Beacons Festival 2012 Review (Part 2)

By on Wednesday, 29th August 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

Part 1 of Martin’s review of Beacons 2012 can be read here.

What more can be written about Wild Beasts’ ability to headline? Their double-headed fantasia redefines the potential of a modern group of musicians. The risk of repetition is one worth bearing in order to quote a phrase written about their headline performance at Constellations in Leeds last November: “To see a capacity audience in a large room transfixed by such intelligently-written and expertly-executed pop music is a wondrous thing.” To which I would add, the material is so familiar now that the crowd effortlessly sing along pretty much all the way through. Which seems natural, until you ponder the meaning of such lyrical masterpieces such as “I was thrilled as I was appalled / Courting him in fisticuffing waltz”; words worthy of Raffles the Gentleman Thug himself. The world of performing arts waits with baited breath the arrival of a fourth Wild Beasts album.

As these things are wont to do, Sunday dawns even later with the kind of melancholy that only pervades the final morning of a weekend-long shindig. What finer prescription for such malaise than a swift dose of Frankie and the Heartstrings? As my erudite companion opined, if these guys had been around 10 years ago, they’d have cleaned up, what with their jaunty melodies, whip-smart pop arrangements and a classic frontman in Frankie Francis. Their frequent appearances on the festival scene are considerable consolation.

There is no photograph of The Wave Pictures because they were so good I couldn’t drag my attention away from them to fiddle with a camera. Operating for an impressive 14 years, time has not dulled their appeal; quite the opposite: the trio are telepathic in their delivery. Whether it’s that, the clarity of the ideas contained within the casually-delivered lyrics, or perhaps the guitar which spans basic root chords and then veers off into advanced soloing in the blink of the eye, or most likely a superb blend of all three, something really clicks with these guys. Singer David Tattersall can’t help the smile creeping across his child’s face, as if he’s heard the secret of the world – and everything’s going to be OK. Like the day of meeting someone who you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, no doubt there will be many more performances by The Wave Pictures – but nothing beats the first time.

From which planet is Willis Earl Beal? Certainly he has a considerably other-worldly manner which suggests someone not quite 100% Earthling. The intensity of his performance does nothing to dissuade this notion. Accompanied by a reel-to-reel tape machine, Beal prowls the stage, howling complex, inscrutable notions to primordial beats. He wraps up by removing his thick leather belt and whacking his chair by way of improvised percussion, before swaggering offstage. He didn’t actually say, “Take me to your leader”, but one has the impression that’s what he’s thinking. [I’m not sure what to make of him either, but he is a protege of Richard Russell’s, so on that alone, he comes well recommended, doesn’t he? – Ed.]

I have it on good authority that Patrick Wolf, on grand piano and violin-as-held-like-a-guitar delivered his arch-pop with aplomb, and that Toots and the Maytals wrapped things up with – what else! – a reggae conga. And that was that. The end.

This is Beacons’ first year as Beacons – those in the know will have attended a smaller but no less vibrant event on roughly the same site called Moorfest from which Beacons has grown; yet more will have been as bitterly disappointed as the organisers were when last year’s event was cancelled due to apocalyptic flooding. Thusly, Beacons 2012 represents the culmination of many years of hopes, dreams, and the odd scary moment – the product of such a recipe was an event which had no airs or graces at all in its delivery: it simply put on top-quality entertainment in a decent bit of the countryside, and invited the punters themselves to be its beating heart.

If you sat down and thought about it for a bit, you could tell this was an early, perhaps even naïve, event – the main arena had a vast central space with nothing in it (where was the eponymous beacon?), I found programmes for sale on the last day at the back of a tent, and stuff like signage was a bit hit and miss. But by ‘eck and by gum, what am I blathering about? It’s refreshing to experience a festival that puts all its effort into the essentials, even if that means the details are a bit rough around the edges. Details can be bought, but good taste in music cannot: for that reason, Beacons deserves to flourish. And with every ticket for 2012 sold out, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Not even the weather.

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