Today was the day something strange happened – the sun came out before the bands started, and stayed out all day. Warm sunny weather at an outdoor festival in the UK – not a common occurence but one that people were very happy about. Today at the festival was celebrating Australia day with hundreds of people dressed up in Australian themed fancy dress. This meant we had people wearing hats with corks on, dressed up as Dame Edna Everage, Ned Kelly, convicts, or carrying inflatable kangaroos or crocodiles. Add on the men and women wearing false beards for todays record attempt and you’ve got a really colourful crowd enjoying the sunshine.
First up on the main stage was Life & times of the Brothers Hogg. They’ve just released their self titled debut album, and today’s set is made up of songs from the album. Their music is folk but with a mix of other influences. It’s perfect for the first band on a hot sunny day – lively enough to get peoples interest, but not loud enough to make with those hangovers suffer. Definitely a band I’d like to see again.
Next up came the False Beard record attempt. The band ‘The Beards’ came on stage to pick the best fake beards they could see in the crowd gathered in front of the stage. Around a dozen were picked up and taken up on stage and the band then narrowed it down to a few finalists, and with the help of the crowd cheering for their preferred choice, the band picked a winner – a pair of people dressed as robots wearing fake beards. They won tickets for next years festival.
The Lancashire hotpots were next up. Their music is folk, but they sing about modern subjects such as Ikea, and add a healthy dose of comedy both within the songs and in their banter between songs. They’re a lot of fun and really go down very well with the crowd.
Next up were Ezio. A two-piece, they were the band this weekend that impressed me the least. I found them unexciting, despite them clearly being good at what they do, so decided to wander round the site to watch some of the arts and crafts and entertainers at work.
Goldblade were next. Singer John Robb takes less than a minute to decide that rather than being on stage he’d rather be with the crowd and he leaps off the stage and climbs onto the barrier to hug fans and sing from there. He spends a fair amount of the set at the barrier in fact, but when he’s on stage he reminds me of Iggy Pop with the way he moves around and puts everything he has into it. It’s not long before he’s dripping with sweat – hardly a surprise with an energetic performance like this, but what is a surprise is how good he manages to sound while running and leaping around. An excellent dose of punk rock that definitely woke the crowd up after the much quieter and less exciting Ezio.
New groove formation were next. A mix of ska and reggae it’s very enjoyable and draws a good sized crowd that keeps growing through their set. I chose to find a spot to sit down and enjoy some food from one of the stalls while listening to their set.
Over on the Tornado Town stage, ‘The men that will not be blamed for nothing’ were playing. A steampunk band, they were dressed accordingly, and put in a very impressive performance. Musically there’s a strong rock element to the music, but they also add a few different elements. Until today I’d never seen a saw being used as a musical instrument, but these guys do just that, bending the long saw and playing it with a bow like a violin. It actually worked very well and adds a unique element to their show. Definitely a band that’s well worth going to see.
The Farm came next on main stage. The recently reformed Liverpool band go down very well with the crowd many of whom clearly remember their early ’90s hits – ‘Groovy train’, ‘Stepping stone’ and of course ‘All together now’, all of which get an airing tonight. Some great nostalgia, and a great set.
Next up came Irish Punk rock legends Stiff little fingers. Despite their singer wearing a shirt that looked more suitable for a country and western band, their music is still punk powered rock. I’d never seen them before, but it didn’t take them long to impress me. Plenty of power from the guitars, great vocals and undiluted punk attitude work very well and songs such as ‘Alternative Ulster’ go down very well.
The Levellers were next up – the final band of the weekend, and clearly the most anticipated band of the weekend. Over the weekend there were quite a few people in various band T-shirts, but never many for any particular band – until the levellers. Anywhere you looked you could see people in Levellers T-shirts, and they certainly looked to have drawn the biggest crowd of the weekend. It’s not really a surprise – The Levellers are a great live band and seem a perfect fit with Bearded Theory. What follows is a fantastic live set which includes songs from their biggest album – Levelling the land, as well as newer songs. Tracks including ‘Fifteen years’ and ‘What a beautiful day’ go down a treat, and ending with ‘Devil went down to Georgia’, well – it’s a superb end to a great set and a really enjoyable way to end the weekend.
So this had been my first Bearded theory and I hadn’t really known what to expect other than a very diverse lineup. What I found was a festival that has to rate as the most child friendly festivals I’ve seen – there were so many activities for them to do that there was little chance of them getting bored.
The atmosphere at the festival was overwhelmingly friendly with a real mix of people, and some amazing costumes – especially on the Sunday. The site was nice and small so there were no long walks, and it’s in a beautiful location. This may have been my first Bearded Theory but it won’t be my last.