BLUE DOT FESTIVAL 2019 – DAY 3 – Sunday

Although it was only a couple of weekends ago I’m already confused about what I saw when! I’ll do my best though.

We were underwhelmed by the music offering on Sunday, in that there actually wasn’t very much to go and see. I caught a little of ‘She Drew The Gun’ who were on the main stage as we walked past in search of coffee. I was going to go and see what was happening on the Roots stage but I never actually found it. We accidentily caught the spoken word ‘Punk in Drublic’ just becasue it was happening where we decided to eat something. it was poetry of the sort that is shouty and seems to centre around ‘My Life is shit but it’s not my fault’, so we wandered away to a bookshop. I think we did go to a lecture/talk, but that may have been the day before, we didn’t really do much until 18:50 when Anna Calvi was on the Main Stage.

I knew of her and had probabaly heard a few tracks but that’s all. I liked her, I liked some of the songs, what I wasn’t quite so impressed by was all the guitar noodling. You can hear it in the video below and make your own judgement, but for me, there is too much and as a guitar player she isn’t skilled enough to get away with it.

I’m not completely negative about it though, her drive and energy were great and overall I enjoyed it.

Next up was John Grant, same deal, knew of him and knew a few songs, loved every minute of his performance. He has real charecter and is funny with it. For my own purposes, so I can re-visit the songs he played the set list is below:

Preppy Boy
Pale Green Ghosts
Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
GMF
Sensitive New Age Guy
Queen of Denmark
Black Belt
Metamorphosis

And for you dear reader, here is somebody else’s video to enjoy of some of the performance:

Next up was me getting completely crushed by the crowd, a piece of performance art I’d put together, unfortunately a lot of others had the same idea and it’s uniqueness was lost. Then came New Order.

We had a decent spot for this

I should have enjoyed this much more than I did, I am not entirely clear on what my problem was but my working hypothesis is that my feet were cold, wet and painful, I was unable to move my arms and I had already decided to drive back after this performance and had that ahead of me. There was alos a lot of film on the big screen behind them and they were pretty much silhouettes to me for most of what I saw, the songs were good though.

Set List:

Singularity
Restless
She’s Lost Control
Transmission
Your Silent Face
Tutti Frutti
Subculture
Bizarre Love Triangle
Plastic
The Perfect Kiss
True Faith
Blue Monday
Temptation
Encore:
Atmosphere
Love Will Tear Us Apart

It was during Temptation that we headed to the car and I had no idea there was an encore. I’m now sorry I missed those last two tracks, but truthfully, I was pretty miserable by now, not Bluedot’s fault, things would have been so much better if I’d brought different boots.

Overall I did have a great weekend and I think if that, upon leaving, you start thinking about coming again next year then that’s a good sign. I would probably attend more talks if I go next time as the ones I did see were really very good, and delivered to an audience who are keen to hear it, which helps.

BLUE DOT FESTIVAL 2019 – DAY 2 – Saturday

Day 2 and I can’t remember anything much right now so I will refer to my phone and try to figure out who and what I saw when. My initial memeory was that the bed was uncomfortable and that it was freezing cold in the tent, my second initial memory, if there can be such a thing, is that there was a bloody baby crying in the next tent, which set of another one in another tent.

So it looks like we went to see Tony Njoku first, in one of the tents. This is he:

It wa sa little odd as we both liked him, as a person if you like, but found the music a little disjointed and the vocals often in to high a range for his voice, live at least, where he dropped the key down and sang a little deeper it seemed to us to sound much better. There were a couple of tracks where it felt they were building to something and then didn’t, which only ever really leaves the listener with a sense of dissapointment. Don’t let this put you off though, we listened to the song below and a couple of others before deciding to pop in and watch, it’s good:

I saw a little bit of EASY STAR ALL-STARS: DUB SIDE OF THE MOON, of which I approve having listened to it years ago, however, I was never very keen on the Radiohead stuff they did and seeing people waving their hands back and forth to Karma Police just seemed a little strange to me.

The next thing I remember seeing was KoKoKo!, who I spoke about HERE. I enjoyed their set.

Then came a bit of a dissapointment to me, which was Omar Sullyman. I have his last album and really rather like it, it’s loud and busy and vibrant, unlike the perfomance on the main stage. 1 Guy with Keyboard, 1 Guy singing, not much movement, not much fun. At least I didn’t think so. I left before the end to go and get a coffee, or charge my phone, or something equally banal. As you can see from the video below, that’s as animated as it got, I was genuinely bored, which is a shame as I had high expectations, perhaps that was the problem.

Next up was JARVIS COCKER [INTRODUCING JARV IS]. He is a great frontman, wonderful personality and knows how to manage a crowd, however, in my opinion, playing almost all new material or songs nobody knows is almost always a mistake. I gave this a good go, lasting almost half an hour before getting bored with it all and wandering off. Just one song I knew and I probabaly would have lasted until the end. Actually, it may have been that we received a message to say that the Kraftwerk 3D glasses were now available to collect, so that may have been when we went to get them. As we approached the tent at the back of the soundbooth we could see the guy handing them out, as we arrived we heard him tell somebody there were none left. We’d missed our chance by a matter of seconds.

