The Big Chill, Eastnor Castle, Deer Park, Malvern
Grown-up ravers feel the sunshine in Malvern Hills
Saturday 02 August 2008
Well, you have put up your collapsible yurt, your six-year-old is happily spinning his poi down by the open-air stage and the sun is almost shining (these are Herefordshire's Malvern Hills after all).
Welcome to The Big Chill, the festival now known as the destination of choice for clubbers who have grown up, locked away those saucer-eyed incriminating pictures, then spawned mini-versions of themselves. And what could be a better spot for such wholesome, fun-loving families to relax for the weekend than in Eastnor Castle's Deer Park. For one weekend a year, this tree-lined bucolic jewel plays host to yoga, poetry events and comedy, all against the soundtrack of dance-oriented music of any ilk you like.
Friday kicked off slowly, as the scant few who could wangle the time off work filtered slowly into the grounds ("I've got a great new pear cider which you will simply love"), before taking in the tunes, which kicked off with the post-punk five-piece The Mules in The Club Tent. Taking to the stage half-an-hour late after two of the band failed to show up on time, they began with a roar. The charismatic lead singer and drummer Ed Seed hammered through a fast-paced array of tracks that tended to hug a tried and tested formula. Step one: begin with feral drumming ("Jenny make the easy choice, screw the boys"), preferably inspired by The White Stripes. Step two: finish with crowd-pleasing bombast, throwing in a few Gypsy violins for good measure. Next a no-show forced one-man band and saviour of good times Son of Dave into the equivalent of an upgrade on a flight. He took to the open air stage, entertaining a significant and appropriately chilled audience with his brand of 21st-century blues.
Other early highlights were the sublime harmonies of Angus and Julia Stone, a brother/sister folk act. Their origins lay in performances as solo artists, principally at open mic nights, with each using the other as a backing partner. But more recent collaborations with the likes of the Travis frontman Fran Healy, along with support slots for Newton Faulkner and David Gray, are clearly paying off. Going down like a brief spell of sunshine here, you should watch this space: they have a subtle, ethereal touch – especially in the exquisite ballad "When I Was a Boy" with which they finished – that may sail them into the mainstream.
The crescendo to the day's events was suitably awe-inspiring. Amid the rain there was the mesmerising stage presence of Roisin Murphy, following the one-time Tricky vocalist Martina Topley Bird, enjoying a welcome renaissance. Brixton's Alabama 3 and Roots Manuva, a veteran of UK hip-hop, were on later, along with Martha Wainwright, who displayed the penchant for on-stage banter for which her family is renowned. The highlight of her set was a collaboration with the beatbox artist Shlomo. It is enough to keep you hungry, no matter how much falafel you bung down your gullet. Still to come: Leonard Cohen, the Mighty Boosh, Lykke Li and Beth Orton. Growing up has never looked so appealing.
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