sort of bumped down the bill instead of headlining, as their set featured everything you’d want on this stage. For a Saturday headline performance, it’s dull and grounding.
Meanwhile, the beloved Working Men’s Club are extraordinary, their rhythmic nature stabbing the air in the Orbit tent, their hypnotic sound threading an invisible line between new-and-no-wave, with an audience that is here, ready for the energy.
The final day began yet again with rainfall, which also thankfully moves people into the nearest tent. Over at Nebula, the lovable VIDE0 started their set with house-leaning electropop thrillers with the duo giving an early chance for folks to dance on the gloomy Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, back at Orbit, local favourites Stealing Sheep are joined by the Radiophonic Workshop, the sonic masters behind some of British sci-fi’s best-known sounds.
The two have connected to present a live performance of their collaborative tribute to René Laloux‘s 1973 experimental animated classic Le Planet Savauge, with the two acts separated across the stage from one another, each with their own roles to-do in the precise production.
The film is screened behind, with the two acts trying to keep error-free with their timing. Their recital is uncluttered, and clearly, one of the most creative sets of the weekend. Radiophonic Workshop have their hand in adding sound-effects live, and the narration of the film, while the trio of Stealing Sheep keep the rhythm.
The tent is packed with folks with this on their itinerary, and others who are experiencing the film for the first time, with confused mummers, but all ending with applause for something so unique to the bill.
This collaboration falls directly into the annals of Bluedot’s already extraordinary history as one of the most brilliant sets to grace at a stage at Jodrell Bank.
A Certain Ratio took to the main Lovell Stage halfway through the day, with their effortlessly enduring act, cracking through an hour-long set of spots from their 40-plus years as a band.
ACR is a Manchester band that seemingly holds a sound that blends anywhere, with their infectious juxtapositive blend of post-punk attitude and funk, the thumping basslines of Jez Kerr especially vocal.
“We are Warmduscher, and this is what we fuckin’ do!”
Shortly after, Warmduscher made their arrival, with frontman Clams Baker Jr immediately recognising the Bluedot crowd, “we’ve flown all the way here to play, and that’s what we’re gonna do”, noting the technical difficulties and injury to a bandmate.
Their set quickly goes from 0-to-60 in moments, their high-energy sleezy rock n’ roll is a wake-up call for those struggling with the end of the weekend.
Blitzing through their set, Clams drifts between being thankful and jumping across the stage like his life depends on it, an upbeat selection of fuzzy electric rockers. After all the years that Warmduscher have been at it, they certainly have perfected their side of their game and deserve spots like this.
Anna Meredith makes her appearance next on the Lovell Stage, a set that was planned on the pre-pandemic Bluedot, also their final show of the year.
Anna Meredith is one of the most innovative British artists of recent years, with her brilliantly complex crossover voice, lying between the electronic world and classical.
Unfortunately, the mood is the air was anticipating for the headliner and quite meak. “Inhale Exhale“, “Nautilus” and “Paramour” are wonderful entries in the set. The end is a pleaser, with their shows often ending with a cover, which is a cover of Elton John‘s “I’m Still Standing“, with a snippet of “Tiny Dancer” in the back. It’s wonderful to see, especially avoiding the obvious “Rocketman” and ending with a sing-a-long, something necessary.
Mary Anne Hobbs rushes on quickly, spinning tracks like “Renegades of Funk” as a warm-up, while The Halle is set-up. While it’s nice to see Hobbs on-stage, the whole thing feels rushed and worthless, especially with Hobbs off half-an-hour before the headliner is even on, while she could have spun and then introduced the closer to Bluedot 2022, which would have meant more.
Finally, the moment that the whole weekend has been leading to, the closing headline set for Bluedot 2022, Björk with the Halle Orchestra.
The screen behind is dimly lit, and the Lovell Telescope is surprisingly bare, as the Halle Orchestra opens with Vulnicura-era “Stonemilker“, as the iconic Björk finally makes her appearance.
Captivating with her image, and the iconic voice, which soars across Jodrell Bank. Björk is wonderfully complimented by the pinpoint execution by the Halle Orchestra.
There’s an myth around Björk‘s current performances, mostly lent to the fact that she declines to play favourites such as “Venus as a Boy“, “Army of Me“, “Human Behaviour” and of course, Betty Hutton‘s “It’s Oh So Quiet“, as she doesn’t here.
However, that’s more than fine with a sheer artist like Björk, and doesn’t stretch, as she more than happily rounds a setlist from different stages in her career, much like opening with her latest record, and only a few songs in returns to Debut, with a showing of “Come to Me“.
