Beat Herder Festival 2009: Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 09 July 2009

Overall - 9/10

Beat Herder Festival looks like a medieval circus; flags wafting in the breeze nestled in the shadow of Pendle Hill. And as brightly coloured people tumble by, it feels like one. It is the perfect festival checklist. No sponsorship, non corporate? Tick. Doesn’t act smug about number one? Tick. Decent diverse cheap food? Tick. Enormous vodkas sold as standard-err. Hic. All this and there’s music too and it is the friendliest, most up for it festival crowd ever. Enormous cyberpunk sculptures and carvings abound, there is a wood specifically for techno and its just weird, brilliant and anarchic. And did I mention the vodkas?

Getting there and back - 6/10

It is in a lovely setting but without a car, it can be slightly slow and pricey to get to with the nearest train station being Clitheroe - a good ten miles away (change once for Preston). However, there are buses and as we stumbled haphazardly out of the site on Sunday, a steward ordered us a cab. Valet service. Priceless. Well, the cab was fifteen quid but it still made me feel slightly famous in a muddy hungover non-famous way. There are shuttle busses should you not wish to escape the imaginary paparazzi.

Atmosphere - 10/10

Everyone here is mad. And also trashed. It is the most up for it crowd I have ever seen. Nobody sleeps. Ever. The peak time seems to be about two in the morning when things really kick in. For an early riser, early to bed person, that can be frustrating as there is nothing to do until about 1pm. But the friendliness is amazing, people beam and natter in toilet queues (also a measure of the goodness of a festival) everyone is happy, I hear no complaints but instead first timers, devout and bright eyed like new Christians proclaim their wonder at the events unfolding. People skip by in fancy dress, children blow bubbles and stilt walkers and fairies ramble past, dreadlocks flapping in the breeze.

Music - 8/10

There are no big name bands here, rather ones with an active fan base and festival history. People don’t seem to come for the music per se, rather the general ambience - on saying that, Beatherder has some excellent and rather distinguished acts and you find new music rather than listen to what is already on your ipod.

The toil trees (the aforementioned wood of techno) played host to Utah Saints and Meat Katie amongst other renowned techno acts. Some people never left that area. There were American diner style red vinyl seats around the trees from which wide-eyed people nodded and twitched happily. Booming bass and frantic ever-increasing beats filled the air for all of 23 hours a day - I missed a lot of the headliners but they were raved about in awe by people who couldn’t stop chewing.

The Stumble Funk tent’s highlight was Pendle Coven, deep dark meaty techno, slow-paced and threatening building up to crescendos of noise with visuals I would happily have eight quid or thereabouts to stare open mouthed at in a Vue cinema. Ten pound for an Imax.

The main stage’s highlights were the Young Punx - think Girls Aloud crossed with the Prodigy but better than that actually sounds in print (it actually sounds bloody awful in print) but an act I could not stop dancing to barefoot in the sun and whose songs remain lodged in the brain.

The Monkey Wrenches
were an excellent hillbilly punk/country act with enticing forays into gypsy music, fiddles and everything else that is good. They have a superb stage presence, professionalism and again, proper songs, songs that command your attention and bodily interaction.

, who I expected to be just novelty beat boxing, built up layers of technical wizardry, smatters of samples collided with deep bass to huge monstrous beats.

In the Working Men’s bar there was always something, from Beat Herders Got Talent competition to drag queens, acoustic acts and a carnival-esque atmosphere that reigned supreme. From multifarious other tents escaped the sublime and the ridiculous, deep dub and soaring trance. In the Trailer Trash tent, there are cocktails and bingo (prize - the compere’s pants). Techno was always in the breeze as was a mangled Michael Jackson song. It’s what he would have wanted.

Festival food at non-rip off prices. It really makes a difference to my enjoyment not being fleeced three times a day. Beatherder has an ethos not to charge too much for anything. At the Camel’s Arse Café, a huuuge plate of spinach and sweet potato curry with fresh oaty bread was three quid - a double vodka was sold as standard and coffee and beer a quid or two. There was a large range of veggie and organic food and drink and fresh fruit was at market prices with people queuing for it in the happy expectancy it would cure them from the spectacularly unholy excesses of the night before. It seemed to work. I bought some watermelon to counteract the fifty-seven vodkas.

Not having to run around and see the acts, ringing around stage names and times with a bic pen, working out time scale and where, when and how, Beat Herder allowed fans to just sit there as it all flowed.


Err, having to leave early. We missed headliner Banco De Gaia, as we had to leave midday Sunday. That still hurts. Or it could be the sunburn.

The hangover. Apart from that, the only complaint I had was more of a minor niggle due to waking up so early - a shop selling newspapers, fags and other forgotten festie sundries might have been nice. I can’t even moan about the toilets as they stayed semi-pristine throughout. Scarily, better than mine at home. Never a good sign.

Random Events

Buckets filled with clothes for a quid in the Working Men’s club, a car boot sale with beer - such things are what dreams (well, mine) are made of.

The brass band wandering around.

The dapper suited picnickers from the past with cucumber sandwiches and trilby hats.

The exercise class organically fuelled by drums with a dreadlocked man enthusiastically reaching for the sky followed by about thirty muddy devotees as a ginger man pretended to be a slug on the floor.

Pretty much the entire weekend.

By Tamar Newton

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