Now in its fourteenth year, the Malvern valley festival offers a melange of jazz, folk, ambient, dance, comedy and spoken word performances, alongside an art trail, moonlight cinema and Victorian fairground, to name just some of the other attractions
Highlights from the Big Chill, Saturday 2 August
Jamie Woon is the first act to grace the Open Air stage on Saturday, and already a change to the programme. Accompanied by drums and double bass, Woon knocks out slick soul numbers where everything rides on a funky riff. He does have a gorgeous, expressive voice, but when I realise that this is basically Darren Hayes-lite, I start to feel a bit nauseous and gladly make my way over to the Castle stage. First up here are the Spokes, a folk-inflected rock five-piece who combine Celtic modes and the bright melodic cut of the violin with driving guitars and ample drum rolls. It's lively enough but they seem to denote power merely by increasing the volume, and the crowd blanket-sits its way through their set. Expect to hear them on a Vodaphone ad sometime soon.
Nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, the Portico Quartet play with complex time signatures and unconventional instrumentation to fling out quick, hot jazz numbers and deceptively soothing ambient ones. Technical sophistication aside, the Quartet's ability to exploit the full potential of their instruments' timbre mean they really do sound fresh and new, almost as if they play four instruments each and employ a different combination for each song. From the crowd reception, they already have a dedicated fanbase that will only grow if they do clinch the Mercury Music prize. That the Malvern Hills are bathed in sunshine by this point can't do any harm.
Back on the Open Air stage, Fujiya and Miyagi combine pared down guitar riffs with computer game scales and a chattering bass to create a kind of rock electronica which has everybody dancing. It's a very British kind of sexy funk, "if only he wasn't wearing that hideous sports jacket," grimaces my friend G. But the sun is still shining and spirits are high in anticipation of one of the weekend's highlights, up next.
"Big Chill - you dirty bitches!", Noel Fielding simpers to the crowd from out of his Nannageddon guise before stripping to reveal a skin-tight sequinned siliver jumpsuit. So begins the much anticipated 45-minute set from the Mighty Boosh in which the band invoke a number of memorable characters from the three series of their TV show, and generally rollick.
A "Robots in Disguise" sketch which features Rich Fulcher as a priapic cyberman is a particular highlight. The psychedelic monk and the polo-eyed Cockney Hitcher both perform numbers, and even Bollo is afforded a pink feathered mohawk. At one point the crowd starts to boo when a technical hitch threatens to repeat an already-seen Boosh moon video skit but order is restored and the set ends with the requisite mistaken death of Naboo set piece, all to much whooping and laughter from audience and performers alike.
You know that the crowd would pretty much settle for anything Fielding and his band presented right now, such is the current affection for the Boosh. That said, its all been carefully choreographed and very well practised and Noel Fielding is the consummate showman. Sardonic romping music hall for the 21st Century.
The evening ends with a set from Plaid, featuring a unique dance performance from Wayne McGregor's Random Dance troop. It's this kind of collaboration, and a willingness to give it the final main stage slot on the Saturday night that makes the Big Chill one of the better festivals.
Nichi Hodgson is a 25-year-old Yorkshire emigree working as an Editorial Assistant on an Arts Database. She freelances on arts, culture and gender issues