Review: Beacons Festival 2013 - The Top Ten Bands Of The Weekend

by - Friday, August 23, 2013

Let’s cut to the chase shall we Beacons? Either I’m getting too old to be cool, but the 2013 line-up doesn’t overwhelm the same as last year. With cutting edge bands on the EDM front and a little less greatness on the alternative front, it seems that there is still a bit of an identity crisis issue within the festival. But where it lacks in Wild Beasts, it makes up in ridiculously improved logistics. Cleaner toilets, better arena, MUCH better food (Reds True BBQ and Motherclucker fried chicken – both phenomenal) better stocked Judy’s Affordable Vintage  Tent, the presence Urban Outfitters tent, much smoother press area (I’m allowed to say this, because this year I spent the half the festival doing volunteer work with ilikepress in the box office), and a pre-arena holding area between the campsite and the arena where you’re allowed to drink. The list goes on. But instead of carrying on with that list, we’ll get to the musical one. Consider I worked half the event and didn’t get to properly immerse myself as a punter, a full ‘proper’ review seems silly. So, without further ado, in no real order, our top ten bands of the weekend!

Egyptian Hip Hop
Never has there been a band that sound so much like the name they have chosen for themselves. Put as simply as possible, Egyptian Hip Hop play a set at Beacons packed tights with eclectically influence, middle eastern tinged jams and bouncy riffs creating a cultural sensibility and that shows a marked level of substance above their hipster contemporaries Peace and Swim Deep, despite the similar haircuts. Getting off to a slow and atmospheric start, they hit their stride midway through their set, turning a lot funkier as their ideas audibly flesh out. As lead singer Alex Hewett jumps the barrier and completes the set shambling about the audience, security visibly shaking their heads with exasperation as they try to fish him out, we know a star band is born.

Ghostpoet by Kevin Lawson (click through link)
Opening with the lip-curlingly attitude laden Start Again, I am heartened to see that Ghostpoet live set outstrips the expectations I had following several dubious admissions from my coursemates. Far more affable and streamlined than I imagined, the artist known to his mum as Obaro Ejimiwe looks like he’s thoroughly enjoying himself throughout,  his sound is far leaner and heavier  than on record. He comes across purely as a rapper, rather than the curious genre hopper painted by the Mercury Music Prize panel. In fact, the sounds he makes becomes a little dirty at times, with more than one couple indulging in some slutty back-against-chest dancing. Old favourite Survive It beckons the night in, before morphing into an out-an-out club night where  hands are thrust aloft and ARE YOU REEEEEADY BEACONS becomes a mantra not a gimmick .

Ghostpoet paves the way for Leeds native Bonobo, who has drawn a massive crowd of neon and too-short denim clad teens. Admittedly, it’s not really my chosen sort of thing, but having expected a set of ‘bangers’, I was left feeling a bit like I was listening to Friendly Fires without the vocals. A selection of songs that were clearly not terrible but neither here nor there, I was forced to amuse myself by watching the hot messes in the audience, many of which who clearly couldn't handle their choice of narcotics.

Wolf Alice by Kevin Lawson (click through link)
Wolf Alice
One of the most enticing bands on the bill, London’s Wolf Alice along with Drenge are hopefully heading up a new resurgence of rock n roll. With vocal melodies between lead singer Ellie  and drummer Joel coming across a little like The XX, with bassist Theo looking a little like a creep era Thom Yorke skulking around the left of the stage, their influences are obviously eclectic, but they have a sound that is entirely their own, fuelled by Ellie’s strong sense of timing and charisma. Bros is as standout live as is on discography, a song about friendship that probably hits home with a lot of the audience who received their A Levels the day before and are destined for long distance friendships as they head off to unis all over the country.

Stealing Sheep
Slightly less understated are safetyinsound favourites Stealing Sheep, who opt for a full marching band to accentuate their tea time set. Pretty bonkers, but brilliant. The three girls take it in turns on lead vocal, making it impossible to decide who or what to watch, adding to the eerie, ethereal tapestry that their music weaves. Paper Moon gets the pagan ritual vibe that is so befitting of an arts festival going,such intricacy in the vocal layers that they come across more of a small gothic chamber choir than a band. Half the crowd are mesmerised, the  other half merely confused – Stealing Sheep still look and sound like they are having the most fun ever.

Temples by Kevin Lawson (click through link)
With lustrous mops of hair slightly dampened by the rain that drips through the Loud & Quiet tents roof, Temples bring their best impression of an Austin Powers club band, all Last Shadow Puppets guitars, anthemic choruses and ‘groovy baby’ psychedelia, like a poppier version of The Horrors. Although they are hardly fascinating to watch (each members moves or speaks very little, as is trapped in their own individual hipster ken-doll packaging), but they are clearly very tight and well rehearsed, single Colours To Life finally breaking the invisible barrier between band and audience.

Much more intimate is the You Need To Hear This Tent, where Childhood perform an effortless half hour of indie pop. They’re very loud, the crowd are bouncing, and all the audience who can remember the 90s are nodding approvingly. Not quite as crisp as when I saw them play before supporting The Maccabees, they still possess a certain promise.

Local Natives by Kevin Lawson (click through link)
Local Natives
There is little to say about our favourites Local Natives that hasn’t been said, but they are clearly on form as they headline the Saturday night. With a setlist that cherrypicks the best bits from both Gorilla Manor and Hummingbird as well as the odd surprise (Warning Sign is pulled out as a special honour to ‘the best venue in Leeds, the Brudenell Social Club’), they are clearly deeply in love with Yorkshire, and the crowd repays them in kind because of it. Sun Hands is as massive as ever, the true secret weapon in their arsenal;Heavy Feet makes not only me sob with the unspeakable sadness of losing a parent and trying to fill that hole in your life, before Who Knows Who Cares acts as the cathartic healing balm to the emotional wound.

Best Friends
Watched by a celebrity audience that reads like a who’s who of the emerging Sheffield and Yorkshire music scene (members of Wet Nuns, Drenge, Menace Beach and Sky Larkin are all in attendance) Best Friends are clearly not unpopular. A fun festival band, they play straightforward slacker indie that only truly excites with closer Wasting Time that creates a moshpit and some pretty humorous crowd surfing. A few more songs like that and I’d want to be their mate too.

Drenge by Kevin Lawson (click through link)
Last but the opposite of least is recently reviewed double act Drenge, whose raw, guttural, non  nonsense rock and roll is just as thrilling live as it is in record. Performing their brand spanking new debut album in full they sounds ace, fun ,exciting and all the other superlative words. Sounding as tight as only brothers can, I Don’t Want To Make Love To You, Dogmeat and Face Like A Skull, which sees Eoin Loveless leap into the pit and thrash his guitar into oblivion, sound both filthy and crystal clear in clarity, making them the obvious contenders for debut album of the year. The last band of the festival we saw before heading off to the train station to beat the crowds, they couldn’t have left more of a memorable taste in the mouth.

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