Beat Herder Festival 2015 – Review

The Beat Herder prides itself on being a festival like no other and has firmly established itself as one of the best festivals of the summer, constantly evolving and improving. 17 lovingly crafted stages set across the Ribble Valley site in Lancashire catered for all types of music taste.  Each year there’s the promise of new arena to wet your appetite. This year that was Trash Manor, which got an upgrade from a red & yellow stripy tent to a stately manor complete with a roman style fountain and grinding robots.

What I love most about this festival is the attention to detail. It’s in abundance everywhere, from the flower boxes to site signage, to my favourite hangout – Quality Street (a street complete with a sweetshop, barbers, tattooist, garage, hotel and a parish church). The whole site is built from reclamation yards and the organisers positively encourage punters to explore the every nook and cranny, after all it’s not just about the music.

The DIY ethic is also noticeable in the refreshing absence of corporate sponsorship and that’s how fans want to keep it. This year however, heritage drinks brand Jägermeister unveiled their new festival experience ‘Unearthed’.  Jägerhaus comprised four separate spaces that offered festival-goers an immersive experience which differs between night and day to reveal secret rooms and passages. The two story wooden shack had a Germanic mountain lodge feel and complete with hexagonal pool table and funky stags heads. There were notable sets from Raff Daddy (2 bears) and Mike Skinner over the weekend, though the venue never quite set the festival alight in its promise. Is this a sign that Beat Herder losing their independent roots, I sincerely hope not….

Matt Whalley from Blackburn said “Beat Herder was amazing as per usual but no more expansions please. Stay true to your loyal fans and don’t go commercial.”

This years Beat Herder was a special one…. their tenth birthday and they invited some of original line up back to celebrate it with them. It’s hard to believe that only ten years ago that Beat Herder was a little known 1,200 capacity rave in the woods. Those numbers have swelled to 15,000, and it’s the wide range of music, and the lovely Lancashire charm that keeps people coming back year on year. Lifers even dedicate their love with a BH sheep logo tattoo. I was tempted myself…but maybe next year.

The main arena opened at 4pm on Friday, giving punters a chance to set up, acclimatise and get pretty drunk by the time the first acts came on. Over the weekend we saw a good caliber of acts from local bands to well-known international dance artists. Here are my highlights.

As Friday evening fell UK base artist Melé & frequent collaborator Slick Don played to young and hyped crowd in Pratty’s Ring. Belting out a host of heavyweight euphoric dance tunes Slick Don urged people to get on shoulders and rise above the crowds. Melé has been steadily rising in the ranks due to his quick mixing style and increasing radio play of his summery anthen Ambience, earning the support of Annie Mac, Mista Jam and Pete Tong.

Securing a huge electronic dance act such as the Basement Jaxx must have been no mean feat for the organisers and what better way to celebrate their 10th anniversary.  The Jaxx did not disappoint as they brought their carnival-esque and energetic show to close Friday’s proceedings on the main stage. They ran through their galaxy of hits from Where’s Your Head At, Good Luck, Red Alert, Do Your Thing, Raindrops, as well as showcasing material from their new album Junto Never Say Never. It seemed as if the whole of beat herder, young and old were bouncing in the air to the finale to Bingo Bango. A job well done.

If you’ve ever seen A. Skillz live you know the man is a wizard on the decks. On Saturday evening the DJ extraordinaire set The Fortress alight with a pounding wave of scratching, sampling and mixing, fusing together, hip-hop, dance, breaks, DnB, soul, funk and disco. We heard mash-ups of everything from Eurhythmics, Nirvana, Damien Marley, The Champs, Route 94, Brookes Brothers. Too many hands-in-the-air moments to mention, and with fire canons lighting up the crowd, this was ASkillz at his very best and it was ridiculously good.

I seem to follow the same pattern each year, and 2015 was no exception; swing dancing on Sunday morning followed by a jerk chicken in the sunshine, then over to the Toil Trees stalwart Mr Scruff’s for one of his legendary 5 hour sets. Accompanied by Mc Kwasi’s cheery infectious nature, his chilled out vibes make you want to smile & dance. He starts off with some more laid back grooves, that build to a more jungle funk to a trip-hop vibe. Towards the end of the set most people are waving their hands in the air and singing along to ‘Hot 8 Brass Band’s – Sexual Healing’. Like A.Skills there are no genres that he won’t touch jazz, motownesque horns, funk, hip hop, ska, reggae, disco and house are all up for his treatment. Sunday’s are made for this.

The sun shone gloriously in the afternoon Crazy P took to the main stage. Championing disco-house vibes lead singer Danielle’s big personality and on stage energy adds a huge amount to their live band performances. She high-kicks the crowd out of their final day sluggish state showcasing their latest offerings from the excellent ‘Walk Dance Talk Sing’ – Cruel Mistress’, Scrap the book, Like a Fool, Hear my Song, The Come On; as well as throwing in some crowd pleasing older favourites ‘Love on the Line andEruption’.

Caroline Greener from Leeds said “Crying with laughter multiple times, warm crowds, dancing till my feet hurt, being with an amazing group of friends in a magical place where rainbows live and fireworks fill up your eyes. Thanks beatherder!”

This is my fourth year of herding beats in Sawley. I almost don’t want to publish this review for others to see. I want to keep this wonderful festival for the few thousand in the know. When something’s this good it would be rude to share, surely….

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