Say Psych: Live Review: Bluedot Festival – Saturday 20 July 2019

Taking place in one of the most dramatic settings, Bluedot Festival open its gates for its annual three day event. Under the Lovell Telescope at the National World Heritage observatory of Jodrell Bank we come together to appropriately celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing with a fuse of incredible live music, scientific displays, artists and performances which have not been compiled in a similar array anywhere else on earth.

Arriving in torrential downpours early Saturday, its set to be an interesting day, but even the rain can’t dampen the anticipation in the air of what’s to come. The first band to welcome the day in are Mealtime, on the Nebula stage, presented by BBC Introducing. The abrasive six piece offer up a blend of Y2K pop with lashings of synth thrown in and some body shapes for good measure. They are easy listening and accessible and draw a curious crowd. It’s always hard being the opening act, but they hold their own.

Opening the main stage are space ravers Henge, a curious collaboration of musicians who state that they bring ‘Cosmic Dross in the name of rave’. The band who produce a galactic blend of space rock, 80s style rave and psychedelia take the stage in resplendent costumes of space attire and are joined by a spaceman dancer, who starts with subtle movements and descends into full blown space walking. As their set continues they are joined by two female mushrooms which complete the ensemble. They draw quite a crowd and as the rain stops the dancing commences. They could really not be better suited to this festival and the cheers they gather are testament to that.

Bluedot 2019 – photo by author, all rights reserved

Back over at Nebula, local ladies Liines take to the stage. Their energy is infectious and they make it clear how happy they are to be here which is great to see. The trio of post punk rockers have built a reputation as one of the most exciting acts to emerge from Manchester in recent years and sell out venues across the city. Their inclusion on today’s bill is welcome and has attracted old and new fans alike. Their throbbing bass line accompanied by a motorik beat set the pace with hypnotic guitar rhythms completing the sound. They set feet tapping and heads bobbing throughout the packed tent and their set is enjoyable from the first note to the last. It’s clear they are a band who will go far and despite the overwhelming setting, they have performed excellently.

The great thing about this festival is that you can wander around, take in the array of interesting sights and find stuff that you would never normally watch. This is the case with the Radio Science Orchestra who present ‘Music Out of the Moon’. The full orchestra includes two Theremins, a harp and a two track tape recorder alongside the more traditional instruments and they play an array of interesting tracks from TV old and new, all loosely moon related. The highlight comes in the form of the Captain Scarlet theme tune, which sees the entire Orbit Stage tent joining in. Also of note in the Darkside area just after are Circus Zambia, an award winning circus company who fuse acrobatics, hip hop dance and circus skills with comedy to produce a spectacle that both young and old enjoy.

One of the huge draws of today’s line up for me comes in the form of Omar Souleyman, a Syrian musician who has had over five hundred studio and live albums released under his name. Starting out as a part time wedding singer his blend of spoken word style lyrics and enchanting beats saw him become known globally and he soon started to appear on festival bills worldwide. His blend of psychedelia, dance and full on rave with traditional Eastern vibes are a heady mixture and live they are really intoxicating. With a one man band providing all the music in the background and Souleyman up front, you wouldn’t expect it to be entertaining, yet somehow he holds the audience in rapt attention and a sea of dancing bodies fills the field. Referred to as one of the godfathers of psychedelia, it’s truly an honour to experience this live and one that will not easily be forgotten.

Following in those rather large footsteps is a tall man who needs no introduction, presenting his new ensemble JARV IS… is the infamous Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker. He plays a set which spans his solo career and waxes lyrical in his familiar style. The stand out track comes early on in the form of ‘Further Complications’ from his second solo album of the same name released back in 2009, its catchy countenance soon sees the Lovell field dancing and singing the lyrics right back at him.

TVAM – photo by author, all rights reserved

I’m drawn over to the Nebula Stage for an act I’ve been following for a while and curious to see how after seeing him play very intimate venues his sound translates to a larger stage. TVAM is two men, two instruments and a TV and VHS set. They play a combination of psychedelic beats with fuzz laden guitar and the new addition of the synth adds depth to the sound that you didn’t realise was missing previously but works well. Following the release of a debut album Psychic Data to critical acclaim, the set today contains a strong blend of their best tracks including ‘Narcissus’ and ‘Porsche Majeaure’. The sound fills the space easily and to say the duet are relatively new they have earnt their placement on the bill amongst the greats.

And now, for the main event and largely the reason that today has sold out. Kraftwerk, formed in Düsseldorf in 1970 are a band that need no introduction and have become a household name worldwide. The announcement of the inclusion of their 3D show on tonight’s bill was a huge draw and created a moment that I thought would never happen, the chance to experience them live. The field fills quickly with most people, myself included, in place well over an hour in advance to ensure a good spot.

Kraftwerk – photo by author, all rights reserved

They take to the stage to deafening noise and open with a hefty combination of ‘Numbers’, ‘Computer World’ and ‘Computer Love’ all from the 1981 Computer World album. It’s an impressive start and typifies their synth pop sound that made them so popular, with ‘Computer Love’ reaching UK number 1 in the singles chart in 1982. They then move effortlessly into ‘The Man-Machine’ which is accompanied by mesmerising lyrical visuals and ‘The Model’ from the 1978 album The Man-Machine. These are two tracks that the crowd have been waiting for and particularly in the case of ‘The Model’, where what feels like 15000 voices are singing back at Ralf Hütter. Next comes ‘Autobahn’ from the 1974 album of the same name, with its infectious jangle and pleasing sway which is followed by 1975’s ‘Radioactivity’ which offers as much of a stark reminder of the consequences of nuclear energy now as it did then. We jump forward to 2003s ‘Tour de France’ and then back to 1976’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’ before the opening notes of ‘Robots’ attract every eye in the field to the stage. It’s the track a lot of people have been waiting for and accompanied by the haunting visuals behind it does not disappoint. They conclude with a mash up of ‘Boom Boom Tschak’, ‘Techno Pop’ and ‘Musique Non Stop’ which they use to expert effect to bow off stage, one by one, soaking up the acclaim that pours towards them. This has been truly an exceptional experience and listening to the conversations around me as I leave the field it’s clear that everyone feels the same. Watching the masters at work it’s hard to imagine I’ll ever see a better live performance than that.

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