Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I came back to London to spend a day preparing to head to The Big Chill festival held on the grounds of Eastnor Castle near Ledbury, England. Rob and friends rented a van and we were off early in the morning for the several hour drive up north.

The grounds at the festival are set among rolling green hills with plenty of lakes, trees, and nice views to put one in the mood to relax, listen to great music, eat great food, and meet some great folks. The crowd at the festival is, on average, older than many other popular festivals around Europe. There are a healthy number of families and older folks which helps to bring down the rowdy factor somewhat. There is something for everyone there including carnival rides, crafts, and shows for the kids, organic, veggie, and vegan food plus yoga for the heath conscious, and an evening-only nature art walk for those able to pull themselves away from all the music and dancing. I wasn't so able.

I'm one of those people who, as long as there is some good, fun dancing somewhere, I have to find it and jump right in. The grounds were just littered with fun parties, including scheduled stage shows and impromptu, guerrilla style parties in bar tents and food stalls. Just bring your decks, DJs, and the party will find you. I was unable to escape the fun for a couple of evenings and didn't make it back to camp until well after sunrise.

Here were some of my favorite artists:

A. Skills - This guy is a twenty four year old master of the turntables and remixer of funk, hip hop, and breaks. Somehow I had never heard of him until the day before the festival. I had decided to listen to as many of the festival artists as I could so that I could decide which shows to try and make. I never got past "A" in the alphabetical list of artists. Once I found A. Skills, I just couldn't stop downloading and listening to the tracks. Who needs B through Z I guess.

The Bays & The Heritage Orchestra - I have been impressed with the innovation that has been happening in music during the past few years. Bedroom music production with inexpensive equipment, the introduction of live video performance to music shows (see Coldcut), live digital sampling on stage to create one's own accompaniment (see Jamie Lidell, Loop!Station). But this performance was one of the most ambitious projects I have ever personally witnessed. The Bays are already known for being an improvisational electronic music act. They don't rehearse or make albums. It is one thing to have a jam session with a basic rhythm section and some electronics, but now they have decided to do it with a full string and wind orchestra. What?! To accomplish this, they assembled an impressive set of technology and talent. Along with The Bays live performance, an orchestral composer was on stage with music software that allowed him to send "sheet" music in real time to the conductor and musicians on stage, each of whom was outfitted with his or her own flat screen music stand which would display the arrangement as it was being composed. The large stage video screens alternated between showing the music score being assembled, the artists themselves, and ambient images that fit with the largely Drum & Bass songs. It was a mind blower, I have to say.

Roisin Murphy
- I had seen her before at the Melt festival in Germany. I dragged my friends straight up to the front of the stage to see her and created some new fans in the process.

Thievery Corporation
- Sometimes at a festival, you lose your friends and find yourself on your own. This happened the first night after an entire day of soaking up the entertainment, sunshine, and local scrumpy. Sometimes it's fun to be lost though because you get to wander about free and aimlessly. Late at night, I wandered to a stage playing great music. I just walked straight to the front and danced with the folks having the best time. I don't know how long it was before I finally asked someone, "Who is this?". "Thievery Corporation!" "Of course it is." (Continued dancing)

The Real Meat Sausage Company - This was not a music artist, so much as an entertaining display. Near closing time on the last evening of the festival, several kids working in a sausage stand were having the time of their lives singing soul music and dancing while occasionally stopping to serve the last bits of food they had remaining. It was extremely endearing.

Thanks once again to my friends, new and old, who made this trip so smooth and fun for me.

No comments: