I think it’s fair to say that we all entered 2021 with an air of optimism; after all, nothing could have been worse than 2020, right? Well, sadly those feelings have been gradually quashed thanks to various new Covid variants that have left endless restrictions still in place. For music lovers, an air of trepidation has taken afoot, with numerous festivals unable to go ahead as planned. Yet on the weekend of June 18th - 20th, a glimmer of hope appeared as 4,000 lucky revellers attended the inaugural Bigfoot festival. Set in the picturesque grounds of Ragley hall in Warwickshire, those attending were treated to performances from some of the biggest names in the music industry, along with gourmet chefs and the festivals offering of unique craft beers.
Despite the typically awful British weather, nothing could dampen the spirits of those lucky enough to watch live music, without having to sit down. Of course, the festival represented a look into the new normal with these events, with all those attending required to return a negative test within 48 hours of the festival, to enable admission. One-way entrances and exits were in place at all stages, often a cause of frustration to those in a rush, but one necessary when controlling large crowds. Overall things ran smoothly and thanks to the precautions in place, you always felt safe and above all, free to enjoy the music.
To Bigfoot’s credit, they bought together a star-studded line-up that included incredible performances from the likes of Primal Scream, Hot Chip and Fat White Family. What they managed to do best was create a programme that appealed to all corners of the sonic spectrum. Based over three large stages and many smaller bars, there was always something to keep you occupied. Whether it be on the main stage, or on the canopy dance stage, perhaps even the Signature Brew stage that played host to the heavier side of rock, every which way you turned there was someone new to explore. The festival also created a unique family atmosphere, with activities for kids put on throughout the day, and many could be seen dancing with family throughout the weekend.
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Friday offered a programming headache with two of the home nations in England and Scotland playing each other in the Euros. Unsurprisingly the match dominated proceedings, with around half the festival tuning in around the cinema screen. In what turned out to be a total bore 0-0 draw, many missed out on great sets from post-punk band A Certain Ratio and electronic stalwart Hot Since 82, who bought that true feeling of infectious dance energy that we’ve all longed for. It was an opening night that reminded you exactly why these experiences were so special to us back in 2019 and why we can only hope this leads the way for more events to happen throughout the summer.
Saturday saw the clash of the alt rock, six member bands as Sports Team and Fat White Family. With both gaining huge fanbases in recent years, we saw two heavyweights own completely different, albeit erratic, styles. Perhaps best encapsulated by the opposite styles of each front man, with Sports’ very own Alex Rice so energetic and unpredictable that he delivered endless punk energy. Whilst Lias Kaci Saoudi of Fat White Family appeared to have a cigarette at hand throughout every moment of their set, providing a far more laid back performance that tapped into areas of psychedelia, particularly during their rendition of ‘Whitest Boy On The Beach’. It was a tight battle that provided endless entertainment throughout, but it showed exactly how much talent is waiting in the wings of the rock world.
However, if we’re being honest, Saturday belonged to headliners Primal Scream, who delivered a truly special set. Over the course of 90 minutes frontman Bobby Gillespie delivered hit after hit, that showed the true breadth of their back catalogue. What made this performance even more remarkable was this was one of only four live shows they’d be playing this summer. Not even torrential downpours could take any focus off the band who certainly drew in the biggest crowd of the weekend. Renditions of ‘Country Girl’, ‘Rocks’ and ‘Movin On Up’ felt fresher than ever, whilst ‘Come Together’ bought a true connection between the act and crowd, with so many being separated from loved ones and friends during the pandemic, the songs meaning meant more than ever and displayed the true wonder of live music.
So monumental was the Saturday night that you woke up on Sunday feeling like nothing could top it. Perhaps many others felt the same, as hundreds left the campsite to travel home in time for work on Monday. For those that remained, a vast variety of acts gave reason to be cheerful. From the classic reggae sounds of Trojan Soundsystem, to the heavy metal aesthetic of Pigs x7, whose vocalist Matthew Baty somehow performed topless in what can only be described as depressing, autumnal weather conditions. Sunday also proved to be a stellar day for electronic music lovers, with rising stars Jay Carder and Lemmy Ashton delivering delightful, left-field selections throughout the day. Quirky and weird, it was a joy to be exposed to something new, where you didn’t have to delve through the internet endlessly to find, they certainly proved themselves to be acts worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Beloved electronic, synth-pop band Hot Chip bought the festival to a joyous close, bringing their revered ‘Megamix’ show to the main stage. Playing everything from the likes of Lorde through to Henrik Schwarz, whilst the band also treated the crowd to numerous live renditions of some of their most popular songs. Vocalist Alexis Taylor’s unique and beautiful voice is more impressive on stage, which was proven particularly when performing ‘Flutes’, ‘Spell’ and ending on ‘Over And Over’. It was the epitome of a feel-good set and one the band didn’t want to end. Arriving early and pretty much having to be dragged off stage, Hot Chip encapsulated the euphoria that Bigfoot was all about, after all, musicians have missed this feeling just as much as we have.
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Bigfoot festival did many things well, especially for it’s first edition, however, there was of course a few teething problems. The first of which saw multiple big names on the line-up drop out due to travel restrictions, this was of course a matter of chance timing, although the situation could certainly have been communicated better. The likes of Baxter Dury, Franc Moody and Gerd Janson all fell to such issues, with each undoubtedly set to bring their own unique sound to the grounds of Ragley Hall. However, no announcement was made regarding this, instead, set times were released a week prior with each name absent on the programme, leaving fans having to comment via Instagram for any confirmation.
With eyes already focussing on next year, another killer line-up is sure to follow, although a closer look into the programming on the dance stage would be hugely beneficial. In general, the manner in which artists were arranged were perfect everywhere, except the canopy area. Throughout Friday and Saturday, too many artists were given one-hour sets, which dance music enthusiasts will know, is simply not long enough. By the time many had found their rhythm, the next artist was about to come on, which made many artists hard to remember prior to the big names entering later in the evening. For the 4,000 revellers attending Bigfoot, not only were they extremely lucky to be there, but they also acted as guinea pigs who held the power to define the rest of the festival calendar for 2021.
Operating under the latest Covid guidelines, the festival acted as a test, to see if this could be managed on a grander scale, and the results appear promising. From where I stood, the precautions worked and I came out unscathed, as I’m sure the majority did as well. Upon the submitting of such results, we can only hope the government wakes up to the situation in the events industry because at this point, it’s getting desperate. With enough evidence out there now proving the lack of danger involved with such events, it would be incomprehensible to see them not return. After all, what’s the point in young people getting vaccinated if the freedoms they once felt, fail to return. Time will only tell on that one.
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Words: Jake Wright
Photography: Andrew Makin + Nic Crilly-Hargrave