Last weekend’s Bluedot Festival at Jodrell Bank Observatory was a heady mix of science, electronica, art and new music, the skyline was dominated by the iconic Lovell radio telescope and it truly was a unique and inspiring experience. With a whole host of festivals filling up your calendar new festivals have to do something special to stand out and with a bill ranging from Jean-Michel Jarre and Underworld to The Clangers and lectures by some of the countries most esteemed scientists Bluedot was certainly a festival with a difference.
Arriving early on Friday afternoon I headed to collect my press pass and managed to quickly explore the festival site before the crowds descended later that evening. Around the base of the telescope were a whole host of display areas for a variety of different scientific projects including Carnivorous Plants, Photon Science and the Large Hadron Collider, this area was to prove a hit with kids and adults alike throughout the festival and always seemed to attract a crowd. Also in this area was “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” serving a cosmos themed tasting menu and manned by Michelin-starred chef Aiden Bryne unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to taste the cosmic delights but there were a whole variety of foods on offer at the festival to enjoy including wood oven cooked pizza, delicious dim sum, curries, churros and more as befits a modern boutique festival.
To the right of the telescope was the main arena and I was lucky enough to get in early to see Public Service Broadcasting sound checking on the main stage with only a handful of people in the crowd; even in sound check they were mesmerising and would prove later to be a highlight for many festival goers. The rest of the main arena was filled with a variety of inflatable stages that looked as though they could be found on the surface of the moon but unfortunately at times would prove stiflingly hot. A short walk back through the leafy green shaded area of the arboretum lead to the campsite and after setting up our tents we were ready to head off and see the music.
Kicking things off on the main stage were Worried About Satan with their own brand of atmospheric electronic rock. Worried About Satan are a duo based in Manchester who’s name come from a song by Belgian band dEUS.
Following Worried About Satan was a live version of BBC Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage led by Brian Cox and Robin Ince. To a physics graduate it was a delight to see a science show on the main stage drawing one of the biggest crowds of the festival. On the panel were special guests Paul Abel, Tim O’Brien, Charlotte Church and Ben Miller who were discussing “The Universe: What remains to be discovered” they explored the topic in the usual irreverent and humorous style that fans of the show will have come to know and love. As Charlotte Church said it is the ability to discuss things that are as mind-bendingly complex as quantum entanglement that make scientists such as Brian Cox so inspiring to listen to, you just want to discover more.
Following them on the main stage was Public Service Broadcasting who were probably the most fitting band of the whole festival combining nerdiness, space, electronica and humour with aplomb. Public Service Broadcasting previously performed at Jodrell Bank Observatory supporting New Order and were so loved by organiser Tim O’Brien that they were invited to come back and record the video to their track Sputnik. This was fitting as the Lovell radio telescope was the only device in the world that could track Sputnik’s Carrier Rocket.
The Nebula Stage proved home to many new and experimental bands and Lost Colours were certainly that, dressed in loud flowery suits they entertained the crowd with a mix of electronica and psychedelia, music weaving in and out of a variety of genres.
Now it was time for the crowds to descend on the main stage for headliners Underworld from ageing Manchester ravers to people that missed them first time round there was plenty to enjoy. The duo performed a raucous festival set full of old classics that crowd greeted with hands in the air. The downpour mid set may have deterred some of the less ardent fans but they were back out dancing away ten minutes later after it cleared up.
As the sky darkened and night time began the Lovell radio telescope was lit up by Brian Eno’s unique installation, a continuously changing mix of colours that captivated many a festival goer.
The headliners may have ended but the party continued way into the night with DJ Yoda continuing till 2am. His cut up mixes of hip-hop and pop music had people dancing to the early hours, I had one guy tell me he’d come over to Australia to see this set. His set was billed as DJ Yoda goes to the Sci-Fi movies but the Sci-Fi seemed missing other than the Thunderbirds tune but the result was entertaining none the less. So ended a packed first day at Bluedot Festival.