Beacons Festival 2013 – Day Two Recap

Friday night it rained. Saturday it rained. Not enough to turn the site to a mud pool or create huge slides, or cause an outbreak of bonding...
Beacons Festival 2013

Beacons Festival 2013 - Day Two Recap

With a spectacular setting surrounded by hills just outside Skipton, on the fringes of the Yorkshire dales, the Beacons calls itself a ‘Boutique Arts and Music Festival’. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but it certainly has a relaxed and comfortably chilled atmosphere Friday to Sunday, August 16th to 18th. It’s not the place to go to see household names or TV show winners or faded pop stars with careers to resurrect trying to reassert their credibility by slumming it ‘round the farm circuit.

Beacons fansThis is an event aimed at people who like music, who take music just a little bit seriously and who like to hear new and surprising things, but it’s also aimed at those who just want to have a good time. It’s somewhere to come if you want to hear the next big thing and go back home and impress everyone with your extensive knowledge of new music, but if you were just looking for a great festival to head off to with your mates to drink beer and eat pie and peas (this is Yorkshire after all…) and sit on straw bales and let a little bit of music drift by, well Beacons would be good for that too.

Beacons fansThere were lots of critically acclaimed performers, prize nominees and prize winners, lots of people who may be on the verge of being huge – ‘the stars of tomorrow’ as they used to say on some show or other – and a range of music that encompasses grime, rap, punk, rock, folk, country, blues spread over six stages. Three of the stages are exclusively devoted to dance music on which I am entirely unqualified to offer any opinion, but there were a lot of people dancing exuberantly so I guess it was pretty good and in the year in which The Guardian announced that dance had finally toppled indie as the main staple of the music fest, it seems pretty clear that this is the way forward.

Beacons boutiqueThere was plenty going on outside the music stages, of course, with an arts area containing gallery spaces, fancy dress fabrication, lectures, screen printing and magazine making and roving entertainers, hoop artists, guerrilla soft core pornography and tent blessers.  There was also a cinema tent that hosted a Q&A with Shane Meadows, but entry required removal of footwear and this was further than I was prepared to go.  To paraphrase the immortal Sam Fox, the boots stayed on, so we didn’t get to see any films or ask intelligent questions of any film directors.  Instead we visited the ‘Vegetable Olympics’, where I proved to be remarkably adept at pitching new potatoes into wellington boots.  It’s a useful skill to be aware of.

big topThe main stage, sponsored by Loud and Quiet Magazine, was housed in one of the two large big tops that dominated the main area. It boasted an impressive stage lighting rig, which we were told (by one of the bands – I’m not sure which) had previously seen service with JLS. This being a festival for proper musos, the assembled company dutifully booed the stage rig as if it were a spy sent by the Simon Cowell organization to undermine the credibility of the festival.

A smaller tent (which could have done with being a lot bigger – there were frequently a couple of hundred people listening from outside, even in the rain) housed the You Need To Hear This Stage and offered a range of bands from indie through to punk. The smallest of the stages – the ELFM Stage – featured mostly acts from the Leeds-Bradford pub/open mike circuit.



Friday night it rained.  Saturday it rained.  Not enough to turn the site to a mud pool or create huge slides, or cause an outbreak of bonding between sworn enemies, just enough to make things miserable.  Of course people still set about having a good time same as Friday, but it was much more difficult in raincoats and wellies.  A special mention goes to the enterprising people who chose to use the seating bales to build a castle roofed with umbrellas, and have their own private party inside.

private party

The main beneficiaries of the rain were the acts who were on early on the main stages.  If it had been fine they might have found themselves playing to a gallery of a few dozen, but this time all the music stages were packed from early till late.

If Friday was heavy on dance-orientated music, Saturday was about folk.  Most of the performers we caught on the day either borrowed from folk or owed a debt to it in some form – from the deliberate stylings of Stealing Sheep and Local Natives to the trippy guitar jangle of Temples.

Gold Panda


Royal Blood

We started with Royal Blood in the Loud and Quiet Stage.  There are a lot of guitar/drum duos around at present, some better than others.  It’s a format that offers a path into the music industry for the less popular kids because you only need one friend to form a band.  Or your girlfriend.  Comparisons to the White Stripes are the inevitable lazy journalists reaction to them, but in fact these guys do sound like the Stripes at their best.  Their single, “Figure It Out”, is on their Soundcloud page – you should listen to it.  It’s great.

Wolf Alice

Amateur BestWolf AliceA half hour was them spent with Amateur Best, the new name for Joe Flory (previously known as Primary 1) – really pretty tunes, heartfelt and romantic and sweet and the best bugle solo of the entire weekend; then we piled into LAQ for North Londoners Wolf Alice – big guitars, great vocals, powerful stuff.  Once again it was a big sound with a great female vocalist that set the stage alight and the crowd shouting.

Stealing Sheep

The Harlequin Dynamite Marching BandBill Ryder JonesBack on YNTHT there was Bill Ryder Jones, formerly lead guitarist with The Coral and now a solo purveyor of minimalist tunes and film scores (although he has a band with him this day).  Unfortunately it was just too wet to stand and listen for long and too crowded to get under cover, so we decided to spend the rest of the day at the main stage where Stealing Sheep were starting their set accompanied by The Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band.  This was the only main stage performance by a marching band in the whole weekend and the more welcome for its scarcity value.  Stealing Sheep are a Liverpudlian folk trio whose songs are a unique blend of folk harmonies and electronica – there’s a nice video of them playing “Blue Peter” on You Tube – you can’t get cooler than that.


Unless of course you’re channeling pure sixties psychedelia straight into the Yorkshire Dales like Temples who, having done well to recruit the young Bob Dylan’s hair, delivered a spectacular set of trippy, swirling pop rock.  It’s almost impossible to count all the influences you can hear in their songs – it made me think of The Kinks, The Monkees, The Band and of course The Beatles.  Fabulous.

Melody’s Echo Chamber

Melody Prochet of Melody’s Echo Chamber is a French songwriter whose album made it into the top ten albums of 2012 in the NME and she was next up.  Very much an unknown quantity, many members of the audience had their programmes out to check on the potted biography section, but it didn’t take long for her to win the crowd over.  Her songs are hazy and ethereal, and (and this is really old fashioned thing to say) desperately pretty.

Local Natives

Local NativesHeadliners for the Saturday were Los Angeles based Local Natives, who arrived on stage and took the venue by storm – delivering the highest energy, intense set of the day.  Described in some parts as psych folk the band’s set consisted mostly of tracks from their recent Hummingbird album (QRO review) and their sound, big, joyous and noisy had the crowd cheering along.  They’re a band with the happy knack of forming a rapid engagement with their audience and then letting the emotional content of their songs shine through – not an easy thing to do on a festival stage in front of an audience of tired wet people who in most cases are unfamiliar with the material.  Great stuff.  We stayed to the end of the set, and then resisted the siren call of the bass booming from the dance tents as we headed out……. stopping only to take in the tail end of a set by punk legends Wire, still looking great and angry and riding the crest of a wave following the success of their 2013 album Change Becomes Us.  A bit of real class to end the day.



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