Gig review: Bearded Theory Festival, Kedleston Hall Park, 17-19 May 2013

Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

Bearded Theory is one of the multitude of smaller festivals that still holds its roots in the rue meaning of festivals. It’s not about big corporate sponsorship, VIP this and that to get the better camping/showers etc and making money but is about providing a family friendly weekend, full of music/fun and diversity for the minimum they can charge whilst keeping the ticket numbers at a reasonable capacity. It is now in its 6th year now and because of its ethos has never struggled to sell tickets and indeed has sold out in 4 times now before the event.

This 3 day festival is held in the grounds of Kedleston Hall in the Derbyshire countryside and already gives a good vibe when you first arrive. Camping here is at the far side of the site away from the carpark which does provide a bit of pre festival exercise but also gives a nice vibe of community.

For those that arrived early there were a few special shows in the form of festival favourites Ferocious Dog and 3 Daft Monkeys on the Thursday night in the Lock Inn.

It doesn’t matter what type of music you are into as there will be something here for you in one of the 4 main stages and a number of impromptu smaller ones.

Karine Polwart, Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

Friday 17 May

Friday and it looked like were to have some semi decent weather but more importantly some brilliant music ranging from Whiskey Stain, blues rock at Tornado Town to the sublime Karine Polwart on the main stage. Indeed the best thing to do is to just walk around and take in the music from al the stages.

The highlights of today must be Neds Atomic Dustbin and New Model Army who both gave brilliant performances as did headliners Reverend and the Makers who earlier in the day had launched their very own beer Reverend and the Makers Summer Ale through festival beer suppliers Thornbridge.

New Model Army, Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

Among the stages there is so much going on at the festival. There are multiple busker stations setup where anyone can pull up and have 15 minutes of fame.

There is the multitude of roaming acts including the Flamborough Trolls offering free hugs, the mobile disco’s, Freddie Mercury lookalike including suspenders and Hoover from the video of I wanna break free.

As for things to look at; there are plently of stalls selling clothing and the usually festival stuff, also there are arts and crafts stalls for most things you can spend the day walking around and still not see everything properly.

There is also a fair which is not just for the kids as the whoops coming from the helter skelter later in the night were definitely big kids but all in good fun, it’s like a big kids playground.

It also shows the nature of the festival when the artists walk round freely without being mobbed by the crowd and in fact Seth Lakeman was seen queuing for some food along with the punters and only the eagle-eyed would have spotted him!

Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

Saturday 18 May

Music today ranged from a Far Que a dirty punk band in Tornado Town that played punk, classical songs in a punk style and all the rest. Certainly an entertaining set.

Ferocious Dog also managed another secret set in the Tea Tent although you can always tell when they are playing as the sides of the tent are bulging. The Tea Tent was one of the mystery stages of the weekend and some wonderful gems were on there.

The Quireboys, Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

On mainstage today is one of my best bands of all time, mainly due to the fact they never seem to stop touring. The Quireboys are Rock and Roll and do it very well indeed.

Another fabulous set by them gets the crowd up and dancing. Seth Lakeman and Asian Dub Foundation complete the main stage for the day both with brilliant yet different sets which again is all part of what makes the festival what it is. The music continues on into the early hours of the morning in the Magical Sounds Stage and the people keep partying way after that.

Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

Sunday 19 May

After the wet weather finish last night it was so nice to wake up to glorious sunshine for this the final day of the festival and indeed also the most eventful. Now for what seems the main event of the festival, the world record attempt for the most fake beards in one place. The record was set back in 2010 and they are again trying to top it.

The sight from the stage is extremely strange indeed with beards being made from just about anything and on anyone from Robots to beards made of flipflops. We are joined this year by a band which surly should be here every year The Beards who after playing a set in Tornado Town are now to judge the contest. And the winner this year was a Beard wearing Robot!!

Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

Back to the music and one of the most energetic sets of the weekend came from Manchester Punk Rockers Goldblade which saw vocalist John Robb up close and personal with the crowd on a number of occasions.

Today also saw another two of my favourite bands in the form of Shooglenifty, inventers of the term Techno Ceilidh and Peatbog Faeries, instrumental celtic fusionists who are both appearing in the Magical sounds tent.

As day rolled into night and the sun was setting on what was a near perfect day there were two final sets on the main stage Stiff Little Fingers, Belfast punk rockers who gave an excellent hit laden energetic set showing are still as good as ever.

Levellers, Bearded Theory Festival 2013, photo by Simon Dunkerley

There can only be one way to finish off such a beautiful day and that would be with the Levellers who initially due to play last year but had to pull out due to  injury finally get chance to play here at a festival they had a lot to do with it actually existing.

The set had the crowd singing and dancing along and brought everyone to a peak to end the festival. The main stage could not have ended any better in my opinion. The other stages still had some acts left to play but no one would be topping the Levellers performance tonight.

Well, another year over and another extremely successful festival. I know I am not alone when I say it was a brilliant festival and apart from the odd little niggle on the campsite everything was superb. Would I recommend it to others, most definitely yes, roll on next year!

Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)

COLLATERAL Mr Big Shot (Roulette Media Records)
BABY HUSBAND Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (indie)
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EXPLORING BIRDSONG The River (indie)
MARISA AND THE MOTHS – Slave (indie)
CATTLE AND CANE I Wish I Knew Jesus (Like I Do)
KING VOODOO Creep (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 28 October (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 UNRULY CHILD Big Blue World (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 REDLINE Gods & Monsters (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 WILDWOOD KIN (Silvertone/Sony)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)



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