Trying to remember what happened on day two of Beacons is a task which seems, on this dim Saturday, even harder in retrospect than I knew it would be when I made the decision to leave this part of the review until a week after the event. Now, sitting in the Home Counties and flooding myself with Nescafe, Saturday feels increasingly like a land out of time. A long string of events that appears to have taken place over a matter of weeks, if not months.
Things really begin with Temple Songs, who slink onto the Argyll stage at 1:30, a triangle of shadow cast by the stage’s canopy marking out a no man’s land between the majority of the crowd, who have opted to squat and sprawl in the sunlight outside of this shade, and the band. Jolan Lewis, the lead man, is squinting out towards the masses. Our photographer, in a rare moment of self-propulsion, has left the light and walked the lonely twenty yards towards the stage. He looks back, unsure now of whether to stay at the front, alone and dedicated, or to return to the sun. His decision is made for him as a crouching Lewis, adjusting some unseen pedal or inspecting the tread on his boots, stands, frowns, and lurches into his first track.
The exodus is slow but steady and, as the four-piece reach the mid way part of their set, a sizeable chunk of the crowd have slunk forward. So many in fact that, as the swaggering chords of Passed Caring chug into life, the photographer is lost to a wriggling pool of middle aged women who have materialised, and seem set to swamp the stage. ‘One more song?’ Lewis is looking back now, talking to the stage manager who lurks somewhere in the far recesses of the canvas, ‘Two?’, ‘ok one’. Temple Songs, it seems important to note, are best known for three, maybe three-and a half, minute ‘pop’ songs. A verse, chorus, verse, chorus kind of deal. What they’re not known for is seven minute, ‘for the purist’, epics of atonality and amp-busting reverb. But this is what they choose to close with. The middle-aged dancers are gone now. Washed back by the fourth minute of a five minute solo that follows no known scale, and obeys few tonal formalities. It’s Parquet Courts and then some. It’s the death of order, it’s some sort of breakdown, it’s the shedding of a skin…
When we talk to the band later that afternoon Jolan confirms the latter point. Parquet Courts is a good comparison and one which, when raised, prompts the band to lock eyes, raise eyebrows and laugh. Temple Songs have moved on from the simple pop sound of their early recordings, and are experimenting with free flowing compositions and open ended grooves. Having reached the fourth incarnation of their debut album without satisfaction, a long purgatorial period in the wilderness of abstract post-punk seems like the caustic required to free them from their doldrums.
Earlier, standing in the front row of the heaving crowd who have gathered to watch Menace Beach play a staggeringly loud set in the main tent, a text buzzes into my pocket. ‘Weirds are here now if you wanna interview!’, Menace Beach are still going strong, Hookworm’s MJ hunched over his guitar, Ryan Needham, the lead man, screaming melodies as his cardigan billows, mid-way through Tastes Like Medicine, one of their best. ‘Maybe 5:30?’, ‘Fine!’ Sorted. Menace Beach are onto their last song now, a bass heavy version of Fortune Teller, the crowd might be singing along, it’s hard to tell under the onslaught.
Menace Beach are a band that seem perpetually on the point of breakthrough. With each single that drops their stock creeps closer to the point of maturity, the balloon stretched so taut now that the *pop* seems inevitable. With an album in the works, which Hookworm’s MJ has called ‘the best thing [he’s]… ever been involved with’, this point of total mass, or maximum velocity, might finally be approaching…
At this point in the afternoon the time-line collapses in on itself and Famy, Lovepark, Jaws and Younghusband wash by, a blur of familiar choruses and quick sets, some of which are cut short by trips to the festival’s true highlight, the Pie Tent, where even a poor, jobbing journalist can have his intestines massaged by a floating slab of steak and ale, set adrift in gravy for a paltry £3.50. Seeing Traams’ bassist Leigh Padley wandering the site decked in a Theo Verney shirt in the early afternoon has taken on a significance at this heady hour, and convinced me of the importance of this ritualistic carb loading prior to the Chichester three-piece’s set that evening.
There’s something about the Loud and Quiet main stage which feels out of kilter with the rest of Beacons, like stepping into some giant plastic space-ship. The beatific hills of Yorkshire are hidden in a way that they’re not at either the Argyll, which is completely exposed, or the Noisey tent, the sides of which are left open all weekend. It’s as if you’ve gone from a festival, replete with mud and the wafting smell of portaloos, into the O2 arena, an experience which leaves the gentle soul ripe for exploitation. So ripe for exploitation is how I feel as, surrounded by bucket-hats, my watch scraping slowly past 8:30, I stand, awaiting the arrival of Rejjie Snow. A departure from the guitar-heavy onslaught of the first portion of the day, Snow charms with his bizarre Irish drawl and easy-going tracks.
