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Friday, 23 August 2013 00:00

Beacons Festival 2013

by Susan Darlington

Carleton, Yorkshire

Beacons has endured a painful birth. The inaugural festival was rained off in 2011 and last year's moved to a less flood-prone site on the outskirts of Skipton but third time round and key elements are finally slotting into place.

The capacity for the boutique festival has doubled to 7,500 and the site resembles an exploded circus, with colourful big tops nestling against a golf ball-shaped trance and projection dome, "diddy rascals" family field and a chilled-out, fairy-lit woodland tent.

The variety and size of the marquees, which range from the main stage right down to mobile caravans, reflects the diverse nature of activities on offer.

There's yoga, wood carving and fanzine workshops for those not enjoying the local real ale tent or whisky tastings, a mad hatter's tea party with in-house '50s band, a lecture and film tent with Q&As from the likes of director Shane Meadows and former Chumbawamba member Dunstan Bruce, a frontiers of the future fancy dress theme and art installations that resemble glowing alien eggs.

These art and craft stages are scattered across the tiered camp site, which has the unfortunate side effect of them being easily overlooked. This is all the more regrettable given the occasionally confused scheduling across the two main music stages, with times when both are vacant instead of acts being staggered between them.

Despite this enthusiastically amateurish organisation, the leftfield music on offer is refreshingly diverse. The genre spanning line-up takes in hyped R&B disco minx Lulu James, the chilled-out hip hop of Bonobo, the mad-cap musical science of Being 747, indie-rock folksters Local Natives, the ephemeral folk of Nancy Elizabeth and the acoustic bluegrass of Jacobean Rough.

Affording equal status to established and hotly tipped talent, the ascent of some of its stars has clearly risen since they were booked. Neo-punk goth quartet Savages and post-modern, lounge-pop and cabaret performer Julia Holter have both outgrown the stages on which they perform.

Art punk godfathers Wire also seem somewhat misplaced on the second stage, with most of the audience being swept up in a giant mosh pit as the quartet's angular guitars reach spindly fever pitch.

If there's one act that unifies the festival then it's Sunday's main stage headliners Django Django. Blending surf with tribal drums and psychedelica, their multi-layered projections have to visually contend with an audience member's beer can skewered sword. They nonetheless command attention by persuading the entire audience to crouch on the floor and rise en masse during Wor.

It's a moment that defines the Mercury Award nominated outfit's set and which helps to create a feel-good, chilled-out atmosphere that perfectly sums up the Beacons ethos.

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