So here we are for Beat-Herder number 11. How do you follow last years’ amazing 10th Birthday celebrations I wonder, surely there can’t be more naked camel riders? With more fireworks, new venues and a cracking line up featuring huge names from across the dance spectrum Claude Vonstroke, Booka Shade, Miike Snow, Todd Terje, Jesse Rose, Justin Martin, Marshall Jefferson and Riton to name but a few. This is my sixth time at this small but perfectly formed festival in the Lancashire Dales; you could say I’m huge fan of what the brothers do. BH is different to other festivals; there’s attention to detail and creativity everywhere you look, and sixteen unique stages dotted around the site provide something for everyone.
Friday greeted us with all-day rain, which turned the main arena into a mud fest as soon as the gates opened. Not that little bit of mud is going to deter the Beat Herder loyal posse. They have also been coming here for years too and have a tattoo to prove it.
A quick pitch of our tent and were off to go on a tour of the new site. There're a couple of new venues to take in. Bubba Gumma is a 60s Barbarella-esque, bubblegum disco box that you enter from a long dark bunker. The DJ spins rhythmic Afro disco beats, and the party gets going. Psychedelic hippy den Sunrise boasted a thumping sound system. The Illustrious Society is home to the good, the bad and the glitterati. You can only enter if you are suitable dressed. Steampunk, monocles, and Victorian cloth to be precise.
Avoiding the soupy mud and relentless rain we hide out at the undercover venues Trash Manor, BH&DWMSC (working men's club) and Maison D’etre until the evening.
On the main stage on Friday night we catch German duo Digitalism, Swedish band Miike Snow, who drew large crowds and James. Booth enters the stage and delights the crowds with the promise of a decidedly dancy set. He shouts ‘This is dance festival isn’t it.' They performed a number of songs from their new offering ‘Girl at the End of the World’ alongside classics ‘Come home’ and ‘Laid’.
On to Pratty’s ring and we catch A Skillz. The whole of the ring is erupting with his face-paced turntable trickery. The crowd was jumping and singing along. The rain pelted down again, and performances from Dirtybird founder Claud Vonstroke, and Radio one’s B-traits suffered smaller numbers than they should, save a few hardcore fans. We took shelter once again in the Parish Church and spent the night dancing away on the pews.
Salvage came on Saturday morning in the form of the sun, a welcome relief from Friday’s heavy downpours. Trudging around in what now is a soupy smelly quagmire is quite a workout. It's times like this that I remind myself that this is exactly why I like small manageable festivals and couldn't deal with the trauma of glasto. We take a bit of respite in the only bit of green grass we can see. We were swooped on by the Samaritans who are keen to talk to anyone in trouble. That certainly wasn’t us, unless they could resolve the mud, we just needed somewhere to eat our yummy cheese Raclette. It’s reassuring to know that they are there for people who needed it over the weekend.
Scottish singer, songwriter Donovan took to the main stage Saturday afternoon, an older crowd waved their arms to ‘Mellow Yellow’. Not really my cup of tea and he seems oddly placed for a predominantly dance festival, but that’s the beauty of the Beat-Herder offering. They are plenty of curveballs from folk, gypsy, indie, reggae and downright weird.
Local lad Paul Taylor brings with him an array of followers, and it is heaving inside The Fortress as fans scrambled to get on shoulders. I do like DJ, who knows how to work the crowd, and this was mightily evident in his set.
As the late afternoon cracked on, we saw the annual fancy dress come into play. This year’s theme was the letter ‘R’. We caught glimpse of Ron Burgundy’s, Ronald McDonald's, the Red Arrows, and an abundance of rodents and robots. Groups of revellers played paint powder fights in the afternoon glow, covering me and my camera. It's all good fun and warm vibes and I join in the banter. Gentleman's Dub Club and the Easy All Stars provided a particularly bouncy evening on the main stage, bringing some much needed energy to the fatigued crowd.
We headed up to the Toiltrees to catch one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, house legend Marshall Jefferson. He belted out house classics Peter Brown’s ‘Miracles’, Derrick May’s ‘Strings of Life’ and of course ‘Move your body’. He certainly didn’t disappoint and was one of my highlights of the weekend.
Firework cannons boomed before house veterans Booka Shade took to the stage. Despite playing their hit seminal hit 'Body Language’, it was a rather lack lustre set for a Saturday night headline act. Anyway onwards and upwards to Pratty’s Ring and the Fortress, which had a distinctly heavy bass and DnB feel to it. The evening sun played out and the parties across the site got dark and dirty.
Sundays are for lie-ins, and we arose to the sounds of Mama Jerk and the Lady Fingers. The energy of jungle gypsy band Ushti Baba made us head to the main stage. Crowds started to gather and swing each other around to hypnotic trans-European melodies. There was an unmistakably chilled vibe to Sunday and everyone seemed smiley.
Next up was Essex folk singer Beans on Toast who opened his main stage set with apt track called ‘2016.' “It’s got a short shelf life” he claimed. The emotional song brought unexpected tears to my eyes. He recalled the unfathomable news that we have had to deal with this year; (Bowie, Prince, Paris, Victoria Wood, Lemmy, Turkey, Syria and the migrants, Brexit and our current state of political affairs). He jumped down into the crowd to get closer to the audience, pulling the leads behind him. He ran through an hours worth of his best from ‘Outlaws’, ‘The Chicken Song’ and ‘MDMA’. Like the 2pm slot at Glasto he drew the largest crowds. It was satirical commentary and storytelling at it’s best. Another festival highlight and surprisingly standout set that perfectly sums up the true spirit of festivals.
In somewhat of a tradition at BH, we head up to the Toil to catch the laid-back grooves of Mr Scruff, and have one last boogie in the church. There’s a nun in the pulpit kissing her cross, as she waves and raves. It’s gone all heavy hip hop and breakbeat as they blast out Ice Cubes’ ‘You can do it’. Back to the main stage, we catch London reggae singer Kiko Bun's, before heading to the Fortress Krafty Kuts is kicking up the mud with a storming set. Taking to the stage in the Toil is the man of the moment Riton. A favourite for many, and drawing a largely youthful crowd. His mega hit ‘Rinse and Repeat’ pounds out of the Toil Trees system.