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Bluedot Festival live review - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire

Jean-Michel Jarre electrifies at the home of the Lovell Telescope

Jean-Michel Jarre against a screen of lights at Bluedot festival
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

The inaugural Bluedot boldly goes where no festival has gone before, combining experimental music and science over a three-day period at the home of one of the world’s largest telescopes. There’s live music, space-themed seminars, a stage performance starring characters from the children’s TV show Clangers, real-time stargazing and even a Brian Eno installation. As far as festivals go, it’s certainly unique.

After a live edition of Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox, Public Service Broadcasting begin Friday’s musical entertainment on the Lovell Stage. Their tight set is enhanced by themed projections, and a cameo from a bouncing astronaut.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting (Image credit: Katja Ogrin)

There’s a strong psychedelic theme to the Orbit Stage on Saturday with Manchester’s theatrical Mother and Wooden Shjips far-out side-project Moon Duo, who give their groovy interstellar space rock a rave makeover.

Air fill the Lovell Stage with quirky electropop and dreamy soundscapes. There’s a wonderfully surreal moment when two Clangers are spotted dancing along to the whistling song, aka Alpha Beta Gaga.

Tonight’s big headliner is Jean-Michel Jarre, and there are a few rumours that his show will be limited due to flight path restrictions. But once the spectacle begins, you’d never know. The stage is layered with lighting screens and projections giving a 3D feel, and in the centre, the godfather of modern electro himself bounces energetically to a set primarily drawn from Electronica 1 and 2.

Air

Air (Image credit: Katja Ogrin)

Bluedot isn’t just about groundbreaking electronic music though, and by Sunday the tempo shifts to the darker end of post-rock. The smaller Nebula stage hosts impressive performances from the Krautrock-inspired Plastic Mermaids and Madchester psych-heads The Lucid Dream. Back on the Lovell Stage, the sun emerges from the clouds for 65daysofstatic. Soundscapes including Asimov and Supermoon rise from their recent No Man’s Sky… soundtrack, and by the end of an hour-long set, they’ve won lots of new fans.

Mercury Rev are the charismatic headliners on the Orbit Stage. After a slightly shaky start, things pick up for The Funny Bird from 1998’s Deserter’s Songs. Everybody really goes wild for Goddess On A Hiway and by the time they’ve reached the end of the set, the crowd is singing along and ready to face the final frontier with Steve Davis’ after-hours DJ set. Next year’s Bluedot has already been confirmed and the bar has been set extremely high.

Natasha Scharf
Natasha Scharf

Contributing to Prog since the very first issue, writer and broadcaster Natasha Scharf was the magazine’s News Editor before she took up her current role of Deputy Editor, and has interviewed some of the best-known acts in the progressive music world from ELP, Yes and Marillion to Nightwish, Dream Theater and TesseracT. Starting young, she set up her first music fanzine in the late 80s and became a regular contributor to local newspapers and magazines over the next decade. The 00s would see her running the dark music magazine, Meltdown, as well as contributing to Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and Artrocker. Author of music subculture books The Art Of Gothic and Worldwide Gothic, she’s since written album sleeve notes for Cherry Red, and also co-wrote Tarja Turunen’s memoirs, Singing In My Blood. Beyond the written word, Natasha has spent several decades as a club DJ, spinning tunes at aftershow parties for Metallica, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails. She’s currently the only member of the Prog team to have appeared on the magazine’s cover.