Familiar players on the London scene, the Big Chill bars are solid urban watering holes, but their name, and the ethos that goes with it, comes from somewhere far away from the city.
I had been to the Big Chill festival in Eastnor a couple of years back and had a good, if somewhat unchilled time, but as I prepared for this year, having had two consecutive weekends on the smash and a taste of the festival experience at a rival event, the Secret Garden Party, I was unsure about how bothered I was about going.
Then all my friends pulled out, the weather looked about as reliable as an Alfa Romeo, and in the end I only went because one friend had already paid for a ticket.
Going, however, was the highlight of my summer. Even now, a few days later, when I should be in the foetal position, a ball of misery and shame, mentally cursing all those sinister losers I bared my soul to and vowing never to do something like that ever again, the warm glow is still there. And even though I keep telling people how good it was, doing so isn’t diminishing the truth, though really it wasn’t just good, it was amazing.
Friday night exceeded all my expectations and we went from MJ Cole to Basement Jaxx to Toddla T, all of whom were outstanding. It was one of the best nights, music-wise, I’ve ever had, and jumping up on a friend’s shoulders to look over the Jaxx crowd was a breathtaking moment I’ll keep forever.
A predictably miserable and desiccated specimen on Saturday, I thought I would struggle to go out again, but after finally managing to steal an hour’s sleep we went back into the fray. And it happened all over again: another extraordinary night.
Orbital were a tepid waste of time but we found plenty of other entertainment and amongst the enchanted surroundings, with looming, luminous oaks, tongues of flame, fancy dress, swimming lights and mist drifting off the lake, you could sit by the bins and feel you were in Wonderland. It’s the only place you’ll hear a Geordie say: ‘Never underestimate the power of a lit up tree’.
I was sad to miss the comedy on Sunday night and there was so much going on that it was hard to leave. It’s not about seeing mega names, but it’s not about walking for hours through huge crowds either: it’s about cider and SolarAid, circus skills and cinema, drifting around during the day and coming alive at night. And although it’s one thing to say I had a good time, everyone I spoke to kept saying the same thing: the best crowd, the best weather, the best festival.
And I’d go along with that. Let’s hope some of it makes it back to London.
The Big Chill London bars:
257-259 Pentonville Road
Tel: 020 7427 2540
91 Brick Lane
Tel: 020 7392 9180