Beacons Festival 2014 2

Beacons Festival 2014

Just as the last vestiges of Hurricane Bertha whips through Heslaker Farm on Sunday and threatens to blow Beacons right off course, Cate Le Bon proves that the festival spirit is still very much alive. Her headline slot on the Argyll Stage has been delayed by the incessant wind and rain – earlier Sweet Baboo’s slot was cancelled altogether and The Fall had to truncate their set on the main stage after only three songs due to health and safety concerns caused by the weather. “We could all end up dying” she deadpans, “it is kind of exciting, though”.

And Beacons Festival is exciting. Returning to the scene of last year’s triumph just outside the market town of Skipton deep in the North Yorkshire Dales, it again promises a most impressive programme of music, arts and cultural events over its festival weekend.

British Sea Power’s soundtrack to From The Sea To The Land Beyond, Penny Woolcock’s film about the history of the British coastline from the beginning of the 20th century to the 034apresent day is an arresting marriage of sound and vision and the perfect start to Friday. Later on the main stage Antipodean duo DZ Deathrays (pictured) are a wild blur of hair, thrash metal riffs and punk attitude. William Doyle, performing as East India Youth, plots an oscillating graph between dance and ambience; the darker textures of his kaleidoscope of electronic music draws from a long line of influences that must surely include Steve Reich and Brian Eno.

The prolific Scottish singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson – he has released more than 40 albums since the late nineties – is always great value. Performing here as King Creosote in front of a series of projected vintage images of Scotland, both ‘Largs’ and ‘Miserable Strangers’ are beautiful, heartfelt paeans to his homeland. Back on the main stage Joan As Policewoman strives manfully to overcome the incessant bleed of JD Twitch and JG Wilkes’ Optimo mixes of techno, acid house and rock emanating from the adjoining Red Bull Stage. Despite her very best efforts on ‘Good Together’, complete with a blistering guitar solo, it is a battle she ultimately loses.

Saturday soon crackles into life courtesy of two local bands. The Leeds-based five piece Autobahn continue to impress with their furious amalgam of krautrock melodic repetition and imperious gloom. Fellow Loiners Menace Beach – including on guitar MJ of the mighty Hookworms who will see action later on tonight – jump beyond the confines of indie into something altogether more imaginative and inspired.

653aMoving into the berth vacated on the main stage by the cancelling Charli XCX is Moko. And the New Cross soul singer seizes the opportunity with both hands and a reserve of boundless energy. A cracking voice and some top tunes undoubtedly help. The closer ‘Ceremony’ is a stomping floor-filler in what turns out to be one of performances of the entire weekend. In possession of less finesse perhaps but with no little noise, nihilism and abrasion in their musical arsenal, Cardiff’s Joanna Gruesome then blast a huge hole right through the early part of Saturday night.

PINS showcase some new songs that reflect their evolution from those interminable rock and roll, post-punk comparisons into something that starts to clearly mark out their own identity. A quarter of a century into their career Nightmares On Wax have more right than most to commandeer the term retro. Whilst not perhaps timeless, their fusion of hip-hop breakbeats, electro and what might very loosely be described as classic soul still has the capacity to engage.

Not for the first (nor last) time this weekend the incessancy of the krautrock groove makes an appearance but in TRAAMS (pictured) three pair of hands it is liquefied into something else altogether. For half an hour they captivate with a hypnotic blend of grunge, pop and rock and roll, with guitarist Stu Hopkins – like some animated Buddy Holly – and bassist Leigh Pedley’s sinewy figures moving effortlessly around the stage in strange unison to the music.


The West Yorkshire four-piece Nope are all twin-necked guitar and twin drums and their blitzkrieg of polyrhythmic sound meets at the intersection of Neu! and Led Zeppelin. It is a fitting start to what is already looking like an otherwise very ominous Sunday. METZ are another band who are in possession of capital letters and one God Almighty cacophony of hardcore noise. These Torontonians sure know a thing or two about how to best hit you in the solar plexus with the combined weaponry of bass, guitar and drums.

They are bisected by The Horn The Hunt. The Leeds duo of Clare Carter and Joseph Osborne prove to be a wonderful counterpoint to all of that corrosive din. Having just released 1536Atheir début album Terrafidella theirs is a far more visual sound, an aural representation of huge, expansive landscapes. Performing now as a five piece, their songs built around the twin axis of Carter’s evocative voice and Osborne’s spatial guitar have become far more widescreen in their scope. Their cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart Of Gold’ is sublime and the concluding ‘Find It Free it’ stirring.

Jason Williamson (pictured) is a man who makes rage an art form. With Andrew Fearn – whose role in 1621Athe band seems to be confined to just standing there and drinking cider – they are Sleaford Mods. Williamson’s relentless barrage of vitriol and disaffected social commentary over a sparse bass and drums beat is like listening to James Joyce if he hailed from Grantham and was suffering with severe Tourette’s.

With sixty four past members and almost as many albums to their name, The Fall are a national institution. Their one constant member is Mark E. Smith. Obdurate, irascible and occasionally brilliant he wanders onto the main stage in what must surely be the same leather jacket, grey slacks and Wayfinder shoes he has worn continually since the band’s inception in 1976. Three songs in and some minor knob-twiddling by Smith apart, The Fall are in the groove. The worsening elements – gales of up to 80mph have been reported – stop the set and much to Mr Smith’s mirth he is encouraged to leave the stage. They return later for five more songs, apparently, including an outstanding version of ‘Mr Pharmacist’.


Bigger and better is what the organisers promised and despite the very best efforts of the weather and an occasionally over-zealous approach by security personnel, this is exactly what Beacons Festival 2014 delivers. It has stuck true to its excellent core programme of music and arts. But having learnt from last year’s experience, Beacons has made changes to its infrastructure and site layout thus making the festival a far more intimate and integrative occasion.

Beacons Festival 2014 was held at Heslaker Farm, Skipton, North Yorkshire from 7th to 10th August.

More photos from the festival can be found HERE

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