Bearded Theory Festival 2024

  • Mark Cartwright posted
  • Reviews

Bearded Theory Festival 2024

Catton Hall Derbyshire - May 23rd - 26th 2024

Disclaimer….. this review may go on a little, if you’re of a restless nature, or suffer from the need to go for a beer now and then, please feel free, we at The Punk Site take no responsibility for your sanity! So if you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin!

Bearded Theory is among the first of the festivals held throughout the year, and has the distinction of still being an independent, and one of the best of the bunch too. So getting an invite as the The Punk Site representative for this year was and is an honour. This festival is in our eyes one that stands up there with Rebellion Festival and Manchester Punk Festival for championing new and varied music, it caters for the music lovers who are looking for bands that are diverse, but it also holds the enough respect for the established artists too. It’s a Wednesday afternoon when the time finally comes to set off all packed up and raring for an amazing time in the fields, even the torrential rain of the day has not dampened our or the organisers enthusiasm for what we are about to embark on.  

Arriving at Catton Hall show ground which hosts Bearded Theory at a late 7:30pm after a wet and miserable journey, we are greeted with some wonderfully smiling security, who showed us to our grass field spot, which by the way was not as bad as expected and plenty big enough for all our needs. This was time enough to get organised and catch some of the Pet Needs set, albeit from outside a packed tent. Being that it was now around 10pm and the end of a long day, we still managed to catch the wood cutter man (sorry missed the full name) in the Tea Tent doing his anarchic best to end our night brilliantly, off for much needed sleep and ready to tackle Thursday I’d say.

Thursday 

After a very restful night in a very quite field, apart from the wind and rain, its time for the obligatory bacon bun and coffee to start the festival day, a wash and brush up (showers are freely available at Bearded Theory too) and some hair of the dog, we pick up our press and photo passes from the amazingly friendly accreditation team, and its in we go for what has had to be a very changed schedule due to some impromptu swimming pools popping up around site. It’s never easy getting around and organising yourself when the bands are not on at the times you planned, but good on Bearded Theory for working so hard so we actually had a Thursday.

First band I managed to catch most of was Total Luck a loud brash trio who’s music was akin to the punk of the of the early 80’s but with their own hardcore sensibilities, the tent was full and the crowd went away happy, what more could you ask.  Next up came Berries, another trio but with a less snarly approach to their hard hitting catchy songs, this might only be 3pm, but this mattered not to a band who put their all into a great set.

Days go oh so quickly when you’re smashing through crowds and trying to take in all that’s around you, food came next, and Bearded Theory never lacks in it’s quantity and quality of food vendors. So before we knew it was 6.15pm and Battlesnake from Oz are up on the Pallet stage (which gets its name, because the original main stage was made up of pallets). This was a band that peaked my interest before this show, and after witnessing their full on Rock Metal theatrics its no wonder they got some attention, live they present a show and give an almost Queen feel to what is essentially Judas Priest meeting their apocalypse. This was met by a very enthusiastic crowd, even the appearance of a black dildo on a pole sent on stage by a fan was taken with full approval, this band where the surprise of the fest… so far.  How do you follow that, well Sprints did, theirs was a totally different kind of energy, an indie box of political yet refreshingly easy listing punk rock. And that was it for the day for us, although even on this “quieter day” the party went on with until the small hours with music and silent discos.

Friday

Here we go again!, yes this is a festival that just ramps it up just a little more every day, Gen And The Degenerates kicked it all off for us, and what a way to do this. A band that definitely deserve a higher spot on the bill in future, with songs that cover many issues, but at the forefront is the gender divides that should never be a barrier. Songs like Post-Cool, Big Hit Single and All Figured Out, the dancing shoes and punk boots both got their turn, a proper smash it out of the tent moment that could, and should, give this band the chance they deserve to shine so much brighter to even more music lovers.

How do you split yourself into five or six and head off into the wilds of a festival that has something for everyone, well of course you can’t, so here goes with the moments I did manage to catch on my third day. Meryl Streek on the Woodland Stage was next, I’ve seen Meryl on many occasion, this was up there with his best for me, in the daylight (very unusual) and in front of an audience of old and most definitely new fans, he got them dancing, whilst also giving them some in your face no holds barred truths. Jumping across from there to the Meadow Stage to catch IST IST with their Mancunian take on dark indie/alternative, a set in front of a pretty much full tent went down a treat. This was followed by the molotov cocktail of humanity loving, Terf hating Lambrini Girls, they are a band who divide or conquer in my opinion, the songs say it all, Terf Wars, Boys In The Band, and Body Of Mine come to mind, but the crowd surf got the biggest point across about this band, they wanna show just how safe it should be to be at one of their shows. We then made a dash back to The Woodlands Stage to catch some of LIINES set, a band that have grown and grown in stature, their very danceable indie sound was in full effect with the crowd, to hear someone say “i’ve never seen these before, but wow I’ll be looking fro them again” says it all. Being that this was a stage that suffered badly because of the rain on the first day, it was amazing to be able to hang around for two more bands in the woods. Headsticks brought their folk/punk/indie sound to this wonderful stage, they bring a music that comes directly from the heart of communities and life in a real sense, Cold Grey English Skies and Peace & Quiet are stand outs that hold so much love with fans, but this event has brought them even more fans I’d say.  

