Dark clouds did little to dampen the party atmosphere as the Bearded Theory festival kicked off its seventh year in style.
Now taking place over four days at Catton Hall in South Derbyshire, the organisers decided last year to move the event from Kedleston Hall in an effort to grow and continue to provide a better experience.
Being a typically British bank holiday weekend, it was always going to be a bit wet. The storm clouds gathered above and on Friday evening the heavens opened and remained well and truly ajar until Sunday afternoon.
But what’s a bit of mud? This year was a festival for old dogs proving they still had bark and bite. Any New Order fan would be cautiously optimistic about seeing bassist Peter Hook and the Light, but they played a sterling set of classics tempered only by some rocky sound levels on Hook’s vocals.
Headlining the main stage afterwards was Carter USM, who brought one of their last ever gigs to the festival. Despite the heavy rain, they managed to get people dancing with their heavy mix of sharp lyrics, electronic and indie beats. Cynics were quickly swept aside by music scene veterans The Stranglers and festival closers UB40, who had hit packed sets brimming with all the passion and energy of their heyday.
Over in the Tornado Tent, folk punk band The Men they Couldn’t Hang celebrated their 30th anniversary to a full audience. Their poignant songs were well received and came in sharp contrast to the tongue-in-cheek headliners Hayseed Dixie, who many would say were the best band of the festival. Putting those two together with Ferocious Dog was a stroke of genius.
Festival highlight had to be the new ‘Locked in the Woods’ stage, a bunting and bulb lit grove situated away from the main arena that hosted some of the most engaging music of the weekend. London’s Inner Terrestrials headlined Friday to a large crowd, bringing their fevered mix of dub, punk, ska and folk.
Lead singer Jay Terrestrial had already wowed fronting Firepit Collective earlier in the day and both performances showed off his astute knack of being able to weave together compelling tales of hope, anarchy and environmentalism. Saturday saw 3 Daft Monkeys, a band deeply tied into the history of the festival, play a secret set well into the early hours of the morning.
Getting out the grounds was difficult and not everything went smoothly, but all the staff I encountered were helpful and in good spirits. If there’s one thing I learnt over the weekend, it’s that seasoned festivalgoers have more words for mud than Eskimos have for snow. It’s a fine science you know.