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Bearded Theory 2017 | FESTIVALPHOTO
 

Bearded Theory 2017

 Betyg

Review4447_Skunk_Anansie

Bearded Theory is one of my favourite festivals in the UK. The mix of bands is great – punk, folk, dance, reggae, ska, rock – something for everyone, but it’s not just the lineup that makes it such a good festival, it’s all the other details. First and most important the people it attracts make it an incredibly friendly festival with a great atmosphere. They take family-friendly to a new level too, having a school on the Friday for the kids so they can get time off school more easily and learn while they are at the festival, and when its not school time there are plenty of activities to keep children of all ages occupied and happy.
The site is nice and compact, so walking between stages isn’t the half hour slog as it is at the major festivals, it’s a few minutes gentle stroll instead. There’s a good selection of food stalls and the food quality is generally excellent, whether it’s the curries and poppadum’s from Gandhi’s flip flop, the freshly made pizza from the pizza stall, or whatever else takes your fancy. The bars stock a great selection of ales – this isn’t a festival with just tasteless lager, you get real beer here (and cider) and the prices are low for a festival, being more like pub prices. The staff and volunteers are all welcoming and friendly, and the campsites are nice and close to the arena too.
I’ve been at Bearded Theory for the last 5 years and wouldn’t dream of missing it – I always enjoy my time there and always come back having heard bands I didn’t know but loved when I heard them.
After you’ve read the review, check out the full set of images here…
http://www.festivalphoto.net/pictures&festivalID=1748&festival=bearded-theory

Thursday
Thursday at Bearded Theory is generally reserved for setting up camp with a three or four bands to enjoy in the evening, but not so this year. To mark the tenth year, the Thursday program was expanded to almost a full day with bands starting at 2pm. While that sounds good, at that time many people were still queuing to get into the site (Particularly those in camper vans) or were pitching tents.
3 daft monkeys are a great fun folk act with more energy than you normally expect from a folk act, and their energy lifts them to a level where you can’t help but enjoy their set. I’ve seen them several times and they never disappoint and are always great to watch.
Dreadzone are a genre hopping band – one of many at Bearded Theory, and their sound mixes dub, reggae, dance and more in a compelling and entertaining sound. They always go down well here and this time is no different. As the set nears the end confetti cannons fire clouds of confetti and other pyro devices fire streamers out over the crowd. For a finale, fireworks go off as the set ends. A great end to the first day of the festival.

Friday
Friday morning started off fairly gently with Beth McCarthy. Singing and playing acoustic guitar, her music is probably best described as folk with a bit of country blended in. She’s got a good voice and despite being first on, she drew a respectable crowd
Over on the Woodland stage, Son Primo were playing some very good alternative rock in a beautiful setting – it really is a lovely place to sit and watch bands, but before long it was back to the main stage for Faerground accidents. Another band that’s played Bearded Theory before, they’ve taken a step up from the woodland stage to the main stage this year. They’re a hard band to describe both visually and musically. I’d say they’re a mix of pop and rock with a strange twist. They were good last year and seem even better this year – certainly an interesting band that’s worth watching.
I headed over to the Convoy Cabaret tent to catch Circus Insane. A nice break from watching bands, this was a show that was not for the faint hearted as Doc Insane with help from his two beautiful assistants carried out a number of crazy acts. When the show starts with him using a staple gun to staple playing cards to his forehead and then ripping them off, you know it’s going to be as insane as the name suggests.
We also got part of the act featuring a hammer and nails and electric drills – it’s certainly not something to try at home. Another part of the act saw him eat a lightbulb (after first plugging it in to prove it was a real working lightbulb). He then took a short break while one of his assistants did a burlesque show before he returned to the stage for the finale. A pile of broken glass was placed on the stage and he lay on it – not with his front or back on the glass, no, this was more extreme as he lay with his face in the glass and got a heavy looking guy from the audience to stand on his head. Somehow he escaped serious injury and brought the show to a close promising that the Saturday performance would be even more extreme. All that is just part of a fantastic show, and the Convoy Cabaret tent with its bizarre alternative feel is the perfect setting for the act.
Kent based ska-punk band Skaceity were over on the woodland stage which looked a bit cramped as there are six of them and when one has a trombone things get crowded fast. It was a good fun set that entertained the crowd and I’m sure they’ll be back in future years.
Dutch band Jaya the cat brought their brand of Reggae to the festival over on the main stage. It’s not plain reggae but has other styles mixed in which gives it added interest and I enjoyed their set.
Ferocious dog left me with mixed feelings. I’d heard plenty of people saying about how good they are so I was looking forward to it, and first impressions were good – they are a great live band with a Levellers feel. That however is where the doubts came in. They aren’t just a similar style of music to the Levellers, but feel to me to be far too close to Levellers – in fact as you listen to some of the songs you can actually recognise Levellers music there and as a result they felt like a Levellers tribute band. With a bit more diversity in the music so they sound less like Levellers clones then I’d enjoy them a lot. Either way they go down well with the crowd.
The alarm may be legends but they just didn’t excite me at all I’m afraid.
Slaves on the other hand were much more exciting. A two piece with one standing and drumming while the other plays guitar and sings, it’s incredibly high energy and within a couple of songs the drummer has removed his shirt and is dripping with sweat. An attempt by the guitarist to get close to the fans fails miserably as he comes down from the stage and as he approached the barrier found his lead was too short and unplugged him mid song, prompting a very hasty retreat to plug back in and carry on playing.
Skunk Anansie closed the night with an absolutely superb set. It was my first time seeing them, and I was absolutely blown away – they have great songs and so much energy. Skin is simply incredible – as soon as she came on stage all eyes were drawn to her and she leaped around the stage and soon decided to get off the stage and stand on the crowd. She stood on peoples shoulders before falling backwards in complete confidence that people would catch her (as they did), and stayed in the crowd for a couple of minutes before going back on stage. Later in the set she went back into the crowd to get close to the fans again. She takes a great band performance and lifts it to a whole new level and along with Ty Taylor of Vintage Trouble and John Robb of Goldblade is a level above virtually every other performer around this weekend – it’s that sheer energy, the ability to control a crowd and of course their singing thatall combine to make them special. An amazing end to the Friday night.

Saturday
After enjoying Circus Insane yesterday I headed to the Convoy Cabaret tent early to catch their second show of the weekend. Once again they packed the tent out. As promised, this show was more insane and extreme than the previous day with highlights including a part of the act titled “Eye hooks” (and yes it’s just as disturbing as the name suggests), swinging a heavy weight from hooks through the skin on his arm, escaping from a straightjacket and being used as a human dartboard. There was also a new part of the act being done for the first time in front of an audience. He was blindfolded, held a cucumber in his mouth then cut it in half with a chainsaw (yes a real chainsaw that would cause serious injury if he slipped). He then removed the cucumber and blindfold, put an apple in his mouth and got his assistant to wield the chainsaw to carve an X in the apple – now that’s an exercise in trust and skill since a slight slip or kick from the chainsaw as it touches the apple would have resulted in serious injury and an emergency trip to hospital.
For the finale there was a slight change. Instead of getting a man to stand on his head while his face was buried in a pile of glass, this time his assistant stood on a stepladder and jumped off it onto his head from around 3 feet up. She wasn’t taking it easy either – instead of just stepping off, she jumped, lifting her feet high so she would come down with the maximum impact.
Punk band Eastfield were a late addition to the lineup, replacing AntiPasti on the main stage. Not being a fan of theirs I headed over early for Blackballed on the Woodland stage. Blackballed features New Model Army’s Marshall Gill as well as his brother Leon. A three piece act, this was my first time listening to them and I definitely liked what I heard. They sounded great and are definitely a band worth listening to.
Wille and the bandits were a real highlight for the day. I’ve been wanting to see them for a while now but have never made it to one of their gigs for varying reasons, and watching and listening to them here I’ve definitely been missing out – they’re superb. A rock sound blended with Blues and all sorts of other styles means they have a fantastic interesting sound, and to help achieve that they use instruments such as the double bass or lap steel alongside the usual instruments you find a rock band playing. A great set.
Alabama 3 are another band familiar to Bearded Theory regulars and put in their usual high standard of set to entertain the crowd. They’re a band that’s hard to describe, but this Brixton band is a band that always go down well with their mix of musical styles and great live performances.
New model army were next up. A band I’ve listened to for years, the number of New Model Army Tshirts I’d seen around the site during the day showed how popular they are here and as always they got a great reception. A great live band, I never tire of seeing them perform on stage.
Over on the woodland stage a car crash was happening in the form of The Fall. They certainly rate as the worst performance of the festival in my view – I simply couldn’t find anything good about them. Long past time they called it a day.
Seasick Steve closed the main stage with a fantastic set of blues. It may not have the excitement and high energy feel of Skunk Anansie, or the fun of Madness but it's great music, performed simply on guitar, vocals and drums, with him singing and playing a variety of guitars with his drummer being the only other musician on stage. I loved his set and it's an example of the diverse lineups Bearded Theory have, with all sorts of musical styles featured.
If reports are to be believed, Seasick Steve certainly enjoyed his time at the festival as he was apparently partying in the dance tent till the early hours after finishing his set.
Foy Vance closed the Woodland stage. He was late starting as they decided to wait for Seasick Steve to finish and for more people to make their way to the Woodland. One of the artists signed to Ed Sheeran’s record label he plays keyboards as he sings. It’s a good set and of a style likely to appeal to seasick steve fans. A good end to the night.
Sunday
Goldblade are always fun to watch at Bearded Theory – their hyper-energetic frontman John Robb never stays on stage for long and predictably it’s not long before he jumps down and comes to the barrier to get up close with the fans as he sings. He’s one of the best frontmen around – an all round performer, not just a singer. Their punk sound always goes down well here and this Sunday morning was no exception. A great set.
The Beard competition is always a fun part of Sunday at Bearded Theory as large numbers of people dress up in the hope of winning free tickets to the following year’s event. The theme this year was Mobsters and Lobsters and as always there were some great costumes. This year one contestant picked out as a finalist was disqualified as despite his great costume with a giant lobster claw he had forgotten to include a beard.
After the beard competition, Manchester based Reggae roots band Nucleus roots took to the stage for a great set – it feels ideal music to enjoy while having a beer on a hot sunny day like today.
The Selecter were one of the bands I'd been looking forward to ever since they were announced. I saw them support the Levellers and was reminded just how many of their songs I knew but had forgotten. Fronted by Pauline Black and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson, they played a set including hits such as “on my radio”, “Three minute hero” and “Missing words”. They draw a huge crowd and everyone looked to be having fun enjoying this great music in the lovely warm weather. A great performance.
Sugar Hill Gang brought some old school hip hop to Bearded Theory. Normally hip hop is a genre I try and avoid, but Sugar Hill Gang are something special and put in a fantastic performance that has to be one of the highlights of the day. Not content with just turning up and playing, they brought along two guests Scorpio and Melle Mel, so this really was a special set with some of the pioneers of hip hop. When a band that plays a style of music I normally dislike manages to impress me as much as Sugar Hill Gang did then you know they're something special.
Over on the Magical Sounds stage, 3 daft monkeys were putting in their second set of the weekend in front of a good crowd. I only managed to catch a few minutes of their performance but as always they sounded great and were going down well.
Glasvegas were next on the main stage and were one of the few bands I thought was disappointing. They just felt dull and unexciting, and they didn’t seem to be getting the crowd as excited as much as the earlier bands on the bill that day.
Vintage trouble are a band I've seen several times before. I love their music and they really know how to put on a show to entertain the fans Frontman Ty Taylor is incredibly energetic and spends his time running around the stage, leaping in the air, climbing onto the speakers, and heading out into the crowd, all while still singing without missing a note. He paid tribute to Sugar Hill Gang, talking about getting their record when he was young, and it was nice to see that the respect is mutual with Sugar Hill Gang watching the Vintage Trouble set from the end of the pit. Vintage Trouble are a band I'd recommend everyone to see – their blend of rock, blues and soul sounds great and they always put on a great show.
Finally it was time for Madness. They're a perfect choice to close the festival – everyone knows the songs and they have a party feel to the music.throw in a load of beach balls that got thrown out into the crowd, and come confetti cannons and that just adds to the party atmosphere. Suggs sounded as though he'd enjoyed a few drinks before the show but that didn't stop them putting in a performance that I thoroughly enjoyed and judging by the size of the crowd, plenty of other people felt the same way even if some didn't enjoy it. Ty Taylor from vintage trouble certainly enjoyed their set – he was seen climbing onto a platform over the sound desk and jumping into the crowd before crowd surfing to the front – when a band has such a good time that they do things like that it says a lot about how good the festival is.

Review4447_Madness

Writer: Anthony May
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