Into its seventh year The Ribble Valley BEATHERDER Festival returns bigger, bolder and beatier than ever. With over one hundred artists, musicians and DJs confirmed it is going to be a stellar weekend. Boasting a magnificent view of Pendle Hill and a plethora of local, national and international acts the land that is lovingly known as Beat-Herdershire opened its borders once again to let the shin diggeries and shenanigans begin.
Urban Empire kicked off the proceedings on the main Beat-Herder Stage. Haunting vocals and punchy beats set to a backdrop of emotive music they sounded like Keane, but happier. A great musical starter that left my musical taste buds tingling and ready for the next course provided by Discopolis. From north of the border, Discopolisdelivered an exhilarating, roof raising set reaffirming their ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy. The electronic three-piece delivered a great set of pumping bass lines, solid disco beats fused together with an eclectic range of contemporary rhythms.
A quick shuffle to the Rajazzle tent and we were just in time to catch Alt-Track deliver an explosive and energetic set of multi-layered dance rhythms with the unique energy and attitude of punk rock combined with a fusion of trip hop and drum and bass inspired beats. Bouncing all over the stage and fuelling the music with bursts of electronicaand politically charged lyrics it’s great to see that since the bands creation in 2007 they continue to forge their way into new unexplored musical directions.
Death in Vegas provided the main course for the Beat-Herder Stage on Friday night. Playing at the festival for the first time they took us on an emotional and inspirationalrollercoaster ride. A beautifully constructed set confirming the bands ability to deliver their emotionally charged, psychedelic, progressive and quite unique sound on the big arena.
Stumbling through the forest to the Toil Trees and onto The Street and into The Hotel California we found ourselves in a great little place to have a boogie. At the controls was The Other Tribe delivering a thumping medley of dance or die choons. Pumping and grinding was the order of the day and we dare you to go to The Hotel California and stand still. If you find yourself stood still in here you might want to check your pulse.
As we make our way from the Hotel and back to the Toil Trees stage one of the great advantages of this festival comes to light. It is set up in such a way that you are never really more than ten to fifteen minutes away from where you want to be. With the trees reaching up into the heavens, Utah Saints took control of the turntables at the Toil Trees and provided a sonic smorgasbord that everyone lapped up. Residents and long term supporters of Beat-Herder, Tim and Jez have had a strong influence on the dance music scene and delivered a fantastic set that comes from being in the game for as long as they have.
Opening my eyes on Saturday morning I found myself in a tent and not quite sure how I got there. With my stomach protesting it was time to get up and find some food. The choice of food at the festival was fantastic with a little of everything from all corners of the world and all reasonably priced.
Wandering around the site before deciding who to watch first I stumbled upon the wicker sculptures created by Michel Cain and marvelled at the mechanically metallic splendour of Wrekon. As a thunder storm threatened to wash everyone off the shire I found shelter in the Happy Slap Boutique where the rain provided a perfect backdrop for everyone in the tents to have a go at techno aerobics. Come on now we all know how it goes. Big fish, little fish, cardboard box and repeat.
I also caught a great set by Keighley band the Box Jellys. Performing under the watchful eyes of both Captain Hotknives and the Beat Herder committee the band were able to hold their nerves together and had the crowd dancing along to a great set.
Braving the rain the Banana Sessions provided a nice medley of sing along tunes to help cheer up the crowd and try to force the sun to shine at the main stage.
The Beat-Herder Stage also provided the platform for King Charles to rock us with their unique fusion of psychedelic and often explosive brand of folk pop. With his knotted beehive and waxed moustache, if ever there was a person born to be on stage then this is him. A powerhouse performance from the whole group with huge stadium rocking choruses and vibrant sounds this is definitely a band to keep on your radar.
