By Sunday, everyone’s lobster-pink, a bit grimy and dog-tired from excesses of heat and hedonism. But not to fear! The Big Chill programmers lay on a day of comedy and culture for the day of rest to help everyone recuperate enough to spend another night in a tent. The Guardian tent sells papers with free goodies (fudge and babywipes: a triumph of their targeted marketing strategy) and The Coop provides a whole day’s worth of stellar comedians.
As such festival-goers settle themselves onto hessian mats in this cavernous disco marquee looking like refugee-fallout from some humanitarian crisis: weary and ready to be entertained. First up, Mock The Week baby Russell Howard mixes material old and new in an hour and a quarter set that goes down a treat. His is a style that skews the humdrum into the extraordinary, re-imagining the world with a childlike wonder. It’s evident, for all the comedians, that the festival crowd is a very different creature to their usual audience, with Howard at one point exclaiming, “That was a great punchline, but don’t worry about it!” after a joke passes, collectively unnoticed.
Noel Fielding of Boosh fame fails miserably to carry the baton through the following hour. “I don’t have any punchlines in my set,” he proudly announces, before proceeding with dull fantastical skits and floundering audience banter, prompting the conclusion that he maybe should get some. Where Fielding excels is as the camp, cross-dressing zombie king of the videoed zombie rave, shown later on, on the screens of the Main Stage. The film, shot on site on the preceeding Thursday with the participation of early festival-arrivals, broke the record for the number of zombies caught on camera, managing to get over 4000 people mocked up and baring their teeth for a Warp Film and Film4 co-production entitled ‘I Spit On Your Rave’.
Zombies of a very different kind greet Dylan Moran as he takes to The Coop stage after Fielding late-afternoon on Sunday. A deadpan, cynical master-of-his-art, Moran holds the audience on a string, keeping momentum through a relaxed set that cements his inimitable prowess in the realm of disgruntled Irishman.
There’s plenty in the Sunday music stakes to keep punters at the Big Chill, despite what the city-types might tell you as they pack up and head off to work before the night begins. Broken Records perform a set of string-flanked, Scottish indie-folk brilliance at sundown that pulls an encouraging crowd ahead of a support-slot with The National in London the following week. Meanwhile, David Byrne rounds off a year of touring with his headline set, his band dressed head-to-toe in white, including a gaggle of contemporary dancers that could come straight out of Flashdance. His music is similarly anachronistic, the original in eighties pop at a time when countless new artists are re-imagining the decade.
The weekend draws to a close with the homebred charm of Riot Jazz, a fleet of mesmerisingly talented brass-players who take rock’n’roll, jazz, reggae and even dubstep into their own hands; and Big Chill originals Hexstatic, whose mash up of audio and visuals is the last dancing gasp of the mutating festival beast that is The Big Chill. Everyone’s left tired, but not totally frazzled – true to its name, this is one weekender that strikes the balance between rave and retreat with rare precision.