Beacons Festival- Various Artists - Heslaker Farm, Skipton - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Beacons Festival- Various Artists - Heslaker Farm, Skipton

by Andy Brown Rating:10 Release Date:2012-03-18

Beacons Festival is situated at Heslaker Farm near Skipton, hidden between the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. It makes an immaculately beautiful backdrop for a music festival and certainly gives a good first impression.

After some disappointing experiences, I was holding out hope that this relatively small event would reignite my passion for music festivals. A festival good enough to make me forget about the inevitably poor weather to come and to thoroughly embrace every mud-soaked moment.

The festival begins in earnest come Friday and the weather's surprisingly good. British Sea Power is the first band to grace the Loud & Quiet/Last FM stage, performing their soundtrack to Penny Woolcock’s From the Sea to the Land Beyond. The band sit facing a projection of the film as they weave their subtle, stunning instrumentation into the film's portrayal of British life and our relationship to the coast. It’s a genuinely moving experience. Ah, the gifts of sound and vision.

Next up, we’re treated to one of Leeds’ finest new bands, Post War Glamour Girls. Alice Scott’s bass-lines lurch and prowl while James Smiths’ vocals are as commanding as ever. Their Nick Cave via Pixies vibes must have done something, however, as it’s pouring down by the time I leave the tent.

Later, I find myself in front of the Noisy stage, ready to watch Vessels. Augmenting their natural flair for post-rock dynamics with a hithertofore-unknown love for electronica, the band is creating some of the finest music of their career. The music is hypnotic and strangely calming, recalling the likes of Four Tet and Boards of Canada alongside post-rock torchbearers Mogwai. They make it all look so effortless.

The mood changes fairly dramatically with the arrival of London’s Melt Yourself Down. Housing members of both Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear, the band take those jazz-funk stylings one step further. It’s an explosive performance; the band mixing ridiculously energetic rhythms with a blaring and wonderfully unhinged saxophone.

Friday’s entertainment finishes with two of the day's more relaxed performances. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Joan As Policewoman’s last LP was called The Classic, as Joan Wasser’s set displays a knack for soulful, almost traditional song-craft. 4AD signings Daughter arrive to bring Friday to a close. Their slow-building, folk-tinged anthems seem handmade for a festival at this hour and it’s hard not to be pulled in as Elena Tonra’s voice echoes around the tent.

The first band on my must-see list come Saturday is Leeds’ Menace Beach. The bands fuzz-laden garage-pop serves as the ideal eye-opener; although it is 2pm. Appropriately enough, their song ‘Tennis Court’ bounces around my head for the rest of the day. After this, I take a brief break from the music and wonder into the Arts & Minds tent. Here, I’m lucky enough to catch four incredibly talented poets collectively representing A Firm of Poets. It’s all pretty captivating but I particularly enjoy a rendition of John Cooper Clarke's ‘Twat’.

Later on I finally get to see Cardiff’s finest new band, Joanna Gruesome. The band's seamless blend of indie-pop charm and riot grrrl intensity proves even more joyous live, with the serotonin-rush of ‘Sugarcrush’ proving particularly infectious.

One of the best aspects of coming to a festival is discovering new music. They’ve been around for a while but today would be my introduction to Manchester’s, Pins. Vocalist Faith Holgate wears Roy Orbison shades and a leather jacket while singing like a young PJ Harvey. It’s a confident and impressive performance.  

I catch a little bit of Leeds’ influential Nightmares on Wax; their genre-splicing, chilled soul is no doubt a highlight for many but my highpoint comes a little later in the evening. Hookworms are one of the most exciting live bands you could hope to see. Their songs build into ecstatic, sweat-soaked crescendos, cathartic rushes of sound pulling you firmly into the moment.

I'm utterly lost in the noise and euphoria of their performance until the last note reverberates around the tent. I walk away so enthused that I uncharacteristically wonder into the dance tent and spend the rest of the night dancing with strangers. Music really does move in mysterious ways.

Miraculously, Sunday proves to be another day full of musical highlights. Nope come on like a psychedelic juggernaut of sound with two drummers and Andy Abbott’s double-necked guitar leading the charge. Krautrocks’ motorik beat is certainly an influence yet the performance pulses with a raw energy all of its own.

New York’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are an entirely different proposition. The band deal in lovelorn indie-pop anthems, peppered with girl/boy vocals and bedsit-based tales. The focus is on sweetly anthemic, catchy pop-perfection as shown when they play the likes of ‘Belong’.  

Sunday evening brings a glut of ‘you had to be there’ performances. First up, we have The Fall. Like Nope earlier in the day, the band set up the stage with two drummers and the sound is absolutely thunderous. Mark E Smith wonders nonchalantly on stage after the band settle into a particularly brutal groove, delivering the vocals and stage presence that only he could.

The real drama comes a few songs in when organisers inform the crowd that the set has to stop "due to the weather". I really don’t envy the staff trying to coerce Mark E Smith off the stage, the crowd cheering for the band to carry on. Despite a few attempts, and to the crowd's delight, The Fall plays on.

Eventually, the band is temporarily taken off-stage. Is the weather really that bad? Gazing out of the tent to the wind swept, rain soaked, nigh-on hurricane conditions outside I’m inclined to believe so. But this is Beacons, where dreams come true. Roughly half an hour later, The Fall are back on stage and more intent on blowing us away than ever as they rip into a riotous ‘Mr Pharmacist’. 

It’s a thrillingly triumphant performance; but did you really expect anything less from The Fall? The set ends with Smith handing lyric sheets to one of the drummers and the keyboardist, the band playing out as he leaves the stage to smiles and applause. A job well done.

I have no idea what to expect from Neneh Cherry. Yet within the space of one song I’m left wondering, how have I never heard her before? Playing material from this year’s Blank Project album with the aid of Rocketnumbernine, her set is absolutely spectacular.

Songs like ‘Weightless’ bleed a deep, heady atmosphere. The sound flits between trip-hop, drum & bass and experimental rock. But much better than that really sounds. Ah, genre labels how inadequate you are. A revelatory performance.

The honour of closing my own personal festival experience goes to Eagulls. About as far away as you could get from their differently spelt namesakes, Eagulls do full-throttle punk with underlying hints of Killing Joke and The Cure. Vocalist George Mitchell sways around the stage with a bottle of bourbon in his hand, every bit the frontman.

The band pours every ounce of energy they have into each song. The audience crowd-surf and a couple even clamour up the scaffolding supporting the tent. They close with the ever anthemic ‘Possessed’; the perfect sign-off to a rain-soaked but incredibly special festival. 

Beacons well and truly deserves its title as one of the finest small festivals in the country. The line-up blew so many of its larger, more established competitors away, while the impressive range of food, poetry, films and alcoholic beverages sealed the deal. Well done, Beacons, you’ve done Yorkshire proud. 

Comments (10)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Glad you had a good time, Andy. Love the fact Hookworms inspired you to go and dance in the dance tent!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Neneh Cherry's Blank Project is fantastic by the way, one of the best albums of the year for me.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

It's also worth checking out her previous albums The Cherry Thing and Man.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Oh, and the remix album for The Cherry Thing is also fantastic if you can find it!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Yeah, the dancing wasn't planned but was fun, haha

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

And yeah I've been watching a fair bit of Cherry on YouTube. Amazing! she even covers The Stooges!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Yeah, 'Dirt'! Love it!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Blabs are going the right way! Yaaaaaaaaaaay!

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

So they are, hallelujah! Haha

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The photo I've added is of Yorkshire Life Aquatic, it was actually dead sunny most of that day!

There are no comments posted here yet