It’s like 1969 all over again. The food is, like, totally organic, the people nauseatingly pleasant, the weed in abundance and, um, there are peacocks. Welcome to this year’s Big Chill-organised three-day Enchanted Garden Festival.
If revitalised acid legend Ken Kesey drove his Magic Bus into this party, he’d think he was enjoying a flashback to the original Summer Of Love. The difference, of course, is that back then folk were encouraged to try something new, something different. Here in Wiltshire, at the Big Chill, as its name suggests, the emphasis is on doing very little.
Certainly this is a marvellous prospect when the weekend begins late on Friday afternoon with an assured set from Fridge, but come Sunday evening the urge to stretch out in a deckchair for six hours contemplating the wine bar funk of Johnny Astro has long disappeared.
Which is just as well, given that the musical highs occur during the first two days of this sold-out event, and, anyway, simply being here is the main attraction. Add to this the flushable, Manics-friendly loos, the ego-free DJ and band line-ups, the laser-decorated woodland and the ‘intimate’ crowd size, and it’s easy to see why, in the face of homogenised corporate festival hell, these Big Chill gatherings are increasingly popular.
The one drawback is that no-one ever said spending the weekend with 2,000 impeccably attired, Guardian-reading, media-savvy, nut-munching pseudo-hippies and their tiny, well-dressed, liberal children would be easy. And, more tragically, no-one said it would rain this hard.
Let us praise The Gentle People, then, for defying the atrocious conditions and regaling us with their marvellous new album dressed in pastel blues and greens. Not only do this truly international group perform ultra-swish dance routines but they introduce the waterproofed massive to the festival’s only real star, a giant, gyrating purple packet of, what looks like, Monster Munch.
The rain forces everyone inside, where veteran pedal-steel guitarist and Verve sub BJ Cole jams, successfully, with electronica bloke Luke Vibert, while outside a lone Spuarepusher punches the warm air in celebration of the fact that he is no longer jazz, and is back to his champion hard-rave best. Roots Manuva shuffles into Saturday’s bright sunshine, squinting, but his word-heavy hip-hop is too complicated to comprehend at this juncture. There’s more luck with Exploding Thumbs, whose avant-gardening upsets the peacocks but whose thumbs, quite conspicuously, fail to explode. Ho-hum.
Plaid and greasy D&B geezer Peshay bring Saturday to a close and by 1am there is literally nothing to do except sleep. Even Big Chill FM is playing Nick Drake in a bid to bring us down gently.
The rain wakes us on Sunday and with little to do until Chill favourite Tom Middleton(in his Cosmos guise) goes ambient disco later that evening, we wander nearby fields and bother farm animals, imagining the carnage should Atari Teenage Riot be accidentally booked instead of A man Called Adam.
It’s been great, but after three days of uninterrupted chilling, the temptation to shout at some passing jazz musicians or trash a cup of herbal tea is overwhelming. Truly, you can only be civilised for so long.