With many mainstays of the UK festival scene becoming commercial, boring camping holidays for 18-25’s offering the opportunity to down beer bongs and listen to artists who are the make up of Radio 1’s a list playlist, there has been a need for festivals offering something else, for those that want to discover new music and also enjoy the brightest new talents. Large festivals such as Glastonbury and Bestival offer such a thing, but if you don’t want to shell out $$$ there are few alternatives.
One such alternative is Beacons festival, located in the north Yorkshire hills, near Skipton. Beacons is still in its infancy, but the line up that was offered this year, combined with the phenomenal effort towards arts and visuals, made it one of summers hottest tickets.
Arriving on site on Thursday the first thing that was noticeable was the size of the festival. The ‘arena’ was a small field with two main tents making up the main stages with other smaller stages dotted around as well as a beer tent, a splattering of clothes and food stalls and an Urban Outfitters tent, they really do get everywhere. The small site was not a negative however, it gave you the opportunity to flitter between stages quickly and easily, and when artists such as Danny Brown, SBTRKT, Local Natives and Machinedrum are playing, it meant there was no risk of missing anyone.
Friday’s music was a true reflection of Beacons, with a diverse range of alternate and electronic inspired music from the likes of Bonobo, Ghostpoet, Lulu James and John Talabot. Friday afternoon gave the crowd a chance to catch emerging talents. Opening the main stage was Fun Adults, a four piece whose music drew similarities to Wild Beasts and Alt-J a comparison can never be a bad thing. Other noteworthy afternoon bands included the Brighton 3 piece Esben and the Witch, their music, moody and goth like took the audience away from the bright sun filled Yorkshire field to somewhere darker and more mysterious.
Friday’s evenings proceedings were started by Lulu James, the Northern starlets powerful voice, combined with disco-esque rifts lifted the crowd and drew them away from the sunshine into the main tent. Lulu James' outfit embraced Friday’s frontiers of the future, fancy dress theme with a sequined headscarf shining under the stage lights. True to Beacons diverse nature after Lulu James at the Social stage was Lunar C. The English rapper famed for his youtube success on "Don't Flop" where he has accumulated over 5 million views, he took to the stage with energy and confidence, hoping to buck the trend of youtube sensation, his rapping was tight, beats slick and energy impressive considering it was only 8.
The role of performing before Bonobo can be a daunting one, however Ghostpoet relished the challenge and opportunity. Returning to Beacons, Ghostpoet appeared at home on stage, his confidence in his own ability and knowledge that his laid back approach to hip-hop can hold a crowd and at a seconds notice raise the tempo meant he was well worthy of his Friday night slot. His set included many hits from his first, mercury nominated album as well as plenty of tracks from his recently released second album. As Ghostpoet finished, crowds fled to see oneman perform at the social where the tent danced to his house set. Many departed and headed to see the headline act at the main stage, Bonobo. For Simon Green aka Bonobo the short journey from his hometown Leeds, makes him a local to the Yorkshire hills. With a recently released album and an incredible musical ability to layer complex sounds the headline slot was nothing less than he deserved. The set built throughout, with beautiful lyrics from the help of Erykah Badu, the set was hypnotic and enchanting whilst still managing to have energy and life to keep the lively audience entertained. Finishing at 12:30 there was still more music on offer with a technically and visually perfect set from John Talabot at the Resident Advisor stage and a lively hit mixed house set from Eats everything that ensured the party vibes carried on until the early hours.
Saturdays line up again offered something for everyone. Saturday day time highlights included the Liverpool female trio, Stealing Sheep, playing the mainstage they were accompanied on stage by a ten piece marching band, which added to their folky tunes. Another highlight was the Lancashire duo, Bondax. The tent was rammed as they played a set comprising of many classic hits that wouldn’t seem out of place on a radio 1 essential mix. Although, for some purists the set was slightly commercial it entertained the crowd well and ensured that the crowd were excited for the night’s music.
Gold Panda’s set on the mainstage was quite simply fantastic with intricate rhythms and beats constantly building tempo, combined with stunning visuals making it one of the stand out sets of the festival. Saturday nights main stage were headlined by Local Natives. The LA quartet offered some traditional festival euphoric folk-rock. Their vocals and melodies offered a mellow but mesmerizing set. They paid homage to their UK tour manager who had help break them in the UK and had taken the responsibility of organizing Beacons. Their set included hits from their first and second albums, with highlights including Wide Eyes and Breakers.
As they finished the crowds were offered something slightly different with Machinedrum headlining the RA stage. The critically acclaimed US producer played a set filled with house, hip-hop beats and the occasional jungle rhythm. Although at times their were cries to turn up the volume the set was loved by dance purists and music fans alike.
After a very wet Saturday the rays of sunshine that shone over the North Yorkshire hills were a welcome relief for all. Fortunately the site had held up well, which meant the dedicated crowd of doc martin and vans wearers could trudge on without the worry of the mud. Sunday played host to some incredibly exciting and promising acts including Danny Brown, Floating Points and SBTRKT.
Floating Points played a two hour afternoon set at the Resident Advisor stage. Beacons had seen some peculiar set times for acts and Floating Points on a Sunday afternoon was no different. However, as his set of future house fused with classic disco developed everyone forgot it was a Sunday afternoon in North Yorkshire and the feel good vibes helped heal the weary heads, whilst also appreciating the true talent that the dj/producer has.
Next up on the Main Stage was Danny Brown. Much has been mentioned of his ‘old age’ and at 32 its true he is not as young as other Hip Hop names such as A$AP or Kendrick. However, as he strolled onto stage with a bottle of cognac in his hand and introduced himself “Hi I’m Daniel” in a child like voice, it was clear that age is nothing for Brown. His set was the most energetic of the weekend his variety in voices at times made you think there was more than one Danny Brown on stage, if only. As people walked in away from the sunshine unsure of what to expect, they were treated to a masterful, energetic performance from an artist who clearly loves what he does and doesn’t care whether others do. Fortunately his set provided enough vigour to convert sampling material from his xxx mix tape and songs from his upcoming, hotly anticipated new album, funnily enough named Old, his brief 40 minute set flew by leaving the crowd in awe.
SBTRKT followed with a dj set, which expressed his importance and significance in music right now, sampling much of his own material as well as samples from Drake and Kendrick. The crowd lapped the set up and as darkness approached the lone SBTRKT on stage accompanied only by a simple dj set up, illuminated by blue and purple lights made his set incredibly enjoyable for fans of all music. Following Danny Brown and SBTRKT is a big task and not one that you would expect to be partaken by Sunday night’s headliners, Django Django. Their psychedelic pop from their mercury nominated album managed was not a logical headline performance but in their own way they managed it. The restriction of only having one album was evident at times, however their energy and enthusiasm rubbed off on the crowd who were more than happy to embrace the positivity and dance right until the end.
Overall, Beacons was fantastic. For a festival so new they managed to secure a great line up, which offered something for everybody. Beacons is a festival that offered everything you could desire from a new up and coming event and confirmed it is definitely one that should not be missed next summer.
Words: Adam Gardiner