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Festival Review: Beat-Herder 2017

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Once a year a very special patch of farmland in the Ribble Valley is cleared of sheep and becomes The Beat-Herder Festival. The setting that emerges from that festival-creation-chrysalis is unique, purpose-built and enthralling.

While Beat-Herder’s main stage is fairly conventional, it’s about the only thing in the festival grounds that is. Elsewhere ‘the Fortress’ plays host to some of Beat-Herder’s most intense DJ sets inside the confines of an actual fortress. A fortress which occasionally shoots flames ten feet into the air above it because… why not?

Not far away ‘The Ring’ offers drum and bass in a setting that looks like it would suit hosting gladiatorial combat as much as music, while just up the hill ‘Trash Manor’ offers still more depth to the roster of acts on offer.

‘Toil Trees’, a large forest at the back of the arena area hosted some of the biggest names.

Friday's opening night saw an entertaining set from Denis Sulta and Glasgow’s Jackmaster at his genre mixing best.

The globe-trotting Scot mixed elements of house, funk, disco, techno and more besides. With enraptured festival goers in the palm of his hand he became a Toil Trees highlight. 

On Saturday Faithless and Sonny Fodera would follow suit in that unique setting. The ‘enchanted forest’ vibe carefully crafted by the festivals organisers’ worked perfectly, especially as night fell over the arena. 

(Photo by: James Cray https://www.jamescray.co.uk/ | © 2018 Duke Studios http://www.duke-studios.com/)

Beat-Herder’s main stage has the remarkable local landmark, Pendle Hill, just off to the right behind it and the whole arena is surrounded by -and indeed part of- the picturesque Lancastrian farm-scape of the Ribble Valley. Some still more remarkable sights were to be found on the stage itself though over the course of the weekend…

Milky Chance delivered a subtle blend of acoustic and electronic sound and were an early highlight on Friday. ‘Stolen Dance’ was a fitting crowd pleaser late on in the set, with the likes of ‘Ego’ also featuring. 

The German group are made particularly distinctive by both that blending of sound and the vocals of front-man Clemens Rehbein. Their hybrid sound saw DJ, Phillip Dausch, take to the stage alongside Rehbein and guitarist Antonion Greger. Together they gradually started warming up an excitable crowd in-front of the main stage. 

(Photo by: Christopher Werrett https://www.cwphotographics.com/| © 2017 Duke Studios http://www.duke-studios.com/)

On Saturday the Sugarhill Gang were a sight as surreal and out of place as they were welcome and they received a tremendous reception.

The remaining members entertained with classics, ‘Apache’ and of course their effervescent 1979 hit ‘Rappers Delight’. While they could be accused of padding the set out around their biggest flagship songs, with crowd interaction and a strange half-baked medley-cover section, they were still hugely energetic and entertaining.

Later and in sharp contrast, the politically-charged anger of Sleaford Mods would take to the Beat-Herder stage with a performance of equally impressive energy levels from front-man Jason Williamson. An enthralling and unique cocktail of cynical humour, anger and political commentary brought Sleaford Mods into the limelight they stand in today and they delivered a musical blow at full force.

Sleaford Mods made their Beat-Herder debut with their Saturday appearance and it was one to remember. The energy that typifies Jason Williamson's work saw him tirade in-between songs during a set made up largely of their fantastic current album, English Tapas.

For a full review of Sleaford Mod's set CLICK HERE.

(Photo by: Justin Gardner https://www.justingardner.co.uk/ | © 2017 Duke Studioshttp://www.duke-studios.com/ Duke Studios http://www.duke-studios.com/)

An unexpected highlight of Sunday was Jalen N’Gonda. He takes Beat-Herder’s unsung hero award as sadly he slipped under a few too many radars and, thanks to his early slot, didn’t gather as much of a crowd as he deserved. His Leon Bridges-esque brand of simple American soul was genuine and appealing.

In a change of pace, the afternoon saw Reginald D. Hunter bring his own immensely appealing brand of stand-up to the Ribble Valley, adding his comedic American take on British culture to the mix in brand-spanking new arena venue, ‘Factory’.

Later on Beat-Herder’s final day reggae legends Toots and the Maytals were rolling back the years, much as the Sugarhill Gang did on Saturday, with some of their most iconic music.

Beat-Herder 2017 had a fantastic and eclectic offering in a unique setting. The attention to detail in the creation of the different stages and venues gives the festival a special feel, as does the natural beauty of the Ribble Valley itself.

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