Before regulation, before the awful Criminal Justice Act of 1994, before corporate sponsorship and sound limiters, there was the festival. If you cast your gaze back, across videos of Terry Reid playing the Glastonbury Fayre of 1971 or later, Spiral Tribe at Castlemorton in 1992, you get a sense of the freedom and creativity that gatherings of like-minded and switched on individuals have the potential to produce. Unfortunately, many of us are too young to remember such a world. That isn’t to say that freeparties are dead, far from it in fact, or that there is no potential left in the contemporary; merely that legal, cultural and financial constraints have tempered a movement that once boasted a seemingly ineffable vitality… just go to V if you don’t believe me. Luckily for us poor souls, born in the 80’s or later, some fine people have carried that spirit forward and nowhere, I stress NOWHERE in the modern, legal festival circuit is that embodied more so than in Beatherder.


By party people, for party people, Beatherder takes a hardline, anti-corporate stance; you won’t find any £7 rat burgers or Kopparberg banners here, just good old-fashioned, dirty fun. From the exquisitely chosen line-up, to the rave-like Toiltrees arena, the plethora of art installations, to the secret, hidden stages; the overall vibe screams vibrance and community. No attitude, no ego, even the security are sound! It’s no secret that we here at JAM absolutely rush off of this festival and we guarantee that if you make it down, you will too. This year may even have been the best yet and we were privileged enough to have front row seats at this theatre of sublime carnage. If you were lucky enough to share the fields with us then be ready to get nostalgic, if not then be ready to get jealous. We’re happy to present our pick of the weekend for you and we hope you enjoy the article.


Opening the Mainstage to a crowd of about three were the Leeds based outfit, After Hours Quintet. It’s lucky for them that they’re killer though as the three quickly turned into at least three hundred, early doors audiences don’t get much better than that. As if that wasn’t enough of a testament to their ability, they were invited to play again on the Stumblefunk stage the next day. Fusing Jazz with funky bass lines, the Quintet come close to Electro-Swing without dipping their feet to deeply in the generic puddle, clearly encompassing a wider range of influences, mostly notably Hip-Hop beats. The shear talent of these musicians, combined with the mighty Ocelus standing in for their usual man on live production duty, meant that although seen by few, the AHQ were one on the stand out performances of the weekend.


It’s easy to forget just how many tunes that you know the words to that this band are responsible for but when you hear Chic Featuring Nile Rogers, you immediately remember that these guys owned an era of music and paved the way, in terms of covers and sampling, for a whole lot more. The likes of ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance’, although a little cheesy, remain eminently danceable songs and judging by the crowd that came to see them play, they have an avid following even in the generational offspring of their original audience; no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination! Nile himself retains every ounce of swagger and presence, with the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout, despite early technical difficulties. If any single one of you reading this manages to hold onto half of the talent and/or passion of this man at a corresponding age then count yourselves extremely lucky.


La La & The Booya absolutely destroyed the Stumblefunk tent on the Friday night. Musically pretty difficult to pin down in terms of genre, which is most certainly a virtue, they’re probably best described as containing elements of Jungle, Ragga, Electronica, Breakbeat, Dubstep and even, dare I say it, Folk. Their sound fuses into something as playful as it is heartfelt, as heavy as it is delicate, and as fascinating as they are to listen to on record, this is an act that really come into their own in person; once seen, never forgotten. Their debut single ‘Lioness’ really shows what this outfit are capable of, hopelessly beautiful, even haunting in places, whilst still keeping the crowd moving and uplifted, LL&TBY always seem to be having at least as much fun as the audience. Slowly introducing an array of musicians and even a second vocalist for much of the set, they transcended dance music as a whole (whilst still being a joy to dance to), becoming something far more compelling. SEE THEM!


It’s always a nice surprise to run into an awesome band in an unexpected place and walking past a pop-up stage so small it lacked a name, on the way to somewhere else, JAM ran into Francobollo. Hailing from Sweden, this five piece sound like a cross between The Pixies, Nirvana (circa ‘Bleach’) and The Stooges, although come off a little like Weezer at times. Buckets of energy and a Garage-Rock vibe kept us more than interested as they tore through their set, even in front of a miniscule crowd the intensity they brought was staggering. Not scared of throwing shapes these guys could have been on a the Mainstage and done little else, although it just didn’t look like they cared; it could have been two in the crowd or two thousand. Their EP ‘Harpholma’ is available on the tinterwebs and it is strongly suggested that you get a copy.


Filling in for a late cancellation, professional mentalists China Shop Bull didn’t so much fill boots as take the boots, pissed in them and sling them off a roof at unsuspecting passers-by for a laugh. Having supported bands as diverse as Voodoo Glow Skulls, Dreadzone, Dub Pistols and Sonic Boom Six, it’s no wonder that a prime adjective to describe CSB is eclectic but this six piece’s solid Skacore foundation is truly brought to life by a healthy dose of heavy amen breaks and live electronics. Skapunk Rave isn’t a genre you’d some across often, however songs with titles like ‘Brain In A Jar’ and ‘Seratonin Bomb’ give you a good idea of what it’s all about. Shredding guitar, blaring brass and dirty beats were topped off by top quality crowd interaction culminating in a spot of inflatable dingy crowd-surfing. All in all; way too much fun!


A member of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, the only living recipient of the Order Of Merit, the highest honour the Jamaican government can bestow for service to the arts, the creator of ‘Hakuna Matata’ from the Lion King soundtrack (bet you didn’t know that) and a friend of Bob Marley himself, Jimmy Cliff starred in ‘The Harder They Come’, the film that brought Reggae music to the masses. At 66 he is still everything you want him to be and Jimmy’s appearance on the Mainstage really was one of the treats of the whole Beatherder. With tunes like ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ and ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, the latter of which actually raised hairs, pumping out in the warm evening sun, it was as if sound and space converged perfectly. A showman to the last, Jimmy Cliff is truly remarkable.


THE standout performance of the entire weekend has to go, hands down, to the mighty Slamboree. Part band, part circus troupe, combining Balkan strings with funky horns and dirty beats, all set to contemporary, vaudevillian stage performances ranging from fire eating and hammering nails into the face to the Hula Hoop, this is something completely unique and instantly arresting. Fronted by the inimitable Kathika Rabbit, whose vocal talents extend from the hugely soulful to Ragga spitting and backed up by a band and producer of incredible talent, this must have been one of (if not the) biggest crowds they have ever played to and they SMASHED IT! From start to finish everyone lapped it up, with Kathika and support dancers The Booty Skool Dropouts’ sojourns in the audience hardly hurting the mood. The high point of proceedings was their rendition of the already massively popular ‘The Death Of A Festival’, the video for which for which was filmed only a week before at Glastonbury, with producer and DJ Freear, standing in for Beans On Toast in an unrehearsed vocal debut. The energy and joy in the simple act of performance was simply infectious and if you have a chance to see these guys, you’d be an idiot not to. “The festival’s not dead!!!”


Beatherder 2013 was an unequivocal success. Although there was some moaning about sound limitations, these small gripes are far outweighed by the overall community and atmosphere of the experience. If raving on top of cars, dancing to funk in a hand-made chapel, finding the secret disco, shacking out in a forest, having it at the Mainstage, skanking in the Stumblefunk tent or just chilling with ten or so thousand diamonds is up your alley then you know what you need to do next July… We’ll see you in the fields.

Images & Words: Benjamin Paul

Lead Image: James Abbott Donnelly (Courtesy Of Beatherder)

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