Review: Beacons Festival

Beacons Sign

From the 16th to the 19th of August, I was tucked away in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales at the suitably charming Beacons Festival using up my fun tokens for the summer. The fact it took nearly a week for my head to settle down is credit to the organisers for putting on what could soon well be one of the go to names on the UK alternative festival circuit.

With a capacity below 10,000 Beacons is not looking to compete with the more established names yet it provides a festival experience that you’d struggle to find elsewhere. What it lacks in size it makes up for in its atmosphere, there is a relaxed vibe around the place from the moment you enter and the usually arduous task of settling in at a festival is instead replaced by a pleasant experience – the commute from the gate to the campsite is just a short walk that is littered with visual treats.

Beacons’ boutique credentials are on display all around – the vegetarian only curry house, the Whitelocks real ale tent (not a single drop of pissy Tuborg about), no less than three vintage clothes shops, yoga sessions every morning, an urban outfitters tent and the ‘Space Between’ which showcased a diverse range of arts exhibits and workshops from flag painting to philosophy lectures. Anything to float your boat really.

The line up struck a fine balance between established artists and the up and coming – each day had a diverse offering of electronic and guitar-based acts giving attendees a nice choice over how they wanted to nod their head throughout the day.

The first act I saw on the Friday unfortunately disappointed. Egyptian Hip Hop droned out a forgettable set that left me shoegazing for all the wrong reasons. Even when their frontman went for a run around the Loud & Quiet tent there wasn’t much of a connection between band and audience, a shame since they are capable of producing some belters. Looking for a pick-me-up – Move D satisfied my need to boogie with a house-based set that suitably got things heading in the right direction as night-time descended. Simon Green aka Bonobo brought along with him his friends with instruments and created an ambience so good that two tracks in you had forgotten you were inside an oven – one that had a pretty poor PA system. John Talabot rounded off proceedings with a DJ set that encouraged all sorts of shapes to be thrown around and made sure everyone would be sleeping (or not) with a smile plastered across their face.

Saturday for me was a mixed bag of treats – a good mixed bag – more Haribo Starbust than Mars Revels. Bondax shocked no one with a crowd-pleasing effort. A band that are maybe a bit too arty on record – Dutch Uncles proved they could translate their diverse back catalogue in to an emotive yet punchy performance leaving me pleasantly surprised. Prematurely, I briefly stepped in to the dark frenzied world Bicep and Ben UFO were creating at the Resident Advisor Tent before I retreated to the alluring and welcoming sounds of headliners Local Natives – I’m not going to lie, I nearly cried.  The emotive state I was in was perfect to witness Machinedrum’s high-energy set which seamlessly blended dnb and hip hop beats.

An act that could so easily go under-appreciated and get lost amongst the names on a bigger line-up like Bestival or Reading – Django Django were fitting final night headliners and added an impressive live dimension to their eclectic brand of neo-psychedelic indie rock. Although with a limited back catalogue, the band managed to squeeze the last trickles of energy out of a crowd that had seen it all and done it all over the course of the weekend.

Being only its second year of existence some teething problems are expected and I was ready for the odd thing that just wasn’t cricket. The sound was a let down on a number of occasions across different tents and as well the official party unfortunately stopped at 2am each night, leaving it to festival goers to find their own forms of entertainment. One night this manifested as a 200 or so strong campsite sing along with some guy that had learned 4 chords on his acoustic all in the piddling rain. Either the embodiment of the ‘festival spirit’ or a soggy cringe fest, whatever your fancy. At least the vibe wasn’t a Leeds & Reading “my parent’s aren’t here to see this!1!” faux-anarchy one. The limited on sight amenities meant it was easier at times to get illegal goods rather than your essentials, and the hyped diverse food selection didn’t really deliver. Just little niggles but niggles nonetheless.

With the UK summer festival market being oversaturated with big names with even bigger price tags, Beacons Festival is a welcome light in the overbearing darkness – bringing a diverse line-up of acts at an affordable price. Only criticisms are a few issues that can easily be ironed out as the festival grows and when it’s £100 for a weekend ticket, it really would be rude to complain.


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