Bearded Theory 2016

Bearded Theory Festival 2016 – Preview

In just under a week the 2016 Bearded Theory Festival will be in full swing at Catton Hall in the heart of South Derbyshire – now into its 9th year, the festival which grew from a simple birthday party hosted in a pub to an annual 10,000 capacity sell out is set to do the same this year; and with a line-up that includes the likes of Pil, Killing Joke, SLF, and Asian Dub Foundation that comes as no surprise.

Bearded Theory has over the years been able to establish itself as one of the few festivals that retains an edge, there are no corporate sponsors, all the stages are readily accessible – the bars, food vendors and other retailers don’t fleece their customers; the festival is family friendly – they even provide an Ofsted registered school on site!

It’s by far one of the most exciting and diverse festivals of the year, from world renowned artists to up and coming acts – it can make for some interesting clashes! To assist you in your choices we have tried to pick a few of the artists we are most excited about for this years event…

Opening on Thursday 26th, the day is allow attendees to pitch tents, and familiarise themselves with the site – that evening The Convoy Cabaret stage will be hosting Jemma Johnson, Dr. & The Medics and the Dub Pistols who will be performing tracks from their 2015 album ‘Return Of The Pistoleros’ – armageddon horns and implacable bass march on opener ‘Real Gangster’s to the pure skank of ‘Sticky Situation’ – ‘Return Of The Pistoleros’ is a full-on dub-quaking anthemic extravaganza built for big fields and summer sound systems.

Friday is the first day of the festival proper, with all stages open – we are hoping to catch Hagar The Womb in the Convoy Cabaret stage – having called it a day in 1987 it seemed they were set to be confined to the history books – this changed in 2011 following an overwhelmingly positive response to a wrap up compilation album; reforming in 2012 Hagar The Womb have sine become festival regulars, and releasing ‘Hated By The Daily Mail’ (7″ split with Anthrax (UK) earlier this year; festival regulars Drum Machine are essentially a street theatre drum group…on steroids! I saw them twice last year, there must be at least 30 of them each decked out in black cyber punk Tank Girl garb hammering the life out anything vaguely drum shaped!! They are set to appear in the Magical Sounds tent, however if its anything like 2015 they will be forced move outside to accomodate the audience.

The Woodland Stage – described last year by Capt Hotknives as “like playing in an Ewok Village” has got to be the ideal location for the genuinely unsettling weirdness of the mighty Wonk Unit – genuinely a band that defy neat categorisation – scally suss, coupled with DIY punk attitude and a music policy of anything they bloody like! We loved their 2014 ‘Nervous Racehorse’ album, and are eagerly anticipating a new release – really not to be missed.

Another LTW favourite – The Roughneck Riot, last played Bearded Theory in 2014, for this years performance they have been elevated to the main Pallet Stage, ahead of the reformed King Blues, and Reverend & The Makers; Killing Joke will be bringing their relentless cavernous ‘Pylon’ to the Woodland Stage; its staggering to consider that Jaz & Co. have been forging a unique musical path for 37yrs; from the sinister ‘Wardance’ to the sculptured rage of ‘I Am The Virus’…there is no other band like Killing Joke, the intensity, the uncertainty – Killing Joke live are a force to behold, its brutal and yet beautiful in equal measure.

The Levellers, the perennial counter culture festival band are set to headline; its hard to consider a more suitable headliner, The Levellers epitomise the Bearded Theory ethos; respect, unity, tolerance…and the desire to dance like a loon in a hopefully dry field!.

Early Saturday afternoon, it will be down to One Eyed God to drag revellers from their slumbers; shouldn’t be an issue if their brand new ‘The First and Last Freedom’ album is anything to go by – full force sax led ska-punk that should see much skanking in the Convoy Cabaret tent; appearing in the same location later in the day will be The Cravats – another outfit that defy simple explanation, frantically eccentric, musically uncompromising; check out their recent ‘Jingo Bells b/w Batter House’ release – the first new material in many (strange) moons.

