As the morning rain subsides, which alchemised my espresso into an Ice-Americano, the sun finally emerges, just as Tim Burgess’ blonde bowl cut appears on the main Lovell stage. Serendipity. The Charlatans and Cheshire-born man is clearly a popular figure round these parts, judging by the swell of people who suddenly appear, and he gets the enthusiastic crowd nodding and tapping with his dreamy brand of alt-rock.
After the jangly desert indie of London’s Los Bitchos, we sit down for a talk by Professor Tim O’Brien titled ‘Welcome To Jodrell Bank’, where we learn exactly what all these mahoosive telescopes around us actually do. Then, in an epic feat of programming juxtaposition, Soweto’s afro-future-rave outfit Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness swarm the Lovell stage. Their lead vocalist Zithulele ‘Jovi’ Zabani Nkosi is one of the most effective hype men I’ve ever seen. Backed by a couple of djembes, bass drums, an electric bass and a vocalist, he vibrates around the stage like a hummingbird, screaming with venom, riling up the crowd with a tempo that occasionally breaches gabba levels.
I set up shop in the Nebula tent, where today’s line up has been curated by DJ and broadcaster Nabihah Iqbal, the London musician formerly known as Throwing Shade. One of the first new discoveries of the day comes with Karma Sheen, a London five-piece expertly weaving Hindustani classical music, psychedelic rock, spiralling electronics and corduroy trousers, with band leader Sameer Khan sporting aviators, a gorgeous handlebar moustache and mossy sideburns. If you dress like that you need a sound to match, and they certainly do. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone play both a theremin and a sitar, and the hour-long set oozes with kaleidoscopic, Can-like tangential compositions, generating a genuine sense of exhilaration in the whooping crowd.
London art-punk Nuha Ruby Ra is up next, and it seems like we’re on a roll. Her confrontational set is something special, partnering the don’t-give-two-fucks energy of an Alan Vega with a silk-like sweetness, and Ra manages to hold the stage even as a lone figure. She stops-and-starts heavy grunge instrumentals via a pedal, prodding it with her brown cowboy boots, and jinking around in her Adidas tracksuit bottoms, provoking the audience with abrasive lyrics that address sexuality, gender and paranoia. “Don’t touch me / Just feel me / Stop looking at me!”, cries Ra. She’s electrifying.
Back at the Lovell, the swaggering, camo-clad Kojey Radical steps up with a set of R’n’B-hued rap. In front of a stellar live band, Kojey gradually raises the temperature to near boiling point, until he’s forced to remove his shirt. Through his pop hit in ‘Cashmere’ to the funky ‘Can’t Go Back’, Kojey is a tonic, and all around the site people are singing the chorus and grooving. It feels like a natural progression which will take us to the headliner in Groove Armada, who pump out classics like it’s no biggie. Unsurprising, given this is their 25th anniversary, and the sound guy has clearly given up trying to turn them down, as hits like ‘Superstylin’ and ‘But I Feel Good’ reverberate across the entire site, while the Lovell telescope that looms above is projected with retro GA visuals.
When the Armada has finally set sail, it seems a big chunk of the audience piles into the cosy Nebula tent for Nabihah Iqbal’s two-hour DJ set. Defying genre, she jumps freely between Prince, Detroit house, UK garage, New Order, and much more. Two hours pass by like a shot, and Iqbal gets a huge reaction from the audience, deservedly so. It’s the kind of swashbuckling set that sums up a truly diverse first full day at Bluedot.
Tickets for Bluedot 2023 are on sale now at www.discoverthebluedot.com/