It’s Friday morning, and the first few heads are poking out of tents like tortoises from their shells after a heavy Thursday night with Gold Teeth at the Belgrave Music Hall bar. But what better place is there to ease a hangover than Skipton’s loveable Beacons Festival, with its singularly eclectic lineup (who knew that Punk and House were best mates?), gorgeous Yorkshire backdrop and heartwarming campsite atmosphere.
The amount of people that venture out early to see openers Baby Strange (7/10) is testiment to this festival’s focus on music. “People are here!” proclaims vocalist Johnny Madden, before breaking into a set of crunchy, almost-surfer punk including Peter, Bjorn and John cover. British Sea Power (9/10) channel epic, oceanic power into a heartbreaking performance of ‘From the Sea to the Land Beyond’ as an accompaniment to the eponymous documentary, to which they turn to watch with us on a screen at the rear of the stage. Nai Harvest (7/10) protract the emotion with their dreamy love songs, but this is quickly undercut by the unrelenting, shrooms inspired rhythms of Golden Teacher (9/10), who appear to reenact that famous closing scene from Apocalypse Now. Toy (5/10), East India Youth (5/10) and Post War Glamour Girls (3/10) are comparably weak, but things brighten as Submotion Orchestra (8/10) colour the night sky with cascading keys and sexy dubs, and Action Bronson (9/10) exercises his right to party over on the Noisey Stage, frankly blowing the main-staged Daughter (5/10) out of the water. The day ends as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is screened in the cinema tent, and similar scenes play out across the campsite…
On Saturday, Temple Songs (7/10) and Younghusband (7/10) provide a throwback psychedelic experience, and Menace Beach (8/10) look into resurrecting a woozy early 90s American sound to ease Beacons into a blue-sky day. Charli XCX thankfully pulls out, allowing us to enjoy silky-smooth mutha (and friend of Snoop Dogg) Dam-Funk (10/10). He wields a keytar as if it were Gandalf the Black’s staff, creating transcendental, cosmic funk that makes several men fall to their knees in worship. Local duo Galaxians bring a similarly brilliant level of groove (9/10), albeit less jazzy, but post-punk dominates large swathes of the day: PINS (7/10), Joanna Gruesome (8/10) and Traams (8/10) all impress, while Leeds’ Autobahn (6/10) offer some local rivalry to the consistently good Hookworms (9/10). The day finishes with an alien samba band invasion – another way in which Beacons is out of this world.
Few could have been prepared for the weather that rudely awoke the festival at some unholy hour on Sunday. Nevertheless, the wind and rain were no match for the gale force punk and rock on the day’s lineup: Girl Band (8/10) play visceral anti-melodies controlled by the devil; METZ (5/10) are wild but a bit messy; The Wytches (8/10) are the male equivalent of Macbeth’s sorceresses, bubbling and boiling some fearsomely dark riffs; Sleaford Mods (9/10) twitch and rant about sell outs, hypocrisy and McFly; Slaves (7/10) tear Skipton a new one, as do Fat White Family (8/10); and The Garden (9/10) exhibit various gymnastic moves to the sound of Cramps-esque noise, punctuated with a few dirty hip-hop numbers, making for an hilarious and thrilling live experience. All of these bands, though, emerge from the school of The Fall (9/10), who, despite being halted halfway due to high winds, prove themselves to be the masters of anarchic post-punk. Welsh singer Cate Le Bon (8/10), with her woozy, lilting and comforting psychpop, provides those few remaining at the Argyll stage with a tender sonic hug and mug of cocoa before bed.
As the festival draws to a close, red neon lights still burn through the mist and rain, twisted into famous lyrics concerning love (“This one goes out to the one I love”, “Is this love that I’m feeling?”). I can confirm that it is love – an unconditional love for music that bursts forth from every lovely punter at this celebration of Yorkshire, setting it apart from its older, bigger but debased cousin in Leeds. Beacons has a big 120bpm heart that will surely keep on beating.