Having grown in both size and stature since its triumphant debut last year, Beacons Festival remains a quirky, mature cousin to the giddy teenager that is Leeds Festival, held a week after, just over 30 miles away.
Showcasing the musical talent (and ales) dripping out of northern England, the festival doesn’t shy away from welcoming those from further afield, too. Local Natives, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Danny Brown all boost their air miles, while local lads such as Spectrals, Wet Nuns and Hookworms have slightly less distance to travel.
One man now becoming mightily familiar with the rolling Yorkshire Dales is Ghostpoet, who also brought his meditative beats to Beacons’ main stage this time last year.
The past 12 months have seen the Londoner tone up both physically (that’ll be Tuesday nights with Run Dem Crew) and musically, with recent tracks ‘Sloth Trot’ and ‘MSI musmiD’ more broody and menacing than anything that's come before. The climax of ‘Comatose’, meanwhile, is far from a vegetative affair, bristling with paranoid bleeps and redemptive strings.
The next day sees plenty of activity on the fringes of the festival, with an eclectic mix of film Q&As, stand-up comedy and the opportunity for free whisky tasting sessions. Some of the latter spirits are something of an acquired taste and, over in the ELFM tent, so is softly spoken US multi-instrumentalist Julia Holter, who plays a characteristically subtle and intriguing set to a bewitched crowd seeking refuge from the drizzle.
Elsewhere, Mikal Cronin plays a ferociously tight gig pulling tracks mainly from recent album, ‘MC II’. Long-haired Mikal, positioned to the left of the stage alongside his similarly long-haired bass player, doesn't say much, but his Beach Boys via The Cramps power rock speaks volumes. Deceivingly melodic, tracks like ‘Shout It Out’ and ‘Am I Wrong’ linger in the brain long after the bruises sustained in the mosh pit fade.
Meanwhile, Saturday night headliners Local Natives find time in their propulsive set to dedicate their track ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ to Wild Beasts, the Kendal band who played in the same slot the year before. The LA four-piece seem positively up for it, clearly energised by playing so high up the bill and sounding like Fleet Foxes on methamphetamines.
As well as the rain (this is Yorkshire, remember) there was also an inevitable onslaught of promising, young local bands, many of whom are beginning to flee the nest towards national acclaim.
Leeds’ music scene has so much going on right now that its bands have started reproducing together to form spin-off groups. The most notable of these are Nope, who deal in psychedelic krautrock, two drum kits and come bearing members of Hookworms and That F*cking Tank no less. They prove a fearsome proposition live, with hypnotic drum duels and interweaving waves of caustic effect pedal sounds making the phrase super-band for once appropriate.
However, the most high-profile of the new breed of Yorkshire bands is Drenge, the rollicking duo who are also probably the two youngest people in the tent when they take to the stage on the Sunday afternoon.
The pairing of the sibling’s aggressive riffs and bullet point drumming is as arresting as their song titles (‘Dogmeat’, ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’, ‘Gun Crazy’ etc), while ‘Let’s Pretend’ builds and builds on the band’s garage rock with a Northern-twist shtick.
The track’s droning riff and doomed adolescent romance delivers an emotional punch to an already vulnerable group of festival-goers, now approaching their fourth day fuelled purely on Pot Noodle and real ale.
Such a state of affairs makes the prospect of the legendary David Rodigan opening up his record box particularly appealing. “Is someone in this tent smoking ganja?” he asks rhetorically. The recently appointed MBE doesn't disappoint, spinning tracks that veer from classic reggae and dubstep and back again, inspiring wild devotion from those still able to stand. Same again next year please, Beacons.
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Words: Nico Franks
Photos: Danny Payne
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