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BEARDED THEORY FESTIVAL

BEARDED THEORY FESTIVAL 2024 – WHAT HAPPENED?

Mud mud not so glorious mud….

It’s the end of May and the start of festival season so naturally its off to Bearded Theory once again however things weren’t looking so great weather-wise. Indeed as the week rolled on it clear that the decision to open a day earlier to relieve some of the congestion that builds around Catton Hall on the Thursday might have been a mistake as the UK took an absolute battering with a months worth of rain over just 24 hours which took out the Woodlands area even before the festival started.

Come Wednesday night DHP, the organisers were asking ticket holders to arrive on the Friday if possible as the campsite was heavily waterlogged and indeed the main camping field was actually a lake!

Entrance was also delayed for an hour on the Thursday morning so the Marshalls could survey the grounds for where folk could camp and the infamous walkway into the campsite showed what a toll the weather had already taken as parts of it were thick gloopy messes and others mud soup making the going rather treacherous to say the least, the warning to put on your wellies if you’ve brought some wasn’t a false call.

Once set up it was time for a wonder around the site to see what changes had taken place this year from feedback given, The Something Else tent had moved away from the new for the previous year’s The Meadows stage because of sound bleed, CODA which replaced the Magical Sounds dance tent was smaller but everything else looked as per.

Two disappointments were noted, the first being the quality of the drinks on offer was considerably worse than previous years – Hobgoblin is CRAP DHP, not cask, indeed the whole cask selection available over the previous years had all but disappeared! The second was The Woodlands still wasn’t open so acts were now taking place in the smaller Convoy Cabaret tent or the main stage Pallet rejigged with some dropped altogether. Anyway, onto the music.

Battlesnake

Aussie rockers Battlesnake were handed the task of opening the festival main stage an hour earlier than advertised and luckily I happened to be by the stage as they started so I didn’t miss them and what an opener they turned out to be! Think early Rush, Judas Priest and fellow Aussies AC/DC and mix those in with Spinal Tap and you’re bang on the money as to what to expect. The quality of the songs and the musicianship are absolutely top draw but with a tongue firmly in cheek (when it wasn’t out waggling like a snakes).

Complete with plenty of posturing, hand horns and even a sound stack climb as they blasted through stuff from last years debut self titled album with tracks named such as I Am Vomit and BeelzeBanquet. Honestly, if you get a chance to see these guys jump at it, they are supporting Saturday’s headliners Janes Addiction I believe so get down early if so – you will not be disappointed!

Sprints

Following Battlesnake on the main stage instead of later in the Woodlands it was Sprints turn, a good move as just as I expected they are already too big for the original stage and the crowd watching backed that theory up with a massive audience there to embrace them. It’s hard to believe this band only formed 5 years ago in Dublin as they took to the Pallet like a duck to water (ironic eh?) with Karla owning it. A good solid performance all round that certainly should have found them new fans.

Dutty Moonshine Big Band.

While not my style of music they certainly went down well with the audience, a combination of dance/rap and Big Band Brass is an unusual combination but it most definitely works for them.

Soft Play.

Soft Play or Slaves as they were previously called headlined the Thursday night and they were still as loud and raucous as ever as I was still able to hear them back at our tents, after just 4 hours sleep, a 5am start and 22k steps I was done for by this point – roll on Friday for the 1st full day of bands.

Friday

Gen & The Degenerates 

Couple of years now since I last caught Gen and the crew so thought it would be a good place to start the day. Gen with a G not with a J as its Genevieve not Jenifer as she proclaims certainly hasn’t lost any of her confidence as she smashed it out of there Convoy tent to those who got down early to catch them. New Song Charming shows there’s still some good stuff in the locker and I’ll be looking forward to hearing the rest of the new stuff.

Saint Agnes

One I had on the list the minute they were announced as I still haven’t managed to catch them yet and boy they certainly didn’t disappoint! Loud and powerful with the sort of bass you not only hear but tries to reorganise your internal organs they powered through their far too short 30 min set like it was the last time they will ever play! I was hooked from the off with opener Bloodsuckers and they only reeled me in further as the set went on. Bands like Saint Agnes tell you Metal is far from dead and the next generation are ready and waiting.

