Thursday 24 May
Thursday morning and the weekend was finally here. Bearded Theory was finally here. So, giddy as a kitten in a box of tinsel we loaded up and hit the road.
The sun shone brighter as we drew closer to Catton Hall in Derbyshire, the festival’s permanent home, and the excitement grew as we began to see the yellow signs pointing us towards a weekend of not giving a fig.
I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t get stuck in the four hour queue to get on site so we were all set up in time to begin a weekend of shenanigans by the time Back To The Planet hit The Pallet Stage.
Back To The Planet played twice over the weekend, once on The Pallet Stage on Thursday and again in Magical Sounds on Friday, and being one of my favourite bands I saw them both times. Both were fantastic, but I preferred the more intimate setting of the Magical Sounds tent, it seemed to fill up with the good vibes from the band and their audience making it a more interactive experience.
Thursday’s line-up continued to wake us up and further build the excitement with King Kong Company. A friend and fellow photographer had recommended these to me so I wanted to see if they were as good as he said they were. Yes, they are. This band don’t fit into any box, they are a mix of all kinds of music. I can best describe them as a psychedelic dressing up box full of drum and bass, electronica, dubstep, rap and ska with a whole array of fantastical costumes. They were extraordinary.
Time for dinner! The food stalls at Bearded Theory are reasonably priced for a festival, you can get a full dinner plus drink from most stalls for around a tenner, which is no more than I would pay from my local takeaway. Plus the choice is a lot more extensive; noodles, paella, african dishes, curry, Jamaican jerk chicken, burgers, chips, pie and mash. Something to tempt most palettes.
After a wander and a bite to eat I was back at the main stage for Reverend and The Makers. A Bearded Theory regular and favourite, I was looking forward to their set because they are a band who give an awful lot to their audiences with their electric and contagious energy, and they get it back in spades. Once again this was the case and once again their time on stage was over far too soon and they left us wanting more, and more, and more. I was now charged up and ready for the rest of the weekend.
Friday 25 May.
Waking up to the sounds of the sound check at the main stage of a music festival is one of my favourite things, ever, raising from slumber with a day of great music and good times in front of you. Time to get on it!
I went straight to The Woodland where a bunch of pirate fighting gypsies were causing a right old rabble rousing ruckus. It was The Brandy Thieves. Their mischievous mix of ska, punk and folk was causing the crowd to leap and cheer like a rowdy mob of rascals and joining them was irresistible. I’ve seen The Brandy Thieves a few times now and I’ve never seen them give any less than everything they have. These are a band who love what they do, and it shows.
I followed this up with Show Of Hands on The Pallet Stage. Their acoustic roots/folk melodies were the musical equivalent of a hug from a dear friend, warming on the inside and very welcome.
Before I got too cosy after such a pleasant encounter I went and got my bounce on with Back To The Planet at Magical Sounds which as I’ve mentioned was first-rate, then time to refuel before The Coral at The Pallet Stage.
The Coral‘s more sedate vibe emanating from the stage allowed me time to just be, to stand and sway and let the music wash over me and take in everything around me. A really peaceful, mindfulness moment. Lovely.
The Jesus and Mary Chain were next on The Pallet Stage. No one has a sound quite like The Jesus and Mary Chain and that sound has time transporting properties. I was transported right back to my misspent yoof as soon as they stepped on to the stage and I loved it.
Another blast from the past took to the stage at The Woodland in the form of Jesus Jones. Wow! Just wow! An explosion of noise and energetic force burst from the stage for an hour in The Woodland that night and it was truly awesome. Playing songs from their back catalogue and giving us a taster of new songs which are just stunning, I think it’s fair to say these guys are better than ever.
I missed the beginning of Friday headliners, Blossoms, and arrived at a packed main arena where Blossoms were already on stage charming the audience with an endearing performance. I quickly found myself having a little bop along. They’ve been on the receiving end of a fair bit of critical acclaim and they definitely proved they deserve it.
Saturday 26 May
Waking to the sound of the sound check again, yay, I swigged back a cup of tea and perused the days programme, it was going to be a good day.
First off I went to see what was happening in The Woodland. Autumn Saints were just taking to the stage. An American blues, americana, rock trio that I enjoyed so much I bought their CD.
