Beat-Herder Festival 2013 review

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Overall 9/10

Deep in the Ribble Valley, seven years ago Beat-Herder festival was born. It began as a small capacity, creative and unique festival and seemed determined to stay that way.  Seven years on, many would have lost their way and given into the pressure of profit and mass marketing, but if the saying “give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man” is also true for festivals then the future looks promising.

At seven, Beat-Herder Festival is maturing, sticking to its tried and tested formula, listening and acting upon feedback (the lovely security), and continuing to create and evolve (new areas The Fortress and Maison D’etre).  It is also attracting a range of varied, credible and memorable artists and keeping bar prices low ensuring that the price of a weekend ticket is value for money, remaining fiercely loyal to its roots.

There’s an array of different stages to be discovered ensuring that all musical tastes are catered for over the weekend.  The Snug tent, playing a range of disco, house, techno and soul  has grown this year to increase capacity, we catch Gemma Furbank’s (8) set on Friday evening, accompanied by an impromptu drumming set in the crowd,  and on Saturday evening Tim Forrester’s (9) set gets a growing crowd nicely revved up for the long night ahead.

The Stumblefunk tent remains as popular as ever over the weekend, though proving not large or loud enough to cater for the enormous crowd that gathers for Roni Size & MC Dynamite (5) on Saturday night.

A blissful DJ set from Banco de Gaia (7) in the Perfumed Gardens leads to the mania that is the newly built Fortress, a fire breathing, high walled open air dance arena hosting numerous DJ’s including Bentley Rhythm Ace (9/10) on Saturday and a soulful Jalepeno Sound System (9) on Sunday. Another newly expanded area is the Maison D’etre, a dark tent with forestry, washing lines and sofa’s hosting acoustic, comedy and the beautiful young singer songwriter George Ezra (10) on Sunday afternoon; by his own admission, George has played in a number of dark tents of late, he really ought to have been on an open air stage so more could have witnessed this set.

The beautifully lit up Toil Trees host legendary DJs such as Utah Saints (8) on Friday, Kissy Sell Out (8) on Saturday and Mr Scruff and MC Kwasi (6) on Sunday afternoon playing a long set with highlight 1998’s iconic A Guy Called Gerald hit ‘Voodoo Ray‘, perfect in the hazy wooded sunshine.

Further into the Toil Trees brings more surprises, a little row of shops, a tattoo studio, a church open solely for dancing pleasure, complete with alter, pews and hymn books (returned after a hugely popular introduction last year).  The Hotel California served fabulous mojito’s, a very warm welcome and a range of late night music and entertainment.

And then there are the surprise finds, the wonderful Garage area playing big beats all night every night, think clapped out cars full of revellers inside, dancing on car bonnets, secret tunnels through phone boxes and secret doorways leading to hidden parties.  

The thought, imagination and care that goes into every corner of this festival is astounding, such as beautifully woven tapestries and flower boxes with names of artists, new and old artwork in every corner, award winning food stalls , thoughtful notes and helpful tips for festival goers, a stone circle, a fire pit, even a sword in a stone!  It is a festival and a carnival; a parade for things eccentric. This year’s fancy dress theme is T, and so they came, the teabags, transformers, tardis, tent, tealadies, tequila, tennis players, twister, Twix, Thatcher, traffic lights and the most inventive had to go to the lady who came dressed as a threesome.

This festival just about gets the balance between the all-night party people and families, though the former is definitely more evident, and judging by a disproportionate amount of ambulances seen over the weekend for a small festival, it isn’t one for the faint hearted.

The Beat-Herder and District Working Men’s Club, an homage to all things Northern and twee, hosts the annual Beat-Herders Got Talent’ competition on Saturday afternoon followed by a guest appearance by none other than Nana Moon! Technical glitches aside, comedy singer/songwriter Captain Hotknives’ (7) delights everyone on Sunday evening with his Northern banter but unfortunately a delayed start means leaving early to catch Jimmy Cliff (10) on the main Beat-Herder Stage who brings the sunshine just as the sun goes down, with legendary hits ‘Wonderful World‘, ‘Beautiful People‘ and 1969 hit Many ‘Rivers to Cross’, as he takes us on a journey through ska, rocksteady and reggae, the crowd sing his new song ‘One More’ long after he has left.

Following their acclaimed performance at Glastonbury, Chic featuring Nile Rogers (9) take to the stage on Friday afternoon and really kick the festival off with disco hits, ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘The Greatest Dancer’ and featuring Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin‘ and David Bowie’s ‘Lets’s Dance’ of which no-one needed any real persuading.  A DJ set from Groove Armada (9) ends Friday night at the main stage playing a retro set including Technotronic’s 1989 ‘Pump up the Jam’ and Nomad‘s early nineties ‘(I wanna give you) Devotion‘, mixing in their own songs and ending with a frenetic ‘Superstylin’ mixed with Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’.