Bluedot Festival 2019



Arriving at the festival late Thursday afternoon, we are just in time for Emma Gene Thackery. After finding a space in the busy camping ground to pitch, we make our first journey through the festival grounds. The festival is full, ready for the Halle Orchestra who are just as much headliners as the weekend acts. However, the Stage feels empty for Emma. It is already prepped for the orchestra, with stacks of chairs and sheet music stands scattered around. It almost feels like she is playing in a practice hall. She provides an interesting mixture of music, from brass to electronica inspired by Super Hans’ “big beat manifesto”. But it all feels a little lacklustre for such a large stage. There is no oomph, and may have been better suited for one of the smaller stages or tents.

The Halle Orchestra blow the crowd away. The vastness of sound and huge soundscapes gush over the seated audience. With the monumental telescope in the background, the cool breeze and night sky, the sounds transport you into a magical space. I chose Bluedot this year for the headliners Hot Chip, but the experience provided by the Halle Orchestra will be hard to top by anything else lined up over the weekend. They have equally outshone anything else I have seen this year. The selection of sci-fi themes are all amazing from ‘Star Wars: Main title’ and E.T.‘s  ‘Flying’ to the nostalgia fuelled ‘Thunderbirds Theme’. But my favourite is without a doubt the 11th Doctor’s Theme – ‘I am the Doctor’. The sense of adventure and wonder the series itself provides is fully realised by the orchestra, it is utterly incredible!


Even with a full day to explore on Friday, there is almost too much to see. A helpful app has been introduced this year to aid in this dilemma, rather than your typical paper programme. It allows you to favourite bands and talks that are unmissable, providing reminders when they are about to start. A great idea, but maybe better implemented if it wasn’t relying on the slow WiFi and 4G found on site.

The scope of the Festival is as big as the Lovell telescope itself. The festival grounds encircle this colossal central feature, meaning you can keep going perpetually forward in your explorations, never needing to turn around. There is always something interesting to observe or take part in around the corner. A starting highlight is the Delia Derbyshire talk, showing the notes made for her music, written in a scrawled onomatopoeia way. Fun fact from the talk – the Doctor Who theme was made using keys dragged against piano strings! We also head to Punk in Drublic on the Notes stage for some brilliant spoken word poetry. Today needs to be chilled, as the headliners are sure to be a workout. The Notes stage is a cool tent filled with cushions, carpets and beer. Rosie Fleeshman is the standout act of the short poetry session, both evocative and hilarious. They offer a full night in Manchester with proceeds going to Mustard Tree Homelessness charity so are well worth checking out.

The mid-afternoon is too chilled, water cooled with torrential rain. The main stage area is empty but the bands can’t be blamed, we spend a portion of the day finding shelter and space in the rebel stage. Ibibio Sound Machine are a burst of sunshine to make you forget the half hour of shower that has destroyed the field in one easy burst. They are a true melting pot of influences and sounds. African percussion, amazing horn solos and wonderful joyous singing. Their music is infectious and everyone is boogying to the funky beats.

Kate Tempest brings the crowd back down to earth. Starting with the huge ‘Europe is Lost’, big tracks like this make for a grand first half before more mellow material is offered later into the set. A pre-agreed stage invasion doesn’t get too much reaction from onlookers as Extinction Rebellion enter during an elongated instrumental section. They leave before the next track begins. The music may be mellow, but Kate’s lyrics and delivery continue to be passionate. Her social discourse is as ripe for this festival as the electronica. Bluedot isn’t just about the science, music or culture. Social change and environmentalism play a huge part, with vegan food choices everywhere, upcycling workshops and a real push for recycling. The festival is the cleanest I have ever been to with everyone playing their part. The soft ‘People’s Faces’ late on into the set is beautiful as we head into the evening.

Hot Chip @ Bluedot 2019

To finish off the night, we have my main bucket list band, Hot Chip, and I am beyond excited. With very few live appearances in recent years, their tickets have sold out too quickly and their shows have been too scarce to get to. The light show is cosmic. Lasers paint the clouds in an array of colours, pulsing with the improvised beats blasted over the speakers. The sound is the best I have ever heard. The usual outdoor music mantra of just making sure it’s loud is left to other festivals. The sound, as well as rumbling through your body is as crisp and clear as the laser beams above you. It is hard to see the full band from my vantage point (about half way to the stage is as far as I could make it), but Al Doyle can be made out with his usual nonstop pogo bounce. The crowd are enamoured for the obvious hit, and sing along, ‘Over and Over’ but are also treated to Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’. which comes out of nowhere. ‘One Life Stand’ is coolly sung as the skies turn dark and is a massive crowd pleaser. Their blissful brand of pop electronica is as upbeat as it’s ever been, with fresh tracks ‘Positive’ and ‘Hungry Child’ gaining just as huge a reaction as classics like ‘Boy From School’. They are a unique band and bring a euphoric performance tonight. Their uplifting drums provide that much needed workout after a rainy day, and their optimistic synths add a nostalgic glee that lasts with you all the way back to the tent.


Saturday starts with lectures. Packed out science talks often outweigh the music stages here. The festival is diverse in its patrons and is eclectic to suit. The first lecture of the day is how to build a space suit, going over the history of failed designs to the classic Apollo 11, all the way to the possible future. It is fascinating and provides a new fact for the day, the Apollo 11 suit is made of 21 distinct layers! We also see Jim al Khalili take the main stage to discuss time travel, paradoxes and Worm holes, but I will leave the review on that to the experts.

