|Writer:||Darren Bibby, Honch|
Everyone who has heard about Beacons festival will probably be fully aware of the heartbreaking decision to cancel last year’s festival due to the site flooding. They rallied and struggled to put things right, re-mortgaging their houses in order to pay back every single person that requested their money back. Some of the nicer folk (cough cough) didn’t want it back but got the ticket carried over to this year. Hurrah for people who understand that ‘shit happens’ and didn’t start slagging them off on facebook or twitter, shame on you fuckers. So bravo to the organizers, we salute you. So this year with a new venue and a new lease of life to prove to the people that Beacons is going to be the best boutique festival England has to offer, I’m ready to get two years worth of festival squeezed into one.
There's a diverse range of folks here, and the staff are universally friendly. One of the first things I did notice about the festival, however, was the amount of ‘Jumper Cunts.’ Let me explain. A Jumper Cunt is one of those youth types that think wearing shit 80’s/90’s cast off clothing to be ironic is ‘cool.’ Here’s some news for you folks, it's not. You look like a cunt. Once my hipster rage subsided we put the tents up to the sound of the New York brass band marching around the campsite playing their own renditions of some popular golden oldies, although now I think about it, that was probably to be ironic too. After downing a pint of cheap vodka at our freshly erected tent, I wandered on down to the surprisingly empty tent for Visions of Trees. Having never really listened to them in an in-depth capacity and having only vague recollections of an old Band of the Week we featured, I was unsure what to expect. Being greeted with that catastrophic 4/4 bass-laden beat and the raggedy synth combo got me in the mood for a party. I couldn't name a single song if I tried but a particular fave was the one that sounded like ‘Fade to Grey’ by Visage. In the sparsely-filled tent, some flimsy-fringed fuckwits danced out of time whilst m-cat'd out their tiny fucking minds, sucking on Nos balloons and bouncing off me like we were in a fucking pinball machine. Fuck off and die!… Sorry about that, I was momentarily possessed by the spirit of Darkwulf.
Walking into the Factory Floor set, it felt like it had an eerie 90s acid tech vibe but somehow with a grittier and more solidified sound. The glorious oscillating beat that slowly churns in and out of time, and that low-mix shoegaze vocal that you can't quite make out but always adds a human something. It's got that raging psychedelia of Animal Collective all mixed up with the technical prowess of Autechre; what more could you want as you're approaching dark in a tent the middle of a sodden field? Bringing some severe technik discipline to these shambling pastures, through the set they upped the tempo and ferocity, and got the now full tent bouncing like a bunch of muppets; myself included.
After a flagon of ale I dragged the wobbly clan back to the Stool Pigeon for Mount Kimbie, a heavily voiced post-rock/dubstep crossover band. Like a lot of crossover bands of this nature, the stature of the sound is more impressive than the impact of the songs themselves which, beneath the high ideals, are overloaded with saccharine.
D/R/U/G/S played some digital recordings and we all willed our suspension of disbelief to convince ourselves it was a live performance...oh...it wasn't D/R/U/G/S. We missed them by being hammered and a DJ set had started. Still danced like weapons for a few songs. With the rest of the group either tantric bumming or spending the night in the campsite shed dancing around an old 80’s ghetto blaster, I hit the sack .
Mid-morning, and a pair of trustafari types in patchwork clothing stalked the campsite with a megaphone, commenting hilariously on everything they saw, at high volume. This was either a portable comedy installation, or a mobile dickhead, depending on how altered your mind was. After the charlatans running the bar robbed me blind with their stupid 'got to spend twenty fucking quid before you can get cash back' rule, we started the day watching Stalking Horse. Furnishing the stage with a very interesting and unconventional setup of two drummers and three guitarists they clattered through their set. These boys are a sound man's worst nightmare with ringing feedback throughout, but what an absolutely fucking amazing live band. The very catchy memorable vocal harmonies of ‘The Dawn is Father to the Sun’ had me humming away for most of the day.
Juffage was next up so I got right to the front to watch the wizardry unfold on stage. Unfortunately the sound guy must have been asleep as the levels were all over the place, with no drums coming through the PA at all. Luckily I was close enough to hear everything from the stage monitors which seemed to be EQ’d perfectly. What he lost at the hands of the mix, he made up for with his amazing stage presence and interesting performance. Though not without fault it was a very enjoyable one at that, and one of my highlights. Several boring and un-recallable bands later I stagger into the outer edges of the Stool Pigeon tent for Japandroids. The American duo cut and throb through their repertoire of songs, and although really tight and technically great they still failed to really grab my full attention and keep me entertained.
