Piled into the back of a ford focus with a sack of Aldi brioche squashing my face up against the window, I catch my first glimpse of the Beacons site. Considering I've only recently returned back from that there Glastonbury (in body at least) this little ditty looks more akin to a prepubescent cider fuelled gathering than a proper burly festival. Where are the relentless searchlights, the snaking queues of revellers, the dodgy looking turkey sculptures on the main stage? Wait a minute, where is the actual main stage? As many an unsatisfied housewife hath claimed, it is not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean. However, if this weekend is anything to go by, they might just have a point.

It's extremely chilled here - I'm not talking office air con chilled, I'm talking sub zero, icicles from your short and curlies sort of chilled. So chilled in fact, that we didn't really need any tickets. Our party glides through the press entrance unchallenged, only 2/5 of us actually wearing any form of pass. Consequently, we have to walk all the way to the other side of the festival to ask if our comrades may in fact exchange their papers for wristbands. Only in Yorkshire, eh? Ironic crisis averted, we decide not to let British stereotypes die out, drinking half of our booze before the first band have even soundchecked. Luckily, this won't happen until tomorrow morning, which is just as well as I remember next to nothing from Thursday 15th August post 6pm. There was a predictably ominous SWAYS DJ set at some point, we watched a bit of Rita, Sue and Bob too without our shoes on, and I'm relatively sure I participated in an art installation/arcade game in which the user controlled which holographic member of a band they wanted to watch on a tiny little stage by pressing coloured buttons. That last bit was so surreal that it definitely may not have taken place.

Friday

The sun rises above the Yorkshire dales and we begin our Friday with a screening of My Island, a thought provoking documentary following a middle aged man whose sole ambition in life was to become a tramp. Taking place inside the cinema focused into the woods tent, this pit stop also proves that the arcade game from last night is in fact real, it's adjacent whiskey bar situated a mere 100 yards from our camping set up probably being the cause for so much confusion in the first place. Off to Fun Adults then.

They open the main tent to quite a large crowd, blending elements of Alt-J and Wild Beasts to create a unique brand of off-kilter pop. The comparisons strengthen as they swap lead vocal duties throughout, yet it is these two vocals which provide the most distinction from their contemporaries. Elements of the set are really encouraging, and you begin to think that these lads could blow up pretty rapidly. They probably could, should, and will, but a little bit of overcomplicating seems to suggest they're not quite there yet. The potential though is substantial, and as the festivals opening band, they throw the gauntlet down with some serious force.


Next up is Big Deal, who turn out to be not that much of a big deal at all. It's loud, and albeit listenable, but in essentially just standardised dad rock with the odd arena targeting Naked & Famous-esque chorus. Egyptian Hip Hop are to follow, but being in the company of our two girlfriends, their obsession with the vintage rails inhibit our ability to catch all that much of them. This may be a complete mistruth, and I may have bought more exotic animal silk shirts than any other punter, but either way, the five minutes we do spend watching are exactly what we've come to expect from them. The music is ever so slightly tangible, Aldous sprints around the tent giving the impression that there is no specific frontman in the band, and the entire thing feels incredibly weird.

We opt for a bout of exploration around the slightly soggy fields, picking up a slightly soggy burrito on our travels - if you can call a microscopic tortilla filled with dry roasted beef and acidic pickle a burrito, that is. It's fair to say the sound man in the Loud & Quiet tent is having a bit of a 'mare, and things aren't helped when Vondelpark arrive with 5000 synth machines. They end up only squeezing in four tracks of balearic low end structures to their obvious annoyance, but for what it's worth, the content was great. It's a worry that the audio team is having such problems a couple of hours before Bonobo's headline set.

Ghostpoet is next, and whilst relatively happy having seen him recently on tour, I'm not expecting the world. Wrong. The atmosphere cranks up significantly, each track having developed extra, much heavier breakdowns. 'I Am Here' sounds ferocious, and although there is a slight feedback cut out midway through the set, the band and their leader carry on with little acknowledgement. Ghostpoet exudes an effortless cool throughout the performances, then bubbles into this animated, excitable character in-between songs. It's a great balance to have, the overall professionalism sitting on a different level to everything else so far. It's an absolute masterclass, and by the end of the set, everyone seems pumped up for what is arguably the main event of the weekend.


