Fat Butcher's Photosonica
North London V-tard splicing beauty to the beats

Fat Butcher @ Big Chill 2008

Were you there?

setting up

setting up

I was invited to the festival this year to capture some of the action and ambience for a video collage. The festival site is a sprawling valley around Eastnor Castle and now encompassing the Sunrise Festival, who were flooded out before they could throw their festival to higlight climate change earlier this year.

After checking out the site we caught Beth Orton’s set on the Castle Stage, then trekked accross the field to the Cocktail Bar. Big Chill House favourites NiceUp! commandeered a few hours of Saturday afternoon to showcase some funk, hiphop and dance DJs for a commited crowd in the blazing afternoon sun, shaking off the last of the hangovers into the mud. Over in the Media Mix tent, Adam Buxton guided us through some highlights of the BFI’s series of BUG nights, including the typically twisted/sophisticated new music video from Grace Jones’ Corporate Cannibal and and an odd, affecting promo for Grizzly Bear , until audio connection failure led to Adam improvising by showing us a lot of his clips off the internet, which garned a riotous reception and prompted our host to burst into song… twice.

Some of Bomb the Bass' killer visuals (lots of skulls)

Some of Bomb the Bass' killer visuals (lots of skulls)

90’s dance pioneers Bomb the Bass delivered a blinding AV set in the same tent later that night, delving visually into their graffiti roots onscreen with vivid sprayed strokes beatmatched to the heavy bass, going some way to prepare us for the shock and awe of Cornelius, whose mesmerising visuals synchronised perfectly in time with their propulsive sound (so the 18 hour soundcheck we sat through wasn’t being spent playing Jenga backstage then). The band rehearse with the videos to match their performance, and the preparation pays off when a tryptich of screens splitting one feed are mounted up behind and to either side of the band. They charged through a pulsing set of songs a with an intense precision, each song complemented by images of singing mouths, splashing paint, an underlit meniscus of water, and one amazing and surprisingly emotional sequence following the flight of two ducks across a rolling black landscape. A perfect example of music and visual conceived and performed together with the scale and intimacy to astound.

We fit shooting on Sunday around John Shuttleworth, whose domestic turn of phrase and Brylcreem-smudged leathery Sheffield bark won me over back when John Peel used to play the single Austin Ambassador Y-Reg on Radio 1. He shared a tender ballad called Two Margerines, about that heartbreaking moment when you have to choose which tub to eat from when you’ve bought 2-for-1. Jilted John also made an appearance later in the day and played a song that entered the charts 30 years ago this year.

Scene from a puppet show, a stop on The Art Trail

Scene from a puppet show, a stop on The Art Trail

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was rolling over the spreading trees when the pyrotechnics went up in the chilling fields. There’s some beautiful footage in my rucksack of fireworks lighting up the whole valley and the clouds and casting the crowds in silhouette. Afterwards we took in some Asian Dub Foundation DJing in the dance tent, and later Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry painted live on stage to interpret Adrian Sherwood’s dub mixing, making messy, dramatic canvasses and signing them SCRATCH.

AV a-go-go

Best of the Fest: AV a-go-go

As a festival, the space was well-managed but with too few water taps that were badly drained, and three quarters of the site are on a 45º incline – including camping area – leading wags to dub the place ‘Big Hill’ with signature lightening wit. But the schedule was packed with tempting performances, many of whose names I never learned as there was so much to see, and stages were far easier to find and identify than at Secret Garden Party, the weather held up sweetly and the multimedia Arts Trail was a beautiful touch that ensured the last night was a special one. Thanks to Shep, to Phloss, and to the weather for the spectacular showbiz exit:

Sunset, Sunday, Big Chill 2008

Sunset, Sunday, Big Chill 2008

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