This was a major dissapointment and, when I discovered they only had 3000 to give out to a crowd that was 3 times that, I was also quite annoyed. Your basic 3D glasses cost almost nothing, I have a pair in a drawer at home somewhere which I wish I’d brought, and to watch a 3D show without them would diminish its impact so much. We hung around for a while but there weren’t any more forthcoming and we headed back to the tent for a bloody good sulk about it.

As we passed the main stage my lad noticed a guy leaning over the barrier handing a few more out, he legged it over and got a couple, sorted! Although I did feel sorry for those that didn’t have any, particulalry as there were a few people rubbing it in, shouting “Glsses for Sale 100 quid” and laughing uproriously at their brilliant joke. One guy was really mean, literaly holding his glasses up in peoples faces and saying “Got Mine”.

The above is the only picture I took of Kraftwerk, who aren’t there yet. I was so enthralled by the whole thing that I didn’t take and try another picture while they were playing, that and the fact that I could barely move my arms. I had forgotten that if people want to get past you make them go behind you, otherwise they will make out they are passing through and just stop in the space you’ve created and stay there, then call their mates in. I was actually much closer myself when the gig started, but I moved forward nicely and politely.

It was a fabulous show and despite my previous moaning about Omar Souleyman not being very animated, Kraftwerk were even less so, but that was exactly as expected. Once the £D got going it was extremely cool, with arms and musical notes and satellites all coming right towards you as though they were going to take your head off.

Set List:

Numbers / Computer World
It’s More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
Computer Love
The Man-Machine
Spacelab
The Model
Autobahn
Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
Tour de France / Prologue / Étape 1 / Chrono / Étape 2
Trans-Europe Express / Abzug / Metal on Metal
The Robots
Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Musique Non Stop

While I was deliberatly trying to look like a goofy idiot in the following picture, I have no idea why my eye looks so bloody massive.

All in all it was a decent day, topped by finally getting to see Kraftwerk for the first time.

KOKOKO! ‎– Fongola (and BlueDot 2019)

I received a yellow vinyl version of Fongola by KoKoKo! a couple of weeks ago via my Rough Trade subscription and I didn’t get to play it more than once before I headed to Hong Kong and then the festival. It was coincidence, a useful one, that they were playing as to receive a new album and get to see the band shortly after is pretty cool.

A wind of change is blowing over the cultural landscape of Kinshasa.

An amazing alternative scene is thriving far for the occidental fantasies of “world music”…

It is explosive and vibrant. These sounds are emanating from the ghetto and downtown clubs of the Congolese capital in between the government-imposed power cuts. The artists actually bring something alive in the chaos of the 3rd biggest african city. They have strong new ideas with DIY constructed instruments and a powerful and unique drive. This movement is more expressive, lively, spontaneous and direct compared to most big cities’ scenes, like London, Berlin etc… It’s raw, free and open creatively more like NYC in the 70s and 80s or Berlin in the 90s if it has to be compared to artistic movements. It’s inventing everything from nothing and it’s happening now and you can experience it through the recordings, the videos and KOKOKO!‘s incredible live shows.

The above is from the BlueDot write up. So it was a lively and energetic performance and I really enjoyed it. I’m listening to the album again now and it does benefit from better production than the live show (which is to be expected) and I am recognising some of the tracks having heard them live.

It does actually take a lot for me to not like something, it has to be exceptionally bad in my view, but this isn’t. Though there is a little repetitivness, in the repetiton of the band name in many of the songs for example, it isn’t a problem at all and even though I have no idea what the subject matter of each song is, they all seem to have a sense of joy about them.

Blue Dot Festival 2019 – Day 1 – Friday

I arrived back from a week in Hong Kong late on the 18th and early on the 19th I was driving to Macclesfield, specifically Jodrell Bank, for the Blue Dot Festival 2019, there was no time for jet lag despite having travelled for 26 hours to get home.

For the first time ever, and because I’m old now, I booked a tent in the boutique camping area for myself and my son. On the face of it, it was not good value, but it was close to the festival area, had clean toilets and showers, a charging area for phones and suchlike as well as its own little cafe/Bar. This was essentially it:

So I think the tent worked out at about £500 for 3 nights, which is more than a quite nice hotel, the ticket price was over and above this. It was useful to have nearby parking as well and it was almost worth it, for the convenience rather than comfort as it wasn’t particularly. To be honest it’s been 35 years since I’ve been to a festival and by comparisson this was bloody luxury.

We went for a little walk as soon as we had arrived and dropped our bags in the tent, which is when I discovered my brilliant idea of bringing wellington boots was a flawed one, they were incredibly uncomfortable due to the lining having come out and, worse of all perhaps, they had a hole in them which I discovered 2 minutes after leaving the tent walking through this:

By the time we returned a few hours later all signs of grass had disappeared to be replaced by 2 or 3 inches of mud.