Not going anywhere other than to top up refreshments and check out a few nearby traders stalls, His Lordship was next up, this was a band I’d missed on a number of occasion in my local venues, so to get the chance to see them play at Bearded Theory was just awesome. Did they live up to the hype, YES!, a sound that just oozes life and energy, music that has you in the palm of their hands within moments, Jazz/Blues/Rock/Punk and everything else in-between is what they do, one of the tightest, hottest sensations in music to grace a stage you could have ever imagined, highlights were aplenty at this festival, and this band sit right at the top of the list.

Boy does the day go quickly when the music and fun just keeps coming at you. It was now time to drop in on the main Pallet Stage and set up for the top three headliners, Bob Vylan, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and Future Islands. Bob Vylan were up first, and this was the biggest crowd I personally have witnessed them play in front of, the smallest was around 100 people in Stockton-On-Tees, and they stepped it up with ease, the songs do it all of course. The song that probably broke him to us all, We Live Here, and Pretty Songs stood out, but the new album got an outing too, a slightly more chilled sound, but just as hard hitting. Some food from one of the many top vendors and some beer from the bar filled in the gap before Dexy’s Midnight Runners, who pretty much are Kevin Rowland now, we’re talking soulful Jackie Wilson/Sam & Dave and everything in-between, which went down a treat with this very discerning crowd. They did of course explode into the hits like Jackie Wilson Said, Come On Eileen and of course Gino to send everyone away feeling loved and happy.

Future Islands hit the stage next, just after some great chatting and meeting of new friends went on, a must at a festival like this a “for everyone” weekend. This band are a law unto themselves, with passion in more abundance than any other, synth pop thats littered with every other genre at times, a lyrical darkness lurks behind the upbeat sounds, but what’s never missing is the need to give every word a life. That’s Friday done, for us anyway, I’ll say it again, if you’re a party animal, you’ll never be left wondering what to do next at this festival, dance, comedy, poetry and so much more is still on hand until the early hours.

Saturday

Day three and a bit for us now, and the weather has smiled on us, we now have a combination of mud and sun cream being splashed around, all this mixed with a sense of happiness can be felt from every face you see on the way from the campsite to the fields of wonder and music. This was a day when trying to plan what to do or cover was going to be a little less hectic, but hey this is never going to be set in stone.

Jess Silk on the Woodland Stage was a target to head for first, the Billy Bragg of the day is what I’d describe the music and words Jess puts across, the wooded area was so full of love when Jess started, and ended with even more when Jess finished, ending with If Home Is Where The Heart Is gave all in the woods a chance to hug and show the love that we should all have for each other, well done Bearded Theory for giving Jess the platform.  Getting over to what is the most eclectic yet still Punk tent next, Convoy Cabaret could have been our home for the weekend, but spreading the wings has to be done too. We caught the end of Spanner and their “music for social change and not profit” was worth the every second of the time we got.  

Then on came the band that we simply decided “like the name, lets go check em out” Daffodildos, punk rock at its simple best is what I’d have described them as, looking a little like Rubella Ballet, but with their own identity musically. Animals is a song that stuck in my mind, and still does. It’s hard to listen to song from the the abattoir giving the animals point of view, “why me, can they hear my screams” (if wrong wording, I apologise, but it’s the point that matters) makes me cry just typing it. Give this band a listen and catch em live, you won’t regret it. Having so many bands to go check out, it would also have been remiss of us to look around the rest of the festival site, so taking a break and seeing what this truly for everyone festival offers was the plan for at least another hour or so. A massage for the girls and then we sauntered around taking in the craft area, earth area, kids area, fair ground and traders that not only sell the usual festival garb, but also they give room to artisans. This all done, it just happened that the Punk Rock Factory were playing on the Pallet Stage, a punk covers band that fully entertained the audience with punked up Power Rangers and the like, which gave a sense of this is music for everyone again.  

Jim Bob then followed on with a set from a legend in the musical and literal world, songs that give thought a chance, speak of politics, and are backed by a soundscape of melodics that just soar. This is when the decision was made to make camp here at the main arena, enjoy the drink, food and company. Wargasm were the next band to enter the fray, a tornado of heavy rock. They stepped onto stage with Slipknot playing (got me right there), a very visual band for sure, and music that strikes of Nu Metal crossed with Electronica, this was a blast of frenetic energy for sure, any thought that you might not last the day was now lost in taking in the ball of fire in front of you.

