Main stage goes underground, overground
Miss Grit – PHOTO: Mark ROland

Miss Grit’s oversized suit and reticent persona might  put you in mind of David Byrne, but the music lands elsewhere. The confidently breathy vocals recall some of Mazzy Star’s similar floating, but it’s the guitar work which takes it into the stellar. It was understated on the excellent album, ‘Follow The Cyborg’, or rather it was more a part of the sonic landscape. Live, Miss Grit wrangles some gnarly sounds from the axe with nifty skills and a charming involuntary Elvis sneer, fingers as adept on the fretboard as the voice is as hitting the high notes. It’s American post-punk electronic shoegaze for the 2020s, maybe a little trip-hop adjacent. It all electrifies the early-doors crowd, impressed by the chops and wowed by the tunes.

The day continues with former Raincoat Gina Birch airing songs from her 2021 solo album ‘I Play My Bass Loud’. Birch, now in her late 60s, remains as artfully carefree as ever, jovial anger fuelling her performance. The title track sees all three members of her band playing basses for a rousing finale. 

Django Django – Photo Paul Whitely

Django Django are quite the proposition. Now more 10 years into their stride, they’ve just released their fifth album, the mammoth ‘Off Planet’, a 90-minute opus whose subject matter makes them ideal Bluedot material, as if they weren’t already. Dressed in white, they have the boundless energy of a cult, but their sound is rooted in English psychedelia (only one of them is English, mind), synthesiser oddness and early 60s Fender twanging a la The Shadows. ‘Waveforms’, the first single which saw them breakthrough spectacularly is like the Dandy Warhols covering Silver Apples’ ‘Oscillations’.

They’re always charging towards a climax, but the key changes and mood shifts they conjur up along the way gives their pop an appealing darkness. There’s the moment, for example, when they almost enter into a spiral that could be a reversed rendering of Pink Floyd’s ‘Astronomy Domine’. When they actually morph into The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ the adherence to 60s psyche is cemented. If you’re going to show us why you do what do, you may as well make it The Beatles. The same goes for when they drop in Daft Punk’s ‘Around The World’ having already co-opted the ‘Theme From S’Express’ drum break into ‘Slipstream’ off the new album. The crowd goes unsurprisingly mad.

Every time they fall into one of their groovesome holding patterns, you half expect another signpost to a musical reference point on the Djano map. A New Order bass line, perhaps? Something from ‘See Emily Play’? If Syd Barret had added synthesisers to his songwriting arsenal he may well have sounded like this.

“Here’s a golden oldie,” says singer Vincent Neff, introducing ‘Default’, its martial drumming and clean guitar strum just needs a singer in a stripy shirt shaking maracas to complete the sense that this is a parallel reality where electronic bands were showcasing hits alongside the Stones on ‘Ready Steady Go!’. 

In the end their photostat brilliance makes my mind up: Django Django are a great 21st century band.

Roisin Murphy – PHOTO: Jody Hartley

And finally it’s time for Roisin Murphy. This is her turf, a festival within hitching distance of Manchester and Liverpool, and an audience of disco girls and boys many of whom will share her Irish roots and love of dressing up. On the latter point, she doesn’t disappoint, sporting a pointy wizard’s hat and an extravagent purple cape under which she wears a suitably silver creation straining to be noticed. Ex-Moloko superstar, innit? She does play ‘Sing it Back’, how could she not? She wrangles a camera while singing it which beams her image onto the Lovell telescope as it becomes a salsa rework. 

She also has a number of impressive hat changes up her sleeve. The wizard job replaced with a bushy starburst of pink feathers, which is itself surpassed by the black geometrical paper lantern number, followed by a fetching straw boater. Was there a bowler at some point? There was certainly a moment when her glove roadie helped her don her elbow-length gloves. 

She plays ‘Something More’ from 2020’s ‘Roisin Machine’, its quasi-gospel opening and loping groove warming the crowd into movement.

‘The Universe’ from the 2023 set of songs is further evidence of Murphy’s shapeshifting capacity, from electro-grunge edge, to disco queen, to sunny r ’n’ b with its spoken word interlude evoking the kind of weirdness of a storyline from the Netflix of ’The White Lotus’.

And then there’s ’Ramalama (Bang Bang)’, a peculiar creation from 2005’s ‘Ruby Blue’, every bit as artfully constructed as the new outift she appears in after claiming she needed to leave the stage for a bit to catch her breath.

When she starts dancing with a silver alien doll thing, you fear for the little guy’s well being. But by the time she departs all is well in space and time. As the memory of the Moog filters outrageously grinding through the gears in the first couple of songs tonight, Murphy’s journey from Ireland to attending Sonic Youth gigs, to living in Sheffield and Manchester, to becoming an international hit mistress, to being produced by Matthew Herbert to this Bluedot performance is a roadmap of the British Isles and its underground/mainstream paradox. 

You May Also Like