The cheeky organisers of Bloodstock Open Air almost caused me to miss Saturday's openers Ashtar. Starting an hour earlier than stated on the website, the band had just begun their set as I was walking onto the site. No time for a visit to the paperless toilets or to purchase an overpriced drink, there was a band to watch.

Brazilian seven-piece Ashtar are perhaps quite unknown on these shores. One thought on the way to the show, was that Ashtar should be on the second stage with perhaps the more well known Kingsize Blues appearing first on the main stage. However the main stage was a perfect back drop for Ashtar, because not only were there too many in the band to fit on the second stage, the band have that lush, big sound that warrants such a platform, rather than the club style surroundings of the 2nd stage tent (also known as the beer tent).

The band was fronted by the talented Fernanda G. Mesquita. Not only does she have an extremely pretty voice, she also adds an extra dimension to band by utilising her penny whistle talents, hand-drum, finger cymbols and tambourine techniques. The band's Celtic and folk tendencies are for everyone to hear, and are quite lavish when coupled with the excellent sound coming from the main stage. The biggest problem for me, was that Ashtar's music was so dull.

All the extra folk trappings are great, they provide some neat touches, but it doesn't get away from the fact that the music extremely drawn out and very very slow. There was little that got above 100 bpm, little that got the crowd excited and little that stood out. The guitarists just strummed, providing more of a fuzzed backing than any drive or excitement.

Fernanda's vocals were of that female-mid range that becomes irritating after a while. I'm not saying they were bad, but her continuous Oooooohs and Aaaaaahs began to grate the ears. She rarely sang any real words at all, and when she did sing some actual lyrics they were drawn out and sustained beyond belief (as well as slightly out of tune on occasions)

An interesting band with some novel touches. Ashtar are nice enough which is their main problem. They are one of those bands that people will like to justify their goth standings without having to listen to anything particularly heavy. All in all, they filled the stage, pleased the fairly responsive crowd but I think most of the clientele found it a little too long winded as I was passed by many who were off to get an early burger.