Gig review: Beacons Festival

Ghostpoet at Beacons Festival, Skipton. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Ghostpoet at Beacons Festival, Skipton. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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With festival season in full flow, the rolling fields of Skipton, North Yorkshire, were primed for a weekend of diverse music, art, indulgence and of course camping.

Having doubled in size to 7,500 capacity this year, Beacons Festival brought a mixed bag of ingredients to the table as it set out on the same weekend as Staffordshire’s mainstream V Festival to capture an albeit far different audience.

Turning into Heslaker Farm, you end up down a winding country lane and refreshingly quickly you’re in walking distance of the stages and camping areas, the whole site is incredibly compact.

After the tent was pitched and the surroundings were scoured, the main arena was an early port of call and it didn’t disappoint with a daytime golf ball trance venue and inflatable rides for adults supplementing a cluster of larger high top and smaller wedding marquee stages, food and drink stands.

The predominantly sunny event catered to an alternative crowd and in parts had a notably hippyish atmosphere, particularly in some of the more arty boutique areas like its intriguing Into The Woods area. The entertainment away from the main arena varied, with everything from crossed-legged talks on morality during the day to open mic spokenword/ lary karaoke at night - it depends what you’re into I suppose.

As a result Beacons, which enjoyed its delayed debut last year following a washout in 2011, attracts a very varied crowd with far more young children and families than you might expect, keeping the ‘diddy rascals’ kids area busy, while the majority of visitors were young revellers or impassioned older music/ art lovers.

The line-up at Beacons this year certainly smacks of someone with a finger on the pulse of the best in Yorkshire music and hints at an appreciation of genres from reggae and trance to indie and rap. Generally featuring three or four recognisable headliners on the main Loud and Quiet stage each stage, the acts were lined up to change up the pace.

Friday’s entertainment kicked the festival off in style, with the likes of Mercury-nominated indie hip hop lyricist Ghostpoet and hypnotic instrumental trip hop Leeds native Bonobo having equal weight on pulling in the crowds - the former’s soulful rendition of ‘Meltdown’ a particular highlight.

The mixed styles of the above finished in time for hundreds to migrate to see Barcelona’s John Talabot light up the Resident Advisor dance stage.

Saturday’s line-up saw London-based indie band Findlay wake up those suffering from the night before, with an early set on the You Need to Hear This marquee tent. Mancunian lead singer Natalie Findlay rocked the pyjamas and wooly hat with her emotive vocals on the barnstorming ‘Off and On’ late in the set.

Inbetween acts throughout the day, the catering was anything but greasy festival food and watered down refreshments in the main. Reds BBQ, Laynes Espresso and Whitelocks Real Ale were among the names recognisable to Leeds residents in what was a quality and again diverse culinary offering for everyone from the deshevelled lads dressed as grannys to the mature music lovers camped under the Hollywood-style Beacons sign and logo.

Manchester’s Dutch Uncles introduced the more established acts on the main stage on Saturday. The high-pitched electropop outfit really brought the crowd to life, with frontman Duncan Wallis getting up to his usual jaunty angular groove inbetween lines.

Electronic producer Gold Panda’s much anticipated arrival on stage following Dutch Uncles was worth the headline billing, as revellers marvelled at the bearded performer’s ethnically-inspired tracks, with the oriental echoes of ‘You’ bringing the house down.

His performance, undoubtedly a weekend highlight, was followed up by LA indie folk act Local Natives and their well-received harmonic lead track ‘Breakers’ bouncing off the walls.

Sundrenched Sunday’s music was again diverse, with the Red Bull Music Academy’s mobile stage pulling in crowds with Leeds-based DJ duo Aartekt’s soul-filled set bringing weathered festival goers together.

An early evening set from nonchalant Cribs-inspired indierock quartet Splashh got the main stage going before audacious Detroit rapper Danny Brown took to the Loud and Quiet stage. The frizzy haired performer’s warm up got the crowd bouncing with snippets of Kendrick Lamar among others before Brown’s dual personality underground rap hit the speakers. Brown’s high tempo yap contrasted with macho grunts during a love or hate performance.

A mammoth DJ set by indigenous mask-wearing SBTRKT followed and brought the Loud and Quiet stage to a crescendo. His mix of dance, hip hop and dubstep warmed the crowd up before he dropped headline track ‘Wildfire’ and followed it with much appreciated remixes of hip hop tracks like Drake’s ‘Started at the Bottom’.

The festival’s pièce de résistance came in the shape of bouncy electronic indie band Django Django, who went all out as they announced they were playing their last festival before taking a break from touring. The band’s biggest hit ‘Default’ was an obvious highlight, while their energetic performance of ‘Wor’, in which the band asked the entire crowd to crouch and jump on cue, was met with rapturous applause, nods of approval and even some celebratory luminous hula hoop dancing.

Django Django capped an action-packed, diverse Beacons 2013 off in style and if this year was anything to go by, Skipton could be the home of a real gem of a festival for years to come.

Gig date: August 16-18

Brian Fallon

Gig review: Brian Fallon at Leeds Beckett University