Over the Hills and Far Away: The Big Chill

Trendy aren’t they, those weekends of farmhouse dereliction and destruction whilst a consistently crazed traveling carousel of buzz bands and harrowed has-beens soundtrack nocturnal debauchery and substance-induced morning sickness? Where The Big Chill seamlessly transcends trends and opens the widest of appreciative ears, you find yourself at the secluded heart of a deer park in amongst sumptuous sounds and quite possibly the paradisiacal oasis of the British festival season. It’s untouched by corporate desecration and carries about as much prejudice as a pack of peanuts. Oh and as if it needed any other ephemeral distancing from the hoards of festivals that litter an English summer like strawberries and Moet at Wimbledon, the Big Chill offers fraella (a hybrid of paella and the traditional fry-up), enchanted gardens filled with hanging hammocks and a Dereliction Drive-Thru cinema filled with mashed Mondeos and perhaps even more mashed minds. The dubious onscreen content becomes immaterial as brains are ejected out the sunroof into a sense of endless elation. This is true, majestic relaxation.
Not quite as relaxing is the London line down to Great Malvern and the trains take an ice age, although all is forgotten as drenched revellers trudge away to a superlative late-night Mr. Scruff set. Awaking to a sweltering, filthy tent and a throbbing skull are essentially to be expected, although nothing of the sort is endured in this picturesque Herefordshire valley and Scruff’s tea sends the ethanol demons away. Much has been slapped on Welsh goddess Marina’s face, as make-up and acclaim compete for advertising space although her Diamonds still aren’t shining as bright as the frontrunners in the female foray currently throttling music sections the length of the country. Not gracing the covers of quite as many quarterlies is James Yuill, a gawky, awkward acoustic songsmith with a penchant for pioneering bedroom beats. A diamond in the rough, however, he is; This Sweet Love washes wondrously over the lulling lakes of Eastnor whilst the synthetic loops of No Surprise are terrifically shocking. The underdogs are on top. Kanye West protégé Mr. Hudson is no such breed of canine and his delayed set in the Coop is filled with electrifyingly executed electro soul and closer Supernova is as out of this world as his straight-edged show suggests. Elsewhere, St. Albarns upstarts Friendly Fires grin and gurn their way through an NME-endorsed carnival filled to bursting point with calypso drums, polished horns and dubious dance-offs and as the sun sets, Ed McFarlane gazes out victoriously over his conquered lands of indie-dance crossover. Chrome Hoof are as demented as ever, with glimmering glam metal colliding head-on with violins cavorting with filthy bass lines and outdo Basement Jaxx who rattle off a greatest hits set lacking style and panache. Backdrops of nodding pandas wrecking Love Hearts liven up an otherwise avoidable set before it’s off to the back seat of a random couple’s car for the foreseeable future...
Saturday afternoon is jumpstarted by Albarn-approved Brooklyn brass boys Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who thrill the Open Air Stage, impeccably cobbling together a cacophony of kaleidoscopic horns Miles would admire, all suspended in time and harmony by the dirty bass of, wait for it, a tuba. As soon as the fanfare of War startles their sizeable following, they get the party started and keep it jumping. Question: name the ultimate hectically chilled evening of sterling great British artists. Answer? You’d be hard pushed to concoct a more majestic mix than the gospel twangs of Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized, who dazzle in the dark behind oily black sunglasses, Brighton’s brass-blasting Bonobo and the rejuvenated return of electro pioneer bros Orbital. Putting your finger on quite what makes Phil and Paul Hartnoll quite so spectacular is as implausible as finding the heartbeat within an airplane hangar, yet their minimal ambient techno pushes all the right buttons and Belfast is utterly earth shattering.

Waking up for one final hurrah, it becomes devastatingly apparent that the Big Chill breezes by in a state of blissful subconscious delight and the spectacular becomes superlative when artistic maestro Pete Fowler turns his hand to putting on the most marvellous midday retro disco party not seen since 1969. A cosmic jamboree indeed. Yet another breathtaking experience comes in the form of Milanese classical genius Ludovico Einaudi’s latest collaboration with Berlin experimental electro duo, Robert and Ronald Lippok, under the moniker Whitetree. Hardly a far cry from the advert-engulfing previous work of Einaudi, his minimalist tinklings compliment unfathomably the subtle snyth swathes of the brothers Lippok and combined with outstanding visuals, it’s the highlight of the day, if not the weekend. Whilst Fowler continues to belt out forgotten gems of the past few decades from under the peak of a sailor’s hat, The Coop’s comedy invasion is set to be side-splitting. The floor’s lined with seated spectators where blades of grace once stood as the likes of Russell Howard, Noel Fielding and Dylan Moran regale the masses with tales of rage, scorn, concern and ultimately, sex. Howard bangs on about the big bang and Fielding harks on about clambering up to the moon in a pirate ship having forgotten to prepare any material for his hour-long slot, all of which leaves Moran with an open goal, into which he scores emphatically. Happiness seems to suit him about as aptly as etiquette does Liam Gallagher, and his delicately delivered odes to parenting gone awry and the destruction of the English language set Moran apart as the pied pier of Eastnor. As tents are collapsed and packed into a vast array of bags, bottles and cans recycled and weary bodies trudge over to their getaway cars, Andrew Bird secretes his looping melodramatic magnificence over the hills and far away, to a land that thrives on imagination and wellbeing. Next summer forget the yoga classes, sounds of the sea CDs and those god-awful wellington boots and scuttle down to the Big Chill, the home of elation and eccentricity.