What I like about Beatherder is that after six visits there was still new things I’d never seen before, I think (…they may or may not have been new).
But that’s its charm – its attention to detail. It’s won awards. It was full of familiar faces from years gone by, and there’s a reason people keep coming back. Beatherder is one of the truly independent festivals, where the line up is largely irrelevant and where ordinary people become super heroes.
Literally. I’m talking about the type of hero who still had a six foot garden rake duck taped to the side of his head on the Sunday night. Long after Saturday’s fancy dress theme had faded, but this guy was still going out of his way to be both visually and physically funny – and a bit dangerous.
There’s a scene from series 3 of The Thick Of It, opposition leader Nicola Murray and her aid are discussing names for a new policy idea, “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things” she says, “a sort of quiet bat people.”
Beatherder is full of them. From the Rupert the Bears, to Randy’s dad; the Romans, the robots, the Royal Mail, several commendable Rubix Cubes and even an early referendum. And then there are those who straddle the line between being both ironically and un-ironically dressed at the same time. Coming together beneath the pulsing shade of the Toil Trees for another jaunty romp around the Ribble Valley.
Church is in session
Setting up a tent in the rain is never fun. Swirling dark clouds hid what is normally a beautiful view, but we soon got over it after some rather purposeless help from our campsite neighbours. By the time we waded to the car and back through the mud for the booze, there was still several hours of drinking to be done before the festival opened.
The hilly site and my lack of wellies made getting about a chore, like being constantly reborn as a hoofless baby giraffe. I lumbered towards the familiar thud of the Toil Trees, before making my way up the village street with two friends and signing into Hotel California. Happy that whatever we’d signed meant something, we headed into the Parish church. Father Clumsy, a more than middle-aged man dressed like a priest was smashing out the hardest jungle set I’ve heard for a while, much to everyone’s amusement.
After a brief lie down in Smokey Tentacles we crisscrossed the main stage to catch the only Digitalism tune I know before walking into The Working Mans Social Club to catch Dohnut, who where leading some sort of disco funk rave – complete with sci-fi-esque outfits that were as sexy as they were entertaining.
At one point a kind old lady painted one nail on my little finger and then walked off. I couldn’t help but think we had unfinished business.
From what I remember the rest of the night was spent mostly in the Toil Trees with Chicago house head Derrick Carter and Dirtybird co-founder Claude VonStroke on just after. At some point me and a friend thought it would be good idea to crawl through the tunnel in the phone box, only to panic half way down for some reason (it wasn’t drugs) and back out. Despite my long wax jacket, ‘wet’ had become my body’s default setting, only the familiar warmth of the church could bring the first night to a close. It was left to Reverend Raz to see us out with some 90s house.
Although, there was still room for a few goes around on the ghost train, I say ghost train I mean haunted shed full of retired Ann Summers shop mannequins. I think we even managed to talk some really well dressed ramblers into buying our ride photo for us.
Touche, my good man. Touche.
Longing for Rupert
I woke up on the Saturday to a tent full of people who hadn’t been to sleep. Several quick festival bevies (NB. a suitable drink for a festival is a litre of a spirit poured into any other two litre bottle of anything else) later, I was persuaded to go on a ride on the camp site, known locally as an elevated spinning death trap. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and my friend screaming “we’re going to die” the whole time added absolutely nothing positive to the experience.
Full of regret I trudged into the festival site a second time and straight into a group of people dressed as a referendum, with Brexit looming we thought it best to get some practice. I can’t remember the question, but I know I wrote “fuck off” in the comments section because the girl dressed as the ballot box read it back to me.
Feeling reborn in my new wellies, I headed purposefully into Pratty’s Ring, where Drum Machine were just about to start. In the centre of the ring stood thirty people draped in various sized drums all wearing paper Jeremy Corybn masks. New Labour were terrible for music and Jezza is apparently bang into his live industrial northern dance grooves… so we hung around. Plus the drummer at the back smoking a rollie through his paper mask was outstanding. The most reassuringly hilarious face for miles around.