IST IST 

Having already had a great start to the year in Europe and the UK its good to see a packed tent as they fire off with Stamp You out. For those who have followed the band for a number of years the set is a surprising one, still a typically dark set and it’s sounding fuller than it ever has so job well done to the sound engineers (especially with some weather related gremlins) but not full of the big hitters we might have expected.

That said, with Andy and the guys playing with more confidence and commitment than ever before it isn’t surprising they took this direction and after all if this was your 1st time catching them you wouldn’t know any different and there’s a wonderful world of discovery ahead especially as the band noted they have had a boost of interest on their socials recently.

Special mention to Your Mine as for picking up the pace so well at the end that Andy nearly went arse over tit on a monitor by his feet…

Peat & Diesel 

Scottish folk music from the guys from Stornoway with a sprinkling of Gaelic mainly about drinking and good times so what’s not to love when it’s coming from the pros eh?… Another busy Meadows tent for them as the more traditional BT crowd descended upon it for them.

His Lordship.

Having been the 1st at RGM to be blown away by these guy’s catching them in the finally opened magical Woodlands was a no brainer. I’ve waxed lyrical about these guys many times as have other RGM members who have taken my advice to see them when they can so I won’t go on but safe to say absolutely nobody left the Woodlands feeling disappointed, if you only ever see 1 rock n roll band you simply have to make it these!

Bob Vylan

An ever so slightly much larger crowd than 2 years ago tells you how much this guy is resonating with people currently. Previously when he played the Woodlands the place was barely half full, this time the front of the Pallet is heaving! The 2 Bob’s somehow manage to fill a massive stage with their music, songs like We Live Here, Reign, Hunger Games and He’s A Man making it clear they are a force to be reckoned with and Pretty Songs (Blah Blah Blah) finishing off the set off to the biggest reaction of the afternoon so far says these 2 guys have broken through the grassroots ceiling.

Dexys

Oh dear oh dear… biggest disappointment of the weekend had landed, Dexy’s Midnight Runners were all around my childhood so I was looking forward to this but it started off slowly then we got Geno (done slowly) and then Jockey Wilson Says (for those who remember that edition of Top Of The Pops…) which was a little faster then it all went surreal with a load of fake talking bollocks between Kevin and his Sax player before they absolutely banged out Come On Elaine.

And then it went weird talky bollocks again… 

Therapy?

Completely rammed tent for the Irish rockers and deservedly too especially as the timing would have them clash with Fridays Headliners Future Islands I was glad that folk stuck around for them as they seemed to have been hung out in the wilderness for far too long but folk seem to be finding them again. Cracking set with songs old and new showed everyone watching that they still have got it.

Utah Saints 

Popped into CODA for a quick check out how the change had affected the dance tent and there certainly didn’t seem any less of a support given the change of running as DHP since have taken it in-house, tent was rammed and folk were queuing to get in, the choons were banging but I had somewhere else to be.

Random Hand.

Ironic really as they actually come from just 6 miles away from where I live and this is probably the 1st time in well over a decade I’ve had the availability and chance to catch them but what better band to see to close the Friday night in a packed tent where the day started?

Ska Punk seems to have somewhat fallen out of flavour but Random Hand are still flying the flag and the Convoy Cabaret tents audience was definitely here to see it doesn’t go away completely especially if the 11 year old still on the barrier at near midnight has anything to do with it. They nailed the performance, I got to feel a little more youthful for an hour, the job was done and bed was calling.

Saturday 

Woke up to glorious sunshine and as the rain mostly held off on the Friday the ground had began to harden finally, in fact it had a sort of bounce to it that made it feel like you were wearing Air Jordans.

Prima Queen

The 2 girls were steady away, quite melodic but didn’t really fire the Saturday off. Would have been more suited to the afternoon in the Woodlands where they would have probably been appreciated more than being 1st act of the day. However the wake up call to camp was about to follow…

Pet Needs.

Standing in for Divorce who pulled out of the festival I got wind it was Pet Needs who were here as one of the bands to play the new Wednesday night were taking their place and the 4 lovable lads from Colchester grasped the opportunity with all 8 hands and went for it! Clearly grateful for the opportunity to play on the main stage and they absolutely owned it from the kick off it was clear that they were running on 100% adrenaline, they were saying fucking hell in disbelief to each other off mic at the size of the growing crowd there to watch them.

