Beard­ed The­o­ry Fes­ti­val has got its mojo back. Not that it ever real­ly went away, it just went through a dip last year with the new site to adjust to, cou­pled with relent­less rain. But for 2015, the weath­er smiled down on Beard­ed The­o­ry, the fes­ti­val site was look­ing all new and improved and the con­fi­dence was back.

Arriv­ing at Cat­ton Hall on Fri­day, it’s appar­ent just how much devel­op­ment has been going on: The Pal­let main stage and sound sys­tem are impres­sive and there are more food choic­es and stalls. Fan­cy dress theme is Pirates, and from the start a num­ber of swash­buck­ling types are strolling the site in full regalia; beards too are in evi­dence and of far more orig­i­nal­i­ty than your stan­dard hip­ster. The bar is Thorn­bridge Brew­ery again, with their excel­lent Fes­ti­val Ale, and all at decent prices.

Bearded Theory woodThe piece de resis­tance is the Wood­lands. More like an add-on last year, it is now almost a mini fes­ti­val in itself. Tucked away behind the are­na in a wood­ed area, with dap­pled sun­light fil­ter­ing through the trees, is the stun­ning new stage of sculpt­ed oak, the set­ting for main­ly folk-relat­ed artists who play from noon till late. It has its own bar, and Nana’s Kitchen, a cosy cafe where rev­ellers queue for home-made roasts, chips and the most deli­cious cakes, baked dai­ly on-site by Adele.

A great deal of effort has also been put into the exten­sive Chil­dren’s Vil­lage where there’s a dai­ly timetable packed with events, many pirate-relat­ed, and the new Beard­ed School offer­ing school lessons with a fes­ti­val twist. And even the toi­lets have been upgrad­ed and notice­ably kept clean for the fes­ti­val’s duration.


kids area
Chil­dren’s Village

Alaba­ma 3 are on ear­ly Fri­day evening – a band I’ve seen many times and this is one of their best per­for­mances. Auro­ra Dawn cool­ly struts her stuff, and Lar­ry Love and Rev D Wayne Love keep every­one enter­tained with their amus­ing and some­what rude ban­ter. Woke Up This Morn­ing, Up Above my Head, Hypo Full of Love (with the low-down dance moves), and Too Sick to Pray are on the setlist. There’s noth­ing pre­cious about A3 and this was a def­i­nite crowd-pleas­er fes­ti­val set.

A3 Aurora Dawn
Alaba­ma 3

Sat­ur­day after­noon’s Pal­let stage show­cas­es some excel­lent folk-rock out­fits – the open­ing band, Three Minute Heist, play an Amer­i­cana-influ­enced set fea­tur­ing some strong bluesy num­bers. Skin­ny Lis­ter are adept at get­ting the audi­ence into full after­noon drink­ing and danc­ing par­ty mode before Irish Cana­di­ans The Mahones (seeKatie “Kaboom” McConnell above) take over the stage with their high-pow­ered punk folk. Still on a folky theme, the Wood­land stage is host to The Ley­lines, who pro­duced one beau­ti­ful song after anoth­er, and whose fid­dle play­er will have you play­ing air vio­lin (not in pub­lic, though).

Ear­ly evening and it’s British Sea Pow­er’s first time at Beard­ed The­o­ry. One of my favourite bands, British Sea Pow­er pos­sess a very British charm and quirk­i­ness and their stage shows are known for – well unpre­dictabil­i­ty and bears. Maybe the unpre­dictable here was that the bear did­n’t appear. The rous­ing and uplift­ing Machiner­ies of Joy opens the set, fol­lowed by Apolo­gies to Insect Life, then Wav­ing Flags. A pow­er­ful ver­sion of Sil­ver Machine fin­ish­es the set, Jan Scott Wilkin­son repeat­ed­ly throw­ing his gui­tar in the air, look­ing increas­ing­ly as if he isn’t going to catch it. Sliced in between an after­noon of foot-stomp­ing folk and the all-out rock of New Mod­el Army, BSP offered a more cere­bral tran­si­tion to the evening’s enter­tain­ment – a wel­come must-see for some, but not maybe of uni­ver­sal appeal.

British Sea Power
British Sea Power

A sur­feit of fes­ti­val-goers sport­ing New Mod­el Army t‑shirts are an indi­ca­tion of the num­bers wait­ing to see these long-term rock­ers. I caught the end of their storm­ing set at Beard­ed The­o­ry two years ago and, as the pro­gramme blurb says, it is a set “still talked about in hushed, rev­er­ent tones”. The band undoubt­ed­ly deliv­er a pow­er­ful set, Justin Sul­li­van a mes­mer­iz­ing fig­ure among the blue smoke, his voice still pow­er­ful and full of por­tent, opened with Storm­clouds, tak­ing the band through a mix of num­bers and fin­ish­ing with I Love the World.



For Sunday at Bearded Theory (beards, pirates, The Beat, Transglobal, James and more…) click here

Bearded Theory Lego beard

For more images of Beard­ed The­o­ry fes­ti­val over the years, vis­it

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3 thoughts on “Review: Bearded Theory Friday/Saturday 2015

  1. Real­ly quirky but with a qual­i­ty line up! This is just up my street. Hope it’s repeat­ed next year – sound like it’s worth a visit!

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