Bluedot festival 2019 – nine great moments at last weekend’s science-and-music extravaganza

A damn-near perfect New Order set

For so many years, New Order were one of those much-loved bands you might have warmly described as being ‘better on record’. But not any more. Since their 2012 reunion, and particularly since synth player Gillian Gilbert returned to the fold in 2011, New Order have been on increasingly blistering form.

This – their second time playing at Jodrell Bank, which surely no other bands can claim – was a near-perfect headline set featuring the best of the new (‘Tutti Frutti’, from their most recent album ‘Music Complete’ is an undeniable banger), choice deep cuts (the Kraftwerk-y ‘Your Silent Face’) and a run of singles that was almost ridiculously good: ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’, ‘Plastic’, ‘The Perfect Kiss’, ‘True Faith’, ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’.

Arguably, the band’s latter-day decision to include Joy Division songs in their set has proved simply that New Order are a far better band (don’t @ me). But seeing the tribute to Ian Curtis that closed the show – the funereal ‘Ceremony’ followed by a blistering ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, in fine Cheshire rain, mere miles from where they all lived and in the shadow of the Lovell telescope, was an utterly moving experience.

Scott M Salt

Kraftwerk in 3D

Bluedot’s headliners all had a hint of the science nerd about them, with Hot Chip on the Friday and New Order on the Sunday, but none moreso than Kraftwerk, who dress like cosplayers doing Tron at Comicon and perform before 3D visuals, requiring the audience to wear cardboard glasses which are handed out on set.

Kraftwerk dedicated their career to fusing human endeavour with technology, so there’s no better fit than Bluedot, with its mission of combining science and music. Oh, and they’ve got piles of banging tunes, too.

JTully Photography

Jerry Dammers’ batshit DJ set

While The Specials have been enjoying a year in which they’ve scored a Number One comeback album, a run of sold-out gigs and, of course, an NME Big Read, former member and 2-Tone founder Jerry Dammers popped up at Bluedot with a brilliantly bizarre DJ set featuring sci-fi visuals, dub reggae and library music Basically, the kind of stuff that pops up on Open University programs about particle physics.

Part of the charm of the trippy show was Dammers’ interjections: at one point he declared the whole thing ‘stressful’, he recounted how he’d found one of the songs he played in a cardboard box on the street and he introduced one track as follows: “For people who like library music, this is a good one”. Ending with a song by a fellow, unsung Coventry hero, the ‘Dr Who’ theme by Delia Derbyshire for the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, he seemed both delighted and bemused that a sizeable crowd had stuck around until the end. He needn’t have been surprised – it was a hugely entertaining show.

Henge

Surprise hit fashion item at Bluedot (alongside spacesuits)? A Henge T-shirt. That’s because it’s almost impossible to watch this completely bizarre band (how bizarre? The singer wears a plasma ball on his head and the rest dress like aliens) and not get sucked into their weird world, one in which the mission is to encourage the colonisation space by means of psychedelic rock. No wonder many hit the merch stall after. Sadly, the plasma ball hats aren’t commercially available yet.

Lucas Sinclair

KOKOKO!

Based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, KOKOKO! blend African rhythms with the sensibilities of the new school of festival-ready jazz artists, and their afternoon set on Saturday afternoon, decked out in matching yellow jumpsuits and producing rhythms that made the whole, sodden field bounce, was the perfect sound for the first sunny moment on site.

Gabe Gurnsey making a DJ set live on stage

Factory Floor founder Gabe Gurnsey closed off the festival’s Cosmic Disco, one of the late-night party spots, with a DJ-set come live gig that packed hard beats and irresistible baselines. It was made all the more impressive by the fact that it was produced live on stage using sparing instruments, vocals and samplers. For a live act to assimilate a DJ set quite so effectively – and euphorically – is something to behold.

Late night, big-name rave-ups

After Kraftwerk packed up, the ravers headed to the Orbit tent for a DJ set by dance pioneers 808 State, who dropped ‘Pacific 808’ early doors and even threw in a bit of drum & bass. On the Sunday, after New Order, Derrick Carter played a soulful disco and house set, with drag queens and dancers accompanying him on stage. Given that Carter came from the Chicago house scene that inspired New Order in the ‘80s, it was a canny booking.

Alex Laurel

Jarv.Is’ cosmic trip

The former Pulp frontman and eternal eyeball magnet Jarvis Cocker brought his new project Jarv.Is to Bluedot, he got stuck into the space theme like a physics teacher on a school trip. Before hitting the stage, he introduced himself as if he were touching down at the festival from the upper atmosphere. Later, he had the audience shout out messages to beamed into space by the Lovell telescope.

Jarvis’s latter-day projects have ranged from the (relatively) pedestrian (his solo albums) to the arty (his concept piece Room 29) and transcendental (Dancefloor Meditations, which takes place in the dark). Jarv.Is, while by no means as poppy as Pulp, is if nothing else a chance to see him where he’s most skilled – fronting a band, and dancing like a daddy longlegs. Props, too, for him fearlessly playing ‘Cunts Are Still Running The World’ to an audience that included many, many children. They’ll find out soon enough, anyway.

JTully Photography

The science bit

Bluedot’s mission is to enthuse a festival crowd about science and space, and it doesn’t feel tacked on. If you’ve ever wondered what space smells like (Mars – very unpleasant; the Milky Way – like poppers), or wanted to touch a meteorite between bands, or wished to watch the moon landing, exactly 50 years after it happened, projected onto a giant telescope, or sit down to hear about the making of the children’s classic about moon mice, The Clangers, Bluedot is the place for you.