Now into its eighth year since inception in 2006, Beat Herder continues to be an increasingly charming hotbed of rural arts and creation, where every intimate corner is finely crafted into a surreal take on reality. From the bizarre, to the hilarious, the festival boasts a warm, eccentric and frequently uplifting atmosphere, something that’s grown from a loving approach to organising the festival. Despite its increasing popularity, Beat Herder remains a safe distance from any oversaturated commercialism, preferring to revel in the many marvels of creativity it has to offer.
With an endless carnival atmosphere that spreads throughout the camp sites, the festival also boasts a fully-functioning, Victorian style street that runs through a forest. This plays host to a barber shop and tattoo studio, not to mention the prestigious Hotel California. The Garage Sound System consists of a unique selection of vintage cars, allowing revellers to sit back and enjoy the ride. Its numerous ‘Teleport Booths’ operate by using underground tunnels, which is the perfect way to travel, providing you’ve avoided the lure of the Absinthe Shack.
Seas Of Mirth kick off main stage proceedings with a raucous display of pirate-inspired energy, providing a suitable opening to a festival that’s bustling with a similar drive. Meanwhile in the Maison D’etre, it was local band Villiers who had the place on its feet, igniting a sizeable crowd with an upbeat mix of synth and shoegaze guitars. Live favourite ‘The Dancer’ is well received, whilst ‘you’re not alone’ sparks a wave of dancing. Having been recently championed by BBC Radio 2’s Janice Long, as well as a successful run of Manchester shows, it looks to be a promising year for the band.
Residing from Bradford, Captain Hotknives is a spokesperson for the surreal, tackling subjects such as begging, solvent abuse, pigeon hypnosis and ‘skankin yer nana’. His twisted take on the world is humorous and encapsulating, offering a wayward insight into reality. The captain remains unhindered by concepts such as “not being able to sing”, or “making words which rhyme” – an attitude that will ensure he remains part of the many items of furniture at Beat Herder.
From Bradford’s screaming pigeons, to tales of Openshaw blues. Far Out scurried back to the Maison D’etre to indulge in Manchester’s own Death To The Strange, who’ve crawled from an equally unique section of society. Their sound is plucked from an array of bluesy skiffle, psychedelic rock and lyrical themes ranging from “signing on” to “suicide”, all taken with a pinch of salt.
With ‘Bez’ watching on, the Salford quartet race through a varied set, combining strong harmonies with the use of a kazoo. The infectious “Sign On” is as catchy as they come, yet touches on something not to be ignored. Their upbeat, raw energy is the perfect match for an open-minded, appreciative Beat Herder crowd, who would undoubtedly welcome their return.
Australian beat enthusiasts Jagwar Ma provide a perfect soundtrack to the weekend’s first sunset, stunning a large, main-stage crowd with a seemingly effortless ability to cruise between genres. Combing psychedelic, dance electro, with Tame Impala-inspired guitars, they seem at home in the festival environment, dropping “The Throw” to a hugely appreciative crowd.
The evening’s headline slot is all about Eagles For Hands, who lights up the Maison D’etre with new-found colour and a vastly eclectic mix of soothing textures. The Brighton-based producer delights a packed, atmospheric tent with a sharp, rhythmic set that leaves the crowd in a state of tranquillity. Hazy synths are matched with exploding melodies, creating a refined and innovative sound. New single ‘Glass Heart’ is certainly worth checking out, and Far Out will be keen to catch another set imminently.
Despite a previous day of sunshine, the Saturday afternoon deluge is now upon us as Badly Drawn Boy is greeted by another sizeable crowd.
“I was been up all night thinking about this gig, and it’s all gone wrong” smirks Damon Gough, as he fiddles with a failing guitar pedal.
But it’s all part of the charm, as the beautifully crafted ‘The Shining’ proves. A sweet rendition of “A Minor Incident” is met with round applause, an undeniable stroke of harmonica-infused genius.
Gorgeous George bring a feel good blend of jazz-inspired indie, whilst it’s Rum Jig who catch our attention in the laid back Smoky Tentacles Shisha Lounge.
Next up, Wolf Alice don’t fail to disappoint, bringing their chaotic, grunge-laden sound to a packed tent. Last year’s Beat Herder saw Temples play a similar slot, to a comparably enthralled crowd.
Judging by this reception, combined with a finely polished set, it’s likely that this North London four-piece could emulate Temples’ widespread success.
Sunday brings a mellow, relaxed atmosphere, with more than enough dub and reggae to indulge in. The Bushrocker Family HIFI serves as the perfect environment. Beat Herder veterans Dub Smugglers persist in owning every inch of the Trailer Trash tent, whilst unique Bristol-based outfit The Inexplicables bring something quite special to the Smoky Tentacles. The band fuse tricky wordplay with Latin-hip hop, utilising any genre they feel like delving into – certainly an act for future festivals.
Despite being around more than 25 years, through highs, lows, trials and tribulations, the current makeup of the Happy Mondays is undoubtedly the most refined. Bez’s recent indulgence into politics has certainly ensured a polished approach to public speaking, bellowing his introduction with stern confidence as the Manchester band follow him onstage.
The legendary innovators ease straight into a rendition of ‘Loose Fit’, sending a thumping wave of ecstasy into the biggest crowd of the weekend. Rowetta’s powerful vocals remain poignant, whilst Shaun Ryder’s sneering lyricism is equally profound. Their timeless back-catalogue hasn’t aged. Tracks like ‘Holiday’ sound just as relevant today, especially in the environment that Beat Herder provides.
‘Dennis and Lois’ is a definite highlight, whilst obvious favourites ‘Wrote For Luck’ and ‘Step On’, are lapped up by an audience who barely pause for breath. Happy Mondays are well suited to a festival with such a fun-loving attitude.
It’s a fitting end to a weekend that strives on its ability to cater for your non-corporate desires, offering true inspiration around every corner. Beat Herder clearly holds a dear place in many people’s hearts, it’s not hard to see why.