Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Beacons Festival 2012 - The Review



The Beacons campsite mist - By Kevin Lawson


Despite my urban upbringing, I adore the countryside. Part of the joy for me moving to Yorkshire for University was the chance to be surrounded by such beautiful greenery, the vast expanses of hill and undulating land stretching out across the skyline, brushing the low hanging clouds. To me, it makes for a calmer mentality, a chance for escapism and emotional detox. In short, Yorkshire (or more specifically in this case, Skipton) is the perfect backdrop for a camping weekend away from day to day life, and even better for a festival. Despite the rain, my heavy bags and a miscommunication at the press tent that resulted in a pretty long walk, it was clear from the off that Beacons was going to be a unique, intimate and musically satisfying weekend.



Arthur Beatrice by Kevin Lawson
My Beacons experience started at midday on Friday with Arthur Beatrice (The Stool Pigeon Stage), a London four piece who were brought to my attention a few months back when I stumbled across the video to Midland. In a live setting the track sparkles, Ella Girardot’s sultry vocal displaying the same taught, elegant tension present in tomorrow’s headliner Wild Beasts. It’s the sort of music that seems more befitting of nightfall than lunchtime, but they attract a plentiful crowd regardless.



Fawn Spots by Kevin Lawson
Swapping over to the Noisey/Vice Stage gave a different experience altogether courtesy of Fawn Spots, a set of impressive racketeers that whip up the crowd with their fuzzy low-fi indie that descends into Biffy Clyro-esque riffery. Stage presence might not be their forte yet, but they do possess a certain something outside their awkward song introductions.
  
A trip to Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair was then a necessity. Not only do I have quite the penchant for a good floral dress, but my badly packed luggage from the night before meant that the strap on my handbag had broken beyond repair. Luckily, Judy’s name doesn’t lie, because I managed to pick up a similar (and better quality) Italian red leather replacement for just £7. Considering how firmly fashion and music go hand in hand, it was a joy to see them provide such eclectic and fun clothing for such reasonable prices. With their vintage fair touring the country throughout September and October, Judy’s is worth keeping an eye out for.


Theme Park by Kevin Lawson
Speaking of fashion, Marcus Haughton of Theme Park (Stool Pigeon stage) is fast earning himself the status of Safety In Sounds’s trendiest musician. His sleekly tailored jacket and colour popping Hawaiian shirt epitomise the music that the band he is in makes – sharp, funtime afro-indie that is destined to go down well at any festival. Trading vocals with his twin brother Miles, the pair turn the Stool Pigeon into Club Tropicana for 30 minutes despite the now pouring rain, culminating in their 80s-tastic single Two Hours that excites the middle aged man standing next to me to the point of hilarity.



Disclosure by Kevin Lawson
A slide down the age scale takes us to our first electronic act of the weekend, Disclosure (Greendales stage). Arguably one of the biggest new names on the bill, the 18 year old pair emerge to a sizable crowd, all baying to hear their biggest hit, Control. Unfortunately, their precocious age lets them down when their equipment and PA clash, resulting in clipping sound and drab bass that forces them to abandon their set after 10 awkward minutes of arguing with the sound technicians from the stage.




Jessie Ware by Kevin Lawson
After spending most of the weekend thus far listening to my campmates discuss the various things they would like to do to Jessie Ware (Stool Pigeon Stage), expectations were high. Whilst she is not yet the most consistent vocalist, she carries a certain charm (and a side split dress) that gets every boy in the tent raising their eyebrows with approval. 110% is a highlight, the beat resembling a newer, shinier cousin of Kelis and Andre 3000’s ‘Millionaire’. Running is similarly hummable, the moment of the set where she smiles with true ease, the clearest sign of the kind of musician she wants to be.

SATURDAY

Kwes by Kevin Lawson
A leaky tents nights sleep later and we’re back to the Stool Pigeon to get reacquainted with Kwes, an act we spotted at Dot to Dot festival. Unfortunately, the singers performance reflects the sleep deprivation he professes to the crowd, his vocals reticent under the twinkling keyboards. He gives off the impression that he would be far more comfortable in his bedroom artist rather than the mainstage limelight, but he is definitely someone worth being patient with, for Bashful is still as catchy as it was 6 months ago.



2:54 by Kevin Lawson
The true revelation of the day comes in the form of 2:54 (Stool Pigeon Stage), much fuller and louder live than I was expecting. Colette Thurlow is an extremely capable frontwoman, draping herself and her mermaid-like hair about the stage in dreamy, swaying fashion. It perfectly accentuates their music, subtly dark but powerfully provocative.

