Set in the beautiful Cheshire countryside in the shadow of the huge Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory, Blue Dot Festival is a new experience for me. Three days of music, sun, comedy, art, talks.........and science!
The headliners this year were all bona fide A-list acts; The Flaming Lips, Future Islands and Chemical Brothers. Masters of their game and tremendous entertainers. All three played fantastic sets. But this festival is about so much more than them. It is a celebration of science and the exploration of outer space, hence the naming of the festival in homage to the famous photograph taken by the Voyager 1 space probe as it turned its camera towards home decades ago took a photograph from six billion kilometres away; the pale blue dot of Earth.
There are five main stages; The Lovell Stage which hosted the headliners and other main acts. The Orbit Stage which saw many electronic artists including Roni Size, Booka Shade, UNKLE and The Orb. Mission Control which hosted the talks by various scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Alice Roberts, then DJs into the night including Joy Orbison and Helena Hauff. The Nebula Stage which hosted new and up and coming bands and acts, and the Contact Stage which hosted performers and comedians alongside film screenings and more talks. And if that wasn't enough there were several other stages and buildings where you could find reggae, rap, folk and African music all spread out amongst fields and woodland interspersed with art installations, light and fire displays, and a gigantic lit Earth Globe suspended from the trees.
I had a wonderful time exploring the site and meeting a really diverse array of people over the weekend. Whether they were just youngsters getting drunk in the sun enjoying the music, families with children (who were very well catered for), aging Chemical Brothers teeshirt wearing forty somethings or eccentric grandmothers with pink hair they were welcoming and friendly, helped by great sunny weather (bar a brief shower on the Friday afternoon).
My favourite part has to be wandering around meeting and talking to the various scientists and students with their stalls and displays. I talked to a team involved with the upcoming launch of the James Webb space telescope, physics students from the University of Manchester, the team from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the team from the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials and the Woman of Science who were not only promoting and celebrating exactly that, but conducting research all weekend with the festival goers. All of them were great to speak to and totally passionate about their research and field of study.
Of course it was great to finally witness the Chemical Brothers. Their live act is spectacular with chest pounding levels of sound, twenty years worth of huge electronic anthems and an unrivalled light and visual display. It's up there with Daft Punks Pyramid show from ten years ago and was the perfect way to bring the festival to a finish.
Then there was the hugely entertaining Future Islands front man Samuel T. Herring. I've never seen a singer give so much on stage. Despite looking like he's just stepped on stage from an accountants office he performs like a man possessed, beating his chest, jumping across every inch of space and busting some quite incredible Dad-dance moves.
Best band of the weekend however goes to The Flaming Lips. Their live show is utterly ridiculous, including a giant pink inflatable robot (guess which song that appears for!), confetti and ice canons, giant inflatable beach balls and obviously Wayne Coyne entering his inflatable plastic ball and walking over the crowd to his mini-platform during a rendition of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'. Oh, did I mention he performed one song astride a huge multi-coloured unicorn? Yes, that happened.
It was also great to see Roni Size throwing down some extremely heavy underground Drum & Bass on the Orbit Stage. He has a very decent live show, and once he had got through his big hits 'Brown Paper Bag' and 'Heroes' he really went for it with all out attack on the dance floor. Kudos to him, and for the crowd who were absolutely loving the dirty bass and amen breaks.
Booka Shade were fantastic too, one of my favourite techno acts from Germany they never disappoint. And George Fitzgerald gave a big crowd some oustanding blissed out electronica.
A mention also has to be given to Gary Numan, fantastic to see him perform the electronic masterpieces 'Cars' and 'Are Friends Electric' with the perfect back drop of the Lovell Telescope. Lovely also to see his daughter singing on stage for one song.
I wish I had time to have seen everything over the weekend, but the huge array of choice means you have to plan it out if you want to make the most of it. However it's worth just wandering about and taking it all in if you're thinking of going next year. I didn't even get chance to explore some of the further reaches including the yoga and massage retreat. I spotted some hot tubs somewhere too. And no doubt they will be adding to it in future and making it even better. It's a wondrous festival and one I plan to return to.
Please enjoy my photos of the weekend in the gallery, and if you like what you see feel free to check out my Facebook page @PaulMJonesPhotography for more photos and reviews from other events!
Published on 24 July 2018 by Paul M. Jones