With the ever growing number of festivals in the UK it's easy to get lost in a sea of bands you've most likely seen on a previous weekend. Beacons however managed to create a line-up full of diverse acts who chances are, you won't be seeing elsewhere over the Summer in 2013. So with that in mind, I took the trip over to Skipton to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn't disappointed.
Getting to festivals can also be a nightmare, this was one of the smoothest transitions I've ever had arriving to some fields in the middle of nowhere. I was greeted by a hoard of people queuing to get in and all I could think was: "I really want a beer". I get in and pitch up my tent in a lovely spot over looking a field full of my best mates for the weekend. (They were cows, not actual real life people). I then go grab a drink to find I've in my haste to get in a welly has fallen from my bag and with the weekend's weather forecast looking rather grim, this was a disaster of a way to start my first year at Beacons.
I decide to retrace my steps through backstage and the carpark. Back to the entrance twice over. Nothing. This took a good 2 hours. (I could be exaggerating it just felt like an age) Just as I'd given up hope and thought "fuck it", there it is, a gleaming beam of light in front of me. My lost welly. The crowd outside the entrance give me a strange stare as I seem rather too pleased to have found a lone piece of footwear. This may seem irrelevant but finding this put me in the best mood for the start of a very fun weekend filled with the usual stuff you find at festivals and a lot more too.
Entering the main arena you're greeted by several tents, a futuristic looking dome, some fun and games including a rather fun slide, and the huge Beacons logo (seen below), it was welcoming and felt like home. The next step was to get this long awaited beer. Most festivals charge you over the odds for warm mass produced lager or cider. Beacons offered a real ale tent selling a huge range of fabulous locally brewed ales. They were fantastic and my thirst was more than quenched by the Whitelock's tent all weekend.
The first band to grab my attention on Friday were Thumpers who played on the You Need To Hear This Stage, the London duo, Led by Marcus Pepperell, helped break me into the music for the weekend with lovely harmonies and an all round warm and upbeat feel-good sound. Next up are a band from Manchester who go by the misleading name of Egyptian Hip-Hop who play a blend of mind altering tunes which seemed to go down pretty well with the eager Friday revellers in the tent.
My plan with festivals is always to take a "must-see" list but more often than not this plan goes absolutely out of the window due to some crazy unforeseen circumstance, the welly for instance meant I missed a few on that list but I was certain I would watch the soul driven songstress Lulu James. Taking to the Loud and Quiet stage she belts out song after song and it's easy to forget she's a proper northern girl with the accent to boot. Her tracks "Closer" and "Step by Step" got the tent moving along with herself, as she said she'd injured her foot the night before on some glass. You wouldn't of known to see the way she was moving around the stage.
Bonobo offered up a delightful end to the first days festivities as the Loud and Quiet tent was packed full of the mixed crowd of young and old. All happily merry at the end of Beacons day one. Some may have been a bit dishevelled but it's bound to happen. And with that I hit the tent for some peaceful sleep opposite my new friends the cows.
Saturday came around and so did some not so great weather. Waking up at a festival to rain is never fun. Boy was I thankful I'd found that god forsaken wellington boot 24 hours prior or I'd of been one miserable sucker all day. Walking around at a festival is even less fun but with all of the music taking place inside tents it made for a much easier ride than the majority of festivals you may have been to and add to the the huge Whitelocks ale tent and you've got not excuse to be holed up in your tent for too long, however hungover you may be.
Making my way not the arena first thing I was met by the wonderful Findlay performing in the You Need To Hear This tent and lead singer Natalie Findlay certainly knew how to way up the slightly moist crowd playing a set filled with blues garage rock loud enough for a far bigger stage. Looking a little tired in her delivery at times, the crowd seemed to warm with her throughout and by the end many were finding themselves singing along to the incredibly catchy "Off and On". I actually heard quite a few people mumbling it to themselves throughout the day in numerous levels of drunkenness. Definitely an act to keep our eyes on in the coming months/years.
We've talked about the great drinks on offer at the festival, but the food was superb too. Not your average mass produced £8 burgers, pulled pork baguette and crap sausage butties. Oh no no, all the vendors on site were hand picked offering a mouth watering selection of meals. Curries, BBQ, Mexican and my saving grace of the weekend, luxury hot-dogs. Seriously, it didn't feel like festival food and it was all made by lovely people. Two thumbs up from me on the food side of thing for Beacons.