‘Sing along if you know the words’, he coos, launching into the breezy intro of ‘Nights over Georgia’. ‘As we’re holding hands…’, he starts, holding the mic out for the audience to close the couplet. ‘We laugh and cry, and dance the night…’, he tries again, then, the realisation that the crowd’s excitement isn’t grounded in familiarity slowly dawning, he grins and clambers down to the photo-pit, hitching his tracksuit and climbing the barrier to embrace the bashful crowd of Birmingham B-boys whose enthusiasm to get to the front has left them in the centre of this slightly uncomfortable scene.
‘Slightly Uncomfortable’ is, incidentally, how a minority of the Weirds audience find the Noisey tent during the four-piece’s assault on decency, fatherhood and normal conduct fifteen minutes later. Feeling the stage to be too confined for the more athletic of his stomps, Aiden, the band’s singer and spokesman, has leapt the crowd control barrier and is hurtling about the audience as a gaggle of cool-dads, accompanied minors and orange-jacketed security guards scramble for safety outside the wide ark traced by his guitar. Bumped into this late slot due to the withdrawal of another act, Weirds nevertheless feel like a serious presence and leave the stage to heavy applause and demands for plectrums from children who’ve come within inches of being orphaned…
Watching a band giving it their all to a crowd of nodding heads and polite applause is like watching a man buying, and cataloguing football stickers. There’s something sad about the whole scene. Having seen Traams play twice before, both times in small upstairs rooms, and both times to this sort of crowd, this is ‘on mind’ as I wander the muddy gauntlet from the campsite, where we’ve retreated to drink Carling and listen to Steely Dan over the increasingly tinny din of our small, battery powered speakers, to the open backed Noisey tent where Traams are set to play.
‘Are you twisss ted, in the heaaad… Here’s to happiness’, my camera, which has slid to the bottom of the pocket where it’s been crammed for safety, is refusing to come loose. Stu, Traams’ typically stoic singer, is grinning as the words are shrieked back by a crowd of flying elbows and slack-jawed loons. Weak white arms reach up and lift two of the crowd to shoulder height, but no higher, as the security, who’s cushty Saturday night has been rudely interrupted, lifts himself to full height, Knut against the tide, and bellows. Although billed as ‘Trams’ by the tent’s organisers, the crowd’s reaction, which peaks as album-highlight Flowers hits it’s second chorus, shows that this confusion, or lack of familiarity, hasn’t spread beyond head-office.
‘One of the best things I’ve seen in a long time’ – @songsforwalter, ‘caught a band called Traams at Beacons, they were fucking sweeet’ – @jakeeddleston_ , ‘a mega set… took us all back to being about 16 and jumping around at our first gigs’ – @Liberty_Miranda : Flicking through Twitter afterwards is a testament to the quality of Traams’ set. Hookworms, Pulled Apart by Horses, Nai Harvest and a rolling chorus of blogs, websites and individuals bill it amongst their sets of the weekend and, though it seems pointless to confirm the consensus, it was a pretty big show.
Wandering, light-legged, back to the tent, the drizzle just beginning, we bump into Aiden and Zach of Weirds, who narrowly missed the Traams set to load their equipment into their van. Dave, the Drummer, is nowhere to be seen but Matt, the bassist, comes bounding up and we start the slog back to the arena where Jon Hopkins and Hookworms are playing the clash of the weekend.
Our familiarity with Weirds has been on the up since we interviewed them at some point in the late afternoon, a brief encounter but one which seems eternally extended by chance meetings in various muddy corners of the Beacons site. Having taken the ‘loose lips sink ships’ message to heart in GCSE history, our original chat with the band was somewhat short on nuggets, but by 11pm and the first 10 minutes of the Jon Hopkins set – having won the clash-war by filling the main tent with hundreds of floating neon balls – Matt and our editorial team are a tight unit.
Having forfeited the Hookworms show to catch Hopkins, its slightly dispiriting that my main memory of that hour is of being caught in the laserish attention of a girl with a grin almost as wide as her pupils who was interested, then obsessed, by my glasses, and who spent the hour beaming with devout intensity into middle distance. When we head out to catch the end of Hookworms’ set at quarter to one, promising to return to find our new friend, ‘I know you won’t, I just know’, and find the Noisey tent emptying it seems like the natural end of a very long, and strange, day.
Read part/day one of our review here.