The Big Chill Festival, Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire

30,000 warm to the hot sounds of the Big Chill
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The Independent Culture

The great weather, evergreen surroundings and super-cheerful vibe at the Big Chill are hardly inimical to a good time.

It's very tempting here just to kick back, eat some nice food, and check out ever-popular Big Chill staples such as Norman Jay and Nitin Sawhney, or a marquee name such as Roisin Murphy. But if you want to catch some white-hot new talent or see something to challenge your expectations at this festival in the heart of the Malvern hills , you can do that, too.

With ticket sales up 3,000 from last year, the brainchild of promoters Pete Lawrence and Katrina Larkin is growing year on year. This Big Chill also offered what has to be the best line-up in its history so far.

Where else can you finish listening to the likes of the balladeer Kate Rusby - one of the highlights of this year's Cambridge Folk Festival - and move on to enjoy a thrilling set of robotic future-funk from the Detroit techno DJ Carl Craig? Incongruities such as this, on the opening night, are what make this festival a rare delight.

Yes, the London bombs meant that the kitsch Parisian covers band Nouvelle Vague did not appear at this year's Big Chill festival. But they were the last thing on the minds of the 30,000 happy customers who pitched up for three days to soak up the rays, play with their children and enjoy a fantastically eclectic bill.

Keren Ann - tipped by some as the next Norah Jones - opened the festival's main stage on Friday with her languid updating of Sixties French pop. On the same stage on Saturday, the Malian Touareg band Tinariwen beguiled the crowd with some wonderfully svelte Saharan funk.

Over on the Chill Stage, you could nod off on the grass to a pristine guitar soundscape orchestrated by Robert Fripp, before Australian post-jazz trio The Necks provided one of the two great improvisational sets of the day. They ratcheted up their minimal aesthetic with a pulsating groove, with pianist Chris Abrahams hitting the piano with his fists and drummer Tony Buck furiously competing with a crying toddler at the front.

The improvisational baton was taken up later in the evening with a powerhouse set from The Bays, whose performance-only ethic threw up gripping collisions of acid house and drum and bass.

On Sunday, we were back on firmer ground with appearances by a host of the usual Big Chill big names, but there were surprises, including an evocative set from the Icelandic-Italian folk singer Emiliana Torrini and fascinating DJ set from the Chicago acid-house pioneer Larry Heard. St Etienne suffered in an erroneously judged late slot on the main stage on Saturday, but I doubt if many people cared. Like me, they probably just went somewhere else.