Bladders collectively relieved, we witness the building of the stage set up for Bonobo, a drumkit unlike any other appearing on the right ahead of some intriguing backdrop screens. There are all kinds of instruments littered around the central sound station - a musos orchestral dream and a runners apocalyptic hell. Members slowly filter on after the founding Simon ignites the fire with a playback of recent single 'Cirrus'. The chain-like banners are projected with various animated visuals, and suddenly the pace quickens. On record, Bonobo possesses that illusive quality of completely pulling you into the music, and the live experience serves only to accentuate that trait. Within just three songs, you're entirely immersed by orange swathes of sweeping light, trailing horns flowing over light, percussive flares and throbbing sub bass.

Individuals keep popping off and on the stage for various tracks, an enchanting female taking the role of lead vocals when needed. As elegant and mysterious as a music box ballerina, she steadily bowls around the front, smoothly peaking falsettos into the crowd as she twists and twirls her upper body. Unfortunately, we have a first time Class A user to our left, and at the tender age of 18 years old, she decides it best to be at one with the singers dance moves. It's a distracting development, yet as I said, understandable with the intensity of the performance - I just wish her particular immersion would have happened in some other area of the festival.

'El toro' is just magnificent, slowly simmering into a drummer solo, then to be accompanied by a sole saxophone. Out of nowhere, this pairing morphs and manipulates into some sort of breakbeat attack, eventually reaching its climax with everyone back on stage. The overall level of musicianship is pretty much unrivalled, the drummer especially pulling off the most intricate of manoeuvres at the most dazzling of speeds as if it were just as easy as writing your name. It's one of those performances that zaps you right up out of wherever it is you physically stand, not letting you back into reality for quite some time afterwards. Albeit consisting of Now Wave and John Talabot, the small hours entertainment leaves little impact for this exact reason - I'm not even sure I said anything until Saturday morning.

Saturday


This soon changes with a few exclaimed curses as I realise that I've lost my Pac-a-Mac on the wettest morning of the century. I encourage my girlfriend to give me hers whilst she dons the bright blue Thorpe Park poncho as we make our way over to the Noisey tent for the first time - who says chivalry is dead? Findlay are pretty good, trashy guitars making sure all evidence of rainfall is suitably blown out of the tent. It's unashamedly rock centric, at times feeling like the sole brief is to play as hard and as loud as you can, but the female vocal balances this nicely. The set ends with a clever double mic gimmick, signalling our trip to the hot dog stand for a processed pork and mustard brekkie.

We've all acquired some temporary illustrated tattoos from the urban outfitters tent by this point, which bodes well for the upcoming Wolf Alice and their 90's nostalgia showcase. There's some Nirvana in there, with a hint of Jeff Buckley/Mick Ronson guitar sweeps, but it's all polished off without being too contrived. They're doing their utmost to try and lift dampened spirits, with brand new track 'She' particularly sounding grunge wondrous, as the vocal channels a bit of daughter's success against a much hazier backdrop.

Suitably replenished with red grape water, we head back to the arena to catch one of the festivals smaller/most promising highlights in Kult Country. The droney wall of noise is instantly impenetrable, only frontman Yousif's vocal occasionally piercing through with wails and shrieks. As recent single 'Slowburn' takes shape, everything feels at ease, heads slowly swaying in appreciation. They're one my favourite new bands in the UK, always occupying a strange mid state between full on psychedelic wig out and introspective oozing riffs. It makes the human mind feel one thing, whilst your limbs feel like doing something else entirely, this strangely confused mindset feeling ultra beautiful within the middle of an intrigued crowd.

Consecutive performances from Temples and Julia Holter only serve to take this confusion on a different path. By all means, Temples are pretty good - they have some good tunes, a good image, brilliant hair and even better jackets. However, does it have to be this obvious? They wouldn't look nor sound out of place a few decades back, and whilst this is fun for all of the obsoletion junkies out there, it doesn't exactly progress the music industry. I feel a little cynical as I do genuinely like what they're doing, but I can't help wonder if it needs to be done.


Julia Holter presents a similar problem, albeit at the opposite end of the scale. She - like Temples - leaks cool from every orifice, a wispy blend of minimal chorus floating lightly above the cross legged tent occupants. It's relatively nice, but it does feel as if it's been written first, and then put through an indie hipsterfier before being released to the world. Rather than sounding old fashioned, it sounds ultra modern, to the point that you believe you're supposed to believe that this is undoubtedly cool, just as everyone else seems to believe.

