How to combine a music festival with the wonders of the universe?
This is Bluedot Festivalthe winning edge of Jodrell Bank, which takes over none other than the historic Jodrell Bank Astronomical Observatory every July.
Bluedot pays homage to its host by blending eclectic, electronic and “otherworldly” music into an event centered on astrological and scientific discovery, all against the backdrop of the colossal telescope at over 250 meters above sea level.
One of the most amazing sights you encounter at Jodrell Bank is to see the telescope not only move to face different parts of the crowd, but even turn to face the crowd. The main headliners aren’t shy about using it to their advantage, and after the sun goes down they’re able to project light and laser shows directly onto his face – used this year by the headliners. attach. Mogwai and Groove Armadawho gave one of their last shows after 25 years of touring.
Bluedot is also one of the UK’s most family-friendly festivals, with a host of pop-up exhibits ranging from Jedi training to life-size video games. Throughout the day, attendees can attend various lectures and conferences held in the buildings and under the large Mission Control tent. This year, the most significant lectures were given by the quantum physicist Jim Al-Khalili and astronaut Tim Peak which has inspired hundreds of children and adults. But you were just as likely to be transported to a small conference room with people like Dr. Sarah Crowther teach participants the wonders of asteroid sampling and the space missions to do so.
This year the tempo has been stripped away from previous years, welcoming a more soothing and cerebral experience – something we were sorely lacking in previous years. Bubble machines circulated throughout the festival, adding a playful visual component to auditory sensory contemplation.
This year’s Tone Makers were opening the festival Wednesday night, Hannah Peel and Paraorchestra. The orchestra is a force of disabled instrumentalists, who performed the album “The Unfolding” with the Mercury Prize and Emmy nominee. The album is based on the themes of Robert Macfarlane‘s ‘Underland’, an exploration of the world of rocks and earth beneath our feet. All with its own stellar significance at Bluedot – when you’ve listened to lectures on methods of sampling space rocks both on Earth and in the asteroid belt – it’s easy to realize just how much a single rock can to be from another world.
A wide range of different DJs and experimental musicians also played their part in this stripped down soundscape. Thursday it kicked off with a Peruvian house music artist Sofia Kourtesis and avant-garde techno pop musician Kelly Lee Owens who collaborated directly with Bjork and St. Vincent.
Relaxing on the weekends, house and techno music was pushed more and more towards the experimental. First there was Anna Meredith, who lifted the spirits of a sodden Sunday evening with his good humor and the tense, pulsing brass of pieces like “Nautilus”.
So without core – the stage name of Lewis Roberts – played his first album “Agor”; his self-described creation as a “sickly obsession” won critical acclaim in 2021 and this year was one of his first chances to stage his textural union of light and sound. And of course square pusher; the closest experience to walking into a glitch. You can hear his friendship with Aphex Twin bite through his music, but his music is cutting edge in its own direction – a break from the matrix, with statically torn and colorful music.
There were a number of tempo pushers in different genres. One of these surprise acts was Public service broadcasting who unexpectedly intervened on Thursday to replace Spiritualized. The post-rock synthwave band mixes krautrock rhythm with vintage archival footage, sharing lessons across the course of history. It would be difficult to put a figure on the number of people heard saying they should play each year.
HENGE, festival stalwarts known as Shellac’s stubborn recurrence at every edition of Primavera Festival, performed “Attention Earth!” as fictional alien characters with a series of messages for the planet, before taking their pseudo-legendary journey from the main stage to the nightclub for a four-hour DJ set.
It was Mogwai who wrapped up Saturday’s festivities, the force field of their soaring post rock recharging the pitch. With guitarist Stuart Braithwaite’s father being Scotland’s last telescope maker, it must have been a personal performance for him under the gaze of the Lovell Telescope.
‘World class world music‘
Although less present than the 2019 editions which hosted Uganda Nyege Nyege takeover, Bluedot has brought in Jodrell Bank yet another internationally acclaimed artist who has been missing in the UK over the past couple of years.
Colombian-Canadian musician Lido PimientaThe release of the ‘Miss Colombia’ album was celebrated on the Orbit stage, a far cry from her early music release days, where her ex-husband produced all of her songs and refused to teach her how. His songs are both personal memories and searing rebukes to Canada and Colombia. Together, Pimienta and her viewers celebrated five months since Colombia legalized abortion, joined by her Nicaraguan partner May Aya.
Soweto Afro-Psychedelic Collective BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) brought their indigenous ritual heritages to the main stage in an ancient and modern collaboration. They sing in all eleven official languages of South Africa, from Sotho to Zulu to Afrikaans, for a visceral performance that transports the person into a cross-cultural spiritual experience.
Then Sunday evening was ruled by two queens of music from their kingdoms, separated by 6000km: Mali Oumou Sangare and unique to Iceland Bjork.
Grammy Award-winning 54-year-old Oumou Sangaré dominated the Orbit scene. Performing in sultry smoke, Sangaré and her all-female choir stood in solidarity with women’s rights and the turbulent history of her Malian homeland.
To close, it was Björk who caught the attention of Bluedot. Accompanied by the Halle Orchestra, which in previous years opened the festival as a kick-off ceremony, it was a Björk show with a difference. The Icelandic superstar is used to intricate costumes and stage productions, but at Bluedot it was a candid show, with no glitz or glamour, telescope projections or light shows – simply cocooned herself, performing in front of a crowd who gave her the same silent attention as if she were performing in a small concert hall. She adored the crowd and their respect as much as they adored her.
Words: Dannee McGuire