Just as they finished, my robot friend had a fight with a Roman soldier before we spent an indiscernible amount of time trying to pick up a balloon with his three digit robot arm. To be clear, I was dressed like Ralphie Cifaretto and my other friend like a management type at Royal Mail.
Confident the theme was loosely embraced. We ended up in the Working Mans Social Club again. It’s the type of place where the beer mats are soaking full time, and the dart board smells like ciggies. This time J-Bear and The Giants began by slagging off Ed Sheeran (who is shit) – kind of brave when you’re wearing a full Burnley kit. But when you can sing like both Prince and Marvin Gaye you can wear whatever the fuck you want.
With that I headed to catch Marshall Jefferon play “move your body” before Beardyman, so I could satisfy a nostalgia for a period of dance I was too young to know just how good the pills really were. I’d heard good things about Beardyman before he came on, but his performance featuring LeeN and Sencee’ was a bit flat. I know you’re supposed to be freestyling but I don’t need reminded every other lyric. Plus there was some fella with a side part and glasses telling me this isn’t “real rap” the entire time and it was hard to decide who was more right.
By then, Rupert had come into our lives, a tall beautiful brunette dressed like Rupert the Bear whose yellow chequered scarf blew playfully around her thin neck. Mischievously wittier than she was attractive, I didn’t just want to see under her unflattering red jumper – I liked what was behind her fluffy white ears. We all did.
Rupert and her friends left almost as quick as they arrived but promised to meet us back in the same spot for Booka Shade. In the interim, my friend embraced fifteen postman and a post box, each hug more emphatic than the last. It was a special moment for all of us. However, Booka Shade finished and Rupert didn’t show.
Disheartened we thought now would be a good time to conquer the tunnel. Although, safely through the other side was a psytrance rave – which I can’t stand. We’d hoped the other half of dirty bird, Justin Martin would mask the rejection, but it was still too real. Distracted we wandered off to the end of A Guy Called Gerald play “Voodoo Ray” in Trash Manor.
We searched everywhere. “Rupert!” “Rupert!” hopeful at first, cooing even, only becoming shorter and angrier as the night wore on. But after what was a raucous set by The Chicken Brothers, smoking outside The Snug, Rupert breezed past. We embraced, we laughed. It was fleeting at best. More like a night cap.
Content, my friend and I ended up smoking in the bed in Hotel California listening to some really awful disjointed dubstep.
A kayak in the forest
On Sunday, I was awoken by the heat in the tent and I’d fallen asleep in a full length leather jacket. I felt like a leather swimming pool trapped in a greenhouse. Slipping into something more comfortable (another leather jacket) we headed in for the proverbial last grasp of the robotic arm.
We were just in time for the obligatory Mr Scruff set. Previous years I’ve seen him do six or seven hours but four is still plenty. My friend set his hammock up in the forest and we settled as the early jazz and reggae set in. The sun streamed through – a stick someone found on the floor next to me had transformed the hammock into makeshift kayak.
The stick quickly became a staff and it lead the way to Stumblefunk. I loitered outside to catch what was left of the sun but the tent was filled with folk-pop, and the warm bouncy sounds began to draw in a large crowd. I’d looked forward to some super house from Andhim all weekend but they played this sort of trancey house crossover that all the kids like. Unimpressed I caught the end of Todd Terje from the main stage as we retreated to an Indian sitting room with a curry.
And so it was over for another year. It’s safe to say an enchantment was had by all. The music was a solid mix, as always, and I sampled as much as I dared but it was all about the quiet bat people. Somebody told me it might be the last year at this site. If that’s true, then I’m glad I got to swing, sit, lie, run, crawl, dress up and dance around the valley one last time.
Wherever it goes. I’m sure it’s faithful herd will follow.