THE BEGINNING

We asked 9 artists from the Beacons festival bill to share their festival highs and lows.

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George Mitchell of Eagulls
“Best or worst festival memories. Where do I start? There’s loads… Could it be the time when my brother slashed my arm wide open with his Stanley knife at Sheffield City Invasion? Stupidly I was Duct taping it back in place in the toilets with blood going everywhere when [pro skater] Duane Peters walked in. Stunned he said: ‘Shit, I didn’t think it was this rough in Sheffield!’ ‘Yeah, and that was my brother, mate!’ Then there was a time when [band guitarist] Goldy’s legend of an uncle asked us to play a festival called Kellfest, which his quadruple heart by-pass friend was hosting in his field. In the middle of nowhere and very out of place, we all anxiously got intoxicated. We got on the hay bale stage and played through our set laughing our heads off at the elderly and confused crowd. Most people were not impressed at all, apart from this one bald dad who ridiculously insisted that he’d book us for his newborn baby daughter’s christening. After 5 minutes of knowing us he also insisted that we were to be her godparents. That was after telling us his story of how he ‘saw God in the flames of a fire whilst high on acid’ and also how he’d ‘missed all The Sex Pistols gigs in the ’70s due to doing time in prison.’”

Spectrals
“I suppose I would say that my best festival experience was my first one – I think that is the one that set me on with what I’m doing now. It was Leeds Festival 2003, and that was the first time I properly worked out for myself that music existed on that scale and that that many people were bothered about stuff like that. I just remember it seemed huge and that I didn’t have a reference for that apart from going to watch the football, but it was a different kind of crowd. There was Thrice, Poison The Well, The Movielife, Finch, Reel Big Fish, Bowling For Soup and then later on it was Linkin Park and Blink-182. It was unreal really, hardly anything ever topped that because I was so new to it and I was just ready to love it all and have a mad day, seeing bands that you liked but you didn’t really know what they looked like or anything. There’s a photo somewhere that my dad has of us on that day with band t-shirts about 3 sizes too big on, giving the devil horns.”

Ghostpoet
“One of the best festival experiences was probably a festival in Lithuania one year, with one of the craziest crowds I’ve come across and such an amazing colosseum-like stage near a beach if I remember correctly. And all that, despite arriving at Bratislava airport with half our music equipment not making the flight over, discovering that we had, like, an additional five-hour drive to get to the festival site and somehow scramble around and borrow the equipment we needed to do the show. Ahh, those were the days!”

Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin
“There’s an incredible festival in Norway called Slottsfjell, where I had 8 (!) kinds of preserved fish for breakfast, then they took us on a joyride on a boat around the fjord the festival overlooked. Heaven. The complete opposite was a festival in Germany, which was run out of a squatted school, in an abandoned industrial estate, in a port. There were live quails in the catering dining room. The school toilets were still working, but someone had nicked the cubicles so you had to wee in a row. One of the stages sank. It was pretty apocalyptic, but I still had a good time.”

Sanae Yamada of Moon Duo
“I’m not sure I would call this my best festival experience, but in terms of being memorable, nothing so far can top Milhoes de Festa in Barcelos, Portugal, last year. We played on a stage set at one end of an enormous municipal swimming pool. This was in late July and the afternoon sun had reached its peak blaze, and we had no shade. My keyboard got so hot it was actually painful to play. The crowd was almost naked – dressed only in tiny bikinis and swimming trunks – in and out of the pool, dancing and splashing around. Everyone was bronzed and beautiful, it was very surreal. When our set was over, we jumped in as well.”

Duncan Wallis of Dutch Uncles
“When we played Reading and Leeds festival in 2011 we thought it would be a good idea to get down to Reading the night before to see what that leg of the festival was like and to check out Pulp and The Strokes as well. Pulp were fantastic although we only knew 4 songs, which made us feel stupid and The Strokes looked like they hated each other that night, so we proceeded to get very merry and forget about the whole thing. In short we got too drunk, and having lasagne for breakfast at the catering tent was a terrible idea, especially in front of Huw Stephens, and although we managed to stop being sick for the half hour we had to play, it was still a long road back to Manchester. Great.”

Lucy Mercer of Stealing Sheep
“Latitude was a great festival experience for us. It was Emily’s birthday festival weekend which meant party time big time, our super good friends the amazing Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band and Tilt dance collective accompanied us onstage, we achieved a childhood dream of earning our Blue Peter Badges (this is true), we had to take a boat to get to the stage, and we all got a pub lunch in the sun on the way home. Yeah!”

Chad Valley
“I had an amazing experience at the first or second ever Latitude festival where I played with my other band Jonquil. We decided, as we had a bunch of acoustic instruments, that we would play an impromptu set in the woods after all the bands finished. We combined this with trying to get more alcohol and drugs, singing songs in desperation. This is something that I would probably hate if I saw nowadays, being the kind of person that hates hippies and busking; but at the time we had the innocence of a band playing their first ever festival. I guess that innocence is something I won’t be getting back.”

Declan Pleydell-Pearce of Fun Adults
“It would please me in hindsight to say that watching The Fall at Bristol’s Ashton Court Festival was up there in my most treasured festival memories, but it would also be disingenuous to say that I understood half of what Mark E Smith was getting at. Also a downpour that evening flooded the site, and in turn caused the festival to fold financially. So yeah – that’s probably one of the worst, sorry Mark. More honestly I’d say watching Battles at Glastonbury. They only got to play about five tracks because CSS were shoved on as headliners, but it’s up there in the best ever.”

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