Where Japandroids failed, Ghostpoet made up for it with a double helping of awesome. I'm zoned in and captivated from the very beginning. With his style and energetic persona he creates an amazing atmosphere and controls the crowd with every word that leaves his mouth. He is the organ grinder and we are his harem of dancing monkeys. Towards the end of his set, he begins an impromptu 'Yorkshire' chant that swells through the tent. Being a Lancashire lad I abstained from singing this inbred chorus through fear I would go home and sex up my sister.
It's got to that part of the night where everything turns from monochrome into technicolour and things become more tactile than usual, as I headed for Stay+ for some four to the floor rave times. I couldn't even see the stage it was that dark in there; all I could see were their dancing head torches as they dropped one of my favorite tunes of the moment, ‘Eyes’ which features the brilliant No Ceremony. This sent me into full-on rave mode. But my flailing display was quickly overshadowed by a small child dressed as Spiderman dancing his little ass off and melting the hearts of everyone in eyeshot. Cute little bastard.
Eagulls grabbed two huge fist fills of my beard and launched at me with a clatterhouzen punk riff head butt to the face. They throw in a cover of 'Public Image' which nails their abrasive colours to the mast. They fuse post punk aggression with shoegaze sonic jets to make a huge impression on a weekend of largely easier listening. Down the front, someone tossed about the torso of a mannequin, draped in either barbed wire or some kind of flowers. Either would be appropriate for Eagulls.
Wild Beasts pulled the last few threads of my slowly fading ability to concentrate on one thing for more than a nanosecond, and turned it into a cross-stitch cloth of my stupid smiling face. The music is subtle, elusive even, a vehicle to give flight to the wonder of the vocal drama which unfolds. In this sense, Wild Beasts are this generation's Smiths. They emerged for the encore in pussy riot masks; a reminder that these songs are not some ethereal ornament or escape: they can inhabit and enhance our everyday life.
It's the perfect closer to a wonderful day; after getting friction burns off an inflatable slide it's time to head back to the tent for another night of no sleep at the mercy of the Yorkshire paragliding team flying over the tents from the early hours.
Nope hammered some wet heads with seasick noise punk and swirling echoey outbursts, while Hookworms take a similar sound and stretch it out into something more hypnotic und angetrieben. There's one success of Beacons; I'll be seeking these boys out as they bent the afternoon into a more ornate shape with their psychedelic stew.
For all their pop nuggets, Frankie and the Heart Strings sounded tinny and unsubstantial, like a school band striking lucky. Willie Mason warmed the cockles of our heart with a cosy set which attracted a sizeable throng to the Stool Pigeon stage. Quite apt really, as at this point all the tents, with the combination of mud and rising body heat, began to smell like Morecambe Bay despite being several miles from the coast. As I sang along to 'Where the Humans Eat', some guy launched himself over a barrier and threw a whitey, lying prostrate with eyes rolling back in his head. He was attended to swiftly and was back smiling again no time. Folk is dangerous.
I was surprisingly excited by the end of the Hawkeyes set. I found their EP to be a little lifeless and stale but in a live setting, although still a little generic for my tastes, made up for this bountifully with ferocious energy and atmosphere. However, they were merely a whistle wetter for That Fucking Tank. With less man power and twice the ardor of the band that preceded them; If they were pie these boys would be a family size steak and kidney and I'm eating by the fist full. They hold the essence of skater rock and classic Rock riffage but with a huge pair of hairy balls swinging from their mid carriage. They even threw in a rework of ‘Can't Start the Fire’ by old Springsteen, but delivered in a grittier, more demonic Surf Melvins way.
Up to the front for Beard Rock favorites Tall Ships, the masters of layering loops. In my humble and probably unimportant opinion these guys by rights should be fucking massive, bigger than Bublé and Wot Gorilla combined. New song 'Gallop', as well as doing what it says on the tin, smashes the tin open and pours out ch-chunky little off-key riffs and melodic baby gravy. The Team Beard girls went all squishy over their corrupted choirboy moves, and wore expressions like we'd sacrificed a kitten when the call came to check out Lanterns on the Lake. We only managed to catch two songs of a short set in front of a surprisingly thin turnout. A minor criticism is that the PA in this tent has been too quiet all weekend, and the electro thump in the adjoining tent rendered their fragile soundscapes somewhat indistinct.
The new site coped admirably with some pretty horrendous weather for two of the three days, and surely no-one could have failed to catch at least one new band that they'll be checking out once they've got home and rinsed off their bits. The friendly, laid-back atmosphere never flagged and with the addition of perhaps one open air stage as a hub in the huge yawning space in the middle of all the attractions, the layout would be perfect. We'll be back.
Photos by Bart Pettman
Posted: Wed 22 August 2012