Beacons Festival: Heslaker Farm, Skipton

Skipton was bathed in glorious sunshine as Beacons got underway on the Friday afternoon of a weekend that was to show the extremes of the North Yorkshire weather. This year’s festival had a new layout and the line-up was even more exciting, not to mention the food stalls being a big improvement on last year.

Friday began on the main stage with an early afternoon showing of the film From The Sea To The Land Beyond, with the significant added bonus of British Sea Power playing the soundtrack live along with the footage. The band sat with their backs to the audience watching the film as they performed. As the footage began with a black and white portrayal of docklands during the industrial 1950s, comprising of grainy stock footage of a bustling and blossoming city. Their music expertly conveyed and built the tension of certain scenes and set the mood for others, in a similar way to the work they did with Man Of Aran. Some of the chapters of music incorporated elements of material from their albums, the second chapter was basically a relaxed remix of “Waving Flags”. At the mid-point of the film the images began to switch between black and white and colour as the music, the drums in particular, gathered pace and intensity.

British Sea Power were directly followed by Leeds favourites Post War Glamour Girls on the Loud & Quiet Stage. The band showcased their new material, with one or two from the last album included. A large crowd gathered and responded well to the first ever outing of “Pseudo Macho”. The biggest crowd reaction came from forthcoming single “Gustave” which saw all members of the band forcefully jolting around the stage and some passionate, raw, vocals from James Smith.

After the first of the weekends many biblical downpours it was then time for TOY to take to the Loud & Quiet stage. Having seen them on many occasions I have become accustomed to witnessing forceful and energetic performances. This was my first experience of them in an outdoor setting and maybe they need venues with a much lower roof than the huge tent they were in, as it struggled to hold their sound and gave the impression that something was lacking. Regardless of this it was still a captivating performance from TOY, and all bands sound slightly different at festivals. The band supplied ferocious energy and wild hair shaking, especially during the epic finale of “Kopter”.

Friday night then finished with beautiful, haunting and serene sets from Woman’s Hour and then Daughter. Both acts were on the main stage and it was impossible to judge just which set of stunning vocals came out on top.

Saturday began on the Loud & Quiet Stage with Menace Beach proving just why they are rapidly gathering such a promising reputation. They crammed lots into their half hour set, rattling through highlights from previous EPs as well as future singles. Throughout the set their gift for combining catchy hooks and choruses with explosive, frantic outbursts had the audience engrossed.

Menace Beach were directly followed by Glass Animals on the same stage. Front man David Bayley’s vocals were so delicate and soothing that if you closed your eyes they could easily be confused for those of a female. Combined with the funky, melodic backing it created a relaxed atmosphere with occasional harder elements.

It was then a short trip across to the Noisey Stage to see Cheetahs. The Sheffield based outfit produced a loud and upbeat set with some raucous moments. Choosing to rely on the quality of their music, with vocals sparsely used, there were hints of The Smashing Pumpkins. Cheetahs maintained a high velocity from the moment what originally seemed like a rock and roll ending, to the first song, turned out to be just a breakdown.

After Cheetahs it was my highlight of the day, PINS. The girls jogged on to the Noisey Stage howling like wolves as they arrived. I was surprised that a band of this caliber weren’t playing the main stage, especially when I noticed that the crowd was overflowing out of the tent and huddling around the entrances. Tracks like “Girls Like Us” and “Lost Lost Lost” received rowdy receptions from the audience, but the loudest response came from one of their new songs “House Of Love”.

Saturday came to a close as TRAAMS followed on the same stage. To begin with it seemed as though this was the start of things winding down from PINS but as the crowd went crazy for “Flowers” this was clearly not the case. Their effortlessly moody style rounded off a fine day.

Sunday conjured up just about as much excitement and adrenaline as it is medically safe to experience, with some legendary headliners and the special guest appearance of Hurricane Bertha. It all began back on the Loud & Quiet Stage with The Wytches. From the noise these three young lads create you find yourself wondering if they have an extra guitarist hidden away somewhere. They switch from shoe gazing to explosive aggression, staggering around the stage as they swish their long locks around. With seemingly an inexhaustible amount of energy and fury they have the out of tune sound which At The Drive-In mastered in their infamous live performances.

As soon as The Wytches finished you could hear Nope starting up over on the Noisey Stage next door so I rushed over. Andy Abbott, who is also in That Fucking Tank, is a phenomenal guitarist and he began the set playing a double neck guitar which had a twelve string as well as a conventional six string. Another double-headed display came from both drummers in the band. They sat facing each other smiling and thoroughly enjoying challenging and instructing each other, while playing in perfect symmetry. It was a half hour set which only consisted of three songs but nobody left feeling short-changed. Each song built, and expanded from, one engaging riff almost like they were taking part in an experimental jamming session.

It was then back to the Loud & Quiet Stage for Metz, and then 65daysofstatic. Both of these acts treated large crowds to quality performances but, due to the lasting exhilaration from Nope and The Wytches, this section of the evening seemed like a slight lull, especially with everyone’s anticipation building ahead of headliners The Fall.

It was at this point that Hurricane Bertha decided to try and pull focus from Mark E. Smith and the rest of The Fall. As the set was in full swing the crowd was so enthralled that no one really noticed the torrential rain and strong winds outside. As the ferocity of the wind had been deemed too dangerous the organisers told The Fall to pause their set. Mark E. Smith was having none of it and instructed the band to carry on playing even after the power to the speakers had been cut and the lights turned up. As they left the stage under duress you could tell Smith wasn’t happy, but they did return later and complete the set.

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