So, having survived the ordeal of the lightning, I rise like Odysseus into baking sunshine for the last day of Bearded Theory. The drainage here is excellent. You’d hardly know it had even rained. In fact, my neighbour slept through it, the bastard! Donning slightly damp boots, we head to the arena to recharge, both literally and figuratively. After dropping my battery pack at the recharge station and getting a bacon roll from Duck Burgers, I’m feeling almost normal again. The festival site could use better signage but credit where it’s due, its day three and I have yet to queue for a toilet or find one that was dirty or smelly. It sounds like a small thing but it’s quite an achievement, well done Bearded Theory.
Sheafs invite the early risers to step a little closer. The band have just arrived from Sheffield and look noticeably fresher than the assembled throng. The stage is lined with vintage portable TVs and signs reading “This is not a protest” as the rock quintet launch into ‘You’re So Fickle’. Front man Lawrence climbs down into the pit to greet the front row during ‘My Pollution’. He already looks like a rock star with his floppy hair, open shirt and white half moon tambourine. He even scales the barrier to get amongst the crowd and whip them up during ‘I Wanna Show You What I Mean’. Good stuff!
There’s a lot of dadrock on the main stage this afternoon and nothing worth writing home about so I head over to the Showcase stage where a very pleasant group of milquetoast youngsters are playing inoffensive indie. A poorly chosen cover of ‘Love Is All Around’ thins out the crowd as people start walking away shaking their heads.
But next up are Cohesion. The long hair, tattoos, and black face paint suggest a metal band. They are more accessible than their appearance indicates. The guitars are ‘90s grunge, and the melodic vocals are positioned somewhere between Ricky Warwick and Disturbed. Nonetheless, the tunes are good, the rhythms tight, and the rock is hard. They aren’t afraid to groove either. Even the unfashionable guitar solos sound good. Cohesion may be on the poppier end of the metal spectrum, but they are exactly what this Sunday afternoon needs.
After bravely hiding away from another thunderstorm, I expect to have missed most of Jake Bugg but his set has sensibly been held back until the storm passes. I’ve managed to miss him at a handful of other festivals, so I’m delighted to finally get to see him live. I haven’t heard the new album yet apart from the surprisingly good duet with Noah Cyrus. Backed with a three piece band, he sounds uncannily like Lee Mavers when he sings, but his speaking voice could hardly be more different. The set leans heavily on his early material, with the new tunes scattered between the likes of ‘Taste It’ and ‘Slumville Sunrise’. The recent songs stand out; a bit grandiose and overblown. The country aspect of the music is more pronounced live than it is on record, as is Bugg’s ability to shred on his guitar. He even throws in a Richie Havens cover. The weather has necessitated a truncated set, but what has been lost in quantity is made up for by the quality of the songs. A 40 minute greatest hits set; it would be greedy to ask for more than that.
And that’s that for Bearded Theory 2018. The music was great. The weather was crap but that can’t be helped. Catton Hall makes for a great venue, and the food & drink stalls were many and varied. There is room for improvement in some minor aspects and the organisers are very open to suggestions from festival-goers. For a festival on this scale to retain their independent approach and BYOB policy is, increasingly, a rarity. In the absence of Glastonbury this year, Bearded Theory was a fine alternative.