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Bearded Theory - Day Two

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Waking up to see exit polls predicting a landslide for the Repeal movement back home is a great start to the day. I feel warm inside even if the skies are overcast. Equally, the promise of seeing Idles, Sleaford Mods and The Winachi Tribe today stirs excitement in my guts that is unrelated to the festival hot dogs.

After a few showers, the sun finally shows its luminous face just in time for the ska/punk/metal hybrid of Random Hand. Their road crew entertain the crowd by name-checking the various food stalls for soundcheck. Hopefully the band are as much fun as their support team are. Singer/trombonist Robin Leitch points out that the main stage is much bigger than the stages they usually play. Accordingly, the sound is shit down the back, but the energy of the band is enough to draw us in closer where the superior sound and the skanking oldies put a whole new complexion on things. “Most of you won’t have heard of us but we’ve been playing a long time and this is the nearest we’ve played to an ice cream van. And it’s definitely the most people who have seen my flies come undone”, he says as he fixes the furniture. Riotous stuff!

UK Subs are a band that I know more through reputation than through experience. They are more familiar from t-shirts than from their music but after 40 years and 26, alphabetically titled, albums, I am anticipating a masterclass in punk entertainment. What follows is an adequate approximation of punk but I suppose you can excuse that in a band that has been doing this longer than half the crowd has been on the planet. To be honest, Random Hand had as much of an impact on me, in a shorter set, but ‘Down On The Farm’ takes me back to the old Guns 'N' Roses cover and it’s one more band off the bucket list.

From what punk used to sound like, we move very swiftly to what it currently sounds like. I’ve been listening to Idles’ debut album, Brutalism, for over a year now and it is imprinted on my brain. The chance to see them live was my main motivation in coming to this festival. I hide my pale, easily burned skin in the shadow of the bar while they soundcheck. If there were a lot of photographers for Pins last night, then I will need the thesaurus for the proper collective noun for this pack of paparazzi.

They open with the ferocious ‘Heel Heal’. Lead singer Joe Talbot has his own version of the moonwalk. When he spills his water on the stage and the crew come on to clean it, he insists on doing it himself as it is his mess. He and a crew member get down on all fours and he continues to sing as they mop up the spillage. A 10 year old boy named Isaac is drafted in to sing ‘Mother’, “This is our future” says Talbot of the boy. He dedicates the song to the crew and to the toxicity of masculinity. I hesitate to use the clichéd term “capturing the zeitgeist” but it seems particularly appropriate for this band. Idles’ musical approach is as representative of our changing society as is the unfolding result of the referendum.

There are a handful of new songs that bode well for the forthcoming album. They note that it is “An honour to open for Sleaford Mods; the best band in the country right now”. Having seen the Nottingham duo a few times recently, it is hard to disagree with that sentiment. Idles are the only band who look to challenge them for the crown. It’s difficult to write anything about them as they play. Their performance is so overwhelming that they all sweat through their shirts and the veins are visible on their faces and necks. Even watching them is exhausting. I had intended to see Fun Lovin’ Criminals next but I think I need a lie down before Sleaford Mods.

Sufficiently recovered from one onslaught of socially conscious invective, I return to the main stage to see Andrew Fearn and James Williamson let loose. The prolific pair pepper old favourites amid the newer cuts. “Are you enjoying it?” asks Williamson, “For a lot of people, you’ve very quiet. Are you fucked up?” If you haven’t seen these guys before, then you should make it a priority to rectify that. Their unique performance and material never disappoint. Williamson’s manic delivery and physical tics are a statement in themselves, but the juxtaposition of Fearn’s affable, tracksuited loner bobbing along to the laptop, while nearby an angry man spits invective, is visually arresting. It’s reminiscent of Iggy Pop’s artfully aggressive dancing on ‘70s TV. Aside from all that, it’s just hard not to get caught up in the stark, thunderous, post-punk beats.

There’s dancing of an altogether different sort over at the Showcase stage with The Winachi Tribe. I've been following these guys for a couple of years now but it's the first time I've seen them live. They don't disappoint. They're a slick, funky groove machine. The fat rumble of the bass guitar slots in with the dancey drums and percussion, laying sound foundations for the smooth vocals of Liam Croker. We spoke recently about their new single and he gives me a shoutout when introducing it; a nice ego boost for a Saturday night. You wouldn't get that from Robert Plant. The showcase tent fills quickly with the band's accessible sounds drawing in passers-by. Hopefully we'll see them on one of the bigger stages next time.

Whether it was the Black Dragon cider, the beautiful music, or the general good vibes, I'm not sure, but the next thing I remember is being woken by a nearby roll of thunder. I'm a city boy, and not usually an outdoors type, so being in a field under a nylon/polyester tent in a lightning storm is a new experience for me. The initial surge of awe and excitement that greets the sights and sounds of nature's brilliance fades very quickly when you're in such a precarious position. Thunder, at sufficient proximity, is not just an aural, but a visceral phenomenon. I went from enthralled to shitting myself in seconds flat.

