Live Report: Beacons Festival 2014, Yorkshire

Storming sets from Jon Hopkins, The Fall and more…

There’s a good bit in From The Sea To The Land Beyond, the stirring coastal-themed documentary that opens this year’s Beacons Festival, in which stoic revellers are being pelted by fierce wind and rain on a particularly stormy night in Blackpool.

Those sat watching the film last Friday, supping real ales and listening to its elegiac soundtrack being performed live by British Sea Power as the sun shone on the Yorkshire moors, would have had little clue that a similar fate would befall them two days later.

Luckily, by the point the last wheezes of Hurricane Bertha arrived on site on Sunday evening, the Beacons revellers had already chance to devour a gleaming line-up, primarily made up of abrasive rock up-and-comers like Girl Band or jaw-droppingly good electro luminaries like Jon Hopkins, before the weather turned biblical.

Having been eased into the first day's music via British Sea Power, the responsibility to turn things up a notch falls to TOY, who, like a foal taking its first steps, begin their set shakily but end up in full gait, powered by the momentum of their liquorice dark, slow then fast, then slow, then fast again Krautrock riffs.

With Woman’s Hour stuck in traffic somewhere on the M1, full attention then turns to the second stage. Here, East India Youth gives an assured performance of his mighty fine debut album ‘Total Strife Forever’, mostly while hunched over his electronic workstation. The pounding climax of ‘Hinterland’ is felt in the ears long after the dapper gent has left the stage.

As the dark descends, King Creosote’s affable folk christens Beacons’ first-ever outdoor stage and the grizzled Scotsman’s tales of failed relationships impress. Calling to mind early Wilco, but relocated to Fife, songs like ‘For One Night Only’ from his newie ‘From Scotland With Love’ suggest Kenny Anderson and Jeff Tweedy could be kindred spirits, if not doppelgangers.

The sun comes out on Saturday and to be greeted by three-piece Manchester-based instrumentalists Plank!, whose proggy take on a multitude of genres, veering from heavy metal to funk to post-rock, often in the space of one song, results in a bout of sea sickness. Nevertheless, it's hard to take your ears off it.

Then over to Traams, who are speedily building up a world-beating setlist of giddy garage rock that on this occasion results in yours truly losing a pair of prescription glasses to the mosh pit, lubricated by the bouncy chaos of ‘Flowers’. Fumbling my way through the remainder of the festival was completely worth it.


Mark E. Smith of The Fall

Luckily, decent eyesight is the last thing that’s needed to appreciate the subtly overwhelming mix of throbbing bass and skirmishes of found sound that Jon Hopkins (pictured, main) deals out. Dazzling strobe lights and huge, multi-coloured bouncy balls descend upon the crowd towards the end of the set, ensuring the performance gets filed firmly under ‘unforgettable’.

Then comes the final day, when the steady stream of people desperately looking to sell drugs turns to a slow drip of people desperately asking for drugs.

One glance up and down the line-up and it’s easy to predict that the day belongs to searing guitar bands, not least Dublin-based Girl Band, whose dissonant punk rock feels like having your head dunked into a bucket of ice water.

When the next lazy journo tediously tries to claim guitar music is dead, probably around the time the Ones to Watch in 2015 lists are dished out, please gaffa tape them to the biggest speaker you can find at a Girl Band gig.

Soon enough Hurricane Bertha, or at least some very strong winds, begin to make their presence felt, shutting down parts of the festival and hitting their peak quite appropriately during The Fall’s set on the main stage. At one point, some pour soul has to tell a typically bullish Mark E. Smith to abandon the set so the tent can be evacuated, in case it collapses.

Smith refuses and encourages his two drummers to instead carry on playing, much to the delight of the crowd. Eventually Smith tires of not having a microphone to cackle down and the band leaves the stage, returning after a 40-minute break to unleash their very own storm in the form of the classic ‘Mr Pharmacist’. In the nearby camping site, many tents have been destroyed by the elements. But at the main stage, no one cares.

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Words: Nico Franks
Photos: The Fall by Ben Bentley, Jon Hopkins by Tom Joy

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