Art and Music      
Christopher Ward London


The Big Thrill

GEMMA DE CRUZ:  Set on the Welsh borders in a pretty, forested deer park, The Big Chill is now well established on the festival circuit, with loyal followers of all ages returning again and again. This years new management (Festival Republic) seemed to signify more culture and less e-heads. I rolled in on Friday afternoon as Hope Sandaval took to the main stage to seduce the surprisingly small turn out with her trademark tender vocals. Hardly addressing the audience Hope and her band were not there to rock the crowd. 

I bypassed the deeply meaningful Massive Attack in favour of the poppy Mystery Jets who repeatedly announced how shocked they were that anyone had come to see them at all. The next night Caribou were sublime - while their avant-dance music sits happily alongside the likes of LCD Soundsystem or Four Tet, they appear to knowingly lack stage charisma favouring technique over showmanship. Somehow the lack of a David Byrne-type front man took nothing away from the perfect presentation of the music.

Perhaps it was the dreary weather or just my inner geek but I was more interested in what was happening inside the Cinema and Words in Motion tents than the main arena. I was pretty shocked when just a handful of people turned up to hear Rob Young and Owen Hatherley read from their books. The tent filled up for Paul Morely, however, who stood up and read an in-depth deconstruction of Michael Jackson, his main line of argument being that Jackson’s death was his greatest career move. It felt like too easy a target, to analyse Jackson’s life in terms of pre and post death media.

I was very excited about seeing Lynn Barber talk about her book/film, An Education, until the guy who was interviewing her admitted having not read the book or seen the film and began asking Lynn if she liked the festival and to explain what she thought was the ‘essence’ of the film. Cringe city. Lynn left after a six-year-old participant in the Q&A asked her if she “was in the cinema”?

Saturday’s headline came courtesy of sexy troublemaker M.I.A., co-incidentally on the cover of that day’s Guardian Guide renouncing the media.  En route to catch the end of her set, everything seemed strangely quiet.  Press girls and boys flustered over the ‘security’ clearly unhappy that M.I.A.’s set had been cut short. So what actually happened?  Some kids at the front were getting squashed so she enticed them up on the stage to party with bottles of rum, which led to a full on stage ‘invasion’ and early shut down. It’s hard to believe this kind of genuine anarchic spontaneity exists. It’s unclear whether in trying to avoid the crowd bearing in, the invitation to get on stage reeked more health risk havoc as fans trampled forwards.  Either way, she's done no damage to her reputation.

Sunday morning belonged to Spencer Tunick who rallied the crowds of willing participants, Gok Wan style, to get naked and slathered in blue or black body paint for his latest work, inspired by the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Despite access to showers, for the rest of the day these living artworks mingled with the festival crowd, continuing the performance. It was a magical sight and undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend. That night, Lily Allen turned up on stage in tight jeans and baggy shirt; “sorry I haven’t got dressed up” she says “– but I’m pregnant”.  Hooray! Goodbye!





2010-08-30 21:21:58
I performed a the Big Chill and hated it! It was really corporate, shambolic, stressful. We were treated really badly by the 'organisers' and most of the bands played in front of tiny crowds. I didn't see much culture at all! Oh, and MIA ALWAYS invite the audience onstage.......yawn....

2010-08-30 21:25:02
Big Chill was shambolic, stressful, corporate, staying at home watching the TV would have been more fun.

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