REVIEW: Bearded Theory Festival

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By Ed Sills

The mark of a good festival is how quickly it takes for either yourself or a fellow festivalgoer to ask ‘when do next year’s tickets go on sale?’ In this case it was somewhere on the drive back home through Quarndon.

Over the last three days an eclectic mix of musical styles were played over four stages in the lush surroundings of the National Trust’s Kedleston Hall.

Keeping it local, Seas of Mirth started Friday’s music in the Tornado Town tent with a typically high class shanty or two. Then it was over to see reformed Derby indie darlings The Beekeepers and a remarkably spritely set by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

New Model Army was always going to be a tough act to follow and interest quickly waned on the Friday headliner ‘Reverend & The Makers’. However, brassy ska band Maroon Town were ready to pick up the slack over in the Tornado Tent, making the indie band look like rank amateurs with an explosive stage presence and attitude. See them if you can.

Ominous clouds loomed above on Saturday, but for the most part the heavens remained closed. Charismatic reggae legend Macka B warmed the festival up with his humorous banter and laid back dancehall beats.

Seth Lakeman then gave way to Asian Dub Foundation and by then a serious crowd had formed for the genre leaping group. ADF, rather than falling back on past glories, played a set that united the broken hearts of the oppressed and disenchanted amongst the crowd.

With great polish and power they easily switched from rock to bhangra to drum and bass, proving once again that they are one of Britain’s finest live bands.

Bearded Theory, living up to its child friendly reputation, provided sand, glitter and other good creative things for my nephews and niece to do in a safe environment - giving them a chance to get away from the crowds for a while and get messy; as you should when you are three.

On Sunday the sun finally came out, as did the jokes when the Lancashire Hotpots took to the main stage for a beltin’ sing-along set.

After that there was a bit of a lull so I took off to see steam-punk trashers TMTWNBBFN and then went over to the Lock-In tent for local artist Lucy Ward. She pulled a big crowd, seamlessly mixing traditional folk music with stripped back interpretations of modern songs.

Back at the main stage, it was evident that Stiff Little Fingers, who introduced some new material, had something to prove and they used their raw and personal set to show they’re still committed to their music.

The Levellers followed, drawing the festival to a close for the first time in raucous fashion and it seems new favourite ‘The Recruitment Sergeant’ - off their last album - may have what it takes to earn its place in their already packed set list of songs.

And so, as people take off their plastic wristbands, put on the kettle and flick through the soggy remains of what’s left of their programmes they must be wondering – ‘what surprises do the organisers have in stall for next year?’