Category Archives: Big Chill

The Big Chill 1 – 3 August 2008

Not surprisingly after fourteen years of multiplying chills you pretty much know what to expect of this festival. There’s the consistent line-up full of regulars and the crowds of usual suspects – from pleasant family folk, to relaxed hippies and lots of Antipodeans – all served with the perennial dollop of sunshine.

However, when we set up camp on Friday evening it’s absolutely chucking it down. Not only have I prepared hideously for the festival by forgetting my waterproofs we’ve also forgotten the tent pegs. I erect the dome and my girlfriend dives in, leaving me to sneak around our neighbours’ tents and surreptitiously steal pegs. You don’t need guy ropes at a festival anyway. Although I have to admit a pang of guilt when I pull up a peg from a toddler’s miniature tent.

The rain stops and we head over The Big Hill and descend upon the site. It’s fair to say without headliners The Orb, the history of chill-out would be very different indeed and despite a new album release their set reclines back on the old comfy favourites. The inevitable edited down version of epic The Blue Room and Little Fluffy Clouds are played out accompanied by a set of retina searing psychedelic visuals.

After taking in the site and having a boogie to Greg Wilson at the Rizla stage along with a touch of Luke Vibert in the dance tent, we head up to the Art Trail for further visuals . We first see Juneau Projects’ installation, which to all intents and purposes is essentially a big jamming session inviting festival guests onto the stage for some rock antics. We wander elsewhere and get our AV fix, watching footage of horses clomp around a deserted Victorian building. Soothing even if we haven’t managed to grasp what it’s about.

Saturday kicks off with the much hyped new talent of Lykke Li. Armed with a drumstick to bash along with the drummer, the Swedish pop princess delivers some infectiously catchy nuggets to bring on the boogie in the afternoon sun.

Along with seemingly the entire festival crowd, we head down for Bill Bailey at the Big Chill Nights. We arrive in the field and can’t get close to the tent let alone inside it. Instead we listen to the set relayed via the onsite radio station. Bill provides a solid festival set aping Jay Z’s Wonderwall entrance before playing some new parodies and some firm sing-a-long favourites.

Beth Orton makes a welcome return after a self imposed baby-hiatus. Accompanied by a guitarist and occasional violinist (who resembles an Electric Dylan), Beth delicately and timidly picks her way through her back catalogue.

The Mighty Boosh are playing the main stage equipped with quick costume changes and plenty of references and in-jokes to the main show. Though maybe I’m too chilled out to really enjoy it.
Back in Big Chill Nights Adam Buxton sums it up succinctly before he gets down to the business of performing a version of his Bug night. “Anyone can do that can’t they? Wear face glitter and sing songs about shit.” We’ve come to see Buxton play interesting and incredibly surreal music promos – but his re-telling of Youtube comments about shoe gazing is the highlight.

Once again in the mood for a live act we march back to the Castle stage for Matthew Herbert’s Big Band. They bombastically blast out future soul jazz standards twisted by Herbert’s many gizmos and he treats us to The Audience at the end of the set.

Ever true to tradition the night is topped with the broken-beat noodling and trademark doodlings of Mr Scruff; and the usual Sunday brunch is supplied by Norman Jay, though sadly this year not served sunny-side up.

Although we miss a set from John Shuttleworth, Graham Fellows’ other alter-ego Jilted John takes once more to the stage after thirty years in retirement. He does have one new song about Kiera Knightley [eat your dinner] which does sound like a slightly more aggressive Shuttleworth track. Jilted is at his best when he’s playing the songs about getting dumped. He closes with Gordon Is A Moron, which annoys Gordon who these days is backing singer in the band!

We meet up with friends at the Cocktail bar and take in some more Jay Z, lovers rock and heavy dub courtesy of Don Letts – listening from the confines of the tent as there’s an extended downpour outside.

The sun’s out again and the afternoon gets back into swing with another female pop auteur in the tangerine tunic’d shape of Camille. Supported by a group of vocally dextrous singers and beatboxers she playfully knocks out a distinctive set resembling a hybrid of Medula era Bjork and Saian Supa Crew. Camille is zanely idiosyncratic and multi-talented – at one point she runs around in a tight circle whilst barking like a dog. As the sun sets we consider seeing Leonard Cohen but decide to head to the Big Chill Nights for some comedy instead.

We catch the end of a superbly twisted set from Tony Law who has a deep knowledge of worldwide accents to draw upon when playing up to national stereo-types. Offsetting the potential right wing element by explaining how easy it is to get a festival crowd on your side – you just have to slag off the Daily Mail. Adam Buxton’s next up performing his Famous Guy and has a difficult act to follow, and although it’s a sign of plenty more material for the character seen on the MeeBOX pilot but unfortunately it doesn’t click tonight. Our final comedy turn comes from Radio 4 regular Mitch Benn who takes us through his satirical repertoire – which he jokes is somewhat strange when it’s no longer in the news.

The festival finishes in style with a unique collaboration between improvisational dance band The Bays and the staggeringly technically proficient The Heritage Orchestra. Tonight, a score is written on stage and projected to the conductor and onto the orchestra’s flat screens whilst The Bays jam alongside them. Throughout the night the musicians breeze through dub, techno, electro, house and finish with a blast of drum and bass. All regular festival motifs, delivered by two solid favourites, are shaken up and re-shaped to sound completely fresh and new. That’s the beauty of The Big Chill, even after fourteen years.


Chris Keenan

The following will appear in the forthcoming 4Talent site:

What is Prime Objective? 

It wouldn’t be fair to call Chris Keenan AKA Prime Objective just a VJ. In fact, considering his pseudonym, the man has many objectives. His projects range from photos with Holgas, SLRs and Lomo, to films using digital, stop-motion and Super 8. He’s also a notorious mandolin player.

Check out any of his work or projects he’s involved with and you’ll see that there’s plenty of overlay. Perhaps, most telling is the work he has done with Southern Comfort. Originally invited to New Orleans to take photographs for Blowback magazine, Chris was commissioned by Southern Comfort to extrapolate his film making skills; which in turn led to VJ sets at Southern Comfort’s Fat Tuesday’s tent across some of the best UK festivals.

We’re sitting by the Fat Tuesday Tent at the Big Chill festival, Chris is snapping merrily away – whilst inside his visuals are scrolling out on the screens. It occurs to me that there is a connection to these shots and Chris’ short films. Chris’s Super 8 style, from his first film ventures to Fidget is always about catching snatches, quick glimpses and moments of stillness. Always loosely edited to music.

“The music gives the films a flow and something to edit to. I guess my other work VJing and making music feeds into that. I’m putting an extra layer of myself in there.”

Chris actually began VJing before he had a Super 8. Using his home-made skate videos and youth archive footage, he manipulated the footage through V-Jam software. Chris even managed to convince a local bar: Browns in Coventry to buy some equipment so he could play there

“One of the best times was at Christmas 2003. Me and a friend Mick did a six hour set taking it in turns to DJ and VJ. We spent weeks getting it together, it lots of fun but there was no real money in it.”

I ask him whether the preparation factor is intrinsic to his VJ gigs

“Well you build up an archive. Some VJ’s I see use simple, but effective material; graphical stuff and simple animation. Then for the live version they add effects – through certain bits of software. Video turns out to be a lot more time consuming – especially when it’s original.”

We slurp at our Soco Cocktails; whilst plastic alligators (put there to fit in with the New Orleans theme of the tent), goggle at us open mouthed.

“Sometimes visuals are done really well at big gigs. When it’s more of an event they take on more of a shape,” says Chris “It often works really well at festivals. The Big Chill has had some great work on the main stage this year. Incredible.”

Chris’ favourite gig was for Exposure Film Festival’s closing night at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. He was invited by Rant Magazine to VJ with DJ outfit Iacon.

“There was a long table with 5 decks: MPCs and Kaos pads. Then me stood at the end with a lap top – vision mixer and DVD players. It was amazing.”

Recently, Chris Keenan found himself another objective: to direct an MTV style video for My Alamo.

“I’d helped out on ones before and worked on treatments but this was my first proper music video. I directed a camera man, assistant director and a producer. I worked with a prod company Antidote. I edited it all as well – over several days! We’ve had a really positive response from it which is pushing me to do more.”

It’s Chris’ hope that in future he can develop an array of projects from photographic reportage exploits in the state’s to further Super 8 fun and mandolin madness

“A style and passion for your work is what makes people take notice of you. The small projects you set yourself can often be time consuming and costly but occasionally they snowball and can generate new work and even revenue. This is something I haven’t forgotten and I’ve got a load of other projects planned , you know, seeds to sow… which will hopefully bear fruit as they grow and develop. ” 


Big Chill (August 06)

Like impending old age – The ‘ Chill has this affect on you which you can’t fight. I challenge the hardest of hardcore hedz to go there. If by Saturday afternoon you’re not walking like Mr Soft then I’ll flip my foppish Victorian dandy wig (purchased from the impressive fancy dress tent). There are several contributing factors to this chill induced state. Okay, this year there was a bit of early morning drizzle and an overcast Friday, but overall it seems that the Big Chill bowl has its own ‘glorious’ weather system. Also it is the most child friendly festival around. Seriously, how can you be feeling ‘the grind’ when in your periphery vision fairies are flitting past? Then there’s the music… 

All artists take a step back from intense choon-full sets and instead ask the audience to listen and appreciate. Friday’s entertainment sets the tone of chilled-ness with Lou Rhodes bleating out her new songs with her new hippy commune mates. Without Lamb’s loop master Andy, they are more like lilting folk songs. Later that afternoon, José Gonzalés does his notorious slo-mo bouncing ball song and his mid-eighties cover versions are given more depth. The evening time ambience affects X-press 2 who lock onto Smoke Machine – and don’t move from it, but we’re saved from locked-down boredom by Jamie Lidell. After a jazzy Joe Cocker ‘lounge style’ beginning with Mocky and Gonzales, he begins playing with his vocal chords and sampler toys and, very precisely, blows our minds. A Skillz at the Southern Comfort Fat Tuesday tent on Saturday starts the day promisingly with big beats and dirty electro squelch before Psapp cutesies us out with saccharine sweetness and pipe cleaner cats. It takes Four Tet that night to bring on a dirty jammed drum bashing thinking man’s euphoria. The sunshine greets Norman Jay on the Sunday with his ever eclectic mix, moving from old school to street to soul and even including a cheeky 20 minute drum and bass session. This suitably sets us up for another afternoon of covers; a well executed set from Bent and a chance for us to let loose and have at least a shuffle to Bam Bam project in the Funky Wormhole – especially after a much appreciated Shy FX rewind. It’s clear that dancing is a bit self centred and disrespectful when The Heritage Orchestra steals our hearts and minds with full string versions of funk soul classics. I’m wrapped up in picnic blanket hearing the groovy 2001 with Deodato and a superb closer Les Fleur. I’ve not got a sweat on, but I’m grinning from ear to ear.  


Big Chill (5-6 August 2006)

Now in its fifth year at the Eastnor Castle, it seems Big Chill are happy with their little Eden. Once again the sun shone on those who chilled. 

That said, after pitching the tents in glorious sunshine on the Thursday, it’s a slight shame that it’s an overcast Friday. We walk down to the lake to grab a Mississippi Summer Punch and a Soco Mule and have a little dance to Mr Lip’s early smash up, before reclining to relax and listen to a soothing reggae set by Piers Harrison. We take in our surroundings, those sexy curvy hills down to the lake which has several plastic alligators in order to keep in with the New Orleans theme that the Fat Tuesday tent has cultivated.

