The Big Chill, Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire

The relaxed vibe that pervades the Malverns charmed our man in the mosh pit

I'm not, I'll confess, a very "chilled" person.

A certain degree of permanent antagonism is inherent to the critical condition, even essential, and being around "chilled" people, paradoxically, sets me on edge and raises my hackles.

I feel my levels of anomie rising before I've even reached The Big Chill, when a barefooted twentysomething brays into his iPhone – in the Quiet Carriage – to his friends up ahead at the site, using phrases like "cool beans". Now in its 17th year, this is the British festival scene's first exclusively middle-class ghetto, but not the last: nowadays there's one happening somewhere, every weekend from May to September.

The concept of travelling across the country in order to relax makes no sense to me, but there's no question that by the time you've hiked from the insanely distant drop-off point, all you can do is flake out. The vibe here is all about bruschetta and smoothies rather than chips and lager, and the clientele are terribly nice people taking it easy rather than rowdy binge drinkers jumping in puddles of mud. I could barely be less in my element. Even the faux-handwritten font on Mr Scruff's Tea Shop makes me homicidal.

It isn't long, however, before a strange change comes over me. It only takes one jazz-folk-soul polymath and cult legend to soothe this savage's brow. Everyone reaches Terry Callier via a different route – for me, it was when someone with uncommonly good taste at BBC Sport played his swinging beauty "Ordinary Joe" over the credits after England's exit from yet another football tournament – but however you find him, his laid-back Latin grooves will make you glad you did. It's a fine line, however, and it's possible to take "chilling" too far: Roy Ayers, following Callier on the Revellers Stage, thinks he's in London.

The Magic Numbers are a revelation. The Stodart and Gannon brothers and sisters, with their timeless harmonic soft-rock, are so wonderful I watch them not once but twice, and whether it's the excerpts from the beautifully Prefab Sprouty new album The Runaway on the Deer Park Stage or the rendition of "Love's a Game" I persuade them to play in the VIP area afterwards, they make everything all right. The Magic Numbers are the world's loveliest band.

It's worth discovering some lesser-known acts, such as the Temperance Society, a Weimar/burlesque/ragtime jazz troupe with an evangelical preacher and a stripping chorister, or Katy Carr, with her ukulele breakbeat folk. Then there are the non-musical attractions, such as the Words in Motion tent, where you can hear the great Harry Shearer doing his Montgomery Burns voice and revealing that the cucumber down Derek Smalls' trousers was actually a courgette.

Shearer is rudely drowned out by the formidable lungs of Paloma Faith belting through the Korgis' "Everybody's Got to Learn Some Time". In her silk elbow gloves, leg-flashing purple-pink gown and oversized hair bow, Faith looks like Anthea Redfern circa 1975. A true showgirl at heart, her ditsy diva presence adds a much-needed dash of glamour, and her cover of Etta James's "At Last" shows she's more than just a well-stocked wardrobe. "I wanna see some more moshing!" she gamely calls out, although she does at least prompt an outbreak of arm-waving with the second-most singable song about New York this decade.

I'm enjoying Gregory Isaacs performing his classic "Night Nurse" when my eye is drawn to a strange object across the river. On top of a wooden tower glimmers a huge sparkling egg, reminiscent of the weird 1970s Anglo-Czech children's cartoon Ludwig. After dusk – but before the egregious Lily Allen, whose promised five-year hiatus cannot begin swiftly enough – Ludwig suddenly splits open, erupts into a firework display, then bursts into flames. Equally unpredictably, I realise I'm actually smiling.

Maybe I've learnt a lesson. Maybe I just need to chill.

Next Week:

Simon turns back the clock with Wayne Hemingway at the Vintage at Goodwood festival

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz