Bearded Theory – musical rundown

Seeing as we’ve now posted two articles scarcely related to music, about a music festival, and we are a music orientated website, it would seem appropriate to give a few words on the matter. If you want to see what we made of the whole weekend in general, have a read about it here, and here you can check out our top ten favourite parts of the festival. So, allow me to take you through the musical high(and low)lights of the weekend, in only as much order as seems fit.

Although the festival began on the Thursday night, the four tents didn’t all open till Friday, when the real weight of the weekend kicked in. Alabama 3 made it as our favourite set of the night, second to last on the main stage and delivering a set as tight as their Rescue Rooms show last December, regardless of the unforgiving festival sound. Their age old acid house sound, or as they generally describe themselves, “modern music”, pulsed through the crowd and sparked a fire in the festival that continued to burn through the weekend.

Inside or outside, not everyone blossomed so well in the confines of a festival environment. In the small hours of Friday night/Saturday morning, Radical Dance Faction took to the Something Else Big Top stage, though a guitarist seemed to walk off stage and, in the words of my +1, the vocalist looked more like he was reading from a script rather than singing a song. It might’ve been the hour that loosened everyone up, but the tent’s crowd seemed to enjoy the show regardless.

Saturday’s line up proved to be an impressive one for the main stage, though again the festival acoustics were not kind to all of the acts. Second on were Neck, akin to a less frantic version of Flogging Molly, and despite timing occasionally being amiss and the vocals straining at times to carry the full weight of the music, a valiant effort was made and a few thick riffs bulked up the performance.

Again, Skinny Lister fell victim to the sounds levels, and what was set up to be a punchy and atmospheric opening somewhat lost its edge in the delivery. After the first song, this all changed, with front woman Lorna Thomas demonstrating a powerful command over the audience with her enthralling vocals leading the band’s quirky folk-punk-pop.

The closing two acts of Saturday’s show demonstrated that the odds faced weren’t entirely insurmountable, with reassuring solid vocals from New Model Army, almost so strong they overpowered the rest of the music, with High being somewhat of a stand out in the set. Later, Saturday headliners Afro Celt Sound System proved to be as eclectic as the title would suggest, and as deserving of the headline space as you’d expect, living up to their name with an engaging and tight performance.

Closing the Something Else Big Top stage on Saturday night were Inner Terrestrials, one of the most intense acts of the weekend, their pioneering dub-punk sound as fun and fresh as it ever was. Watching a band encourage a crowd to chant, “I reject your law and shit your God” repeatedly at 1am to a packed tent is one of those stand out moments that’s bound to stick with you for a fair while afterwards.

As with every day of the festival, Sunday saw Magical Sounds opened by Drum Machine, a tradition of Bearded Theory and definitely one to experience at least once if you’re given the chance. Although New Town Kings (one of our top live acts of 2014) were set to open The Pallet stage, for one reason or another they became replaced by Electric River, one of the stand out sets of the weekend for the clean set they delivered to an audience awaiting a rather different sound. To open a stage that big to a hungover crowd is difficult, but to open to a hungover crowd that got up (sort of) early to see someone that wasn’t you, and still perform excellently? Now, that’s an achievement.

Two of the weekend’s biggest highlights came in the evening of the Sunday, Buzzcocks with their polished performance featuring modern classic Ever Fallen In Love, and the weekend’s headline act, james. Delving into their archives to play old fan favourites such as Sit Down and Laid, and taking a handful of work from the new record La Petite Mort to avoid it being a “nostalgia fest”, with the trumpets in Interrogation a clear highlight. Closing the event with a fireworks display made up for a set which had to be cut short even after they “cut out the ego gratification [encore] even though we’re feeling deprived lately”, making a suitably wow-ing finale.

Festival sound is not for the faint of heart in musicians, and those who managed to conquer it proved to engage the crowd best and put on the most enticing shows. To find out who made it into our top picks of the festival, have a read here.

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