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The Big One: The Big Chill 2009


United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Ben Rust | 03 August 2009

What is it?

The Big Chill is the Granddaddy of the boutique festivals that have been springing up the past few years. The Big Chill has been bringing together like-minded ex-ravers and their offspring for three days of eclectic music, arts and high-jinks for 15 years now. A family-friendly vibe and beautiful surroundings make this one of the best festivals of the summer, a fact confirmed by the outstanding line-up. If you can’t find something to entertain you here then you must be one miserable human being.

Where and when?

The Big Chill takes place from the 7-9 August and is held in the stunning grounds of Eastnor Castle, Deer Park, Herefordshire.

Who to see?

Orbital - Main Stage (Saturday)

The Hartnoll brothers ruled Glastonbury back in the day; their 1994 set is still talked of in hushed tones usually reserved for returning religious figures. If you were there (which it’s very likely half the crowd were) you’ll be all over this like a typewriter jawed, wild-eyed rash. This is harking back to the old days of day-glow vests, bio-hazard masks and Vicks Vapour Rub, if you’re too young to get those references then get down the front and get educated. This could easily be one of the sets of the festival season.

Chris Cunningham (Live) - Castle Stage (Friday)
Acclaimed director Chris Cunningham will be bringing his unique style of audio-visual entertainment to Eastnor Castle, with promised new videos and remixes aplenty. The man behind “that” Aphex Twin video with the bikini clad babes that are much dirtier than they first appear and which has been putting horrified young men off their stroke since it’s conception (not that that’s happened to me obviously…), has to be seen to be believed. Take your “strong” head and your bleepy off-beat electro dancing shoes and get ready for the ride.

Four Tet (DJ set) - Rizla Invisible Players Arena (Saturday)
If his epic “secret” set at Glastonbury is anything to go by this will be three hours of downright dirty and funky fun. Mashing up every genre you can think of, one-man party starter Four Tet takes his audiences on a journey until everyone is marching with abandon to his twisted beat, a true original.

Amadou And Mariam - Unspecified

The award-winning “blind couple from Mali” are at the very top of the world music pile. Blending joyous vocals, afro-guitars, Cuban brass and a wide range of drumming styles this wonderful group can’t help but bring a smile to your face. Outstanding live, these two are near on unmissable for those in the know.

Norman Jay - Main Stage (Sunday)
The only DJ with an MBE is a Big Chill fixture, his sun-drenched sets are a thing of joy and the best way to blow away those third day at a festival cobwebs. The man is an absolute legend with more decades behind the decks than your average festival-goer has been breathing. Do not miss his set, Good Times are promised all round.

One to miss

Chrome Hoof - Unspecified

A multi-membered futuristic party squad or some Shoreditch tossers’ idea of a genius band? Dragging together the worst bits of doom metal, disco, acid house and other noise and dressing it up in robes with preposterous shiny masks does not equal a good band. It equals a lot of twats making an awful racket; it’s best not to encourage them.

Playing a rare festival date

David Byrne - Main Stage (Sunday)

Ex-Talking Head and all round cultural chameleon Byrne returns with a new Eno produced album, the first the pair have worked on together for 30 years. The Talking Heads were massively influential in their day and this is a very rare chance to see where some of your favourite bands nicked their ideas from.

Inside Tip

Rizla Invisible Players Arena - All Weekend

This arena has a brand new heavy duty sound system for this year and certainly has the talent to back it up. Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals kicks off proceedings on Friday and the party will carry on through the weekend until Unabombers wrap things up late on the Sunday. With the likes of The Glimmers, The Heatwave, The Greco-Roman Soundsystem and Soul II Soul’s original funky dread Jazzie B keeping things moving all hours of the day and night. An excellent place to cut a rug or two.

Go to The Big Chill if you like…


Chilling, funnily enough given the name of the thing. Spending a weekend discovering loads of new music of the bleepy, wonky persuasion alongside some classic rave heritage acts. A well-heeled cosmopolitan crowd and their offspring means the action stays just on the right side of outright debauchery, leaving you to soak up the chilled vibes.

Avoid if you hate…

Laid back raving. The Big Chill is where old illegal raves come for a sit down and a cocktail; if you’re not into the scene to start with it’s unlikely this weekend will reform you. Also if you’re into trash metal and starting circle pits you might be better off somewhere else.

Festival Tactics


Try to get around all the arenas and stumble into some unexpected happenings. Also you have to go up the hill and into the woods where there’s a whole world of weird art installations to peruse. There’s also a strong comedy streak going right through the festival, go and rest your dancing shoes and get your laugh on. And avoid anyone wearing Crocs. Not really a festival tactic, more a lesson for life.

Fasionista or Folky

More of the former but in a comfy slouchy way. This festival is more like your favourite pair of baggy jeans than the genital strangling skinny’s of Reading and the like. The crowd mixes this comfort with a mixture of hare-brained fancy dress. Watch out for marauding packs of 70’s tennis players if last year is anything to go by.

Alcohol of choice


Classy cocktails in the arena in one of the many sophisticated (for a festival) bars. Warm vodka and flat lemonade from a dirty glass in the campsite.

Take your mum score


7/10
- There’s an excellent family vibe at The Big Chill and the atmosphere is perfect for taking your mum along. Plus you can leave her with a cocktail and the kids while you go and relive your misspent youth.

Can I still get tickets?

Tickets are still available from The Big Chill website, £145 for an adult, £110 if you’re a student and the bargain price of £4 if you happen to be under 12, though you will need to find an adult to tag along with if you want to get in.

By Ben Rust


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