Review: Bluedot 2019
Falling asleep on the final night of the fourth Bluedot festival in the shadow of the spectacular Lovell telescope, listening to the sounds of the Apollo 11 transmissions being beamed around Jodrell Bank, we’ve witnessed another stellar weekend.
It’s a sign of the festival’s growing status in the UK festival calender that despite this year’s event being lashed with biblical storms and cloying mud no-one seems to notice.
Four years in, Bluedot, which perfectly fuses the unlikely bedfellows of music, science and comedy, is well established alongside End Of The Road and Green Man as one of the best medium-sized festivals on the calendar.
Once again, the three Lovell Stage headliners – Hot Chip, Kraftwerk and New Order – are neatly chosen for both the setting and the audience, and there are a wealth of other highlights across the weekend for curious geeks and festival veterans alike as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings.
Friday is blighted by spells of torrential rain, but headliners Hot Chip are unperturbed and their set is a masterclass in joyful electronic pop. Hits Over And Over, Ready For The Floor and Boy From School have become almost timeless festival anthems, and the songs they throw in from this year’s A Bath Full Of Ecstasy album are equally well received.
An inspired cover of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage sends the Lovell Stage crowd off into the night utterly spent. There’s still time for a stunning set from minimalist techno master Jon Hopkins on the Orbit Stage, too.
Earlier in the day, striking performances from Kate Tempest, Kelly Lee Owens and Self Esteem, alongside a series of inspiring talks as part of Delia Derbyshire Day had ensured that the thickening mud became a minor inconvenience.
Saturday is Kraftwerk day, a true coup for Bluedot, the German electro titans’ 3D show finds its ideal home beneath the Lovell Telescope. Nearly five decades on from their inception, they remain utterly contemporary, the waves they sent through electronic music rippling through this year’s Bluedot line-up.
Tonight, they’re typically immaculate. Computer Love precedes the mind-altering mid-set pairing of The Model and Autobahn before the expansive Tour De France and ecstatic Radioactivity. All the while the big-screen backdrop narrates the journey through some of the most vital electronic music ever made as 20,000 fans wearing 3D glasses lose their shit in well ordered, Teutonic style.
After Henge blast the Lovell Stage crowd into orbit with their bonkers space-prog, Saturday lunchtime belongs to New York reggae heroes Easy Star All Stars, who treat Bluedot to the highlights of their Dub Side Of The Moon, Radiodread and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band albums, with the OK Computer trio of Electioneering, Climbing Up The Walls and Karma Police particularly well reworked. At the heart of their enlivening set, singer Kirsty Rock is having the time of her life, dancing barefoot and taking selfies with the crowd, and her vocal performance is faultless.
Away from the main arena, Saturday’s Contact Stage comedy tent line-up is truly A-list, with Garrett Millerick, David Trent, Paul Foot, Joey Page and Ivo Graham proving impossible to tear ourselves away from.
Jarvis Cocker arrives on stage to the backdrop of the Apollo 11 countdown, declaring “We are going to go to the moon this evening”, throwing Pulp fans a rare bone with a run through of 1992 B-side Space, the only deviation from a performance of songs from his new Jarv Is project that doesn’t quite achieve lift off.
After early-evening indie heavyweights Anna Calvi and John Grant, Sunday headliners New Order are arguably the stars of this interstellar show. Playing very near to Manchester home territory, they open with a pairing from 2015’s Music Control – Singularity and the strident Restless.
It’s fitting on the 40th anniversary of the release of Unknown Pleasures, though, that we’re treated to early-set airings of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control and Transmission. Tutti Frutti, also from Music Control, is a big Euro-house moment, before Bizarre Love Triangle and True Faith return to peak-era New Order.
Blue Monday is absolutely massive and the closing Temptation celebratory, but it’s the two-song Joy Division encore that truly stirs the emotions as the gloomy Atmosphere gives way to the band’s enduring anthem Love Will Tear Us Apart, Ian Curtis’ face watching over his old bandmates from the big screen.
But like any great festival, it’s the curiosities away from the main stage that make Bluedot so special. The Clangers’ DJ Set. Foxdog Studios’ Wi-Fi enabled madness. Watching a live version of 80s kids TV show Knightmare with a specially created Russian Standard Vodka Moon Landings cocktail. Comedian David Trent twisting Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of into a visceral take down of an online racist troll. A potted history of Dogs In Space. Luke Jarman’s spellbinding Museum Of The Moon. Helen Sharman. Lightsaber Training Sessions. Wherever you turn at Bluedot, there’s carefully curated programming to stimulate the mind. It truly is one of the UK’s finest festivals.