This was my first time at Bearded Theory. It’s held in the grounds of Kedleston Hall, so the setting is beautiful – festival-goers walking from the car park to the campsite cross a bridge over a weir by a lake, with a nice view of the hall on the hillside – a pretty nice setting and absolutely beautiful when the sun is shining. Once in the festival site itself, it’s a nice compact site, so no long walks between stages.
The food stalls are a nice change from the same boring selection of overpriced food you get at the big festivals. Instead there’s a wide range of stalls with vegetarians and vegans well catered for, and the prices aren’t as high as at major festivals. The bars don’t offer the usual boring lager and mass-produced cider that you get at most festivals or music venues – instead you get a huge selection of real ales, several proper ciders as well as soft drinks. There are also stalls selling espresso, cappuccino and a whole range of good coffees – an essential to make it through long days at any festival.
There’s a real fun family atmosphere apparent, and children are better catered for here than at any other festival I’ve been to. There’s a dedicated children’s area with places for them to try all sorts of fun activities including playing drums, juggling, learning to play with hula hoops, sing-alongs and much more. Kids are more likely to become tired out before they get bored here. Around the arena some parents have trolleys made into covered wagons or caravans to wheel their tiny kids around in – fun as well as practical.
I missed the first band to play on the main stage – a local band who’s name I didn’t catch, and as a late addition they weren’t in the festival program. This meant the first band I saw was The Hummingbirds. They come from Liverpool and describe themselves as a modern skiffle/folk outfit. It’s an interesting sound – part folk, part country, part rock, part rock’n’roll, but never fitting neatly into one of these, instead always being a hybrid sound. It’s a great set and ends with a cover of The Beatles hit ‘Day tripper’.
The next act was Karine Polwart, a Scottish folk singer, who had two other musicians on stage with her, including one on the harp – not an instrument you see on stage at a festival very often. She’s got a great voice and her songs are simple and understated but powerful at the same time. One of her songs was a response to Donald Trump’s unpopular decision to turn a wild stretch of Scottish coastline into a golf course. It says a lot about Bearded Theory that you can have such diverse bands as these on the main stage and for them all to go down well.
Next up were Derby Indie-rock band The beekeepers. They put in an amazingly energetic set, with both the singer and bassist leaping high into the air at regular intervals, and moving around the stage. A very good performance, but I had to skip part of their set to head backstage for the launch of a new beer!
The brewery that supplies beer to the festival and brews a festival ale, Thornbridge Brewery, has teamed up with the band ‘Reverend and the makers’ (tonight’s headliners) to create a new beer. Ed Cosens from the band is a keen home-brewer and worked with the firms brewers to create the new beer, a summer ale. The beer has been named ‘Reverend & The Makers Summer ale’ and after the launch backstage, the assembled press were able to sample a pint and I can say that it’s a very enjoyable drink – perfect for drinking if we ever get a nice hot summer (well we can hope).
Neds atomic dustbin came next. They’re a band I’ve never managed to see so I was looking forward to seeing them tonight. Their alternative rock sound goes down extremely well with the crowd – they’re the first band of the day to get a large crowd of people to come to the front – with the earlier bands people were content watching from further back. They also manage to get a load of the crowd to dance. It’s definitely a crowd-pleasing set including their hit ‘Kill your television’.
New Model Army came next – the band I’d been most looking forward to. They’re a great live band and with a dedicated following of fans they have a huge crowd tonight, despite the rain. Tonight’s set mixes old classics such as ‘Green and grey’ and ‘I love the world’ with newer songs, and all go down superbly well with the crowd. A great performance from New Model Army, proving that after over thirty years they’re still going strong. A band that’s always worth watching.
Reverend and the makers were tonight’s headliner. Their Indie-pop/rock sound and great stage presence gets the crowd bouncing. Although they aren’t a band I’d normally choose to go and watch, their set is surprisingly addictive and the songs are catchy, and in the end I found them very enjoyable. A great way to end the night.