Basement Jaxx bring first day of Big Chill to a jubilant close

The Big Chill @ Eastnor Castle 2009 review

published: Wed 12th Aug 2009

Basement Jaxx

Friday 7th to Sunday 9th August 2009
Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1RL, England MAP
adult w/e £145; aged 13-17 £60; parking £7.50; live-in vehicles £50
last updated: Mon 3rd Aug 2009

The Big Chill hit the jackpot this weekend, after managing to bag this summer's most sought-after and elusive act, for what was surely one of his most memorable appearances all summer. For, last weekend at Eastnor Castle Deer Park, near Ledbury, Herefordshire, the sun came out and stayed out all weekend!! I know – unbelievable, isn't it? But for one weekend only it actually felt like summer. 2009's weather has been that miserable so far that I'm not sure how unbiased this review can really be. The sun shone last weekend, and at The Big Chill, it really did feel like that was enough to make everything pretty wonderful.

around the festival site (1)
Arriving on site on Friday morning, we found our way down to The Castle Stage to find James Yuill playing to a languid crowd of sun worshippers who were just starting to be up for it. And they had come to the right place, for James Yuill is just the man for such occasions. Combining heartfelt acoustic balladry with sometimes glitchy beats and bleeps (a sort of 'laptop troubadour' if you will), Yuill produces lusciously melancholic electronic folk with a dancefloor pulse, and this he does all on his own, with only an acoustic guitar, his voice and several very expensive-looking pieces of electronic equipment for company.

James Yuill
Mixing tracks from his debut album, Turning Down Water for Air, including 'Left Handed Girl', 'No Pins Allowed', and 'This Sweet Love' with new material, his set was particularly well-received by the crowd, more and more of whom were lured to their feet and dancing as the set went on. It's not often that the first person you see at a festival is one of the best, but James Yuill was certainly a highlight of my weekend.

Meeting some friends at The Open Air Stage, we found ourselves watching Noah and the Whale, who were not at all what I was expecting. It must be said that I really only know their 2008 single 'Five Years Time (Fun Fun Fun)' and the fact that my Mum likes them, and I had expected their other material to follow this radio-friendly indie-folk template.

But not so; the Twickenham 4-piece have a new album out at the end of August, and it seems their new material has taken a far edgier, rockier direction than before, now losing the trademark female backing vocals of their previous singles. Other tracks had a fun country hoe-down flavour to them, and the audience seemed to enjoy these in particular.

Friendly Fires
After a spot of dinner and quick costume change for the cooler evening weather, we came down from the hill-top campsite in time to catch the last 20 minutes of Friendly Fires' triumphant set on the Open Air Stage. It must be said that I am not a great fan of this band's predictable disco-tinged indie on record, but watching them live, they were a different animal. The sheer energy and enthusiasm of the St. Albans 3 piece certainly moved the (extremely young) crowd who had gathered to see them, and it was hard not to swept along by the atmosphere, particularly when the carnival ladies in Mardi Gras attire appeared for a little dance off at the very end, which added an unexpected touch of festive spectacle to the proceedings. I didn't want to like this gig, but ultimately I succumbed – it was a fantastic show that you'd have to be deaf not to want to dance to.

Next on the Open Air Stage, it was time for something completely different as Calexico took to the stage. Playing a wide assortment of unusual looking instruments, and without so much as one trendy haircut between them, the Arizona-based rock band's musical style is (according to Wikipedia, anyway) "influenced by traditional sounds of mariachi Tejano music and the Southwestern United States country music," although after this set I can really only describe it as superb.


Dressed for the ranch in faded jeans and checked shirts, this band are all action on a live stage, fusing blues, rock, jazz and folk, with latin flavoured horns and percussion to create a powerful live set. I had not heard a lot of Calexico prior to this festival, but this was the kind of live performance that can win a brand new fans in droves, and the crowd absolutely loved it.

Basement Jaxx
After what seemed like a very long re-set, the Open Air Stage was finally ready for Friday's headliners, Basement Jaxx. Kicking off with crowd-pleaser, 'Good Luck', it was instantly obvious that the assembled big chillers were here to have a good time. Main-men, Felix and Simon, wisely opt to leave their show in the capable hands of their 4 live singers, and with their camp costumes and grin-inducing dance routines, the performance certainly has that certain festival je ne c'est quoi that gets a crowd on its feet and bouncing.

Hits like 'Oh My Gosh' and 'Red Alert' have the field erupting in seconds, while the mellow acoustic re-rub of Romeo hits all the right notes. Finally moving into the safe territory of The Big Ones, the band exude an unmistakable air of effortlessness as they romp into 'Jump & Shout' and finally 'Bingo Bango', bringing their set to a jubilant close.
review by: Lynsey Haire

photos by: Martin Woodhead / Phil Bull

Friday 7th to Sunday 9th August 2009
Eastnor Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1RL, England MAP
adult w/e £145; aged 13-17 £60; parking £7.50; live-in vehicles £50
last updated: Mon 3rd Aug 2009

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