Henge are the first band we see on the main stage today and are quite a surreal experience. They are a mix of Mighty Boosh and Paddy Steer wrapped in space age cosplay. A singer that looks like a mad Egyptian Zaphod Beeblebrox, is surrounded by sexy silver, mushroom headed dancers. A third dancer is further back, dressed in what looks like one of the failed designs of the space suit lecture, blocky and awkward. That doesn’t stop him though, and the whole band are inexhaustible in their grooves. They draw a massive gathering and have some catchy tunes to keep those who may have arrived to the stage by sheer curiousness at their appearance entertained. They play a mixture of psych-rock with big singalong choruses that the crowd falls in love with, chanting the easily learned lyrics back at them. A fun, family-friendly set.

The intensity of the Physics House Band is a big change of pace. Playing in the Orbit stage, the tent must be tied down securely to contain them. Full of erratic basslines and blasting drums, each ending to a track is just a minor pause before taking off again in a clamorous experimental jam. Those gaps are much needed. Like a slightly more contained Mars Volta, they are exciting but punishing.

Easy Star All Stars on the main stage provide a relief again from the intensity previously witnessed on the orbit stage. Playing a dub rendition of the whole Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon album (along with a few other unrelated tracks beforehand), they are just what is needed. Most of the audience has the same idea and everyone is lying down listening to their take on the classic album. The tracks are as grand as ever, soaring high, but the dub style grounds the tracks as the bass rolls along. It is an odd mix but the styles braid into each other smoothly.

A large crowd gathers to the main stage for Jarvis Cocker presenting his new project, Jarv Is. But with how people taper off as the set is ongoing, it is clear many fans wanted to hear more classic songs by the venerable artist. It has to be said, the set is uninteresting. But with this festival it doesn’t matter – off for something else and the Time Machine Disco around the corner provides what I think everyone was looking for in Jarvis Cocker’s set.

Kraftwerk @ Bluedot 2019

Electronic megastars, Kraftwerk are the headliners for Saturday in their only UK appearance this year. Having been pioneers throughout their career, they have again brought something new, a 3D experience. Unfortunately, the 3D visuals don’t work from around mid-crowd (where we managed to get to for the second night in a row). Bluedot needs more screens! Those who have queued for some time to gain the 3D glasses ultimately take them off. The simplistic 80’s visuals are cool, even without the 3D, and still provide a brilliant backdrop for the classic tracks of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Tour De France’. The tracks are impeccable. Robotic, yet expansive. The sound at the main stage plays a major part again tonight and is flawlessly tight. The field is one big dance party, to the point where I am unsure if anyone at the front can even keep their floppy old school 3D glasses on.

Parades have been ongoing all day, from people running with a rainbow of those new inflatable couches (yet to perfect the technique) to Storm Troopers and Jedis. Wandering back to the campsite, we pass the main parade. Scientists in lab coats, robot costumes, inflated rockets. It is quite the sight. With the celebration of space and science, the nights have been played out with Apollo 11 audio recordings. They have been as relaxing to listen to as any waterfall or rainforest sound loop. But tonight is special, tonight marks the big recording. When “One small step for man…” comes over the radio a cheer is heard throughout the camp bigger than some of the big booking music acts.


Sunday starts with lectures, again. ‘It’s Never Aliens’ with Chris Lintott is a more whimsical talk on the main stage, and the main fact taken away for Sunday is that as much as we want to believe, aliens have not been seen. The first musical experience of the day is Liverpool band She Drew The Gun. It is hard to create enthusiasm on a Sunday afternoon, following a night that includes the likes of Kraftwerk, but Louisa Roach’s powerful vocals do the trick. The aggressive synths and guitar licks are enough to make sure you are wide awake. Their alluring weave of dreamy powerpop in tracks like ‘Something for the Pain’ seeps out and entices you back into festival spirits.

The Orielles build on the groundwork laid by She Drew The Gun, their tracks getting more than a few head nods. The 70’s style basslines have people strutting back to the bar while singer Esme Halford sounds almost Bjork-ish over cool 90’s indie guitars. They are a conglomeration of sounds with a mighty stage presence. A high attainment for a fairly new band (with an as yet unreleased debut album in the works.) Their versatility is already substantial and worthy of a main stage slot.

John Grant provides an odd set. His song choice is less genre defying and more jarring. There are huge turns from big beat electronica to Phantom of the Opera-style ballads. It just doesn’t seem to meld and there aren’t any efforts to progressively move into different areas of his expansive range of tracks. Ballads just spring up in between thumping bassline finishes. It makes it hard to get a dancing rhythm going when the tempo shifts around so much.

Manchester DJ Kerouac has quite a collective at the Deep Space Disco. Everyone is dancing as classic Madchester hits like ‘Fools Gold’ by The Stone Roses are thrown down. But this may have been his downfall. He is just priming the crowd to abandon the set as they head off to watch Madchester legends on the main stage. He is unable to keep the crowd, but who could keep people away from the main stage when Bluedot has the 3 biggest headliners of any festival in 2019? We dance a little too long to Kerouac and end up back at our usual mid crowd spot for tonight’s headliners.

New Order @ Bluedot 2019

The main stage is the most packed it has been all weekend, everyone eager for the prestigious Manchester outfit New Order. The increase in crowd size isn’t the only thing that is bigger. The show is a combination of Hot Chip’s lasers from Friday and the 80’s geometric imagery of Saturday’s Kraftwerk show to create a visual extravaganza. New Order are on top form, sounding perfect as they rifle threw their back catalogue of hits including standouts ‘Sub Culture’ and ‘Age of Consent.’ However, it is the eponymous ‘Blue Monday’ that triggers the crowd to practically knock the planet out of orbit with excited bouncing. We are treated to a selection of Joy Division songs throughout the set, with ‘She’s Lost Control’ midway through and a moving grand finale of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in tribute of Ian Curtis. Better than the records is an understatement. It is a fantastic conclusion to the festival and along with the Halle Orchestra, they are a top contender for festival highlight.