From Son of Dave to The Lancashire Hotpots

Beat-Herder is not a festival, it's the fifth birthday party you always wanted but didn't get because your parents had at least some tiny modicum of responsibility and too small a garden.

A man dressed as a beekeeper chases anyone dressed as a bee (of which there are many) with a giant net; four pirates sail an imaginary ship through the arena and ask for help finding their treasure, marked with a cross on an A-Z ; a couple of Barbies waddle by in their boxes followed by two hot girls wearing little more than a giant flowerpot each; Minnie Mouse is sitting on a giant chair being sick; and look, someone dressed as Mr Motivator is on the main stage leading a workout. No wait... that's the real Mr Motivator.

If this all sounds a bit 'I'm mad me, check out my silly hat', it's really not. With over half the people here having put in some serious effort (one guy is even dressed as an entire bar), it's impossible for any one prick to think they're the life and soul just because they had the imagination to pay a tenner for something oversized with the name of the festival on it. Various soundsystems and DJs from the locale make up a sizeable chunk of the music, a nod toward the festival’s beginnings as a mildly illegal rave-up in the woods a few years ago.

Bands, though, are either daceable, funny or both. Acts as diverse as Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, the unhinged country of Son of Dave and reggae brilliance of Easy Star All-Stars are all on the mainstage, along with The Lancashire Hotpots, who are a Beat-Herder staple with their flatcapped Northern odes to chippy tea and emos. In the Working Men's Club Tent some proficient wedding covers bands get the opposite reception to the one they'd probably get at Reading or Download. In the Toil Trees the music doesn’t stop between about midday and 6am. Among the DJs keeping the energy at a steady high are The Whip, who played the main stage last year and evidently loved it.

There's only one dud this time around, and that's Saturday's mainstage headliners The Blessed – product of producers Dave Beer and Gareth Whitehead - who are playing what is apparently only their second gig, the first one being a support to Fatboy Slim. The crowd aren't impressed by this and by the time they're halfway through a lifeless set there are about 50% fewer people there than there were before there was anyone on the stage.

Even with an increased capacity this year of a couple of thousand it still sold out in no time at all, with no really huge headliner and no band you're likely to have read about in the past couple of weeks in any new music publication. Anyone who plays needs to be able to make the crowd dance - seizure, bounce or bob about a bit - that's the only criteria. Beyond that, trust the organisers to surprise.

Words by Kate Wellham

Follow Clash: