As the weeks drew closer to my first ever visit to Bearded Theory I was pensively looking at the long range weather forecast. Rain. Lots of it. It didn’t bode well, despite the frankly amazing line-up of acts and the potential for new discoveries. The sticking point for me was not really liking camping very much. Being less than an hour from home, I suppose heading home each day wouldn’t be impossible – as it turned out, the camping wasn’t so bad.
Luckily for me Linda and Lou insisted I go and camp with them – so I met them on Thursday in the carpark and we set up in a likely looking spot – starting with a 5m by 3m shelter (thereafter dubbed ‘the erection’) which proved invaluable as a sitting spot during down time. After a few attempts we got the shelter looking like it should and duly pitched our tents around it including one for an arrival in the morning.
Nearby were plenty of Ferocious Dog types so there were plenty of people to chat to, and with Simon and Lynn arriving at our camp later, as well as Mike and Martine camping nearby too there was a great community vibe going on once we were fully underway.
However, back to Thursday night eventually we headed off to see the not particularly secret gigs in the Lock Inn tent. One awesome thing about Bearded Theory is the laid back attitude to people bringing their own alcohol, not only is it fine to do this in the campsites, but in the arena too it’s absolutely fine, the only rule was a reasonable request to not bring glass onto the site. That said, we still bought a fair few beers!
Whilst I’m bound to forget notable things I saw during the weekend, it opened stormingly with Ferocious Dog and then 3 Daft Monkeys taking to the Lock Inn stage. A chance to get a mosh in early doors is always good, and getting to be ‘the surfboard’ during Freeborn John a personal highlight in my now not inconsiderable journey following the band around – even if the security got a little over-zealous and tried to eject Dean from the premises, order was restored – as was the song, and the surf.
Other musical highlights in no particular order (and probably missing some) were scattered around the venues – in the Something Else Tea Tent we were treated to awesome performances by the Star Botherers, Red Ruff, Brad Dear, Gentle Kitten (arf) and annoyingly missed the Beanfeast Banjos. In Tornado Town we were treated to Whisky Stain, Bootscraper, Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons and The Beards whilst the main stage played host to Goldblade, Reverend and the Makers, New Model Army, Asian Dub Foundation and – of course – The Levellers.
I didn’t spend much time in the Magical Sounds tent although enjoyed from afar the sounds of the Peatbog Faeries, and found that Subgiant had a strangely soporific effect from the campsite nearby as it lulled me to sleep. Not quite so much the case for A Guy Called Gerald who was a bit more jarring when trying to find a comfy position whilst clothed in many layers inside a sleeping bag!
There was loads more too – but when you’re addled with cider, beer and/or rum then you don’t remember all of it, and looking idly at the line-up on the Bearded Theory website makes me think “Oh, how did I manage to miss that too?” I’m not too downhearted by that though as I saw some really cracking new bands, a few that I’m not too bothered about and some consumately awesome performances from bands I’m more familiar with.
As well as drinking my own booze we also sampled a few of the ales available at the festival – they’re reasonably priced (in the beer tents – the Lock Inn was quite pricey) and tasty. The thing that consumed most of my cash over the weekend was the awesome array of food though! I had brought quite a lot of food with me, but found that both the quality and reasonable prices – we had toasties, pies with mash, shish-kebabs, halloumi, hotdogs, burgers and still managed to not visit ever vendor – not to mention an excellent full Welsh breakfast every morning to set us up.
Having said that, the restorative powers of ‘Betty’ the gas stove was needed to mobilise us for breakfast – Lou’s coffee making skills of a morning came with a high billing, and she certainly didn’t disappoint. Betty did run out of gas literally come the final day, but we were rescued by one of our kind neighbours who let us pinch a bit of theirs. There’s no way I’d have had a gas stove and kettle if camping alone!
The pervading thing about the whole weekend was the laid back and easy vibe from staff and visitors alike – with the weather not as bad as feared spirits were high and fun was had. The participation rate for the final day fancy dress and beard-wearing speaks volumes for the crowd – as well as the considerable number of folk I already knew there, I met plenty more who seemed to have a similar mindset of having a great time without being an arse.
On the slightly less positive side there were tent thefts on the first couple of nights – many quite close to us, however the security team really excelled themselves and managed to capture and detain a group of them and hand them over to police custody and take steps to return people’s property – but that and a bit of rain on the Friday night were really the only blemishes on an otherwise splendid weekend of good friends, good music, good drink and good food.
Definitely a festival to recommend – my favourite performances of familiar bands was undoubtedly delivered courtesy of the Levellers, Ferocious Dog and 3 Daft Monkeys, whilst new discoveries like The Star Botherers (‘Bad Guy’ might well be song-of-the-weekend for me), Red Ruff, Whisky Stain, The Beards and Bootscraper will all be future welcome additions to my playlists and gig-going. I’ve been enjoying the photos filtering through on Facebook – just Linda’s to go I think.. c’mon Linda, get a move on!