Beat-Herder 2012

Lancashire's hidden gem...
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And so it transpires that – with the bulk of England under water and the transport network pushed to breaking point – Clash ventures to Beat-Herder. Secluded away in a hidden part of Lancashire, the sodden weather can’t dampen the spirits of a crowd who will rave any time, any place... any weather.

The site itself is compact but almost ludicrously well thought out. At times, it seems that every single nook and crannie has a point, a purpose, with alternative therapy stalls sitting close to vintage clothing outlets and a varied selection of foods from across the world. The common language during the day time is bass, with Beat Herder throbbing to all manner of reggae sounds. The Orb are busy cranking through a four hour set when we arrive on site, and the legendary group are showing no signs of losing their taste. The band recently collaborated with tomorrow night’s headliner Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and his brand of spiritual, exploratory roots runs in their veins. There’s room, too, for ruff ‘n’ ready Dancehall with The Orb spinning discs to exercise both your mind and your feet.

Roaming around the site, it’s clear that while Beat-Herder might not be the biggest festival out there it’s certainly one of the most intricate. A clearing in the woods is injected with a soundsystem, providing a natural amphitheatre which is complimented by a Surrealist approach to set design. Vintage cars are left abandoned, while makeshift bordellos house the afternoon revellers. A smallscale cinema sits to the right, with families huddled together as the music blares in the background.

Eclectic without losing sight of its identity, Beat Herder boasts DJs sets which span ages, generations, styles and decades. A five minute walk takes you from 50s doo wop to blistering R&S style techno, with Ragga, ambient and New Wave left lingering in your wake.
As evening draws in the Main Stage becomes the focal point of attraction. King Charles perform but, while it’s certainly slick, the set feels a tad forced, a little underwhelming. The same can’t be said of Saturday night headliners Orbital: festivals veterans – their Glasto ’94 set changed lives, doncha know – the Hartnoll brothers step forward to show other how it’s done.

Refusing to allow themselves to become a techno artefact, Orbital’s set matches classic material with recent album ‘Wonky’. Adding a contemporary touch, the album re-positions the duo tearing them away from their place in the pantheon of Acid House nostalgia.

Naturally, it’s the old favourites which get the warmest applause. ‘Belfast’ remains as blissfully euphoric as ever, with those female vocals tumbling out over the now blackened site. Those lazer guided spectacles appear to be doing the trick, with Orbital’s visuals shattering around the compact, atmospheric main stage arena.

It ends, appropriately, with ‘Chime’. Orbital’s calling card, the track has lost none of its potency with the song’s simplicity allowing it to be re-worked in all manner of new directions. The end, though, is just the beginning with Beat Herder only really coming to live after the sun – well, what we see of it in the Lancashire damp – goes down. Over in the trees, Etienne De Crecy cranks up the volume for a blistering electro set which is clearly aimed at peak time clubbers. It’s an unrelenting experience, one that does wonders for the crowd with the music pushing past barriers, boundaries.

Which is what Beat-Herder seems to be about. It’s careful, self-policing ethic has much in common with Glastonbury but it also shares a similar vibe to those nascent, epochal outdoor raves. It’s a communal experience, one that leaves you reaching out to the person next to you – appearing in blurred photographs, woozy recollections. Border Community pairing James Holden and Nathan Fake see out the night, with their experimental take on techno’s legacy filtering out over the crowd and up into the trees, escaping past the pines and off into the starry, starry sky.

Photo Credit: Ian M Palmer

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