The Loud and Quiet stage was a haven in the rain and entertainment came in wonderful form from Stealing Sheep with their delicate female harmonies and Temples delivered their ever more familiar sound to the tent with seeming ease. I was pleased to see JAWS playing the YNTHT stage too bringing their dreamy distant guitar sound to the smaller stage. A transcendent laid back early evening show was delivered from the Birmingham boys.
Saturday's ever brightening (kind of) day was brought to a close by an absolutely spot on, spine tingling set from LA's Local Natives. Playing a range of songs from Gorilla Manor and this year's Hummingbird, the tent was pretty much full to capacity. Their harmonies filled the tent from rafter to rafter and by the end of their set my voice was shot. An encore later for "Sun Hands" and the band were gone. It seemed like Saturday had flown by, and the dreaded Sunday at a Festival was looming. A few beers later and day two was finished.
Sunday at a festival is like walking the plank. You don't want to reach the end for the ocean that is reality and your day job is just a day of music and a train journey away. You hold on to Sunday as long as you can so with that in mind I made my way first thing in the morning to enjoy Sky Larkin play to a relatively empty tent. Not that it was their fault. It seemed like there was an issue with cleaning the toilets on site which meant we couldn't actually get into the site until the band had pretty much begun. It didn't matter they played a nice set to an ever growing crowd.
Lone Wolf offered a nice break from the day in the You Need To Hear This tent which was curated by Wet Nuns on Sunday boasting some stellar sets bands that all seemed very friendly off the stage as well s on it. I also headed over to the Into The Woods tent for a talk about whiskey which involved tasting a hell of a lot of the stuff. It's not all about the music at Beacons. However before those, Splassh managed to grabbed my attention with their laid back guitar tracks that give me a new hope for this whole slacker thing that's reigning supreme at the moment. They definitely got the main stage pumped for what promised to be a highlight of the weekend in the shape of Detroit's Danny Brown.
The tent awaited with eager eyes as the set time came and went. Maybe I was just clock watching a little too much, but Danny came on nearly ten minutes late to raucous applause and in his high energy set kept the whole tent bouncing. You don't have to know a lot of his tracks to join in as he had a little back and forth with the crowd throughout his set. He was in amongst the front rows for a few tracks too, making sure no-one was slacking in their participation. His upcoming album Old is certainly going to be one to check out when it's released. Stand outs for me was Danny proclaiming he was "The Black Brad Pitt" before performing the Evil Nine track along with "Radio Song".
Back to the Wet Nuns curated tent to see the band that picked the days bands perform themselves to a full tent. Taking us out to Joshua Tree in a few swift moments as the two piece melt some faces with riff upon riff. It seemed fitting as the sun was beginning to lower that these guys had a pretty decent crowd who seemed to be enjoying their balls to the wall metal. A triumph of a day on their stage and a triumph from them too. I managed to then catch a good portion of the masked crusader known as SBTRKT deliver some impressive tunes during his DJ set in the Loud and Quiet tent. My mind does seem to be a a little hazy but I remember several Drake tracks being played which seemed to be everyone's cup of tea, who'd of thought it? I suppose we all started from the bottom in some way or another.
Sunday was closed by the Mercury nominated Django Django which seemed fitting. Delivering their offbeat guitar pop, the harmonies fitted the mood of the evening well. I found myself kind of marching on the spot to "Default", much like I'd be doing on my way back to the office a few days later. It seemed like once again a day of music had melted away, much like the motivation for anything other than the rhythm of waking, drinking and enjoying good music with like minded folk at a festival. I was already dreading Monday morning.
For a festival that takes a big side step from your usual Reading/Leeds, V Festival shtick and offers up a broad and paler pleasing mix of artists established and new, Beacons hands down took the top spot for enjoyment this summer. You can tell that a huge amount of thought and time has been put into every minute detail of the weekend and with it still being so young, I can see it becoming a force to be reckoned with in years to come. I'd highly advise checking it out next years event as it promises to be bigger and better. Head over to the official site where you can grab some early bird tickets for next year's event already. You won't regret it.
Photos courtesy of Beacons.