We skip to the main Open Air stage and are pleased to discover that the clouds don’t stop Jose Gonzales bringing a little sunshine into our lives. The man that made you listen to the lyrical adroitness of Stock Aitken and Waterman has some more cover versions to add to his repertoire, including an excellent version of Small Town Boy by Bronski Beat. I spend the afternoon taking in the rest of the site. This year either my legs are older, the site is bigger or the ‘special’ cakes are stronger – but it takes an age to get round. Aforementioned cakes do have a nice fuzzy affect for the old American growl of Kurt Wagner and his alt country outfit Lambchop. I can’t make any of the lyrics out but it doesn’t seem to matter, as the sky turns pink it’s still warm, I’m grateful for cloud cover.

Everyone else is in the mood to dance as my aching legs lead me to wander. I hobble past X-press 2, who aren’t really helping the audience out. 3 DJs 6 Decks loads of effects but all of them manage to bore an entire audience through inaction and what seems like an hour-long version of Smoke Machine.

I find the real party back at the Fat Tuesday tent, hoards now occupy the entire space by the lake with about 10 friendly security guards getting increasingly irate with people pissing in it . No one is as I-beef-a enough to swim and sit on the plastic alligators but it does seem that the Fat Tuesday Tent is having it large. It still doesn’t get my body rockin’ though. I wonder whether I’m on the right Soco.

I walk back past Coldcut’s opening VJ tirade to watch Jamie Lidell. Jamie Lidell starts his set with his Joe Cocker soul singer routine. His special three-piece comprises Mocky on drums and Chilli Gonzeles on keys. After being convinced we’re in the company of a great soul outfit, Gonzo and Mocky exit, leaving Lidell alone with a trestle table full of samplers and 303’s. As his beat-boxed loops are cued up and looped into a fifteen minute accumulative electro hip-hop house gospel piece, I realise that the man is a god.

Saturday

In the morning the drizzle descends which is disappointing. It drags me down slightly and today seems to be a day for catching the last 10 minutes of everything. So I catch the last two songs by Arrested Development. It’s good to their old spiritual vibes master Baba Oje (the old bloke who everyone assumed was that street bum Mr Wendal) in attendance. Especially when he takes centre stage on said song and does a dance, which is a mixture of African dancing and body popping.

It gets me in a sunshine mood and after I’m off to watch the end of Scritti Politti, pulling some youngsters and a giant UFO balloon to the front of the stage with his falsetto toned pop neatness one moment and getting rid of them by hip-hopping a ‘Stick ‘em up mother fucker!’ the next.

Actually we do wait around for Sebastian Tellier. He’s doing his best French raconteur Jazz act when everyone knows that there’s no way in this world that him and his white space suited mate with a Stylophone can pull off the majesty of La Ritournelle. Embarrassingly it comes across like a bar room piano session, backed by one member of an apathetic Air.

We move up to the top level and go to the Sanctuary stage in the Enchanted Garden section of the festival. The small, secluded space is reminiscent of the old festival site. More than any of the other stages it has an intimacy, which suits the mostly organic output. We see the excellent bedroom cat lovers Psapp and hear a few of their saccharine sweet hits with endearing pipe cleaner cat handouts.

After a day and a half it’s clear that the Big Chill has got bigger. In terms of capacity and more stages, now the amount of walking you do is equivalent to Glasto. It’s beginning to get christened the Big Hill. To our delight we manage to commandeer a Golf Buggy for the evening.

We whiz round the perimeter to catch a bit of Nightmares On Wax from back stage. They’ve got themselves a pretty large live set up with the two MC’s bringing it all together to give the show a Basement Jaxx feel. We catch the last few tracks of Longrange by Phil Hartnoll but my mind is on the buggy.

