From my experience, smaller is always better, but I still had to wonder how this little festival in Ribble Valley was pulling in names like Orbital and Pete Tong. My auntie’s been raving about Beat Herder for years, and now I completely understand why.
I vowed I would never go to a festival again after a disastrous stint at Isle of Wight with the angriest southern idiots imaginable, but Beat Herder was different – upon arrival it was obvious that the vibe is a positive one. Somewhere you can simply step into the arena and truly leave every care you ever had behind you.
There’s so much to explore – secret passageways into underground raves, stages shaped like fortresses and amphitheatres, and toil trees to get lost inside.
You’ll find the ‘village’ amidst the forest where a garage full of clapped out old cars just encourage you to jump on top of them while a church (that’s more sin than saint) features an altar that is a flurry of musical whimsy and pews that are solely for dancing and not for praying.
You can explore the Hotel California with a hidden swimming pool or perhaps take a half-cut trip to the working tattoo studio to take home a Beat Herder memory for life – there’s so much in such an idyllic place…
This is all before I’ve even talked about Orbital headlining the Beat Herder stage on Friday night, blowing minds and changing lives. The atmosphere was such that I made a new best friend in the crowd that both screamed at them to play ‘Chime’ and then proceeded to cuddle me for the entirety of the song.
They even brought tears to people’s eyes. It was a pretty special moment and I’m sure everyone there felt the same, lucky to be there – I’d even go as far to say lucky to be alive in that bloody moment.
It seemed as though every DJ and every band decided that this was the place they would throw out everything they had. Well, why not? When the crowd is so unbelievably recipient to your every move and word, you would, wouldn’t you?
A prime example of this was Fisher in the Toil Trees on Saturday night. He had absolutely been under my radar prior to Beat Herder, but it was one of those sets where he played hours and hours of his own stuff and you feel like you’ve known it all along. And not in a conceited way whatsoever, they really were just bangers. So much so that you walk away repeating, “WHAT was that song?”
Any time we set foot in The Fortress, we would never want to leave. It didn’t even matter who the hell was playing (although the Friday line up from start to finish and Erol Alkan on Saturday were particular highlights) you were shackled to the beat and the flames thrown out from the top of the walls.
One night though, we noticed a neon sign beckoning us into ‘The Beyond’. Naturally intrigued, we crossed a bridge over a stream and followed a tunnel right into three rooms, each with their own mad little party going on. Exit at the end to yet another mental outdoor rave, we did so just in time for the extravagant fireworks that felt as though they had been timed just for us and for our own personal discovery of the back and beyond. Perfect.
Maybe you don’t fancy getting lost in the woods, or down rabbit holes or in mansions with gyrating robots (Trash Manor)? No, maybe you just wanted a proper pint of ale and a turn singing Shirley Bassey? Don’t worry, Beat Herder had you covered there too, with a proper Working Men’s Club that would have given the Lancashire Hotpots a run for their money. Black Lace of kid’s party fame closed it on Sunday night, let me just leave you with that one.
We were also privileged enough to hear Boney M performing the greatest song of all time, Rasputin, as well as David Rodigan treating us to a wonderful blend of reggae, ska, dub and drum and bass that made all the kids understand why he is so important to reggae music.
After a few days at a festival, by Sunday you’re surely a bit unsure what to do with yourself, but watching David Rodigan meant you didn’t have to think about it. He was a pleasant way to get the party started again, ready for either Artwork to lull you into a dancing mess in Toil Trees or Redlight to hype you into a frenzy at The Ring.
If you do one thing next year, go to Beat Herder. I will never stop going to that wonderful place, probably until the day I die.
The Beat-Herder 2019
Friday 12th to Sunday 14th July 2019
Ribble Valley, Sawley, Gisburn, Lancashire, BB7 4LF