Below is the line-up for the weekend, and to be honest, Friday nights headliners weren’t of that much interest to me so I decided to wander around the other stages to see if there was anything interesting.

Before that though we grabbed something to eat, using our wristbands as this was a cashless festival. The first thing we saw was Werkha, in a tent, who was really very good and I promised myself that I’d look up some of his stuff when I got home:

After his critically acclaimed Cube & Puzzle EP landed in 2012, Werkha has been on a playful exploration in the development of his style. Following high praise early on from Gilles Peterson, Werkha signed to iconic Brighton- based label Tru Thoughts, releasing the Beacons EP, followed by his widely lauded debut album Colours of a Red Brick Raft in 2015.

Described by Urban Essence, as “ooz[ing] with creative flair, vibrancy and musical craftsmanship. It has soul, it has funk, it has feeling”. For All Hands and We Communicate were the next offerings on Tru Thoughts in 2017, with both records further incorporating the jazz influenced playfulness we’ve come to expect from the Mancunian producer. This mode of play translates effortlessly into Werkha’s vivaciously curated live shows, which blend some of the UK’s most exciting jazz musicians into the mix his own instrumental, DJ & sampling informed abilities.

With his friendly (and slightly wonky) face from up North dancing amongst the UK’s burgeoning electronic and jazz music scenes, Werkha finds himself and his art at a truly exciting intersection of UK music culture.

We then wandered over to the main stage to see a bit of Ibibio Sound Machine, who were really upbeat and positive, they were great actually and I loved the guitarists sound. This is somebody else’s video:

“Music is a universal language, but spoken language can help you think about what makes you emotional, what makes you feel certain feelings, what you want to see in the world,” says Eno Williams, frontwoman of Ibibio Sound Machine. When Williams uses both English and the Nigerian language from which her band’s name is derived for their dazzling new album Doko Mien, the group somehow produces a world of both entrancing specificity and comforting universality. A language of their own.

Long lauded for their jubilant, explosive live shows, Ibibio Sound Machine fully capture that energy and communication on Doko Mien, the follow-up to their Merge debut Uyai. In a glowing piece in the New York Times, those songs were praised for following “in the tradition of much African music, [making] themselves the conscience of a community.” By pulsing the mystic shapes of Williams’ lines through further inventive, glittering collages of genre, Ibibio Sound Machine crack apart the horizon separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and future.

In another tent we caught the end of a set by Kinkajous, who I’d never heard of, but they were great and I wish I’d managed to catch more than a couple of tracks.

Travelling through places where borders disappear, Kinkajous give birth to an innova ve path to nu-jazz. The London based quintet (led by saxophonist/ clarine st Adrien Cau and drummer/producer Benoît Parmen er, joined by pianist Maria Chiara Argirò, bassist Andres Castellanos and Jack Doherty on keys) conjure a passionate, introspec ve and powerful music, that draws from their shared love for jazz and electronica. In their quest for new sonic highways, their unique setup and and vision brought them to uncharted territories.

Having previously released two EPs, they have gained support from Gilles Peterson (Worldwide.fm), Jamie Cullum (BBC2), Don Lets (BBC 6Music), Nick Luscombe (BBC3), Chris Philips (Jazz Fm) and have been acclaimed by Stamp The Wax, London Jazz and CLASH Magazine.

The next thing I saw was Kate Tempest on the main stage. I have to say, I’m not a fan but some of it was good

Extinction Rebellion took over the stage for 5 minutes, which was fine, they left, mostly peacefully and, without intending to belittle their cause, nobody seemed to care all that much. It sort of felt like, “well done, good job, now get off”

After this the boy wanted to go and find out what ‘Squid” where about and I wanted to catch Kelley Lee Owens so we split up until we met up at the tent at the end of the night. So I bought Kelley Lee Owens debut release when it first came out and really like it so for me this was one not to miss and I did enjoy it a lot, although performing entirely solo gave a different feel and sound to the tracks and I did feel the vocal mic was a little on the low side, but it was good, loved the projections as well, they fitted exceptionally well.

At some point I caught the one song I remembered by Hot Chip, enjoyed it, then left. I saw a couple of tracks by Blanket and about 2/3 of a set by Otim Alpha. At some point I also watched the last 45 minutes of Ex Machina, which is a brilliant film with a brilliant soundtrack.

We also saw Robert Newman and his show ‘Total Eclipse of Descartes’, which was really good.
Blanket perfroming to a small audience, which was a shame as I rather like them and the deserved a better attendance.
Otim Alpha who started with a few very traditional tracks and then got all electronic beats on us. Cool set.

For some reason, John Hopkins, who was second on the bill, didn’t perform until 12:50. I went to the tent to see him, it was heaving, I was very tired by now and I dissapontedly gave up and went back to the tent to give my feet some relief from the pain and cold they were suffering and to have a nice lie down. The air mattress did not actually allow a nice lie down so I just had a horrible lie down instead.

It was a realy nice atmosphere all day, people were very friendly and I didn’t see a single incident of concern, so that was nice. I should also point out that the Radio Telescope is bloody impressive and makes for a great backdrop to a gig.