Subtle isn’t a word that applies to Future Of The Left (Stool Pigeon Stage), although they are equally suprising. Replacing Clock Opera, I had prepared myself for blatant, mindless noise, what I got instead was sharp, funny power rock that sounded as the Yorkshireman would say, shit hot. Singer Andrew Falco’s banter was on top form, even berating my over-eager housemate for  'wearing a hat indoors and having no rhythm’ . He gets away with being so obtuse because his band are good, and he knows it. Culminating in ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ which is every bit as awesome and riduculous as it sounds, I am left with a ringing in my ears and a grin on my face. 

Future Of The Left by Kevin Lawson
King Krule takes to the stage 20 minutes later than planned  on the Vice/Noisey stage following a complete restringing of his guitar, but his deep, plaintive voice is worth the wait. Coming across more guitar  orientated than he appears on record, he is working with all the raw essentials that will propel him to success in a few years time; a little experimentation and a few more songs as gripping as The Noose Of Jah City and he will be well on his way.

Extreme fandom propels me to the barrier in time for Wild Beasts (Stool Pigeon Stage), who perform an all encompassing set befitting of their headline status. A rare outing of oldie The Devil’s Crayon goes down just as well as anything from Smother, blending seamlessly into the inevitable ‘YORKSHIRE YORKSHIRE’ chants that swell out of the tent. Perhaps it is because they are coming to the end of the Smother tour, but their whole production seems more natural, an oversized jacket that they have finally grown shoulders broad enough for. Hayden Thorpe’s vocals are stronger than ever after months of practice, the shy smile that spreads across his face as he grasps the high notes of a particularly lusty rendition of Hooting and Howling enough to make all assembled females in attendance momentarily forget the horrors of the rain and the now overflowing portaloos. By the time they emerge for the encore, sporting badly cut balaclavas in homage to Pussy Riot, they have solidified the celebratory atmosphere in the air and reminded everyone that they are one of Britain’s best kept secrets.

SUNDAY

Willis Earl Beal by Kevin Lawson
Sunday gets off to a rousing start with Willis Earl Beal (Stool Pigeon Stage), whose set you can hear from halfway across the field. The power in the voice that emerges deep from within his chest is something quite remarkable, and his stage presence even more so. The permanently ray-banned Chicagoan is something of an enigma, sexy and terrifying in equal measure as he winds and contorts himself around the microphone stand, extending his limbs until his body is as big as his vocal. The jaw dropping depth of his voice is enough for now, but when he cracks the art of songwriting, Willis Earl Beal is going to be a superstar.


Willy Mason by Kevin Lawson
The crowd that Beal has gathered linger long enough to applaud Willy Mason (Stool Pigeon Stage), whose crowd grows in direct proportion to the severity of the rain outside. Still, his avid fans are out in full force, singing along to every word and lending Oxygen and Where The Humans Eat a particular poignancy.



Tall Ships by Kevin Lawson
Tall Ships (Vice/Noisey Stage) continue the emotion-fest, ‘Shelter’ sounding like old school Snow Patrol had they let themselves go a little. Whilst the party popper gaffa taped to the end of lead singer Ric’s guitar remained dissapointly unopened, they make up for it with a slew of energy-laden tracks (T=O being a highlight), making the impending release of their debut album that little bit more anticipatory.



Blacklisters by Kevin Lawson
Blacklisters (Vice/Noisey Stage) follow in quick succession, delivering the tightest sloppy rock show I have seen in quite some time. Leading the charge of his bands sprawling, frenetic guitarwork, Billy Mason-Wood is quite the showman, fearlessly crowd surfing into a tiny proportion brave enough to grip his jerking frame. Stimulated by his snarky quips in between songs and the fantastically titled Club Foot By Kasabian, the usually restrained and polite beacons crowd finally get going, with tentative circle pits springing up towards the barrier. 


Cloud Nothings by Kevin Lawson
It whips the crowd up nicely for the festival closers Cloud Nothings (Vice/Noisey Stage), who prove that the best is indeed often saved till last. Having witnessed their live show for the first time a few  months ago, it’s already impressive how they’ve improved, and even more so how cohesively they play such initricate rock. Their debut album Attack on Memory’s standout track Wasted Days undergoes the full extended treatment of almost 15 minutes, the band almost trancelike as they thrash away at their respective instruments, never falling out of beat with one another. Even as overzealous fans invade the stage, singer Dylan Baldi barely flinches, his scratchy voice on fine form as he declares over and over ‘I thought I would be more than this.’ I wouldn’t speak too soon Dylan, because your band managed to trump almost every other band at the festival, and that is no mean feat for an event of Beacons calibre.

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