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BEARDED THEORY 2023

BEARDED THEORY FESTIVAL 2023! WHAT HAPPENED?

So festival season is once again upon us and where better to start than Bearded Theory, the norths answer to Glastonbury of old, a festival full of hippies, goths, outcasts, oddballs, a dash of freaks, and the occasional normal. Indeed “Eclectic” is painting this festival somewhat short but for many it’s an essential meetup of happy, like-minded people who are happy to accept each other for what they are and just get on and enjoy themselves.

There’s a big change this year casting a possible cloud over proceedings, the original organisers who started the festival from the back of a pub in a beer garden and built it up have called time as the monster continued to grow.

The festival is now in the hands of DHP, the people behind Nottingham’s Rock City, this upset more than a few who have been with the festival pretty much from the beginning, many of which showed their distrust and somewhat annoyance of the change to his much-loved festival on social media claiming the festival was about to become just another corporate run identikit festival so time to find out if the few are right or wrong.

It’s early evening Day 1 and the show kicks off with

3 Daft Monkeys…

…as it has done many a time before so the punk folk vibe is still there and from what I can see so far, the crowd seems the same as before, the “aroma” in the arena seems the same and the chat and appreciation is all looking familiar so maybe the alarm bells that sounded after the announcement last year are somewhat unfounded.

OMG It’s The Church

Been busting to see these for a while, having heard they’re very much along the lines of Elvarna for a fun time show and boy they didn’t disappoint.

The Rev Michael Alabama Jackson takes you on a spiritual awakening like no other and as well as some of their original material we got an Incredible cover of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy early doors to fire the audience up, Electric Six’s Gay Bar came along not much later to get people dancing and singing along and even Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) into the mix, as he proclaims whatever your vices, beliefs, and habits come join us because “We don’t give a shit.”

The Oreilles.

Not sure what’s going on with these currently, loved seeing them pre lockdown and the 1st two albums were great but sadly this performance was deary nonsense so left early. Chatting to a few others the day after and they were  of the same opinion so guessing their change of direction is leaving some early fans cold.

Friday, Day 2 and it’s going to be a scorcher, the sun’s up high and there’s not a cloud in the sky – is this really the end of May? It’s down to the main stage, The Pallet for…

Panic Shack

These girls take no prisoners from the opener Baby, (which followed by throwing a baby doll into the crowd) along with Mannequin Man, The Ick and I Don’t Really Like That and a few others they look a feel ready for a huge stage that could have easily scared them but they owned it from the start and got the reaction from the crowd because of it

The Go! Team

Hard to believe that these girls are now 7 albums in, the sudden reality that one of your favourite ever songs, Lady Flash from their debut album that is now 18 years old makes me feel officially old, it’s good job these 2 are good time girls to keep us in good spirits to stop me reflecting on this as they bring their unique musical mix that has changed and evolved with each of those 7 albums to keep them sounding fresh.

Deja Vega

1st band I’ve managed to catch in the new Meadow tent to help relieve pressure on the wonderful Woodlands Stage and while the boys absolutely smashed their set as they seem to do every time or place they play the stage clearly needs a louder sound system to cope with their sound as it was somewhat weak, lacking fullness around the mids especially when we got the full extended 12 mins plus gloriousness that is The Test

Snapped Ankles

Been trying to catch these for some time and Bearded is their 1st performance of the year not that you can tell as they’re nailing it from the 1st track. Their literally faceless performance of their particular brand of electro goes down an absolute storm on the main stage bringing on the largest crowd of the weekend so far.

Pet Needs

Back into The Woodlands to catch these lads fresh from a manic tour as support for RGM friends, The Lottery Winners as well as being taken under the wing of Frank Turner, Pet Needs are on a rapid rise and the crowd in the Woodlands is a testament to this.

With massive crowd interaction with the band including surfing one superfan around the Woodlands trees the band are clearly currently having the times of their lives as this pop punk foursome ride this amazing wave of support they’ve been building, people will be hearing about them a whole lot more over the coming festival season.

BEARDED THEORY 2023

Yard Act.

Just class, the Pallet main stage might have have been a big step up for these boys from Leeds but they absolutely smashed it, massive crowd and their performance more than matched it! If they’re playing a festival you’re going to, don’t think twice, make sure you see them.

Gogol Bordello

It’s probably 15 years ago since I 1st and  last witnessed a Gogol Bordello gig and back then I didn’t know what to expect but what I witnessed was gloriously chaotic, back to 2023 and nothing much has changed, sure there’s not as much charging around on stage as there was back then but it’s still an entertaining watch.

