July has to be the most special month in my festival calendar. Every year when I get to June, my mind starts wandering through a dreamlike picture-book. In the foreground stands a huge fortress clad in corrugated iron, on the horizon is a wind-bent, fairy lit copse and between them rises a vast ring of mounded earth, indented twice with henge stones. Over in the distance a fairground backs onto a long and winding street like something out of an old Western movie. From the church, peals of laughter take flight and intermingle with aromas of lovingly brewed ales at the local pub. Shrieks of joy come from the garage, where young reprobates relax in cars or dance unwieldy on bonnets and roofs. All around is the taste and smell and texture of fun. This landscape is my musical home: Beat-Herder.
In one way it’s a shock that not more people have heard of this cunningly quaint and vivaciously accepting little festival, but much of me is glad that they haven’t. Having bent down and worshipped at the feet of the speaker-carrying Beat-Herder sheep for the past three years, it’s always struck me how easily this could grow to be the next Secret Garden or Boomtown. Everything about the festival screams “immerse yourself!” From the insanely detailed stages, to the eclectic and often eccentric line-up – everything is asking for your mind-, body- and soul-full commitment. Yet profit and growth do not appear to be the vision of the festival’s orchestrators, who were once but naughty souls hosting free parties in the Lancashire wilds. Every year the capacity has maxed out at a no more than 10,000 (although it feels like much less when you’re meandering through the woods, or zipping through the subterranean ‘teleportation’ booth) and ticket prices stay firmly reasonable. The only thing that stops the fame of this fabled wonderland spreading is Southerners’ aversion to the north and, quite frankly, I am completely down with that.
To stem the gushing flow of my pro-Beat Herder torrent, here are some of the highlight acts to be gracing the stages this year. On a Bristol tip, TC and MC Jakes are representing, which is music to any DnB lover’s ears. We’re looking forward to supporting Father Funk at both his closing set in Pratty’s Ring on Friday, as well as him, Bear Twists and X-Ray Ted at the ‘Father Funk’s Church of Love’ late-night takeover of The Snug on Saturday. Sunday times bring funday vibes, with Mr ASBO and Gardna nailing The Fortress as Big Bad Soundsystem for an hour and a half in the afternoon. Other must-sees from further afield and across the musical spectrum include: Miike Snow, Donovan, Booka Shade, James, A.Skillz, Beardyman, B.Traits, Deekline, Mr Scruff, Easy Star All Stars, Gentleman’s Dub Club, Ed Solo, General Levy, Digitalism, JFB, Stanton Warriors, Krafty Kuts, Digitalism and Claude Vonstroke.
So if that tickles your fancy then remember kids, there are still tickets available on the website for collection at the festival only. Go on… grant yourself an impulsive weekend away. I promise that – like the 3 speaker-carrying sheep tattooed over my right shoulder (!) – it will definitely last you a lifetime.
More info and tickets here: http://beatherder.co.uk/
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