festival favourites continue on into the night despite the freak weather

2009 Bearded Theory review

published: Wed 20th May 2009

The Boot Hill All Stars

Friday 15th to Sunday 17th May 2009
Bradley Nook Farm, Hulland Ward, Ashbourne, Derbyshire , England MAP
£45 for a weekend ticket, day tickets £20/under 16s £10/under 5s £5
daily capacity: 1500
last updated: Sat 16th May 2009

Fully breakfasted and weather-buffered, I'm off to explore the musical delights that are being offered from midday. Angels Alibi are main stage openers, and are well into their set. They play perfectly capable meaty-rock, and they have a crowd who seem impressed with them. I find out much later that they formed from the ashes of the mighty Felicity Kicks, the rockiest act of last year’s fest. Oh well, breakfast was really good.

So onto the Campfire Stage, a large wooden structure around the corner from the main arena that has no obvious sound-clashing with its larger neighbour. The first draw are S-punk Senior, a couple of well-known youngsters who indulge in playing guitars and kazoo. They play covers, loosely and entertainingly, so we're all happy enough to play guess-the-song. I guessed at 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'It's a Sin', and start to note a distinct era of music. They also treat us to gentle quips between songs, such as reminding us that Rory McLeod is a proper musician who we should all go see straight away even if it means leaving right now. I do leave at that moment in case they're right, doing a Peter Kay Dad-dance to 'Just Can't Get Enough' as I go.

Rory McLeod
Dang! Rory McLeod is a proper musician, and I've managed to slothenly catch just half of his last song. He has a decent crowd, a guitar, and a higher voice than I'd expected, and I might have greatly enjoyed his set had I had my wits about me. The compère, Freedom, announces afterwards something about Rory being a special treat in playing early as he's booked somewhere prestigious later in the day. Little did we know how much of a special treat he was to be.

A return to the Campfire Stage finds a collective of folksters called Greenman Rising playing a lot of scary-sounding songs initially, based around a central hand-held mystical drummer. The mesmerising music does break out into straightforward folk as they announce 'Radcliffe Highway' to be about a number of folk clichés (their words) such as someone getting killed. There's actually all sorts of stranger instruments being used on stage, relative to the meat-&-veg bands, which reminds me of a scaled-down and darker Bellowhead. They end up playing what they call 'dancing tunes' which seem to be because of added handclaps and flirtations with major keys, and eventually also through addition of a squally electric guitar, but they were decent and listenable which is more than acceptable at this early stage of the day.

The Boot Hill All Stars
Over at the main stage, The Boot Hill All Stars are busy name-checking their audience in between playing their particular mix of psychobilly and ska. Their singer sounds like a cross between a farmer and Andrew Eldritch, and he plays the banjo, so many a peculiar box is ticked. They also have a set of four lady dancers shaking their burlesque and feathery hips inbetween the musicians, and later on down the front fraternising with the audience. Song are covers of such things as 'Stray Cat Strut' and Blues Brothers tunes, but with their own words added when needed, 'Gangsters' ending with 'Don't call me inbred' for instance. So all good clean fun in the ever-expanding mud really.

A little rest later, and I hear announced that the Hobo Jones & the Junkyard Dogs' set has been swapped to the Campfire Stage. This lot are fast gathering a reputation for putting on a cracking show, not least following a recent support tour with The Levellers, so it's not surprising that they still manage a good crowd despite the early start on the wrong stage. They generally play covers in a skiffle fashion, using instruments such as wash-boards and spoons, and probably kitchen sinks if they could find a free one, along with Miser Bill's anchoring guitar. And they're in fine jovial form. Wino Tyrone's inflatable guitar of last year has been replaced by a Guitar-Hero guitar that's suitably trashed from being used as percussion too much. But ever the professional, he has a replacement, which is eventually donated to the crowd via a nasty wind-tunnel.

We get covers of 'Should I Stay or Should I Go?', Shampoo's only famous song 'Trouble', and 'American Idiot', along with a few of their own tunes such as 'Braindead Ball'. 'Jilted John' is played through torrential rain, for which Hobo Jones proceeds to lead the crowd in a fist-shaking session at the sky. Sun duly arrives some minutes later, along with two encores included covers of both 'Riverflow' and 'One Way' along with their obligatory 'Um-Bongo' medley within which the crowd play their empty tins they've left lying around. In fact they're much funnier than I can give them credit for, so best stop there before I give too many of the jokes away.

The Beetroot Kings
Next it's The Beetroot Kings, surprisingly playing the main stage far too early than billed. Again, less of a crowd then I'd have expected for all this moving around of acts, and not surprisingly the band don't seem terribly up for it. I learn that there's also been some sort of bereavement and that they're missing at least one member, so fair play then that their set sounds like tight indie-rock, 'So Far Away From Here' being particularly noteworthy.

The crowd return in abundance for Justin Sullivan & Dean White of New Model Army. I'm lucky enough to have a spot right at the front, but then again there's no easy way out now! They play music from a wide-ranging back-catalogue, opening with a Justin solo number of 'Better Than Them' that completely takes me back to the 80s. It's a guitar each for a earnest 'Heroes', then straight into a captivating spoken-only performance of what might be called 'Imperial Day'. 'Turn Away' is said to be an unreleased song, but there's enough people down the front mouthing the words nonetheless. And then the rains hit us, and I leave for the safety of the beer tent whilst the hardiest hold firm for what was quite a majestic performance.

No matter, my favourite little electronica band, Subgiant, are next on the main stage, and I book my place down the front again with their few keenest fans when the rain stops. Little do I realise the weather coming up behind me that's about to rip the cover off the main stage and generally cause chaos, reviews of which are elsewhere, but I end up shivering with a few others in the shelter of the urinals watching the aftermath unfold before eventually returning to camp to be the last one counted back in.

I do venture back to what's left of the entertainment eventually, taking root in the reggae café that has Axis Sound System supplying all manner of obscure reggae historicals. Lovely and welcome it is too. Impromptu sets by The Saw Doctors and Tofu Love Frogs are completely missed through the ongoing chaos, but word gets to me that Tarantism are to play at a makeshift stage within the stalls. It's around half past midnight when they get going, but they get the groovy fusion of all sorts of music going nicely. Led by a talented vocalist with a penchant for playing her flute, they provide much relief, relaxation, and swaying. And even after they've finished, the Dance Tent is still carrying on. Ed Tangent and Dickster are found to be dropping a number of psy-trance tunes, and there's dancers all over the place, stage included.

around the festival site
So the festival managed to stumble on into the night despite the freak weather threatening to up-end it all, with some areas and punters hardly batting an eyelid. In fact, a colossal amount of work must have taken place to have managed to keep things going into the night, and across the Sunday, which ultimately must have come from a lot of committed people working there. An amazing recovery and much appreciated!
review by: Clive Hoadley

photos by: Phil Bull

Friday 15th to Sunday 17th May 2009
Bradley Nook Farm, Hulland Ward, Ashbourne, Derbyshire , England MAP
£45 for a weekend ticket, day tickets £20/under 16s £10/under 5s £5
daily capacity: 1500
last updated: Sat 16th May 2009


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