Beacons Festival returned to the scenic Yorkshire Dales at Skipton's Heslaker Farm once again for the August 16 - 18 weekend bringing music, food, arts and a host of other treats to an audience that have travelled from much further afield than the outskirts of Yorkshire. After a triumphant, sun-soaked return following difficulties in previous years, the return of Beacons Festival was one met with eager anticipation and with such an impressive line-up announced, the pressure was on for the festival to succeed and deliver once again.
As campers battled to put up their tents during the sporadic showers on Thursday night, the warm return of the sun on Friday morning was a much needed boost for the festival, one that stuck around for most of the duration, bar a soggy Saturday. Futuresound competition winners Battle Lines opened up the Noisey 'You've Got To Hear This' stage and ultimately brought the festival itself to life with a raw and invigorating performance. Expect big things from this young Leeds band. As the day went on, the scope and size of the festival really became apparent, and a walk across the campsite to the 'other' part of the festival arena to see Mickey P Kerr's hilarious set at the ELFM stage really put into perspective what the festival organisers were trying to achieve. The camping area and the arena itself almost melded into one designated area that brought an expansive festival atmosphere to a relatively small area. At no point did anything seem squashed together or unsoundly designed, as the overlapping elements of the festival only ever made it seem cosier, and never uncomfortably snug. It was encouraging to know that from the get go you were at a festival that was determined to not oversell itself to ensure that the festivities didn't suffer as a result. Money might not be everything after all.
Before finally leaving the ELFM stage on the other side of the arena following King No-One's fantastic semi-acoustic set, it was back to the main arena to check out the stalls and stands that offered something a little different for the festival connoisseur; from art exhibits and craft courses, whiskey tasting workshops and a smorgasbord of food (oh, the food!) options for any palate. As the night drew closer, festival returnee Ghostpoet was on hand to bring his leisurely flow to the main stage with a rapturous set, but there was little time to hang around afterwards as Oneman was about to begin what would turn out to be one of the defining performances of the weekend. The DJ rarely disappoints with his sets and his Friday night set (the first hour of it at least) was packed with banger after banger. Whilst the prospect of seeing Bonobo may have been too much to ignore for some, Canadian punk rockers F****d Up were far too tempting and choosing them over Bonobo and the rest of Oneman's set may have been the best decision made all weekend. Opening with the first two tracks from 2011's seminal album David Comes To Life, mixing in a few oldies for good measure and even playing a brand new song, the set had people moshing at the front and boogying at the back. The pressure was on from there on to beat F****d Up as the best performers of the weekend, and it was a task that many nearly achieved, but few succeeded in coming close.
A rain soaked Saturday rendered most festival-goers in their tent for the day, but with a line-up that was just as good as the previous day, there was no time to spend all of the day moping in the campsite. A disappointing set from Temples didn't do much to alter the already dampened spirits of some, but luckily, Melody's Echo Chamber were on hand to put their debut album on shuffle to perform a brilliant, psyched out gig. With the Loud & Quiet stage showing Gold Panda and headliners Local Natives later that day, the last few hours of Saturday were split between the main stage, the Noisey stage and the Resident Advisor stage in what was one heck of a late night line-up; one where casualties were going to be had. A quick wiggle over at Bondax's set on the RA stage got the blood pumping, and Bicep's follow-up performance really got the night off to the best possible start. Gold Panda were the first casualties of the night as their set had to be ignored in favour of up and comers Childhood, who performed an exceptional set, one that was made all the better by the fact that such a relatively unknown band was so far up bill. A quick stop off at Ben UFO's set continued the excellent work from his predecessors, but then it was time to see Saturday's main performers and one of the most anticipated acts of the whole weekend; Local Natives. With a characteristically ominous start from the band, they played through their warmly received new album Hummingbird as well as dropping in a few fan favourites from Gorilla Manor, much to the delight of the exuberant crowd. Punk legends Wire were essential viewing for the weekend, even though they almost made it on to the casualty list, and Machinedrum's euphoric performance on the RA Stage at midnight was just what was needed to bring the night to a successful end - although admittedly that part of the night is still a little hazy.
As you could tell by the influx of people with day tickets, Sunday was really the day that people were looking forward to the most in terms of bands on offer. Leeds' resident indie band made the trip to Skipton to kick start the day's proceedings on the main stage, and it was really the main stage where you needed to be the most on this day. Folksy rockers Wolf People put on a commendable show, but it was down to fellow Leeds band Hookworm to give one of the most memorable performances of the whole weekend. A ferocious set saw them ascend to the standards set by F****d Up on the first day, if not surpass it, and after being one of the talking points of last year's Beacons, they left this year as THE talking point of the whole weekend.
Carrying on the psych-rock vibe started by Hookworms, it was America's go at the kaleidoscopic genre, with Moon Duo giving their best shot at out doing Hookworms, and nearly pulling it off. A quick shy away from the main stage for Menace Beach's brilliant if brief performance on the Noisey stage presented the pop punk upstarts as one of the upcoming bands from Leeds to keep an ear out for in the future. It was soon back to the main stage though for this year's biggest coup: Danny Brown. Brown might very well be one of the biggest hip-hop artists in the world right now, but with his always-energetic performance pencilled in for Sunday evening, there was always a feeling that the show might not go successfully as hoped. Danny himself was on top form, diving into the crowd, performing a cappella, urging the crowd to get off their feet, even Skywlkr's trap-filled opener wasn't enough to get the crowd riled up enough for Brown, but then again, what can you expect from a lethargic Sunday evening crowd? Having seen Danny perform at Parklife Festival earlier this year, it is evident that Danny is more than capable of sending a tent full of people into ecstasy with just one ad-lib and a heavy bassline, but on Sunday evening at Beacons this just wasn't the case at all as few were in the mood for a full-scale Danny Brown performance. At least he managed to get the ball rolling though, and as SBTRKT took to the stage for his DJ set, the crowd were beginning to perk up at last, not that SBTRKT took up too much listening/viewing time, as the mammoth back to back set from Andres and Theo Parish just had to be seen and after about three hours of performing, the pair were sticking to the chilled out disco-y vibes over anything too hard, a musical choice that was much more fitting for the Sunday audience than what Danny Brown was offering. Soon enough though, the day's festivities were nearly up and it was over to the main stage one last time to see Django Django round off a psychedelia-heavy day worth of music. The crowd really had perked up by this point and responded brilliantly to every beat the shirt-matching quartet threw at them, ensuring the festival ended on the same positive vibes that it had begun with.
Thanks to Reds, there probably hasn't been a festival that ended with so many corncobs littered on the ground, and thanks to the fantastic array of music and other cultural parades across Heslaker Farm, there are few other small festivals that can offer such satisfaction and variety in such a small place. Who needs Solange Knowles anyway?!
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