Separation Anxiety, Tracey Emmets Bed and Toothpaste were amongst the tracks that were fired out during a whirlwind performance that certainly blew the cobwebs off and even got a small pit going. I’m sure the brothers mum who was in the crowd was happy with the results especially since the band took on the dangerous task of going full time.

Goat Girl.

After the exuberance of Pet Needs it was back to earth with a crash. Having had a nightmare getting set up, once going I’m not sure they should have bothered. Don’t really know the band well enough to say if it was a bad day at the office or if she’s usually this laid-back but she didn’t seem interested before we left mid set for…

BDRMM.

Quite possibly the performance of the weekend for myself personally, the lads from ‘ull were absolutely on fire and incredibly hypnotic! Not sure if it was the music, the booze , the lack of sleep or a combination of all 3 that was driving me into a trance like state but it was moorish, I was in a mental high and when the final song landed it felt like a coming down, outstanding stuff!

Another rammed tent that took the boys by surprise, none more so that people were still there to cheer them and given them another round of applause when they came back on stage to tear their equipment down which you could see the shock on their faces and then you could see their disbelief but buzzing over what just happened. TBH I’m not sure why they looked so surprised because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone who’s seen them live before complain other than that the set was too short. If electronic indie dance is your scene you simply have to catch them play!

Jim Bob

With less angst than his days as Carter his set was perfect for the roasting sunshine that came from nowhere to dry out the mud puddles. Him and the band even righted the wrongs of Dexy’s set with a great cover of Geno but the greatest moment for the Carter USM fans in the crowd was when Fruit Bat joined him on stage for their last song, Angelstrike. Perfect Summer weather listening.

Wargasm

Only managed to catch the end of the set and was kicking myself for doing so because what I saw was fantastic powerful stuff and lets just say it’s a good job the sun was out or Milkie Way would have caught her death of cold!

Cheeky….

Janes Addiction 

Proper bucket list ticker this one was, especially as an added bonus that all original band members are together again. Still an outstanding powerhouse of a band even after all these years and it probably broke the bank for DHP to get them to Bearded but I’m so grateful that they did. From the Opener Up The Beach to the somewhat strange single encore song closer Chip Away I was in Alt/Heavy Rock & Roll heaven as Perry’s southern American drawl spoke of the fucked up state America is in with a choice of a 80 year old in control or a lunatic in-between songs .

This didn’t feel like a nostalgia trip, this felt like something incredible and worth every one of the 30+ years I’ve wanted to witness. I was spellbound, not something you can say about all metal bands of that era these days, you hear me Axl?

Sunday

Unfortunately at 3am I was awakened by rain on the tent which by the time I woke again was replaced by the noise of feet sloshing in mud once more. We had breakfast then decided to lighten the journeys back to the car tomorrow by taking non essential stuff back to the car.

It was upon the 1st trip we saw the state of the car park we were in, cars were getting stuck in the mud left right and centre so once back at the tent and looking at the weather forecast we took the decision to bail, gutting really as I was looking forward to catching English Teacher, BIG SPECIAL and Amyl And The Sniffers but I had a busy couple of days straight after the bank holiday weekend and couldn’t afford to not get away sharpish Monday morning.

So what’s happened to Bearded Theory this year? I still saw many faces I’ve seen in previous years but this year the atmosphere felt different, it wasn’t as laid back as previous years, yes I’m sure the weather didn’t help but it was definitely different and not in a good way.

I didn’t care for the beer choices either that much which previously was a massive draw to go to a festival as the organisers clearly cared about the choices at the bar – the festival was born from the back of a pub after all. As such I hardly frequented the bars all weekend choosing to drink more of what I brought down in the arena than I’ve previously done so if the bars took a hit this year from others doing the same then I hope DHP learn from their mistake and I pray they don’t simply stop alcohol being brought into the arena forcing folk to buy the same shit other festivals force on punters.

So there you have it. The 15th Bearded Theory may well be my last, over to you now DHP to convince me to come again.

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