When it comes to a festival, there’s a little more than merely the line up to be keen on. At Bearded Theory, there proved to be all manner of intriguing stalls and corners that presented new delights, and here we give our top ten favourite parts of the weekend. You can read our full overview of the festival here, and our musical run down here.
After months of reading complaints on social media that the seven piece from Manchester no longer play their best known signal, Sit Down, which reached number 2 (second to Chesney Hawkes’ The One And Only) in 1990, it came as a massive surprise when they opened with it. With a setlist that also included fan favourite Laid, and a handful of songs of their most recent album, Le Petite Mort, featuring Curse Curse and seven minute long Walk Like You, it was a show to suit old and new fans equally. And if the music wasn’t enough, Tim Booth’s manic dancing should have been worthy of making james a must-see act at any festival they grace.
- Alabama 3
Friday night managed to set the tone for the festival, with the penultimate act on the main stage proving to be one of the best of the weekend. We previously saw Alabama 3 play Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms last December to a packed crowd, and despite the less forgiving acoustics of an open air stage, Larry Love managed to lead the show as well as ever. With their “spare the rules” attitude – at one point speaking of the concept of drinking responsibly with “I’d like a glass of uncool-ahol” – they set the weekend in motion, with stand out track being Bam Ba Lam (Here Comes Daddy).
It would almost feel wrong to not note Buzzcocks as one of the highlights of the weekend, not least for their best known single Ever Fallen In Love. They also provided one of the tightest show of the festival, captivating a huge crowd at the main stage. Although they might have formed way back in 1976, a mark of a solid band with deserved success is one who can stand the test of time – and there’s no doubt that Buzzcocks have.
- The Woodland
We touched on this in the overview article, but there truly was something special about The Woodland Stage. With a very high attention to detail, the place proved to be an enclosed dreamworld. Upon entry you’ll find yourself in a swarm of bubbles, and with an all day eatery opposite the bar by a stage providing all kinds of music, you’ve no need to leave. As dusk falls the area turns into a wonderland of colourful lights, beams dancing across the trees and fairy lights reaching into every corner.
- Kangaroo burgers
Not one for the vegans among us, but around the side of the main arena were dozens (it seemed) of food vendors selling everything from doughnuts (very nice, albeit very small, with top notch sides) through Mexican, Texan and Chinese food to straight BBQ food. A little off the beaten track came kangaroo burgers, and despite tasting little different to heavily peppered beef, it was certainly worth trying.
- Rave tent
Come the small hours of the morning, a tent just outside the main arena, home to the cinema, became what can best be described as an 80s rave tent. Still serving tea and cakes despite the late hour (I can recommend the ginger cake) in the front of the tent and with music blasting in the back, if the Magical Sounds tent was a little too intense for you, you’d be happy to find yourself winding up here.
In the centre of the main arena you’d find yourself all but drowning in shops to buy all sorts of odds and ends from, ranging from hundreds of bracelets to choose between, henna artists and many bright and colourful felted jackets. The woodwork proved a particular artistic delight, and at the other end of the scale, a store selling bacon jam and absinthe marzipan (not necessarily together) showed the variety of the festival.
- Acoustic stage
Beside the Something Else Big Top stage comes a bar (with an amusing sign about what will happen to your children if you leave them there), and with this bar comes a small acoustic stage, an open mic event. Again, a fair amount of talent passed across the stage throughout the weekend, and the atmosphere of the tent was a homely and enjoyable one.
- Electric River
Although the final day of the festival was supposed to see New Town Kings open the main stage, for one reason or another there was a change of plan, and Electric River were brought in to do the honour. As they explained before bursting into Hold On – “when you’ve played a show in Manchester, driven down to Bearded Theory and had a party behind the merch tent to be told you’re opening the main stage at 12 you gotta hold on”. Despite this, they went on to play the most impressive set of the weekend.
- Drum Machine
For those not feeling fully awake at midday from the night before, every morning saw Magical Sounds opened by Drum Machine, as is Bearded Theory tradition. Invigorating and the sort of act that demanded respect, there was no excuse to miss one of their performances over the weekend.