Setting the scene, the sun is still in the sky, the fields of people were chatting, dancing, eating, drinking and generally having an amazing time, now Sleaford Mods are due on, but just before this happens, I rush down to catch a few of Shanghai Treason’s set in the Maui Waui Tent, and yes its was worth it to listen to the Sheffield bands Celtic Folk Punk bangers. But off back again to another great duo just walking out, the Sleaford Mods have an air of marmite to some, but those who know, know. If you can sit and listen to the mods with songs like Nudge It, TCR, BHS or their version of West End Girls without tapping your feet, nodding your head or even just repeating back the chorus, your probably already dead!.

Bang, we are now on almost 9.30pm and the day has flown by again, Janes Addiction are due up, having not released any new music since around 2011, this was always gonna be a bit of a reminiscing exercise for most, the Psychedelic Rock band hit the stage with an air of legend, and the crowd appreciated this massively.  Did they grip me for the whole set, no, did they entertain the hardened fans yes, but still, as I’ve gone to pains to explain, this is a festival for all, a mix of everything to hopefully entertain.  Its the old people time again now, bed is calling and we make our escape with another day still to go.

Sunday   

After four days and a bit, getting to Sunday is most definitely a bonus for us older festival goers, but believe me, there are many here older than I am and still partying hard. Penetration on the Pallet Stage was our second aim, but sadly our first Problem Patterns fell by the wayside, yes we slept in and didn’t get over in time, so Penetration won. Being the second band I ever saw live back in 1979 when I was 15, so seeing Pauline Murray (Vocals) and Robert Blamire (bass) on the main stage at a festival in 2024 has to be something I could never have predicted, they hit the jackpot for me with the set too, with songs like Future Daze, Free Money, Don’t Dictate, Lovers Of Outrage, Danger Signs and finishing with the punk mantra Shout Above The Noise, they wowed me and hopefully gained more Penetration fans. Seeing as this is the final day and maybe your just as tired of reading this review as I was by this time in the proceedings, so as not to make this any harder than it could be and yet still give you a sense of just how great Bearded Theory actually is, I’ll lay down the bands I managed to watch and let you know my thoughts in a condensed way.

Heading in to the Tea Tent which is the relaxed coffee and cake place with poetry and music, we caught the wordsmith Laura Taylor why was amazingly talented and funny and damn clever too. Then in the same venue Cherry & Peesh wowed us and everyone else who made it with their musical poetry, Punk Mum, Lady Kokaine and John Cooper Clarke’sTwat’ being some of the highlights. Then off again into the Woodlands to catch the truly special Big Special, a punk duo who give a whole new twist on the political and social side of life in Britain, with a witty side thats punctuated by vocal and musical explosions. This is without doubt a band who deserve to be propelled into the wider world.  Having to cut this set a little short, it was a must to run over to the best tent in the fields, Convoy Cabaret was hosting the phenomenon that is Anarchistwood, if anarchy was to be personified in a band, this would be it, art and music that challenges the status quo, with such a visual amazingness, you’ll never forget them, performance art at its very very best.  

Wizzing back across to Woodlands just in time for the irregular/eccentric and legendary all at the same time Ed Tudor Pole, bringing us his country/soul songs and the hits to finish off of course, as one of my friends pointed out “He’s mad as a box of frogs, but brilliant with it”, no truer word said. From there we have now only to slide across to the main arena, grab food and sustenance then Dinosaur Jr were ready to entertain with some huge grunge rock monsters, and after a few sound issues that I actually thought were on purpose (deafening lead guitar sound), they filled an hour with enough power to keep most of the crowd happy.

Then and almost finally, the moment that I’m pretty sure nearly all of us had been waiting for all weekend, the whirlwind that is Amyl And The Sniffers entered our world, to say that they were as good a headline as I’d ever seen, was a little of an understatement, with Amy prowling around the stage like an untameable Tasmanian devil and giving as good as she gets to all the critics (if there are any), this was a moment to savour. The vocal delivery of songs that deliver on a world thats been lived in by Amy and all the shit that comes with it, is so down to earth that it’s like sitting in your local pub and talking with your mates, but at breakneck speed on stage. A WWE match up with the audience and the band, is what it felt like at times, but with so much energy emanating from the crowd for the band, it’s impossible to see any winner, because they are both winners, so much love given from both sides.

Are we done, well no, because on the way back after that barn storming set from Amyl And The Sniffers, it just happens that Convoy Cabaret have there own headliner on stage, Riskee And The Ridicule are said band, and in no way do they pale in comparison to what we have just witnessed, the set they gave us shows just how all bands have a place and just because your in front of 60 people and not 6,000 doesn’t matter a jot.  If you ever want to see a band who give every single ounce of their being to a show, play songs that live in the real world, with music that mixes hip-hop with hardcore and a hint of metal to create a sound that’s second to none. This was how you finish a festival!!!

Here is the link to all my photo’s from the festival, be aware there are many!, and updating as I go.