Anyone crossing the threshold into this year’s festival arena would have been met with the view of a ‘BEACONS’ sign that is now synonymous with Hollywood. Much like the city built around cinema which the white lettering pays tribute to, the Beacons line-up reads like a celebrity A-list of who’s who in music for 2013. The only difference being whilst one valley sits in sunny California, the other resides the Yorkshire moors. The festival is a result of collaboration between a number of Leeds and Yorkshire based promoters and venues, which ensures all the acts are booked for good reason and not just the name. The effect of this is a low-ticket price and a range of acts that are current musically on both the international and local scenes.
As is the norm with smaller festivals, the band-based stages were staggered so as to allow tent hopping in order to see more acts. This led us to discovering a number of acts previously unknown to us, the first of which were Big Deal. After a hesitant start, perhaps due to their sound competing with the bass from the Red Bull Stage or the hoards of people forced into the tent from the rain, the band found their stride. Lead singer and guitarist Alice Costelloe’s combination of soaring vocals and thrashing guitars provided a perfect accompaniment to the Yorkshire rain. We then moved to the Noisey tent to see the University of York’s very own Only Real. Previous releases had suggested a lo-fi-chill-wave-rap crossbreed but nothing captured the energy and charisma that Niall Galvin produced on stage. Playing his blend of 90s influenced nostalgia pop to an enthusiastic crowd, he’s already championed online by Vice and just started to get the attention of Radio 1, so now it seems national airtime is only a short step away.
T.Williams at the Red Bull Music Accademy stage provided a perfect warm up for the evening’s headliner – Bonobo – who delivered one of the best live performances we saw not only all festival but also all year. It wasn’t until after we left the press pit and spoke to others that we learned that unless you were standing next to the speakers, the sound was either too quiet or muddy to hear properly. It soon became apparent throughout the evening that once all stages were running, the tents did little to help with the acoustics. This peaked during Oneman’s set when the signal became so distorted that we had to leave, much to the disappointment of some who had been waiting months to see him live.
Despite the issues with sound, after months following their debut 7” ‘Fluffy’, Wolf Alice proved a perfect fit for the main stage. Having enlisted two new members, the band have developed from their original guitar heavy rock into making beautifully melodic pop rock. Wolf Alice were one of our personal highlights, though we kept finding more due to the small site making each new band right round the corner. Other highlights included: joining the incredibly humble Local Natives for a Yorkshire ale after their headline slot on Saturday; staying firmly locked at the Residential Advisor stage on Sunday for the two hours of sun drenched musical magic from Floating Points, and sampling all that the Whitelock’s beer tent offered, alongside the both affordable and delicious vegetarian food from Ghandi’s Flip Flop.
The weekend was finished with a triple bill of Danny Brown, SBTRKT and Django Django at the main stage that cemented the opinion that Beacons had one of the best selections of acts that any of us had seen at any festival this year. The site felt busy without feeling cramped, and we certainly didn’t do the ol’ ‘queue loads and pay loads’ thing that’s become a festival tradition. Not even the rain on Saturday was a problem due to the foresight of the organisers to put all the stages in tents. The only problem then? For a festival based around music, the sound wasn’t good enough. Let’s hope they sort it out for next year and they will be on to a winner.By Will Olenski