08 July 2023 (gig)
10 July 2023
This year’s Chilfest proved to be one of the most memorable yet with a diverse line-up that seemed to capture almost every 80s genre.
From electronic synth legends OMD, Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey and Blancmange to spectacular soul singer Imagination’s Leee John and a ska and reggae sunshine set from The Duallers.
There was something for the mods and indie lovers too with blistering performances from Big Country and From The Jam, and a tantalising taste of the 90s, courtesy of Dodgy.
And not forgetting some great pop classics from The South, who kicked off Chilfest beautifully with hits like Perfect 10, You Keep It All In and Song For Whoever.
To top it all, the predicted thunderstorms were mere showers and momentary blips on an otherwise glorious day at the beautiful venue in Tring, Hertfordshire.
Chilfest never fails to deliver as a friendly and intimate festival experience, with the atmosphere always raising the spirits, come rain or shine.
The weather was reflected in the sunny ska and reggae set of The Duallers who got the whole crowd singing along to It’s a Wonderful Life.
Next on stage were Dodgy, currently celebrating 30 years since their first album Dodgy, who gave a feel-good 90s vibe with hits including Staying Out For The Summer and Good Enough.
Blancmange’s Neil Arthur gave a commanding and stimulating performance, clearly enjoying every moment on stage. Merging his own innovative brand of unique electronique in both a thought-provoking and entertaining set.
The mod Gods From The Jam gave their usual energetic and crowd-rousing performance with a set of Jam classics including Going Underground and Eton Rifles. as well as a gem from their latest material, Lula, which could easily be mistaken for being part of The Jam catalogue. With the mighty Bruce Foxton and Russell Hastings on stage, we’re always guaranteed for a great show.
Big Country made a big sound on stage, bringing their signature sound of the bagpipes to the fore, courtesy of father and son guitarists Bruce and Jamie Watson, along with lead singer Simon Hough. The band were also graced with the legend that is Mark Brzezicki on drums.
From Fields of Fire to In A Big Country, Wonderland and Chance, the lads performed a fantastic set that the late great Stuart Adamson would be proud of.
Consummate showman Imagination’s Leee John followed next with much-loved hits including Body Talk, Just An Illusion, In and Out of Love, and Music and Lights, bringing a glitter-ball vibe to the Chilfest faithful. What a voice and what a performer!
One of the highlights of the day was Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins and his all female band who posed a striking image on stage with their trademark white outfits. Tom’s got an amazing knack of psyching up the crowd with his captivating performance, which included throwing a gigantic inflatable red ball out to the crowd during You Lift Me Up. Despite the ball bursting, it didn’t deflate the enthusiasm of the crowd or band as he bounced through a string of hits including Doctor Doctor and Hold Me Now.
We’d seen headliners OMD perform at Chilfest in the past and knew this was a sure-fire way to round off a fantastic day.
Despite lead singer Andy McCluskey suffering with a bad throat, he managed to sing and dance his way across the Chilfest stage for a grand finale to wow the crowds. Among the corkers were Joan of Arc, Seven Seas and the hauntingly beautiful Enola Gay.
An amazing end to the day and another jewel in the crown for Chilfest, who pulled together yet another incredible weekend. If you haven’t been before, you really need to add this to your festival musts for 2024.
As for the line-up, this is going to be a tough act to follow, but we have every faith that Chilfest will pull it off again.
Photo credit: Sue Archer