A quick visit to the Stumblefunk tent and I was able to catch a trip down memory lane kindly provided by the magician they call Pariah. A great DJ set with all the old school classics nicely topped off with the one and only Energy Flash. Needing a respite from the beats found me holed up inside the Rajazzle tent where Bootscraper where sound checking. Not quite sure what to expect from this seven piece ensemble and looking like a band of crazy Amish pirates, this mob of musicians certainly delivered an energetic and politically charged set of highly skilled and beautifully written Aggro folk. A captivating and energetic performance, with a distinctive Gypsy-Punk sound.
Orbital headlined the main stage on Saturday providing the very first UK festival airing of their new album “WONKY”. Proving to all and sundry as to why they are the undisputed and undefeated heavyweight champions of dance music and claiming their right to be the headline act. Their work has provided them with a fantastic back catalogue of material to choose from and the set they delivered was well and truly knock-out. Reclaiming their place in the hall of dance after an eight year break the two brothers have created a new set of festival rocking anthems for a new generation which we will hear for years to come.
Later we found ourselves once again grinding and pumping away at the sheer brilliance of producer turned DJ Etienne de Crecy. With twenty years of hard graft as one the premier producers of high quality thematic compositions in the arena of house music this wizard turns his hand to techno and had all and sundry spellbound with a hard, dark and dirty set at the Toil Trees. Stumbling into the perfumed garden we found System 7. With their unique genre defining brand of psychedelic dance music these dinosaurs of dance music have had a strong influence on dance music as we know it now. Once you let yourself go to their music you’ll find yourself on an amazing journey. A fantastic killer live set.
On Sunday comedy folk band from Merseyside, The Lancashire Hotpots provided a hilarious and brilliant sing along for the whole crowd. Packing out the arena in front of the main stage these boys had everyone singing along to all their best hits including my favourite, Chippy Tea.
From their inception in 1978 and their first single “tears of a clown” Birmingham based The Beat have been at the forefront of the 2-Tone Ska movement since the very beginning. Effortlessly fusing Reggae, Ska, Punk, pop and soul to create a wall of sound. Taking the main stage at the festival the band delivered a set full of the love and unwavering dedication to unity and it is clearly apparent why this band has become one of the most popular recording and live acts in the UK.
Sundays headline act provided a relaxed and chilled out end to the festivities. Needing no introduction the daddy of reggae, Lee Scratch Perry came to tea and taught us all the meaning of all things roots and experimental. I suppose I should mention the weather. It was very muddy. However with my wellies and waterproofs I can’t say I really noticed the mud. There was a great selection of tents with performers, artists, musicians and DJs for you to dive into at any time if you needed to get away from the mud for a bit of stable ground. The Hotel California and The Church, both – inconspicuous buildings on the festival built street by day, but crazy psychedelic disco taverns by night also provide superb shelter with supercharged, thumping dance music.
It is also worth mentioning the facilities (toilets). Should you find yourself needing the toilet there was no need to go all Beautiful South and Keep It All In. The organisers made sure that there was always a toilet within ten minutes from where you were. I would mention the queues at the toilets but I can’t because there weren’t any. Even with over seven thousand people on the site there were enough toilets so that you were never waiting. This was actually a masterstroke of planning because the last thing you want at a festival is to be wasting your time standing in a queue waiting when you could be watching that band you didn’t want to miss.
As you wander around the site you can’t help but be impressed by the relaxed and friendly attitude of the stewards. Speaking to the stewards I discovered that many had been here before and loved the experience so much they came back for more. Some even described the experience as not even really like working. They really helped to make you feel like part of the great big Beat Herder family.
When you visit the land of Beat-Herdershire you leave behind all the commercialism and pap that pollutes your life every other day of the year. With no official sponsors the organisers are able to keep the prices of the beer that is sold on site at very reasonable rates. 3 pounds for a pint, sounds good to me and it tasted even better with a great selection of local beers. Hoorah!
We danced, we sang, we clapped and we loved it all weekend long. Beathearder is a great alternative festival, with a fantastic well organised, safe family atmosphere during the day and the feeling of being at an illegal rave at night. If you missed this one, shame on you. If you were there then you know you were part of something special. There’s only one thing left to do now that it’s over. Wait for the next one.