Photos by Dan Sims

Thursday

People @ Big Chill Festival 2011

A mutual command seemed to float around the site, giving the order to head to James Blake at X hundred hours, though that’s the thing, even with programs no-one seemed to know what time he’d grace our presence. People led to then make their own theories about whether it’d be a DJ set or live set.

James, now known to be playing the show with his full band, seemed touched and appreciative to see what was most of those already on site grace the edges of the Deer Park stage. The fluidity of movement in the crowd rocked tightly with the every touch of absorbing bass.

Blake’s set included tracks from both EP’s CMYK, and Klavierwerke as well as tunes from his self named debut. The calibre of tracks such as ‘Lindisfarne’ and ‘I Never Learnt To Share’ felt almost on the verge of prog rock proportions at times, as hard hitting edgy dub effects merged the heavy sections of intricately crafted soundscapes.

His set seemed well received by fans as those on twitter cowered to get their appreciation into 140 characters.

Though at first amassed in confusion, Thursday night made for a perfect start to what looks set to be a fantastic weekend.

Friday

People @ Big Chill Festival 2011

Friday at Eastnor Park saw set to give an eclectic fine-tuned line-up that’d suit all tastes. With acts like reggae legend Horace Andy and soul start up Aloe Blacc both gracing the same stage, the Revellers and People’s Ear stages found themselves at the hard to reach end of the site. Though, this didn’t ever stop punter’s making their way up to venture for layered dance vibes and throbbing beats, continuing as the night grew older.

Muhala Raia Banda, the first act on the main Deer Park stage, turned out to be a surprising early favourite. Horns lashed through the speakers while dew eyed punters, still hazy and shaking from the early morning heatwave, danced onwards.

The now mercury price nominated Ghostpoet also seemed to be another crowd-pleaser, throwing hoards of badges out into his glowing audience and glossing in and out of strobes throughout.

Headliners, The Chemical Brothers, deemed to be one of a life-time must-sees put forth an impressive lightshow cultivating a LED tower type structure and interesting visuals, to make for a spectacular finish. Ravers scattered all corners of the main field, beckoning up at the lazers above them as they spilled the last few strands of energy for the day.

Saturday

People @ Big Chill Festival 2011

Lost in the midst of Kanye fever, Saturday’s line-up seemed only to be a prelude from what should have been a seminal performance in Big Chill history. You could argue it was, but the hoards of crowds who found them selves walking away may say otherwise.

As far as preludes to one of the worlds biggest artists go though, Big Chill obviously knew what it was doing. The very entertaining Janelle Monae brought down the house (and the rain..) to shower an enlightened crowd with glorious gospel, while Devlin found himself reciting his F64 for SB.TV to finish off his set.

The People’s Ear also saw large audiences that seemed to snowball as sets went on. Submotion Orchestra, Jehst, Andreya Triana and Congo Natty all made up the tents eclectic line up, but proved some of the favourite performances of the day.

When it finally came down to the turn of Kanye West to take the main stage, a vast 90% of the site had their eyes locked in one place, waiting for one man.

Starting with ‘Dark Fantasy’, “Can we get much higher/So high” bellowed out of the speakers and into the dark corners of the Eastnor site. Heads turned, Kanye started the shower appearing mysteriously at the top of the sound tower, only to then somehow vanish and find himself a way to the main stage in under a minute.

I’m sure we can say Kanye set was entertaining, playing favourites from his entire back catalogue. But on musical value voices problems led to an apologetic and abrupt breakdown during ‘Power’. A media frenzy that had gone too far he bellowed, “I’m not a misogynist,” “People look at me like I’m Hitler”. Not exactly his finest moment.

Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ and ‘Tears Don’t Dry’ soundtracked an underwhelming ending. "This is for [Alexander] McQueen, Amy [Winehouse], Michael [Jackson] and for the media: can you lighten up on the artists still here..." he beckoned, leaving the stage and a crowd half in shock, half fits of joy.

Big Chill: A post festival thought and summary

People @ Big Chill Festival 2011

It’s true that as a festival grows, many believe it loses the character it once held so very well. From hearing those I was camping with and those around site all discussing this year’s big changes in a negative light, a Big Chill virgin’s views seemed tainted from the point he entered the gates.

The site, now huge in comparison to Big Chill’s small compressed beginnings, felt a tiring and difficult thing to walk. Unkindly security also didn’t seem to help or radiate a positive mentality. It’s strict regulations made the weekend feel restricted and commercially focused but that’s the problem with being taken over by a brand like Festival Republic. What was once a focus for a different boutique festival to join the summer is now just a weekend focused around making as much money as possible. And as we all know, paying £8 for a program is never a welcome thing.

Though, it’s not all bad, Big Chill did make for an incredible, different and thought evoking weekend. It’s eclectic line-up of musicians that don’t seem to grace the presence of many other stages across the UK festival circuit, make it stand out amongst a field of similar, boring and un-inspired line-ups.

The site all this was encapsulated in was also incredibly gorgeous on the eyes. Glowing orbs floating on top of the hill side lit up the arena at night, flooding it with bright white strands of welcoming light. The lakes that brushed the edge of the main stage made the place feel magical and unworldly.

Thinking about it though, Big Chill is a festival for anyone who wants to dance all weekend, feel a hearty vibe and experience music they never normally would. It’s a place where legends hit stages and tune’s you won’t have heard for years radiate throughout the site all night long.

Big Chill 2011 – a festival for your inner groover.

Gallery:

Rodrigo y Gabriella

Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Big Chill Festival 2011 Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Big Chill Festival 2011

Jessie J

Jessie J @ Big Chill Festival 2011

Dionne Bromfield

Dionne Bromfield @ Big Chill Festival 2011

Kanye West

Kanye West @ Big Chill Festival 2011 Kanye West @ Big Chill Festival 2011 Kanye West @ Big Chill Festival 2011

Empire Of the Sun

Empire of the Sun @ Big Chill Festival 2011 Empire of the Sun @ Big Chill Festival 2011