It’s another whiz along the perimeter over several impressive roller coaster hills.We poke our heads round the Mix Media tent but there is no chance of getting in. The Blue Men Group are filling their mouths full of paint and flobbing onto some cardboard. We shoot to the dance tent where Quantic is just finishing playing his ever danceable northern soul and new funk set. Q leaves the stage and Mr Scruff gets on the decks, the only difference at this point is Scruff’s doodle visuals. The tent is filling steadily as we leave, I hear later that this ended up being one of the biggest crowds.

We get back in the buggy and head to the main stage to get a good seat for Sparks but as we approach the bridge, people are telling us there is no way in the world we’re getting through. We don’t quite realise the full extent to which we are driving into a bottleneck. We get stopped inches away from causing our own golf buggy themed Police Camera Action Festival Special.

When we’ve eventually got out of the whole messy situation we ditch the buggy and go to the 24-hour café for shock treatment with sweet teas. By the time we’re back on our feet again and after the slow crowded walk along the top path to catch closing bars and “Thank you Big Chill have a great festival” from Plaid. We get the “classics” encore from Sparks. which pleases me as we head up the hill to the Sanctuary stage to see Steve Reid and Kieran Hebden from Four Tet. The last jammed out song is a work of genius clattering drums and mesmeric electronic noodles.

As we’re being sent back to our tents I wish I’d stayed for a whole set and chilled tonight. We made it hectic and it was a bit frightening and full in more ways than one. 

Sunday

Another Fine Day kick Sunday (a sunny day!) off to a fine start with multi-instrumental madness and the assistance of two gorgeous assistants who fire bubbles from either side of the stage. This primes us for the traditional Sunday Lunch Norman Jay slot. Once more the guy doesn’t disappoint with soul classics, going to hip-hop, indie and even a smattering of drum and bass to get the whole field dancing in the sunshine. I notice he’s wearing a ‘Golf is shit’ T-shirt as he announces “Feel free to come down to the front and express yourself” I’m tempted to go and have a poo against the barrier. “What? It’s the only way I can express myself.”

Next on the main is ‘My Space sensation’ Lily Allen, she’s good, a cross between Miss Dynamite and Billie. I realise it’s really for the young kids who have put up with their parents stoned all weekend and don’t want anymore ambient noise – just songs they know from the radio. We wander back to the Sanctuary stage and sit through a delightful set from Hanne Hukkelberg. Last seen at Supersonic, her performance pleased electronically minded mid 30s boffins there, and now she does the same for the assembled families and children.

We have a bit of a covers afternoon with the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain on the main taking us through twee but well executed versions of Smells Like Teen Spirit, I Believe In Miracles and Le Chic. Later Nouvelle Vague at the Castle stage continue the craze with their New Wave a la Français.

Early evening belongs to Bent. They’ve turned into an incredible live act. The lead vocalist they now have with them has a range, which covers opera and dance down tunes. As always, the songs sound like instant classics; some of them now are.

We regroup outside the Fat Tuesday tent to listen to Robert Owens before it segues rather neatly into a Coldcut set. Plenty of early house raving-up still to be had. Then one of our mates tips us off to something amazing that’s going off on the main stage. I’d never heard of The Heritage Orchestra. though I can’t imagine that they can afford to do much touring. It’s a full disco / funk house band in the mould of 70s studio orchestra (Salsoul Orchestra etc) complete with a full string section also featuring Eumir Deodato on the keys, an amazing funk guitarist, a tight-but-loose drummer and some great vocal cameos. They blast through some real favourites that usually you give a DJ all the props for playing covers of 2001 a Space Odyssey (the funk one that David Holmes plays) and Theme From Shaft. For the closer we’re treated to a cover of the 4Hero cover of Les Fleur. With the 4Hero vocalist Carina Anderson making a special appearance.

We head back to the Mix Media tent, still buzzing, to catch a special ambient set by Matt Black and Mixmaster Morris. We sit there for an hour spotting which films the clips are from and listening to whale noises and the sort of music which comes out of children’s cot toys until we get the point. Okay we’re chilled. We’re going to bed. Out.