I believe it is time to get ready for Gold Panda. Drawing a likeness to the sub-headlining Ghostpoet last night, his set picks things up noticeably at the exact same time. We're perched somewhere towards the back, the middle front of the tent looking like it's going to bubble over into a frothy sludge of MDMA and regrettable dance moves. It's a little bit different in this particular case as Gold Panda is predominantly a producer, yet I can't help but still feel a bit lacklustre at DJ sets this high up the bill. You can throw all the knobs on the table that you wish, but personally, it never quite has the same intensity as a live band. That said, it's a welcome upper after a couple of questionable sets, and it is Gold Panda. The vibes are bloody great, and he ends the set with a brilliant version of 'You'.


Topping the bill tonight are LA band Local Natives. Now, I'm not all too acquainted with their music, aside from recent single 'You & I' capturing my attention on the radio. I've been told they're real light and fragile, using hipster style points to make up for a lack of power. Complete horseshit. Granted, there are parallels to be drawn with the likes of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, and my whole experience may be slightly altered through copious wine consumption, but as they come on stage with some hard hitting chords backed by rapid flashes of light, I'm seriously impressed.

They look like there is no place in the world they'd rather be, wielding various guitars as they hop around the stage. The vocal harmonies are not only technically perfect, but pack a serious weight in the emotional stakes too, as large warming synth lines swell behind. As with most great live performances, it's entirely unexpected on my part, 'Columbia' threatening to bring the teary eye brigade out in force as it builds to a fiery outro. "Am I giving enough" seems to be the key lyric here, and with most singing praise almost in unison after they close the Saturday line up, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.


We decide to brave our way through mammoth, biblical rainfall to experience the Resident Advisor tent for the first time of the weekend with Machinedrum. It's not bad, but the sound seems much louder towards the back for some reason, and it doesn't really seem to be explosive in any way. We pop inside the RFID dome for a while instead, with visuals projected all over the inside of what seems to be the top half of a giant golf ball. It's pretty fun (if a bit sweaty) but once again the nightlife at Beacons is not really reaching the same level of quality that the daytime offers. We decide to head back and prepare for what surely promises to be the best day of the festival.

Sunday

Unzip tent door, feel relatively warm sunshine, notice relatively controllable hangover, reflect on relatively good nights sleep, observe relatively blue sky… We may be onto a winner here. We opt for a MotherClucker chicken burger to start the day and everything seems to be going well. Fast forward 45 minutes, and we are still in the queue for said burger, a strong bout of indecisiveness preventing us from swapping to nearby barbecue joint, Reds. We wait it out, as there isn't really a vast array of food types on offer at the site, and this burger thing looks bloody good. The jury is out on whether it is worth almost an hour of stationary standing, but in hindsight, it's without doubt the best thing we'd eaten in days. Luckily, digestion is completed just in time for our first band of the day, Hookworms. They come on and change everything.


I've been told a few times to see them live, always having some unfortunate series of events that prevented me from doing so. As they clamber on stage, my relatively controllable hangover mutates into an absolute bastard. It's fucking loud - to the point that it almost threatens to throw the chicken burger right out of my eye sockets. Completely drenched in reverb and effects, the lead guitarist takes a crouched stance as he ferociously hits chord after chord, chief worm MJ shouting and wailing in a fashion that can only be described as possessed.

They are by all accounts a noise band showcasing 8 minute track after 10 minute jam, but the noise they produce is phenomenal. It gets louder and louder still, wails becoming shrieks becoming howls, as the speakers pledge to leave everyone on the front row with severe chronic tinnitus. Yes, upon walking out of the tent, I feel as if my head is going to fall clean off my shoulders and I'm not sure I should consume any more alcohol whatsoever, but in terms of creating a live connection, Hookworms just turned Beacons onto its head.


Following that comes Moon Duo and their all out psych show. For all intents and purposes, they're a brilliant band who split technical ability and catchy riffs straight down the middle, yet after witnessing the intensity of Hookworms, it just doesn't really hit the spot. The vibes are great, but the channels of the mind (ears/head/heart/ribcage/etc.) are still recovering from what came before. I feel like I need a break, so we move on to raid all of the discounted questionable silk garments from the vintage tent. It's a good job we do so, as next is Danny Brown and his unique brand of what the festival programme calls 'Fast lyrical artistry'. I'd say it's more hip-hop for the Diplo contingent.

