Beacons Festival 2013 – Review

Nestled within the picturesque North Yorkshire countryside, Skipton has been home to Beacons festival in mid-August for the past two years (or three if you’re counting it’s disastrous debut year which was cancelled before It’d even got started due to flash floods), the question upon mine and many others lips when arriving on site was: “Is it going to be third time lucky for this independent festival?”.

Early indicators this year were hinting at a successful affair with the capacity of 2012 doubling to 7,500 for 2013, the festival organisers boasting themselves of an increase in the number of toilets, a dedicated family camping area, aptly named ‘Diddy Rascals family field’, a vast increase in entertainment with added tents for visual arts and spoken word performances and if all of this wasn’t quite tickling your fancy the weather forecast looked far more cheerful than previous years.

After arriving at the festival Friday afternoon I was greeted by its small but quaint layout within the dales, there was only a small arena area with three tents dedicated to music bill, although amongst the other tents dotted about I was pleasantly surprised to see sponsors Whitelock’s, Kopparberg and Urban Outfitters with their own respective tents to entice the weekend festival attenders with food, fashion and by the looks of it a lot of fun! Furthermore on the other side of the site was the wide range of arty stuff with the tea rooms, ‘Beacons Boutique’ and ‘Into the Woods’ tent standing out as a popular choice with the latter showing art house films throughout the day.

Beacons Festival

To kick off the proceedings on the Friday afternoon I went to check out Esben & the Witch in the smallest of the three music bill designated tents entitled the “You need to hear this” stage, and was taken aback by the Brighton three piece’s sound of atmospheric rock which more than filled the rather small tent. Sticking around the tents vicinity was a certainty shortly afterwards as one of the hottest tips of the festival Dan Croll was to appear. Opening with catchy hit ‘From Nowhere’ it was a sign of things to come from the 22 year old Staffordshire singer songwriter throughout his whole set consisting of up tempo indie pop tunes, which went down pretty well with more than a satisfied crowd in the Yorkshire sunshine.

Over at the “Loud And Quiet” stage Mercury Prize nominated sub headliner Ghostpoet was about to perform the best set of the Friday with his set of hip hop rhythms which definitely filled the tent with people as well as an atmosphere that would definitely beat that of headliners Bonobo, with a massive reaction from the crowd for sing-along favourite “Cash And Carry Me Home”. To close Friday night was headliner Bonobo hailing from Yorkshire himself, accompanied by a diverse band and a female vocalist, his electronic beats set went down relatively well with the crowd but nearing the latter half of his set I began to feel a very samey vibe which is inevitable but hard to avoid playing songs of that nature for a long duration. To end the night myself and the majority of the crowd made our way to the “Residential Adviser’ tent for celebrated Spanish DJ John Talabot for more house vibes reminiscent of headliner Bonobo.

After John Talabot I was disappointed to find that the arena closed at 2am sharp to mine and the other festival attenders dismay which was also worsened on the Sunday night with all entertainment finishing at midnight leaving many people scratching their heads with what to do immerse themselves in for the remainder of the evening. Although the “Into the woods” and other artsy tents remained open till later I feel this is something organisers should address for next year to keep campers occupied instead of them resorting to creating their own amusements which coincidently occurred on the Sunday evening when a make shift drum and sing-along accompaniment was heard travelling through the camp long into the night.

Saturday started off on a high with rock and roll Manchester girl Findlay taking to the “You need to hear this” stage, with catchy singles ‘Off and On’ and ‘Your Sister’ and the latter reminiscent of 70’s Bowie, the reasonably early bird crowd were definitely woken up from their slightly hung-over state by this loud bluesy outfit. Closely following Findlay with a similar old fashioned vibe were Temples who took to the “Loud and Quiet’ stage on the Saturday afternoon with their set of 60’s psychedelic rock screaming out late Beatles/Pink Floyd.

Saturday night brought a rare treat in non-musical form which would turn out to be the highlight of my festival – this being a showing of the film “The Stone Roses: Made of Stone”, followed by a question and answer session with the director Shane Meadows, of “This is England” and the consequent TV series “This is England ’86” and “This is England ’88” fame. I felt that this late addition to the bill was a very smart move by the Beacons organisers and this is proved when I arrived at the ‘Into the Woods’ tent to find that it was completely full for the film showing. Afterwards I was pleasantly surprised by Shane’s honest, humble and thorough answers to questions fired at him and this left me and the other eager fans in the room with a developed insight into his different film and TV involvements throughout the years.

Shane Meadows @ Beacons Festival

Kicking of a rather gloomy Sunday afternoon on the “You need to hear this” stage were the aptly named The Wytches. The Brighten three pieces' dark psychedelic sound with loud drums and wailing vocals filled me with promising unique vibes which were strangely out of place for that low down on the bill – definitely one to watch. Later on in the afternoon was the time for the much anticipated Sheffield two piece; Drenge. Consisting of brothers Rory and Eoin  Loveless, they enticed the large crowd playing furiously loud riffs twinned with screaming vocals, furthermore with confirmed support slots for fellow Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys and Indie Pop band Peace things are looking pretty promising for the Loveless brothers at the moment.   

Closing the ‘Loud and Quiet’ stage and indeed the festival were Django Django, who have achieved much critical acclaim across the UK after 18 months of touring their mercury prize nominated self-titled debut album. Their psychedelic themed show got off to a slow start but with hit singles ‘Hail Bop’ and ‘Default’ winning the crowd over it was an atmospheric end to the festival.

Uniquely arts orientated as well as hosting a list of flourishing musical artists, this independent minded and family friendly festival is definitely worth a trip. If not for the breath-taking scenery, or its diverse range of food, drink and ales then with ticket prices at less than half the price of a mainstream festival admission I’m struggling at reasons for why you shouldn’t give Beacons the light this time next year.

Dan Holderness

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