I was off to the pallet stage next to see Random Hand, a contagious concoction of punk, ska and metal with energy and personality in abundance. I liked what these gents had to offer, so I was straight into the merch tent for their CD after their set and I was far from alone. These fellas had impressed a lot of people.
Idles were next on my list. Punk vigour was hurled from the stage into the audience and we grabbed it and responded in kind. It was a bigger stage this year and Idles managed to cram it full of raging punk passion.
Time to turn it all down a bit with Fun Lovin’ Criminals. So much more than a stoner band, these are incredibly gifted musicians. Huey’s deep voice, his singing guitar and the sun shining down sent us into a state of deep relaxation. Nice.
Saturday evening brought with it a headline act that I’ve been waiting for for most of my life, Robert Plant. He had with him an incredibly polished and gifted band who he stepped back to allow to showcase their talents. It would have been all too easy to make the entire set about Mr Plant but it was nice to see a humble side, he appreciates his fellow musicians and what they all bring to the band.
Playing a collection of music from his days in Led Zeppelin through to the present day the set was an absolute treat, his voice gave me goosebumps. And the encore? Well it had to be a Led Zep song. Standing in the same field as Robert Plant singing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was a dream come true and a moment that will stay with me forever.
Sunday 27 May
The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican at The Woodland is an absolute must if you enjoy laughing, dancing and singing. I had tears of laughter in my eyes as they sang “How Deep Is Your Glove?”, to a packed to full capacity Woodland.
The audiences are made to feel as much a part of their sets as the band themselves are, especially when frontman Scott Doonican went crowd surfing in a dinghy and was met by a pirate in a unicorn boat. So much random can and does happen when you go and see these northern lunatics live.
Sunday afternoon I indulged in people watching and spent time drinking in what was left of Bearded Theory. The weekend was going so fast, faster than previous years. I was having the best weekend and I didn’t want it to end.
Stop getting maudlin, Latham! It’s not over yet! Go and skank!
So I did.
Dub Pistols were on The Pallet Stage and it would have been rude not to. Their love of what they do is catching, we loved it too and dancing was mandatory.
Taking it up another notch were Dubioza Kolektiv. Brilliant and bonkers in equal measure. Looking like a football team who had consumed psychedelic drugs and a vast amount of energy drinks, the stage erupted with a sensational merging of hip-hop, reggae, dub, punk and rock as the skies began crackling with an electrical storm.
The electrical storm grew closer and a decision was taken to evacuate the stage for safety reasons when Dubioza Kolektiv had finished their set, so there was an understandable delay for Jake Bugg. He was well worth the wait. This man has an effortless skill with his guitar that only comes from a lot of dedication to your craft. The guitar was an extension of himself and he was a wonder to behold. And obviously, he had to sing “Lightening Bolt”.
Jimmy Cliff was our final act of the weekend on The Pallet stage and I have to admit, I shed a tear or two. Tears of happiness because I’d just lived an amazing weekend, another four days of escaping from the real world, a weekend of so much music, so many individual happy moments, so many hugs and smiles, so much dancing and a little bit of drinking. And sadness because it was over all too soon.
So there I was, dancing to the legend that is Jimmy Cliff and his band playing ‘Wonderful World’, a massive grin on my face and tears streaming down my cheeks, watching the fireworks thinking about how Bearded Theory really is a wonderful world full of beautiful people. A wonderful world we get to escape to for four days every year, where everyone is beautiful because they have smiles lighting their faces like a million sunbeams.
So that’s it, right? Festival over? Wrong. This is Bearded Theory, they weren’t finished with us yet. This is the festival that keeps on giving. So as the fireworks faded into the sky Gentleman’s Dub Club began skankin’ it up in The Woodland. Exhausted and broken, I managed to dredge up some energy from the bottom of my boots for one last dance. This was mostly helped by the band who were charging us with their own energy. The Woodland was standing room only, full of a sea of knackered but contented people.
But can we have one more day? Might as well make it a week? Two? A month? Forever? Do we really have to leave? If this festival gets any better then next year Bloodstock’s going to have to find a new home because us Bearded lot are never going to leave.
Seriously, hats off to ya, Bearded Theory, you’ve nailed it again!
ps. Can you please stop making improvements because I’m running out of different ways to say, that was so awesome.
Review and Photos by Hollie Latham
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