Day 3

And the sun is once again relentless, Bearded unlike Glastonbury is usually lucky with the weather but this is something else – certainly also makes the likes of Kendal calling jealous 

Beans on Toast (Pt1)

It’s a family friendly performance from the man Bearded love so much they’ve given him the Woodlands for pretty much the entirety of the day. The Woodlands is packed to capacity to see the folk singer but it’s Ren his 4 year old daughter who steals the show with her dance performances and messages to the crowd, that’s as endearing as it sounds and all you need to know about the man.

She Drew The Gun

Back to the main stage to catch Louisa Roach, a special performer and songwriter from The Wirral. She’s no stranger to myself having seen her perform several times but this is the 1st time I’ve  caught her on such a large stage. The start feels somewhat subjuded but builds as she and the crowd warm to each other and proves successful by the end.

Elvarna 

It’s been just 5 years since these guys have been playing to around just 300 people to now walking out a crowd of a probable 8-10,000 this afternoon and the expectation is high. Intially the latest step sort of felt a step too far during the 1st couple of songs as a large proportion of the crowd wandered what the hell was happening right before their eyes. What they were witnessing was a bloke from Newcastle dressed as Elvis singing both Elvis and Nirvana songs or a mix of both together which, yes is as weird as it sounds. Once Elvarna get into their stride though they turned that expansive crowd  into feeling like its just 500 people again as we all become one and revel in the party atmosphere of yet another storming performance.

Brix Smith

Brings not the Manchester rain but Cali desperation to Bearded, quite high energy stuff from her new album, no sign of Suzannah Hoffs who appears on it tho sadly for me…. Brix is looking amazing but again the sound in The Meadows is letting her down, still on the basis of what I witnessed I’m looking forward to catching her again in Hebden Bridge in the near future.

Gary Numan 

Quite possibly the greatest performance of the weekend, Gary may write, perform and produce all his music on a Mac these days but he and his regular set of band members and production team for the live dates are a finely polished product which proves you don’t need specialist set building to put on a spectacular for the crowd to lap up. There were a lot of people eating humble pie by the end of his set having previously questioned why he was even on the main stage nevermind the penultimate band before the headliners Interpol, shock and awe sprung to mind as they stormed their hour long set of songs from more than 40 years in the business.

Beans & Toast (Pt 2)

Now the kids are in bed we get the adult version of Beans, if you’re unfamiliar he’s a cross between Billy Bragg and Frank Turner telling stories about life, issues and people with sometimes fruity language but always an uncanny knack of a catchy tune including one about the Golden Lion pub in Todmorden where I last frequented just a couple of weeks previous.

Lanterns On The Lake

It’s like The Woodlands and Lanterns were made for each other, the setting and the songs combined for a magical experience that was something special to finish Saturday night off for me. Again Lanterns aren’t a band new to myself as I’ve seen them several times over the past few years but when I saw they were playing in the Woodlands, I wasn’t going to miss it for the world and it didn’t disappoint, the next 75 minutes wafted away in seconds in a dreamlike bliss as Hazel Wilde’s vocals carried around the trees, the gathered crowd all lost in the moment, where everyone seemed spellbound and silent throughout each song. Hazel was grateful for the large crowd that showed up, we’re grateful for the performance we witnessed, this one will stick around in my memories for a very long time.

Day 4

The sun is in hiding this morning somewhat thankfully giving my ever reddening knees a welcoming respite. Today is the worst of the weekend for clashes so instead of trying to dash around and miss bits of everyone we decided to camp at the main stage for the majority of the day.

Undertones

Kickimg off the afternoon for us having  missed the Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican and it’s a packed arena. Yes Feargle Sharkey is no longer a member but he hasn’t been for a long long time so it doesn’t really matter, they still sound great and if you’re of a certain age you know far far more Undertones songs than you think you do, lovely stuff.

