The Big Reunion 2009 Weekend 1
20-22 November - Butlins, Skegness
Calvin Harris tore apart The Big Reunion
Photographer: Peter Corkhill30 November 2009
Overall – 4/ 10
If a Club 18-30 summer holiday is your idea of heaven, The Big Reunion will be the best festival you’ve ever been to. The organisers market it as the place where last summer’s Ibiza revellers can meet up again for one more booze-fuelled cattle market of a bash, and in this they have succeeded spectacularly. Entering the site through the gates is like stepping off the coach that has brought you from Ibiza airport into central San Antonio. Dresses are tiny, tans, though fake, are everywhere, and it’s as if everyone has been injected with a life-threatening dose of mentholated spirits on arrival. If you go to festivals for the music, however, probably best to look elsewhere.
Getting there and back – 8/10
Numbers are small enough that, whatever form of transport you choose, getting on and off the site isn’t a problem. Easily accessible on the A52 between Skegness and Mablethorpe by car, Skegness railway station is only three miles away, making a taxi or bus ride from there a viable option. The festival also offers coach travel from major cities.
Site – 7/10
Billy Butlin’s first holiday resort blends the quaint with tacky reminders of a bygone era. The colourful, clapboard chalets are neatly set out and spotlessly clean, while the central entertainment complex has the fish and chip restaurant, slot machines and crazy golf course that cling desperately to an era of British holidaymaking that died two decades ago. Being able to walk out of the rear gate onto a huge, sandy beach is a bonus, and coming back at night to a heated chalet with a proper bed, shower and flushing toilet, has to be a plus point in anyone’s book.
Atmosphere – 3/10
If you want to drink until you can’t stand up and leer at members of the opposite sex until you spot one equally as paralytic to fall into bed with, the atmosphere here is perfect. If you’re looking for one of those festival experiences, however, where the spirit of people coming together leaves a special, indelible mark in your memory, forget it.
Music – 4/10
The Big Reunion claims to be famous for its 360 degree music policy, but the only people to whom what’s on offer here would seem varied and all-encompassing are those who think the state of current music begins and ends with X Factor. There is supposedly a different musical genre in each of the resort’s venues (Cream Classics, garage, R&B etc), but you could pretty much play a tape recording of the current Top 40 in each room and nobody would notice the difference. Exceptions are the headliners, which feature the likes of Calvin Harris, Johnny Foreigner, The Wombats and The Holloways.
Beardyman – 7/10
Famous for his multi-million-viewer Youtube beatbox cookery video, Beardyman now travels with an effects box and loop machine so that he can turn his 15 minute beatbox stints into 45 minute sets. Creating constantly varying breakbeat tracks, it’s difficult to believe it all originates solely from sounds made by his mouth. He is still at his best when he steps back from his loop machine and beatboxes without any electronic help, but sustaining that for a 45 minute set would be almost impossible, so his use of technology is easily forgiven.
Calvin Harris – 6/10
He may not be every music fan’s cup of tea, but here Calvin Harris tears the place apart. Looking every inch the pop star, with a flamboyant entrance and six-piece backing band, for the first time this weekend the crowd are fully focussed on the stage, arms aloft, pogoing to his electro-lite pop.
The Holloways – 8/10
After a brief rise, The Holloways seem to be sliding back down the more serious festival schedules these days, but their set of multi-harmony catchy indie sounds as solid here as it ever did, even without the violin, an instrument they perhaps thought a little too high brow for this weekend.
The Black Peter Group – 0/10
A boy/girl karaoke duo with a twist, their DJ plays records while they shout over the top. The twist is that they take their clothes off during the set. The female half of the duo is dressed in spray-on black leather trousers and a small blouse until, two songs in, she complains of feeling hot, and is forced to take her blouse off to perform the rest of the set in just her bra, the poor thing. They then wheel out another female, who quickly removes her denim skirt and spends the rest of the set waving her backside at the audience. Her musical contribution is unclear. The scrawny male singer, meanwhile, only gets as far as unbuttoning his jeans and jumping around so they fall down slightly, which is about as raunchy as a maths exam.
Tim Westwood – 2/10
Tim Westwood must be to music what George W. Bush was to global politics. To all right-thinking people, he is a complete buffoon with no discernible merit for his position, yet for some reason, the powers that be seem to want to keep him there. Here, he scrolls through his iTunes library, plays a song for about 20 seconds, says something in his trademark embarrassing ‘street’ accent, then plays 20 seconds of another song. One day, he is going to wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and screaming, as the years of self-humiliation finally dawn.
The Wombats – 5/10
The Wombats sound like they always have, but therein lies the problem. Frontman Murph admits on stage they’ve done nothing since their first album, and on the evidence of the two new songs they play here, they might have run out of ideas. If they’re not careful, their happy little sojourn into the public consciousness will be short-lived.
One incident sums up The Big Reunion, and perhaps the Ibiza generation in general. Two men dressed as reindeer are innocently bopping away to Lion O’Brien, no doubt delighted that at 10pm on the second day, there is finally some live music worthy of the name. Their bubble is burst when a drunken, muscle-bound thug staggers up and rips off one of their tails. Dejected, they slope away.
By Patrick Burke