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Bearded Theory - Day One

  • Written by  Marky Edison


It’s a historic day in Dublin as we finally get an opportunity to decriminalise abortion. I’m celebrating by following in the footsteps of the 4000 Irish women each year who have to make the trip to England. Thankfully I have a happier reason for travelling ...

Bearded Theory festival is back at their iconic home of Catton Park nestled in the National Forest for their 11th outing. They have six main music stages; The Pallet, Magical Sounds, Woodland, Maui Waui, Convoy Cabaret and One Big Showcase. They have several smaller venues including Something Else Tea Tent, The Ship, Rogues Hideout, Magic Teapot, Alpaca and Creative Intentions.

The line-up is pretty great with legends like Robert Plant, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Jimmy Cliff, The Membranes and Therapy? Other festival staples like Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Jesus Jones, The Coral and Altern-8 join the relative newcomers like Sleaford Mods, Idles, Jake Bugg, Rews, Pins and The Winachi Tribe for a very promising three days of dancing and merriment.  The Winachis are headlining the Showcase stage on Saturday night, and we spoke with singer Liam Croker over here about the festival, headliner Robert Plant, and the band’s adventures in Hollywood.

The sun has been splitting the stones all week in Dublin, and it continues to do so through Wales, but by the time I reach Derbyshire, it is grey and drizzly. Good festival weather so. After a bit of exploring and sampling the strong cider, it’s time for The Coral on the main stage. The rain starts to come down harder just as they’re getting in to the swing of it, so it seems like a good opportunity to check out the sheltered Woodland Stage.

Rews have just started. The English/Northern Irish duo play a guitar/drums set that is heavy on the pop rock. They’re a bit like The White Stripes but with more of a groove and sans the pretension. The clearing is loosely populated and it’s worth getting to the front to experience Shauna Tohill’s gut-shaking guitars. They are obviously enjoying themselves here and, on this evidence, it’s easy to see why they are attracting so much attention recently.

There’s a significant coterie of photographers in the pit as Pins run through their linecheck. Perhaps it’s in hope of an appearance from punk godfather, Iggy Pop, who appears on their new single. Or perhaps it’s just because the Manchester quintet look, and sound, uber cool. In particular, the visual contrast between the synchronised, twin drummers at the back of the stage, clad in black and moving in concert, and the trio of singers in white out front, is immediately arresting. All of which would mean nothing if the music were boring, but the constant swirl and underlying menace of the tunes make them utterly compelling. They play with a deserved swagger. The venerable Mr. Pop has chosen his collaborators wisely once again. This crowd are bleeding deadly.

As the sun begins to set, ‘90s throwbacks Jesus Jones have the task of following Pins. They sound remarkably modern. They looked like taking on the world in the post Happy Mondays / Screamadelica era and had a number of transatlantic hits. Their combination of techno blips and baggy alternative tunes has (mostly) worn well. “Your parents might remember this”, quips lead singer Mike Edwards, as they break out ‘International Bright Young Thing’. ‘Right Here, Right Now’ and ‘Real Real Real’ still sound great and get the enthusiastic crowd moving, but the material from the new album, Passages, is much more interesting musically.

The festival sold out weeks in advance but it still feels spacious when moving around, until we try to leave the Woodland arena. With only one narrow entrance /exit point, it swiftly bottlenecks, and it takes significant intervention from the security staff to get people out. After a long day's travelling, the warm, dry tent is a welcome sight at the end of the evening. Tomorrow looks like the most exciting lineup of the weekend with Idles, Sleaford Mods, and the Winachi Tribe topping my list of must-sees.

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