The Lovely Eggs

I can’t help but love Holly & Dave, Lancasters finest keeping it all proper punk.  Fiercely independent, they write and produce all their songs which they distribute on their own record label. There’s no 3rd party management or booking company involved – they do the lot and if you buy any merchandise it’s even picked, packed and posted by them. Typically they’re used to playing to a few hundred not several thousand but they aren’t phased as they tell the crowd they have booked a microlight plane to do a fly over any second to spray finely granulated pure MDMA so if anyone in the crowd wants to party with them then just hold your head back and stick your tongue out…

Unfortunately or in typical Eggs style it looks like it got lost but they still bring the party to Catton Hall and looking around it’s great to see so many youngsters singing along to some songs + that’s parenting done right.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

What can you say about Pigs x7 to someone who has never seen or heard them, guess lead singer Matthew Batty sums them up after their 1st song, “We’re like a gateway drug to Rock & Roll”. They’re fast, loud and relentless but with a great sense of humour between the songs as Matthew shows the crowd how to follow his Yoga moves and how to headbang. If you’ve seen em before then nothing has changed, they do what they do and going by the new stuff played that’s extremely unlikely to change anytime soon

The Dualers

I’m not a massive Ska/Reggae fan so most of this set was lost on me  but their covers of Redemption Song and tribute to the late Toots Hibberts with Monkey Man was sublime. Seemed to go down very well with those into the scene going by the amount of dancing around us.

Warmduscher

Another off the tick list that I’ve been waiting to catch and again absolutely no complaints, Take Yard Act, add a dash of Squid and a handful of Pigs x7 and you pretty much have Warmduscher, clever lyrics with a dirty funky heavy bear backing them up. Great interaction with the crowd and another band that seemed perfect for Beardeds audience

The Pretenders

What can you add to what’s already been said about Chrissy Hynde and her The Pretenders? Well today Chrissy is in a good mood, there’s rare smiles and the stage and she even jokes when Bobby Gillespie appears to watch her and she fluffs her chords that he did it deliberately to sabotage her set. We got a good mix of newer stuff and plenty of the classics but I’ve still yet to here her play Brass In Pocket live, maybe one day. On another note her backing band were as amazing as ever doing their other day job as they also play live separately as His Lordship who I was lucky enough to see them as live just a few months earlier.

Primal Scream

Great to see Bobby back on form again rather than being a rambling mess that he’s been known to be over the past decade since the 20th anniversary tour of Screamadelica when he was finally back on the wagon before falling off it once again. Fantastic production and the stage is full of musicians but Christ on a bike it was a slow burner tonight, I heard  it picked up towards the end and was a spectacular finish but by that time I had shot off up towards the Meadows for the final act of the weekend.

Public Service Broadcasting 

Typically get there early and they’re late on but Bowies Sound & Vision fires up for their walk on tune, the tent is rammed and the show begins. PSB are one of those bands you really need to see live to understand the concept, the mix of audio clips, old video action and them live is what brings the magic together and a good selection is played from all 4 studio albums Inc Spitfire, Go!, Night Mail and many others plus a nice touch to have a 8bit Pixelised Tina Turner tribute in the background graphics to Let’s Dance .

So to sum up, has the change of ownership change the festival for better or for worse? Well it’s clear some things were going to change so let’s go though the negatives first., the beer selection wasn’t as good as it’s been previously and £5.50/£6.50 are no longer pub prices in this part of the country but the choice was still better than your average festival.

The additional The Meadows stage helped reduce crowding and queuing at the Woodlands that the capacity increase introduced last year but the sound definitely needs working on as does the stage height as it is far too low for the bigger crowds later on in the night but after that I’m really struggling to think of anything.

Now the positives, it’s the crowd that makes a festival and thankfully what a wonderful bunch there was again this year, apart from the couple who decided to push in front of us during PSB’s performance, snort MDMA then chew each other faces off missing pretty much the entire performance and the family of giants who decided to stand directly in front of my tiny missus while I was down on front of the barrier taking shots of Primal, everyone was kind and considerate to each other and yet another year where I witnessed absolutely no trouble, the drunks were holding the drunks up and everyone was equal.

There were a few moans of the occasional over zealous steward but I didn’t witness anything, in fact quite the opposite the staff were super friendly on the whole.

Food prices and selection were decent, the toilets kept to a very high standard tho the lack of no hand sanitizer at the gents should be addressed next year and the whole venue still kept super clean thanks to people cleaning up after themselves. I heard Accessable camping was superb in its new location and the staff managing couldn’t do enough for people there too. When the only gripe you have about music was the amount of clashes then you know the organisers are doing it right, there wasn’t much downtime over the 3 1/2 days and that say everything.

So yes, the worries and moans of some were fully unjust it’s business as usual for Bearded Theory, my favourite festival of the years previously looks set to continue being my favourite going forward. If you’re accepting of others give it a try instead of trying for Glastonbury every year, you won’t regret it – if you’re not then the festival probably isn’t for you so don’t ruin it for others.

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