I’m not a very religious man but on the morning of Friday the Eighteenth of July 2014 I prayed. I prayed for the sun to shine all weekend. Then I packed everything I thought I would need including plenty of waterproofs. I even checked the weather forecast before setting off. Rain. All weekend. With one last challenging glare at the heavens I jumped in the car and set off. A few hours later and the car is parked and the tent is set up. I’m stood in the middle of a lush green field with the sun shining down on me and I’m thinking maybe there is a God after all. It’s time. Time to leave everything behind. Time for the barminess to begin. Time for the beats to start thumping. Its time for the Beat-Herder festival 2014.
Beat-Herder is a strange beast of a festival. Now into its ninth official year and bigger than last year and every year before that the Beat-Herders are back again. There’s music a plenty. Glancing through the program my mouth is watering just looking at the line-up of International bands and DJs playing at the many different stages, tents and arenas. There are many Beat-Herder regulars as well as the Beat-Herder resident DJs. Accompanied by many superstar DJs and local bands playing here for the first time expect lots of crazy dancing and gurning all weekend long.
We were allowed to take our own booze onto the site and as one the last remaining festivals that let you do this we felt it only fair to pop into one of the bars for a drink, The real ale selection is great and its a pop at £3.50. Although it’s a little early but the pints are already being pulled at a steady rate at The BAA on The Street in the woods and everyone is starting to develop a slightly inane grin on their face. As you head down The Street past Rude Studios Tattoos, The Parish Church and The Hotel California its easy to tell who’s been here before and who’s having their Beat-Herder cherry popped. There’s an undercurrent in the atmosphere and you can feel it pulsing out of the plethora of speaker stacks dotted around the woods. The Garage sound system is already being taken for a test drive and before you know it Beat-Herder is taking you along for the ride. You could spend all weekend just in the woods. There was enough going on during the day and at night the spectacular lighting transforms the woods into a scene reminiscent of an illegal rave. With Teleport Booths fully operational transporting us from one end of the street to the Toil Trees stage at the other side of the woods which was hosting acts like Mr Scruff, James Lavelle, The 2 Bears, Tim Sheriden, Paul Taylor and Blonde to name just a handful of top quality DJs you could be forgiven for forgetting there was a world outside of the woods, I could have happily made this my base for the weekend.
The organisers have worked hard and secured the services of many top local bands to support international bands and artists to headline the main Beat-Herder stage over the weekend including 2 Many DJs, ABC, The Dub Pistols, Boney M, The Orb, Badly Drawn Boy and Happy Mondays to close the festival on Sunday. The gentle incline of the land provided a fantastic view of the main stage no matter where you are standing or sitting.
Last years new addition The Fortress was also back providing a daytime rave arena while the sun was out but transforming into a roofless club at night creating a truly unique atmosphere. The team have done a fantastic job of bashing, cutting and drilling to put this structure up in the middle of a field, setting the stage for artists like Lisa Lashes, Dave Angel, Justin Robertson, Dave Tupling and a bus full of other DJs to provide an array of beats from deep house and dub step to drum and bass and techno.
This years newest addition to the many arenas, tents and stages was The Ring. Conceptualised from the local folk hero John Pratt who stood 8ft tall this unique arena really highlights the organisers commitment to bring the festival goer an experience like no other. Inside the ring an arena was created for the party of all parties to be hosted by Utah Saints, Bombstrikes Records and long time friends of the festival Sugarbeat with support from upcoming acts like the Brett Domino Trio and legendary DJs like Adam F .
With over 100 acts performing each day its very hard to not be entertained. Giant sculptures and plants grown especially for the festival adorn the site and giant benches dotted around the fields and in the woods make it easy to find somewhere to sit down and take a breather. Smaller tents like The Beat-Herder & District Working Mens Social Club provided a stage for acts like Goldie Looking Chain who brought smiles ,laughter and crazy dancing to a capacity tent. In fact for me it was the smaller tents that provided the biggest surprises in the form of the unnaturally talented beatboxer, THePETEBOX and Electronic producers Dextric in the Maison D’etre and Davos at The Parish Church of Beat-Herder.
There is so much to see and do at Beat-Herder. Its hard to forget the surprised faces of people walking down the street in the woods and bounding out the other side to be faced with a giant Chinese fortress dance arena. Every corner of the festival is lovingly crafted. the organisers really have outdone themselves this year pulling together a world class line up that effortlessly crossed all genres but managed to keep the emphasis firmly on having a party. There was even a secret swimming pool I never managed to find.
The security were professional enough to let people have a proper party, and were always friendly, when people were climbing where they shouldn’t all it took was a polite reminder and no heavy handedness to get them safely on their way . If you’ve never been to Beat-Herder it’s hard to describe what you’re missing without bursting out with words like awesome, epic, amazing, bizarre and it is all that and so much more. It’s like being part of a secret society with just one mission. To have a party. So next year if you decide to do a festival give the big ones a miss and check out Beat-Herder. Come and pray to the acids of house, worship in the church of your choice and have one of the best weekends of your life. Until the next Beat-Herder that is.