After putting all my clothes and electronics into a waterproof bag, the only logical next step is frantic googling. This is only mildly reassuring, insofar as there's little you can do in this situation with no adequate shelter nearby. But deaths by lightning are relatively rare: more common than shark attacks (little chance of that in rural Derbyshire) but less so than being shot by a toddler in America. 90 minutes of wishing I had a God to pray to, and counting Mississippis, later and all that is left to do is wish I'd properly covered up my boots before the rain started.


Bearded Theory Preview : Musos' Guide Chats With Winachi Tribe

Bearded Theory Spring Gathering is back at its iconic home of Catton Park nestled in the National Forest for their 11th outing. They have six main music stages being The Pallet, Magical Sounds, Woodland, Maui Waui, Convoy Cabaret and One Big Showcase. They have several smaller venues including Something Else Tea Tent, The Ship, Rogues Hideout, Magic Teapot, Alpaca, Creative Intentions to name just a few. We’ll be live tweeting Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (@musosguide), as well as bringing you reviews from all three days here at Musos' Guide.

The line-up is pretty great with legends like Robert Plant, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Jimmy Cliff, The Membranes and Therapy? Other festival staples like Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Jesus Jones, The Coral and Altern-8 join the relative newcomers like Sleaford Mods, Idles, Jake Bugg, Rews, Pins and The Winachi Tribe for a very promising three days of dancing and merriment.

The Winachis are headlining the Showcase stage on Saturday night, and we spoke with singer Liam Croker about the festival, headliner Robert Plant, and the band’s adventures in Hollywood.

Bearded Theory festival is one of our big dates. It’s one I’ve been wanting to go to. It’s really eclectic. The line up this year is mind blowing. I was thinking about going anyway just to watch the bands. We got an email form the Academy Of Music And Sound and we’d been picked out of 2000 applicants to headline their stage on Saturday night at Bearded Theory and wow, what an honour that is! From planning to go and watch to headlining one of the stages, we’re over the moon. It’s the introducing stage. We’re at that point now where we’re headlining those sort of stages. We’ve been around for about 3 and a half years now. We’re getting to that point where we’re headlining these stages and looking to break in to the bigger ones too.

I saw Robert Plant in March in Hollywood. We were touring in California and our manager and sound engineer brought us to see him in this really small theatre. There were only about 300 people in this wee theatre with Robert Plant. It was surreal. He was amazing. He’s still got it. And he had a pair of really tight pants on so it looked like he had a massive chopper. What a dude!

It’s been a hell of year. We went out to America in March and came home to play two really big home town shows and we just did a massive show in Warrington town centre last weekend. It was the Warrington Music Festival. Us and Fun Lovin’ Criminals were the two main acts. We did that on Saturday. We don’t get to play our home town much so it turned into a big carnival. Now we’re gearing up to do a full UK tour from May until September.

The first time we went out to America, we were working with Danny Saber, the producer. He’d worked with Black Grape, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie. We were working with Danny when we met Harry (Bridgen). Then Harry came on board and has been managing the band since.

We went back out here in 2016. We did the video for our single a room with a zoo with Tommy Flanagan from Sons Of Anarchy. Tommy’s a fan of the band. Our manager says Tommy approached him about being in the video. He said he had a little break in his schedule and if you can get the lads to LA within this time, I’d be able to do it. Tommy was great to work with. It looks like I’m riding through the desert on the back of that horse but that’s Tommy’s garden. It’s fucking enormous. That’s his actual horse too. It’s called Zeus. The video for ‘A Room With A Zoo’ and the horse is called Zeus, quite an interesting coincidence. The first scenes are done in East LA, in a rough neighbourhood, in a warehouse. The Tommy scenes were done at his ranch in Malibu. His next door neighbour is Will Smith or somebody. I went from a council estate in Warrington to being on a back of a big white horse in Tommy Flanagan’s back garden within a week. The craziest Tuesday afternoon I ever had. What an experience!

And then we went back again in March of this year and did a tour of California. We got a new guitarist and his first show was headlining The Harvard And Stone at Hollywood Boulevard, no pressure there! His name is Mike Bee. I’ve known Mike since we were in our late teens, a long time. Our old guitarist, Jamie, had to leave and Mike stepped in. It’s been a very easy transition into the band. We broke him in in America and he’s coming out with us again. It’s all good.


The equipment company, Behringer, we did a live session for them which you can see on YouTube. They launched a new series called artist profiles. They get a new artist and you talk about your career and stuff. We launched that series while we were in LA. It was an honour. We are going back. I can’t go into it too much but this year we’ll be back in LA for another round. While we were out there we did some work in the studio with a producer called John X. He’s worked with Danny, with all those big names. We did a track with him called ‘Funky But Chic’ and we’ll be launching that back in the States. In the coming months, all will be revealed.”

Bearded Theory runs May 24 - 27 and tickets are available here.

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