Review: Beacons Festival 2014

Whisky tasting, sexy balloon parties, a never-ending selection of delectable dishes and music just as mouth-watering.

Under tempestuous Skipton skies Beacons undoubtedly proved itself one of festival season’s shining lights.

Tom Joy Photography

Tom Joy Photography

The Heslaker Farm gathering may be relatively fresh faced on this ever-burgeoning scene (this was only its third year) but it’s got some style.

More style and certainly a fresher face than I had Friday morning after deciding Thursday night would be the ideal time to let my palate loose at the whisky bar – home to a number of free whisky tasting workshops throughout the weekend. What’s the worst that could happen I thought. Losing £60, a full pouch of tobacco and waking up in a random group’s tent was the answer.

Run by The Whisky Lounge, this is a bar that should be at every festival, maybe just closed the first night.

Despite nursing a hangover that would have made George Best cry, I made it to the Noisey tent in one piece to see Leeds’ own Witch Hunt cast a spell-binding set, brought to life by Louisa Osborn’s vocals.

Noisey was one of three main tents on site, the excellent British Sea Power opening the Loud & Quiet main stage shortly after, performing the soundtrack to “From the Sea to the Land Beyond”. DZ Deathrays delivered a thunderous, riff heavy set there before Toys left the tent dripping in psychedelia and the crowd, sweat. East India Youth hypnotised the Noisey brigade and Daniel Avery was exhilarating on the Resident Advisor Stage, which housed the likes of Jackmaster, Special Request and Dixon over the weekend.

And for those who wandered from the tents, well, the Red Bull Stage was only a stone’s throw away, a two-and-a-half hour Hacienda soaked set courtesy of Dave Haslam setting Friday evening alight; Joy Orbison owning the Saturday night.

As hauntingly beautiful as Daughter are, it was all maybe a little cathartic for Friday night’s proceedings – a Sunday night billing possibly more befitting. Hip hop’s newest superstar, larger than life former chef Action Bronson, a more suitable offering earlier on.

There was plenty going on when the live music dried up as well. I stumbled towards the Impossible Lecture tent on Saturday night at around 2am expecting academia and mind-expansion. I got balloons, a stage full of naked people, a crowd surfing compere and a playlist rolling from Oasis to Kanye West and the Beatles to Marvin Gaye. I could use 1,000 words and get nowhere near describing this outrageously outlandish night dubbed “Sexy Balloon Party”... and I’d probably get sacked.

Situated only a few yards away, Into The Woods was the polar opposite. Giant bean bags, engaging talks (Dave Haslam’s Q&A with Andrew Wetherall a particular highlight), compelling documentaries and jazz. The ideal sanctuary for the nursing of hangovers or the resting of weary limbs following a full day of dancing.

On Saturday, Manchester quartet Pins showcased a handful of new tracks during their raucous run, Irish rapper Rejjie Snow showed a sizeable crowd just what the Dublin hip hop scene is all about (yep, that’s right) and Hookworms revelled in their deserving midnight slot.

Showers had stayed light and sporadic until Sunday morning, when I looked out of the tent expecting to see Noah playing the Ark Stage. Undeterred, poncho-clad revellers trudged on and while interruptions occurred (The Fall’s set was cut short due to high winds) and The Argyll Stage unfortunately had to be closed, Sunday still shone.

Pop pioneer Nenah Cherry and the atmospheric Darkside helped bring the festival to a fitting close along with Leeds post-punk rockers Eagulls, who you sense have one hell of an exciting future (albeit laced with controversy) on the horizon.

‘Smiling is good’, a curious gentlemen told me following one of Sunday’s downpours. Beacons may have been awash with mud come Sunday night but it was also awash with plenty of smiles.