In-between tracks such as “Lionsong“, “I’ve Seen It All“, Björk talks to the crowd in-brief, thinking the Cheshire audience. Especially meaning a lot noting that artists often say Manchester incorrectly for some reason.
Björk‘s endearing voices sounds sublime, and just as beautifully unrestrained as you’d expect. “Hunter“, a Homogenic cut, is especially a highlight, with Björk playfully prowling the stage, especially backed by “You’ve Been Flirting Again“.
There’s an awe in the air, as expected. Much like Kraftwerk preforming here several years ago, this is a special moment in time for Bluedot. There’s not much that can top a surrounding like this, and a reason to why this festival is so special for so many of us.
She ends on Post‘s “Hyperballad“, the only Björk song this evening you’d find on a “Top Five” ranking by a shoddy publication.
Björk exits, however the Halle remains on stage, and soon-after begins to preform “Overture”, a slice from Selmasongs. Again, The Halle Orchestra are just so brilliant in what they do, and always a beloved staple of Bluedot.
Björk returns, and instantly thanks the Halle Orchestra and the crowd for being here. “I don’t know if I should say this” Björk notes, before obviously continuing, “I have COVID five days ago, so I didn’t know if I would be here” she reveals, before yelling “Fuck COVID” to a crowd uproar.
Björk and the Halle Orchestra conclude on “Pluto“, in-which Björk notes is their try at conducting techno beats, which clearly sounds fantastic.
It’s a fabulous performance to end the weekend, and something that felt like a moment-in-time.
Bluedot is a extraordinary festival, and continually growing. It’s clear that being at Jodrell Bank is the special selling point, especially with their family-friendly image.
There have been a lot of changes that could be corrected for the better, the Mission Control area is a wonderful change, although could be a place for late-night entertainment, much like Contact Stage had in previous years.
There was a lot of negativity around the VIP this year, and having experienced it during the Friday, it was nothing really special and lacking. Understandably, there is a lot of work to be done in making VIP worthwhile.
The Vendors have a lot of options, with vegan options being perfectly spread across the festival. There’s a mixture of vendors offering selections from everywhere, such as Mexican, Indian, and Sri Lankan. A favourite of mine was Bates & Easey Roaming Rotisserie, which I went to several times, who can complain at a full roast chicken, with potatoes and stuffing for £20? Nobody, that’s who.
The Accessibility at the festival is always something to be looked at, keeping it in line with other boutique festivals. The platform at the Lovell Stage should be on the other side, as it blocks the telescope view.
During the Kraftwerk set several years ago, the rainfall destroyed the ground, and festival staff placed boards at important areas, while this year, it was simply a mesh sheet, which was quickly swallowed.
The camping areas had changed, and the General Camping area where I was situated is in-need of work. The nearest toliets from the camp were up a long walkway at the Accessible Camping section, or towards the opposite direction and down what appeared to be a hill, which wasn’t really a wished-for experienced at 4am in the pooring rain.
Luckily, the festival staff are always helpful, kind and approachable. The grounds are kept clean and safe, which is another great plus.
Although, stewarding of the chairs was a notable issue throughout the festival. Despite a message on Saturday through the Woov communication app, a lot of folding chairs could be found in the main areas, even on Sunday during Björk‘s set. It felt as if they weren’t even checked, with some attendees becoming upset that theirs wasn’t allowed but some people got through.
Overall, Bluedot continues to grow and remains as a fantastical festival to attend, especially if you’re with a family. The Jodrell Bank area is attractive to explore, and the audience that Bluedot attracts is kindhearted, so that’s a recommendation.
The festival’s music is clearly the most important part of the weekend, and with previous headliners like Kraftwerk, The Chemical Brothers, Pixies, New Order and now Björk, the Jodrell Bank festival is a worthy place for iconic headline performers.
The underbill for the festival is full of diversity, and extraordinary acts, however our main concern this year would be stronger headliners. It was only a few years ago that we had Hot Chip, Kraftwerk and New Order, this year sans the final headliner felt lacking. The surprise additions of Sea Power, and Public Service Broadcasting was great to see, and spread word, hopefully that remains.
There’s no other festival in the world like Bluedot, with this dynamic of a bill and wonderous of an atmosphere in a location like this. It’s one-of-a-kind.
Words by Jack Cinnamond. Photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe.
Editorial Note: This article has been updated, after previously using incorrect pronouns for an artist. This was purely accidental, and we do apologize for the mistake. It has been changed.