Bigfoot Festival 2021 review: Primal Scream reign supreme in festival’s superb debut year

June 18-20, Ragley Hall: Legends and legends in waiting herald the return of festivals at Bigfoot's brilliant debut year

“Are you excited for this weekend?,” a friendly security guard asks NME at the entrance to Bigfoot Festival. “It’s… well… it’s just nice to get back to bit of normality,” they add before cheerfully waving us in.

As far as understatements go, it’s probably the biggest one of the entire weekend. You see, nice doesn’t come close to describing the sheer elation and joy that hits the moment you step into the festival. For the most part, it feels like the last fifteen months never happened.

Other events have been forced to announce their cancellation after England’s so-called freedom day was postponed from June 21 – but Warwickshire’s Bigfoot was given the green light after organisers planned the event in accordance with the restrictions involved in step three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. It means that 4,000 lucky punters have been given the go-ahead to rave once more – and they’ll be damned if unrelenting pissing rain on Friday afternoon does anything to dent their joy.

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Credit: Bigfoot/Andrew Makin

Over on the Signature Brew stage, York shoegazers Bull battle the elements as they deliver an impressive mid-afternoon set that proves why they’ve been likened to Pavement and Pixies. Playing to a sizeable mid-afternoon crowd, it’s a perfect, measured start to ease punters back into festival life.

From here, things are taken up a notch by Chubby and The Gang, with the South London punk outfit igniting the weekend’s first close-quarters interaction (luckily, to a crowd that proved they were COVID-free as a condition of entry). Sweaty, furious and relentlessly in your faces, it’s the kind of close-contact humanity that has been sorely lacking for well over a year. And later on, our attentions are focused on The Cinema Stage – hosting England’s crunch tie against Scotland, against the backdrop of a picturesque lake where punters were rowing earlier in the day. It almost makes up for the underwhelming scenes being beamed into the festival from Wembley.

Saturday is off to a more subdued start as punters wake up feeling slightly groggy from sampling the countless breweries around the site. Thankfully, by the time Fat White Family roll around for an early evening slot on the main stage, all hangovers are appropriately shaken off – with the post punk disco of ‘Feet’ prompting the first dancers of the day into action.

Still, it proves a bit confusing for the Fat Whites themselves – who are seemingly baffled by the array of barriers that have been introduced in a bid to spread out the crowd. “I don’t understand the rings man!,” screams Fat Whites frontman Liaos Saoudi.

Sports Team’s Alex Rice tackles the stage (Picture: Jamie Macmillan/Bigfoot)

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It’s a similar story back on the Signature Brew stage, where late additions Sports Team are struggling to get their heads around the normality on offer.

“Err, I thought this was a beer festival?,” frontman Alex Rice asks of the baying mob who have just ignited the weekend’s first mosh-pits. Soon, Rice gets firmly in the spirit, too: duly climbing up the stage’s rigging before screaming down at the fervent following sprawled out in front of him.

It acts as the perfect prelude to Primal Scream, who spark pints-in-the-air chaos from the moment they open with ‘Movin on Up’. The ‘Screamadelica’ track – complete with lyrics that talk of coming “out of the darkness” – could hardly be more timely to open a post-pandemic headline set.

Credit: Bigfoot/Andrew Makin

“It’s great to be here. Well, it’s just great to be anywhere,” Bobby Gillespie drolly remarks of the occasion.

It’s a statement which reflects both their set and, largely, Bigfoot overall. Wallet-burning pint prices aside (£13 for two pints is frankly criminal), it’s an event that proves without a doubt that we can rave again.

With a bit of can-do spirit and the willingness to take a painless rapid test beforehand, live music has never been more ready to make a full return.

Your move, government.

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