Beautiful Days Festival 2017 : live review : The Levellers and friends show how to put a festival on properly
Beautiful Days Festival 2017
In a summer of disastrous festivals like Y Not, Truck and the daddy of all distress – Hope and Glory it’s always refreshing to go to an event that is run really well and set up for all the right reasons.
One week your correspondent was at Hope and Glory and surrounded by the chaos of a festival falling apart at the seams and its astonishing mess contrasts with Beautiful Days. Now in its 15th year the Levellers very own festival embraces the culture and the idealism that was and can still be at the heart of festival culture.
An event like this is about the people, a celebration of music fans and culture that contrasts sharply with the cold hearted approach of the pack ‘em in modern festivals. After this summer it feels like festival promoters should be made to have a special licence- a piece paper that says they can do the job and pay the bills. I would add to that that they are steeped in music and love the culture but that’s a bit of a big ask I suppose but if they are involved in any fiascos their licence is revoked. Simple.
In a system like that Beautiful Days would win gold stars every year. It’s run by music fans who spend most of the festival watching bands and talking music, its fields are populated by the music fanatics and the bills are varied and good linking somehow to the Levellers whether it’s by sound or culture or being part of their record collections.
The Levellers always end the event with their Sunday night set. It’s always a triumph and a glorious v sign to the mainstream that resolutely ignores the band because they don’t fit into the attractive narrative.
Not that the Levellers care.
The whole field it jumping and the songs sound as fresh as ever. They are immersed in the culture and bassist Jeremy is the heart and soul with his dreads down to his knees and his artful outsider stance. On stage a whirling dervish – off stage a slightly awkward yet deeply intelligent soul. Back out front the rest of the band lock in and the set is tight and the songs anthemic and intelligent, soundtracking their culture.
Maybe most of this crowd are not travelling about in the backs of vans any more and they have long since retreated to the suburbs but their hearts still beat for the big outside and this weekend is a chance to be embraced yet again by the culture.
The Sisters Of Mercy set splits opinion on the message boards but their strength is in many ways the thing that people don’t get. The band are a glorious introverted rumble. There is no woooagh! festival nonsense as their enigmatic frontman disappears into the dry ice hunched over his mic intoning the dark songs with that haunting baritone. The band are an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped inside a mystery – they are forever huge yet don’t release new material and don’t do any of the showbiz shit and their haunting, dark matter sound is as mesmerising as ever.
Dubioza Kolektiv are a Balkans mash up of rock rap, ska and electronics and their sprightly set is seat of the pants thrilling energy rush and all the better for it and the band win over the audience with their scratchy melange of musical twitching. New Model Army are as fiercely omnipresent as ever. The band have been having a career high with recent albums and it’s that glowering material that matches the moody grey skies of an English summer that they deal out here and they are welcomed as the totemic force that the really are defying fashion, age and time with their frontman looking somehow younger than he did ten years ago.
A new addition at the event is the rebel tent – a great space like Glastonbury’s leftfield stage where art and politics intersect. I host an event with a panel of fiercely political faces and there is a heated argument like there should be and eventually a consumes of where they are going.
As the sun set on the horizon Beautiful Days has become a rock solid end of summer festival season event. It sells out because people love this culture. They don’t need the hype as people will come anyway. The atmosphere is great and for a few days the world feels right again.