16th – 18th August 2013
Heslaker Farm, Skipton
Following a last minute cancellation of their first ever year in 2011 due to flooding, you’d have been forgiven for reading Beacons Festival’s last rights. I mean, boutique festivals like this are becoming more and more disposable in Austerity Britain. It seems that for every one that opens another closes, which creates a worrying instability among an industry so important to British arts culture. Two years later though, and Beacons has crawled back from the depths of extinction with one of the best lineups this summer, sitting firmly among a group of UK festivals with capacities of less than three thousand offering more concentrated lineups for prices that don’t resemble German hyperinflation.
Like many UK festivals, Beacons is jumping on the healthy UK electronic music scene. Friday's headliner BONOBO already has an album of the year under his belt, bringing his sample heavy, multifaceted style of music further towards mainstream culture with the clean vocals of long-term collaborator Bajka. Arguably the best booking of the festival though, comes in the form of Barcelona producer JOHN TALABOT. I mean take it from someone who Google’s ‘John Talabot UK Date’ almost daily, this is going to be unreal. His debut album Fin was a highlight of 2012 and is one of the most accomplished debut albums from any producer this decade, with tracks like So Will Be Now and Destiny providing a master class in supersaturated aesthetic and build and release. It’s house music, lost in heavy curtains of synths and a sea of fog claps; wickedly infectious and deliriously exciting. BEN UFO has deservedly earned the title of the best selector in the UK right now, making any set by the Hessle Audio co-founder un-missable. Lancaster’s BONDAX brought Liverpool one of its best sets in memory at Abandon Silence last year, and with their debut album set for release in the coming months, you’d bet your house on the young duo reaching Disclosure level heights by the end of the year. Catch them now before you’re forced to pretend you hate them. Surrey’s VONDLEPARK are glaringly low on Friday’s bill, so make sure you arrive nice and early to witness their sultry, 80s tinged take on R&B (if you need any more persuasion, just stick on Quest and thank me later). GOLD PANDA’s excellent second album Half of Where You Live was stunning in its breadth, with an array of gawky, arrhythmic directions coming together to form a fearsome whole, landing the Berlin based producer at the summit of Saturday’s lineup. FLOATING POINTS falls on the more elegant side of electronic music and has been called the ‘brainy heir to Four-Tet’s London Throne’ (me neither). His set on Sunday will create a menacing fog around those Yorkshire hills though, with tracks like ARP3 and Vacuum Boogie pushing those third day festival blues to their limits.
There is something to offer for those who don’t fancy spending the weekend gurning their face inside out, with LOCAL NATIVES sitting atop of an impressive group of guitar-based acts. Renowned for their gorgeous harmonies and vocal counterpoint, the LA group will be showcasing their excellent album Hummingbird to Saturday evening’s main stage revelers. Birmingham’s JAWS are the closest the UK has got to a Californian paradise, propping up a strong group of UK bands alongside the likes of DJANGO DJANGO, HOOKWORMS, DRENGE and the enigmatic SKY LARKIN.
The lineup is impressive in its diversity. With one of the best electronic music bills this summer, it would be easy for them to sit among the likes of Gottwood and Dimensions as a specialised Electronic Music festival. Instead though, they have balanced it with a healthy portion of guitar-based music. I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the former, far from it, but anyone who has spent a weekend watching DJ sets on another fucking planet will know that it is an exhausting experience. The drug culture that surrounds it is also something that detracts many lovers of UK electronic music from attending such events. So this amalgamation of two essential UK music scenes will provide a perfect platform for the many crossover fans that already exist to see the shit they love and to feel like they belong. I know it probably isn’t nearly as contrived as I’m making out, but try saying that when you’re hiding in a tent at Creamfields because some dude in a mankini is trying to sell you a Gary for twenty quid.