Louder Than War Records own Faerground Accidents are set to shatter the peace of The Woodland Stage, visually this will be spectacular – a wooded glen, an eco-friendly wooden stage, the entire location drenched in green hues as the sunlight pierces the leafy canopy – whilst on the stage we have Bo Mar, resplendent – a smashed Grayson Perry, swigging from his now obligatory bottle of Chablis as they deliver their debut release ‘We Hate The Same Things’ a track LTW were so excited we insisted on releasing it in gaudy neon pink vinyl…

The Pallet Stage will dominate the Saturday night, from the early evening street aggression of the Cockney Rejects – this will be my first time to see the Rejects following the announcement that previous bass player Vince Riordan had re-joined the band again, this follows the tragic death of Tony Van Frater in October 2016.

Wilko Johnson will be strutting his thing ahead of Billy Bragg, both prior to the arrival of Black Uhuru – formed in the Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica  in 1972, (initially called simply ‘Uhuru’) from these humble beginning Black Uhuru went onto international mainstream success in the mid 80’s; their album ‘Anthem’ winning the first ever Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1985 – Black Uhuru straddle all aspects of reggae, from dancehall to dub; on a warm summers evening what can be better than enjoying the vibes of ‘Great Train Robbery’, ‘Sinsemilla’ or ‘Solidarity’.

Public Image Limited close Saturday nights Pallet stage proceedings; there really is no point trying to pre-empt what Lydon & Co. will deliver; rest assured whatever we get will be fascinating; Pil are a formidable proposition, once arguably the  most revolutionary band in the world fronted by the most misunderstood performer, Pil have retained the ability to second guess both their critics and their fan base – from sonic weirdness to chart success, similarly for Lydon – from engaging thought provoking reason to cartoon red-top punk… Public Image at Bearded Theory is sure to be spoken about for some time to come.

P.A.I.N – Propaganda and Information Network headline the Convoy Cabaret on Sunday night, their blend of heavy dub reggae, good time ska, and generally pissed off punk rock will keep the masses skanking into the early hours; and the chance to catch The Orb Soundsystem will be enough to drag me into the Mystical Sounds Arena, and if that experience doesn’t scramble your head then the genuine eccentricity of John Otway surely will; from the hits to his celebrated flops – for his 50th birthday, Otway was asked what he would like to receive. The answer was “a second hit” – after a passionate fan based campaign he got what he wanted when some 25yrs after ‘Flowers’ his single ‘Bunsen Burner’ entered the UK Chart at #9 – he probably won’t play it this weekend!!

Stiff Little Fingers are set to headline The Woodland Stage – this is a truly delicious proposition…SLF are one of the best supported bands around, their merchandise stall looks like a Tesco Express such is the range on offer, and having seen Ali McMordie return to the band they are once again a force to behold, quite how this is going to pan out in the aforementioned “Ewok Village” will need to be witnessed – from ‘Inflammable Material’ to 2014’s ‘No Going Back’ Jake Burns has proved the doubters wrong and this return to Bearded Theory is very welcome.

Asian Dub Foundation were only confirmed last week, they replace Arrested Development who were forced to cancel their appearance, I saw ADF at the festival back in 2013, and am looking forward to their distinct mix of hip-hop, sub industrial guitar squall, drum & bass and even bhangra that will no doubt have the entire festival bouncing to material from their current ‘More Signal More Noise’ album.

Squeeze will close the entire festival, drawing from their late 70’s beginning’s – all those coloured vinyl 7″‘s to the current 14th studio album ‘Cradle To The Grave’ – but it so nearly wasn’t to be; however a certain Danny Baker is the man to thank/blame; Difford & Tilbrook started performing shows and writing new material together some years ago. In 2010, they revisited their illustrious catalogue for the ‘Spot The Difference’ album, and began to tour again in both two-piece and band configurations. Then along came Baker’s ‘Going To Sea In A Sieve’ autobiography, which charted an eventful south London upbringing on a Deptford council estate, on parallel lines to the early lives of the Squeeze custodians.

Bearded Theory 2016 looks set to be another triumphant year; though it looks like the weather is set to do its best to spoil things – the week ahead forecast suggests it will be cloudy with light occasional rain – to the beer tent then!!

***UPDATE*** Festival organisers have now confirmed Bearded Theory 2016 has SOLD OUT and are requesting that people DO NOT arrive in the hope of getting a ticket on the gates – NO tickets will be available.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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