United Kingdom | 01 December 2009
Put on your Uggs and wave your lager aloft, it's The Big Reunion, writes Suzie Knight.
Overall - 8/10
Trudging through the stormy weather in a sea of Ugg boots and lads with slabs of beer on their shoulders, The Big Reunion is what it is: a festival at Butlins. It's a festival for people who don't want to wade about in mud, who like their hair straightened like a board and their make-up an inch thick, and this is enough on the surface of it to put off a hardened outdoor festival-goer. But look bellow the larger soaked surface and you will find a festival, and be rewarded with a strong line-up of top current bands and dance music, a hugely fun crowd, and surprisingly strong daytime entertainment.
Getting There and Back – 9/10
The Big Reunion is at Butlins and if you can't find Butlins at Skegness, it's time for a sight check as the huge white skyline building pierces the sky from some distance. Skegness station is less then three miles away, there are plenty of taxis, as well as coaches from 17 UK locations, and at £45 or under that has to be cheaper then most other options.
The Site – 9/10
There's an intelligence bordering on genius about the idea of holding winter festivals at holiday camps. There are tonnes of simple cheap accommodation, dozens of indoor or covered venues, and plenty of food outlets. The horrific weather outside does try but can only do little to spoil the fun.
Atmosphere – 7/10
On initial inspection there's a worrying air of Club 18-30 about the throng, and it becomes immediately apparent that not wearing Uggs is a fashion blend-in faux pas. There are a lot of single sex groups, a lot of lads waving lager in the air singing slowly holding each other’s shoulders. But there's also a genuine passion for music, no visible trouble, just a lot of people having a lot of fun. A bunch of bananas laugh as their banana friend rolls on the floor, a troop of soldiers tackling each other and mime elaborate shoot-outs as Tellytubbies run riotous rings around them.
Music – 7/10
Boasting a 360 degree music policy, The Big Reunion is on the surface of it predominantly an indie and dance festival, and so perhaps more greatly resembling 90 degrees. But it wouldn't pay to underestimate the quality of the music on offer, which includes top DJs as well as upcoming bands that are sure to make their mark on the summer festival circuit. There are a few quality rap and pop acts providing some surprising variety to the soundtrack of the weekend as well.
Trip - 9/10
Strutting around in a cocksure manner, Trip sounds a little like Plan B wandered into Oasis, and the effect is pleasing enough to feel cocksure about, as it's impossible not to nod your head to his recent single 'Who's That'. Trip or (Alex Child)'s rhymes are shot from inside his anorak, the wild weekend weather turning this into an unwittingly practical style choice. He leads the crowd through a jaunty track about 'Summer Sundays' which it's easy to imagine will be accompanied by a lot of cider waving in festival fields next summer.
Utah Saints - 8/10
It appears that the Ghostbusters have followed Utah Saints onto the stage and accompany the musical face-melting with literal attempts to melt faces by spraying huge arcs of sparks over the excited throng. There's fire juggling and white Donnie Darko bunny-looking creatures on stilts, all bouncing to a mash-mixing heaven of funky drummer into Bloc Party, into Busta Rhymes - an epic set so early is hard to follow.
Soft Toy Emergency - 7/10
Jen of Soft Toy Emergency is a pouty disco Flashdance flashback, twirling and leaping and sparkling all over the stage in satin leggings and a black glitter batwing top. There's nothing at all to dislike about a Ting Tings style sound backed with a full band on 'Tripping Up', particularly as it breaks into a pleasingly punky guitar break. There are moments of Toyah and Duran Duran, but generally they sound like, well, Soft Toy Emergency, a fresh smiley disco cacophony.
The Holloways - 9/10
The Holloways boast a broad sound. 'Where Are My Friends' has a riff that sounds a little like Abba's 'The Winner Takes It All' as they flit somewhere between Busted with their hit 'Generator', the Fratellis with 'Alcohol', and even with moments of a London poppier end of Blink 182. There's a lot of guitar po-going and genuine enthusiasm from the group that carries into their playing and to the crowd who reward them with a brave attempt at crowdsurfing.
Pendulum (DJ Set) - 8/10
MC Verse bounds onto the stage to a thunderous wall of bass, the ground shakes and fillings loosen. There's an outrageous wall of dirty bass washing over the heads of the crowd and they stretch up their arms as if to try and catch it. It's a well judged set for the hour and their place in the running order as they keep it as simple and dirty as possible, whilst dropping in nuggets for the few who do still have a vague understanding of their surroundings with 'Propane Nightmares' sliding happily through the mix.
Tinchy Stryder - 5/10
Tinchy is very much the man of the hour, with his use of catchy sample hooks, and so a packed skyline greets him with huge excitement and anticipation. He launches into 'Spider Man' and the crowd scream, but even a comedy 'outfit change' from a simple t-shirt to a diamante one fails to add sparkle through 'Number 1'. There's little to fault him on, but he very much leaves the impression that if Ikea did flat pack rap, this would be it.
Buster Shuffle - 4/10
There's a very Chas And Dave sound emerging from the Centre Stage and punters are fleeing in droves with confused looks on their faces. Busta Shuffle launch 'Arthur McArthur' a song “about a fat cat who hounded us when we recorded our album,” and the effect goes from Fratellis to Madness. They need to find their level a little as the lead singers 'cock-a-neee' is just a little too strong to carry outside of London.
The Wombats – 6/10
The Wombats are sporting some serious faces, and even more serious indie fringes that belie the cheerful effect you might expect from their chirpy hit 'Kill The Director'. 'Laura' is somewhat of a dirge, although 'Falling In Love With A Lady Of The Night' has catchy 'oo's' for the audience to enjoy joining in with. Indeed when they are instructed to “move like buggery” to 'Lets Dance To Joy Division', they willingly oblige.
There's a high level of random fancy dress capers across the weekend. A group of lads confuse matters in the middle of the Centre Stage all dressed in nothing but pants, braces and thick rimmed glasses when they stage a spontaneous lie down on the floor leaving the rest of the room generally amused and perplexed in equal measure. On reflection after such a weekend of silliness and music perhaps a strategic sleep is not such a random idea.
By Suzie Knight.
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