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!
MORE BLOGS BY THIS AUTHOR
|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....|
|Big Chill was shambolic, stressful, corporate, staying at home watching the TV would have been more fun.|
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