Bluedot has me feeling all wistful today. It started just after breakfast when I absent-mindedly bumped into The Clangers plink-plonking around in the Mission Control tent. A bit later, I was party to a great science experiment where a woman in a white lab coat dropped a few Mentos into a bottle of cola. It went everywhere, by the way, and in deciding to fully embrace the nostalgia, I parked myself in front of the Lovell Stage to watch Brainiac Live blow some stuff up. Oh, youth! Someone hand me a biro and a wooden lab desk to etch a Superman “S” into. And is there a vendor on site selling Pogs?
When Julie Campbell, aka LoneLady, appears on the Lovell Stage in the early evening, she becomes the unlikely hero to pull me from this malaise.
“I used to see magic in everything, but that has gone away from me”, she intones nostalgically on ‘Former Things’, the title track from her exceptional album of last year. Accompanied by Kendra Frost on keys and James Field on electronic percussion, Campbell swaggers through her edgy Northern electro-funk, including the much-loved ‘(There Is) No Logic’, and ‘Hinterland’, which gets the crowd bopping to its strutting Ian Dury-esque guitar riff. They close with the sumptuous ‘Groove It Out’, which is met by rapturous applause.
At one point during her set, Campbell looks up and mumbles, “Cloudy skies, just how I like it”. It’s noteworthy, because it’s something that Metronomy’s Joseph Mount, who is up next, would categorically never say. Metronomy are about as summery as a melting Mr Whippy and have been that way for the best part of 23 years. Here, they perform an assured and lively set to a receptive crowd, who scream when Mount says “The next song is dedicated to two of the great discoveries of the 18th and 19th centuries… ice cream and rock ’n’ roll!”. They duly fire up ‘Salted Caramel Ice Cream’, their beloved Hot Chip-esque synthpop jaunt. Mount may be the most well-known face in the band, but seeing the band live shows just how much of a team effort it is, with bassist Olugbenga Adelekan an energetic performer, Anna Prior a relentless rhythm keeper, and Oscar Cash providing sharp synth work. When they do ‘The Look’ towards the end, the fella beside me looks like he might actually explode with joy.
Closing the Lovell Stage tonight are Mogwai. I’ve seen the Scottish post-rockers play live more times than I can count, and each time I think I’ll grow tired of them, I’m proven wholly wrong. This is one of the most emotive performances I’ve witnessed – their vast, atmospheric noise an ideal sonic partner for the gargantuan Lovell telescope that looms over us. Flitting between their early ‘Young Team’ post-rock and their newer brand of post-rock-tronica, Barry Burns switches between guitar and vocoder, the latter which gives the booming set warmth and personality, as on ‘Dry Fantasy’, its glorious, shimmering melody feeling utterly mesmeric.
When it starts raining, I’m struck by the thought that Mogwai are one of the few artists where poor weather conditions actually improves the experience. Somehow it adds to the atmosphere, as an army of hooded heads begin to throw their heads forward to the thunderous snare drum of Martin Bulloch, while Stuart Braithwaite swipes diligently at his guitar. Not many artists can cultivate such a sense of collectivity in the crowd, but Mogwai sure can.
Tickets for Bluedot 2023 are on sale now at www.discoverthebluedot.com/