When: July 2-4 2010
Reviewed by: Helen Geraghty
It's a hot and hazy Friday afternoon and a steady stream of friendly faces stroll into the Beat Herder campsite as a chilled-out reggae beat gently rocks the Ribble Valley.
Now into its fifth year, the Beat Herder festival still offers the same intimate, laid-back, creative vibe that it did when it first began. The sold-out festival has grown to a capacity of 7,000 people for 2010 and hosts an eclectic selection of musical acts over three days. Much anticipated acts include; Does it Offend You Yeah? Andy C, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobious Pip, Utah Saints, Zion Train, Luke Vibert and Erol Alkan. The family-friendly festival brings the heart back into music festivals with its policy of not using corporate advertising or sponsorship.
The festival site is a hive of activity from midday onwards throughout the weekend. The fields are busy with brightly coloured tents, unusual sculptures and medieval flags dancing in the breeze. Throughout the weekend quirky areas of the festival site are inevitably stumbled upon, including Grandad's Room deep in the forest signposted with a mysterious note suggesting that you do not enter, and the cinema in the forest where you can buy popcorn. There are plenty of stages to explore inside tents and also two outside stages. The main stage takes pride of place in the fields, but the highlight for many is the stage in the woodlands that nestles in between the pine trees. The paths leading round the woodland are lit up in the dark by strings of coloured paper lanterns creating a magical atmosphere as the sun goes down.
The accommodating nature of the festival cannot be criticised. The campsite looks over the beautiful landscape of the Ribble Valley. There are enough toilets that you need never queue and even a few showers. Drinks cannot only be taken into the campsite but also into the festival itself. If you do run out of your own supplies then drinks in the festival are of a reasonable price (£2.50 for a can of Strongbow) as is the food, which has an emphasis on local produce.
Friday night goes off with a bang as everyone is still fresh-faced and not yet suffering any tent-related insomnia. World fusion, music collective Transglobal Underground take to the main stage wearing a surreal selection of futuristic masks. This is followed by an exuberant performance by electro rockers Does it offend you, Yeah?
Heading into the woodland the award winning Sugarbeat Club bring the party vibe late into the night with a mash up of breaks, beats, electro and drum and bass, featuring Utah Saints, Alex Metric, Doorly, Mooqee, LAmour La Morgue and Toni Jarvis. Venturing to the smaller stages unearths a multitude of equally pleasing acts such as Ska band Random Hand.
The atmosphere at Beat Herder on Saturday becomes increasingly fun and nonsensical as festival-goers dress-up as things beginning with the letter B. A lazy afternoon and evening can be spent watching performances on the main stage by singer-songwriter Gideon Conn, The Prodigy tribute band Jilted Generation and The Lancashire Hotpots.
Meanwhile in the woodland Panjabi MC warms up the audience with his individual fusion of bhangra and hip-hop. This is followed by a DJ-set by The Whip and a two-hour set by Erol Alkan who never fails to get the audience to move their feet. Other highlights from the two outside stages were Chew Lips, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobious Pip, Caged Baby and Layo and Bushwaka.
The Stumblefunk stage hosted Herbal Sessions throughout the evening with sounds of dub, funk and drums and also drew an almighty audience for drum and bass king Andy C later that night. Also not to be missed was Luke Vibert's eclectic set of experimental electro in the Trailer Trash tent.
Campers woke on Sunday to tents flapping noisily and pouring rain, but the weather had turned around in plenty of time for the main events of the day, dub reggae ensemble Zion Train and International reggae act Easy Allstars. As the festival wound down other notable acts that played were house dj Krysko and dance musics Paul Daley.
Beat Herder is certainly not the festival for anyone looking for big-name bands. But if youre looking for a relaxed, friendly, quirky weekend with an eclectic array of artists then Beat Herder is for you, a gem of the Northern festivals.
BEAT HERDER. The Ribble Valley, Lancashire 2nd-4th July 2010