Bluedot Festival 2018: Review

The Flaming Lips, Future Islands and The Chemical Brothers in a family-friendly setting makes Bluedot 2018 a raging success

Live Review by Pete Wild | 26 Jul 2018

Some festivals you can’t move for the lads. Some festivals you can’t move for the hipsters. Some festivals – the Bluedot Festival, for instance – you can’t move for families. The Bluedot Festival is as family friendly as a festival can be, with all manner of things for the kids to do (from jumping in a paddling pool of what looks like cement to firing off small rockets into the sky) surprising you at every turn. And there is music in the form of bands and DJs in a variety of blue and white topped tents, but there is also science in the form of talks (from the likes of Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling), discussions, demonstrations and tours through wooded glades that feature toys that illustrate orbit and machines that capture sound and – you get the picture.

No wonder Friday headliners The Flaming Lips were invited to reprise their legendary 2012 show. Bluedot is the perfect fit for their brand of weirdy-beardy California psychedelia. We get the hits, as you’d expect, with a set predominantly made up of Soft Bulletin / Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots period Lips. But it’s feelgood as all hell, the sun is shining and Wayne Coyne is kind enough to throw a Bowie cover in there for good measure.

Saturday is a day bookended by scissor kicks: at one extreme we get the frankly jubilant sounds of Baloji which runs the gamut of soul, funk and jazz, the eponymous frontman conjuring smiles and dancing as far as the eye can see. Much later in the day, Future Islands’ frontman Samuel T. Herring does the odd Robert Pollard-style high step in the midst of what can only be described as synth-pop bizarreness: Future Islands sound like Hot Chip fronted by Gene Pitney if Gene Pitney was given to crooning death metal at odd intervals. They're not quite a headline act yet as the lack of visuals or a serviceable light show demonstrates. Elsewhere there are highs – Amber Arcades spirited Nick Drake cover, comedian Paul Currie singing Pandas for Hands to Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love, Gary Numan’s thunderously industrial noise – and lows – Lamb’s set halted due to technical faults – but all things considered, a good day is had.

Sunday belongs to The Chemical Brothers – their headline set is a masterclass in how it should be done, via a mixture of beats and retreats, hits and covers, bangers and more obscure tracks all adorned with cut up films, computer animations and, at one point, architectural floor plans. The sun blazes like a bastard through the magnificent Acid Mothers Temple and crowd favourites Little Dragon, to the extent that we seek shade with our festival favourite Snapped Ankles, a ferocious little four-piece who wear their influences – The Fall, Arctic Monkeys, the odd bit of Sonic Youth and J. Geils – on their sleeves but show promise nevertheless. Expect great things from Snapped Ankles. You heard it here first. Probably.

All things considered, Bluedot is a raging success. Next year we’ll be bringing the entire family.

Bluedot Festival returns to Jodrell Bank Observatory, Macclesfield in 2019 from 19-21 Jul