Words: Amanda Cunningham.
Images: Duke Studios.
Holy shit, what a weekend, Beat-Herder blew my mind! It was my first Beat-Herder, in the lush Ribble Valley, (I suspect the first of many). The first person I clapped eyes on was Bez! This probably set the tone for the weekend.
We arrived early Friday evening, to a sea of camper vans. I took a massive fit of van envy, passing converted vintage buses, old vans retro fitted from the sublime to the ridiculous and the all mod cons with pop out sides. Some guys had even hired an enormous pimped out tour bus – Reeespect!
Klangkarussell melted into the evening sunshine as we arrived in the arena. We eventually located the Stone Circle and Smokey’s Tentacles in the Healing Field, to meet the rest of our compadres. The perfect place to chill, listening to Backyard Rhythm Orchestra, while everyone ran off for a variety of errands. I was totally delighted to discover the Hobgoblin stall, with stunning masquerade masks, feather earring and other essential shiny festival objects; wo-manned by Sarah, the best face painter ever. This excitement was only exceeded by discovering the amazing Dandy Lion Cafe (haloumi wraps ahoy!) was also on site, the weekend was shaping up perfectly.
Outfits complete, we decided to explore. There was a lot of love for the Granddaddy of happy hardcore Slipmatt at the Fortress. An incredible stage, 30 foot corrugated iron castle with turrets, raised DJ booth and ramparts to look down on your fellow ravers. Then full fingers in the ears and heads in the speakers for Eton Messy at Toil Trees, while making use of the thoughtfully placed bars selling good independent beer. My husband was also scared witless by the genius tele-porter (thank you, Beat-Herder) at the Street. A wonderful reconstruction of a wild west street with hidden tiny stages and quirky little shops, I swear I saw a laundry(?!).
I was utterly transfixed by 2 Many DJ’s, a cracking set, with stunning, hypnotic visuals. Not long after they ended, a man demanded if anyone wanted to some ‘good Manc Doub’. We concurred and missioned across to Trailer Trash, where Dub Phizix ft MC Strategy, exploded with bass and spinning fire – a quality recommendation and the set of the night for me. We ended the night with brandy coffee and meandered back to van as atmospheric cloud began to descend.
The heavens opened about 5am and continued solidly until past lunchtime, making for a slow start to Saturday. We restored our energy at the Dandy Lion with coffee, delicious veggie wraps and chilled tunes and headed through the grey day to the skank-tastic Bushrocker HiFi, with the giant red sound system. As always happens, if you play enough Bob Marley, the sun tore it’s way through the clouds and kick started the afternoon. H was the theme for fancy dress and we all headed off to don our costumes.
The Hoff, Hunter S Thompson, a Hologram, a herd, Hello Kitty, Howard Hughes and a harlot all met at the Main Stage to go Balkanarama, with the talented and unique Gypsy Hill, mixing live music with electronic beats. We headed to the incredible Pratty’s Ring. This stage is a ridiculous feat of engineering. An enormous grass mound, around 15/20 feet high circling a sound stage with Stonehenge style plinths creating doors. It is a truly awe inspiring stage, we were not disappointed to find the stunning Toni Jarvis, with her sassy sidekick laying down some sick beats. With cute little pinnies, these girls had the crowd bouncing, she dropped a dark mix of Sweet Dreams, that would have taken the roof off, if it had one. They were followed by the wonderfully dry and quirky Leeds electronic band, Brett Domino Trio, who were an unexpected hits with a lot people I chatted to over the weekend. Their new single Pinoccio got a great reception and their Azeala Banks 212 deserves a special mention too.
We sampled more of Beat-Herders delicious food with pizza and paella while watching La Rochelle band, a great way to kick off Saturday night. Flawless band, incredible vocalist who never stopped shaking her ass for the entire set. By now I was buzzing, top of my Saturday bucket list was U-u-u-utah Saints. We had another explore of some fantastic tunes and hidden wonders (none of which I can remember the name of) before once more entering Pratty’s Ring for the evening. Utah Saints were everything I hoped, I venture out once to try and check out Goldie Looking Chain, but at 5’2” seeing them was to prove impossible. I danced my socks off in the Ring to Adam F and Squatters before staggering back to bed, sublimely happy.
Sunday dawned sunny and lovely. A quick wash and breakfast with the new neighbours and off we shot for more food and comedy. The compère lost all her sweeties during the most impressive game of musical statues I have ever seen at Maison D’etre, Beat-Herder crowd certainly cannot be caught out in that game! We managed to find the secret disco in the trees too. Shaka Loves You at Toil Trees, with it’s funky disco vibe, had the best dance moves I had seen all weekend. Hats off to boys bustin’ some funky moves.
Dave Angel was top of my weekend bucket list – once seen never forgotten! More than 10 years since I first saw him, he was still fresh. He played a blinding set at the Fortress, my mates were determined to chill by the Main Stage, so I’m afraid I fibbed a lot, to sneak back for more Dave Angel, I think they thought I had bladder problems. Despite this I did manage to catch a lot of the superb Gramatik set and the blink and you missed it Orb set – Little Fluffy Clouds, with little fluffy clouds, nice. I had my heart set on seeing the Happy Mondays to end my festival, but fates conspired a little and B.Traits ft Juma MC proved too strong a temptation. She was the unexpected highlight of Beat-Herder for me, she played an incredible set, complimented so well by Juma MC and the vibe in Pratts Ring was electric. I almost cried at midnight when everything ended and Beat-Herder was no more.
There was a sign in the the Beat Herder & District Working Man’s Social Club that said ‘Let’s party like it’s 1973’. I am too young to remember ’73, but felt like we were partying like it was 1989 and it felt great. Beat-Herder is the playground of the grown ups. This is the first festival where my husband didn’t complain that there wasn’t enough dance music and I got to make friends and let my hair down with the Norths finest and craziest, 24 hour party people. Next years babysitter is booked and I am waiting excitedly for the early bird announcement. I left Beat-Herder physically and financially broken, but spiritually and emotionally rejuvenated. Many thanks!