It's not entirely my thing, but he's a good showman and it seriously gets the crowd going. There's about 5 times as much security present than there has been for anybody else, and it's easy to work out why when using our man in front as an example. Not letting the fact that he's caucasian hold him back, he's going from uzi gun signs to snapback-to-the-ground slam dunk dance moves, clearly enjoying this set more than any other moment in his entire life. In all honesty, it makes everything that bit more fun, in a sort of 'bloody hell, what has happened to the world' sort of way. One last mega beat erupts alongside 'Kush Koma', getting everyone pretty pumped for SBTRKT.

In a slightly similar fashion to Gold Panda the night before, SBTRKT - whilst fun to watch - isn't really a major event of the day. He plays tracks from the album alongside old school garage numbers and the crowd seem pretty happy. So far the festival has been on the whole relaxed, with only Hookworms really providing that true heart out of the chest moment. This may have been down to the acts we have chosen to watch, so I live in hope that Savages are going to blow everything out of the ballpark. Call me Nostradamus, but as Jehnny Beth walks onstage, the atmosphere inside the tent is palpable. They are placed as subheadliners in the tiny You Need to Hear This tent rather than the main one, and it remains to be seen whether this is mistake or masterstroke.


It's absolutely heaving for a band that are obviously able to pack out the headline tent, but this creates quite an electric feel within the room. We're positioned to the very right hand side amongst the queue of one-in-one-out photographers, and a thin mist of rain doesn't seem to be making anyone in this section any livelier. Just one track in, it becomes apparent that it's all or nothing for the second to last band of the weekend, and the mosh pit suddenly looks quite cosy. As hectic as it is in the middle of it, everyone does seem to have quite a handle on the music, which makes for even more of an explosion when the bigger songs get an outing.

'No face' & 'Shut Up' both sound gargantuan, only for a blistering version of 'She Will' to swipe the medal clean from the neck. Beth prowls along the stage in her usually intense way knowing all too well that they have the crowd eating from the palms of their hands. Everything gets cranked to eleven as the set reaches 'Husbands', and those claims of best live band in britain once again start popping up between a couple of journos to my left. I'm not 100% sure that is the case, but bloody hell, they certainly know how to put on a show.


Feeling a little achey after that one, we make our way to watch final headliners Django Django. Beacons is probably going to be my last festival of quite a strong summer run, and with this therefore being the last festival set, we decide to really make sure it's memorable. In other words, we use up all of our leftover booze and carry on exactly where we left of with Savages. When listening to Django on record, you can see how the live platform would make for quite a dancey atmosphere… moshy, probably not. Never ones to stick to expectation, a large group of Yorkshireman decide to open up the circle, and for all of our sins, we accept the invitation.

Here I am, somewhere in a field in Skipton, surrounded by Leeds fans, orchestrating a Django Django mosh pit, wearing a silk waistcoat with no t-shirt. Weirder statements have been made, and I understand if I have lost the minuscule amount of respect I may have once had. They're obviously nowhere near as full on as some of the acts we've seen today, but their strange mix of electronic world music enthused indie is sounding pretty huge. Adam Curtis style visuals chop up behind them on shutter like screens, as 'W.O.R' summons an egyptian style frenzy down at the front. It's quite an apt ending to a weekend filled with the most diverse range of acts.

True to form, everything shuts down instantly as the set finishes. There is no beer to be seen, no (organised) parties, and it seems like the Sunday night is a little bit of an anti-climax. That said, for all of it's nighttime mishaps, Beacons constructs such an incredible day time line up, that you're willing to forgive and forget. For such a small capacity weekender, the sheer breadth the festival covers is quite astonishing. There's something for the music men, something to satisfy the techno heads, something to appease cinema lovers and something for the hardcore artisans (n.b: previous statement only written to use the term 'hardcore artisans').

In all seriousness though, Beacons presents itself as one of the most credible festivals I've ever been to. Only being in its second year, of course there are still some teething problems with late night entertainment and sound, but these are issues that can be ironed out easily. The fact that it lacked a main stage turned out to actually be its moment of genius. By not wasting money on mega headliners that are either washed up, retired/reformed, or just plain shit, they managed to construct a formidable line-up that could not only fight it's corner against those of the same size, but go head to head with the bigger boys too. If it carries on like this, Beacons Festival could genuinely become one of the best in Europe.