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Bearded Theory 2017 – Friday

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Metal fans are familiar with Catton Hall, home to Bloodstock open air, but the site is also used for other events, the best of these being Bearded Theory festival at the end of May.
The mix of bands is more diverse than most rock or metal festivals – it includes 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 a very similar layout to Blodostock – the arena and campsites are in the same places, main stage is in the same place, but a big difference is there is a stage in the woods behind main stage which is a lovely setting – it would be nice to see Bloodstock replace the Jaegermeister truck with the woodland stage which would make it easier to avoid clashing with the main stage acts.
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.
This review will focus on acts that might interest rock and metal fans rather than the full lineup.

Early on Friday 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.
I’d love to see Circus Insane at Bloodstock – I’m certain they’d go down a storm.

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.

Skunk Anansie

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.

Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep – I’ve got coffee.