Celebrating Yorkshire's finest
Ghostpoet - Beacons Festival 2012

2012 hasn’t been a bad summer for Yorkshire. As a suited and booted Roots Manuva acknowledges in his propulsive Friday night headline set, athletes from these green hills ran away with seven gold medals in London earlier this month.

This brings an unfamiliar sense of optimism to the north of England, perfectly setting the scene for 4,000 or so people to lap up this boutique festival’s discerning line-up. After being unceremoniously rained off last year, Beacons is back.

The cruel post-punk of Savages takes the first night by the scruff of the neck and wrings it without mercy. Every so often a set reaffirms your faith in the ability of live music to turn individuals in a crowd into sweaty cogs in the same machine. This was one of them.

Numerous Yorkshire bands were cherry picked to play across the weekend, ranging from local lads done good, Wild Beasts, to those hoping to follow in their footsteps. The extroverted pop rhythms of Antibangs, a seven-piece band studying at Leeds Uni, stick in the memory, but that might have had something to do with each member being semi-naked with faces daubed in silver paint.

Now removed, but no less attached to these beautiful and dramatic surroundings, Wild Beasts receive a rapturous homecoming welcome. Sensuous and meticulously played tracks from last year’s ‘Smother’ continue to transmit surprisingly well live, while older songs ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ and ‘All the King’s Men’ ensure the set boils over into a sweaty orgy of adoration for the band by its end.

Elsewhere, Factory Floor ran a marathon of industrial electro, their tireless drummer working overtime to pin down the aggressively hypnotic synths with continuously inventive fills, before Andrew Weatherall’s otherworldly DJ set warmed the cockles of a tent packed full with soggy revellers.

Paws, Mazes, Gross Magic and Holograms provided an abundance of fuzzy lo-fi rock over the weekend, while Ghostpoet’s late-night, plaintive musings got a shot in the arm from his live band, energising the crowd and turning the set into one of the weekend’s most memorable.

Fans of bookish Americana were well catered for on Saturday, with the striking simplicity of Cass McCombs followed by an intimate set from the promising Grass House, who, despite being made up of northeners, look and sound for all the world as if they’ve taken up the lease in Bon Iver’s cabin.

On the final day, Willis Earl Beal, black cape across his huge frame, made the startling jump from lo-fi to hi-fi, departing the main stage drenched in sweat, his combo of tape machine, guitar and impossibly booming voice leaving mouths agape. Then, it was the turn of Toots & the Maytals to bring this all-encompassing festival, overflowing with musical enthusiasm, to a close in the way only true reggae legends can, embraced by the audience after playing a setlist with “crowd pleaser” written all over it.

Words by Nico Franks
Photo by Danny Payne

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

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