Sunday, Noisey Stage, 13.00-13.30
It’s pretty difficult to come up with something unique as a noise-rock band, or even as a punk foursome. There have been hundreds of collectives over the years offering feral guitar screams, savage vocals and unremitting cymbal thwacks, so how come Girl Band sound so unbelievably different? Listening to their latest single ‘De Bom Bom’, I absolutely cannot fathom how they manage to pull that sound out of four instruments. It’s industrial, in that it actually sounds like the manual grind of a steelworks. Adding to their mysterious idiosyncrasy is their exciting unpredictability – their contribution to Record Store Day was the 25-second explosion of ‘The Cha Cha Cha’, while their ravaging cover of Blawan’s ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage’ will likely feature in their live set too. If anyone needs a wake-up call on a groggy Sunday afternoon, you’re in luck.
Saturday, Main Stage, 23.45-00.45
Before you read any further, and even if you’ve heard it before, listen to Jon Hopkins’ ‘Open Eye Signal’ right now. And listen solely to the beats – nothing else. Have you ever come across beats as complex as the seemingly random shuffle that punctuates this single? It’s like the Trout Mask Replica of techno beats: incoherent at first, clear genius after a few listens. This is, of course, ignoring the atmospheric textures, invasive bassline and wondrous introspectiveness that Hopkins programmes into this record. When Thom Yorke filmed the Atoms For Peace video for ‘Ingenue’, he was actually dancing to ‘Open Eye Signal’, or at least that’s the dance everyone should do, because it fits perfectly. Still, it’s not even disappointing that Hopkins won’t just be playing an hour-long version of ‘Open Eye Signal’ at Beacons; his whole Mercury-nominated latest album Immunity is a beautiful contrasting of sparseness with beauty, hedonism with intimacy. Taking the stage just before Saturday merges into Sunday, Hopkins could be a weekend highlight.
British Sea Power
Friday, Main Stage, 14.00-15.30
Brighton six-piece British Sea Power have always been too enigmatic for the mainstream, but too brilliant for obscurity. Even on their 2008 Top Ten album Do You Like Rock Music?, BSP ventured into religious chants, a song about a bird flu epidemic, and an 8-minute track featuring eight words. It also featured one of the most beautiful instrumentals of recent years (‘The Great Skua’), and their talent for musical composition has flourished ever since. Following 2009’s Man Of Aran, a soundtrack to the 1934 documentary of the same name, the band released their second soundtrack From The Sea To The Land Beyond last December. At Beacons, BSP will be playing the score in full – all 75 minutes of it – for a special sit-down performance on Friday afternoon. The piece includes rearranged parts of the band’s discography, including ‘Waving Flags’ and, sensibly, ‘The Great Skua’, plus plenty of completely fresh arrangements. BSP are a formidable live force anyway, but this could be their most engaging production yet: the ideal opener to Beacons 2014.
Friday, Main Stage, 18.00-19.00
I saw TOY for the second time last week, at Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival. Two things occurred to me: 1) the drummer is actually Animal from The Muppets, which makes you question why TOY aren’t more popular despite celebrity appeal, and 2) they sound exhilarating live, but aren’t the kind of band to warm up a crowd unfamiliar with their pounding kosmische roar. Beacons could be the festival to change all that, with the audience likely to be more receptive to the mind-twisting outpourings of songs like ‘Dead And Gone’. The thing is, I’m still looking for a definitive TOY performance, where everyone loses their shit to the whooshing electric energy of ‘Join The Dots’, ‘Endlessly’ becomes a firm festival favourite with its infectious chorus, and ‘My Heart Skips A Beat’ reduces the crowd to a wide-eyed quiver. This currently fictional gig will become a reality at Beacons, and, with the exception of (drummer) Charlie Salvidge, you’d be a Muppet to miss it.
Sunday, Main Stage, 19.00-20.00
“Always different, always the same” was John Peel’s famous reasoning for labelling The Fall his favourite band, and that adage has rung true throughout their tumultuous 38-year existence. The band members themselves are often different, since they’re routinely sacked by all-powerful leader Mark E. Smith at regular intervals; there have been no less than 66 members of The Fall, plus Smith. Musical directions go off on all tangents, lyrics can address all kinds of bizarre subjects, and the band might love or hate each other depending on when you go and see them. But the one constant is the enigmatic brilliance of Smith, with his famed half-spoken vocal style and an attitude of unerring, vitriolic disgust. No-one can agree on the best Fall album; out of thirty (!), the vast majority surprise and confound in equal measure, often taking multiple listens to fully embrace the complex melodies and repetitive structures. Named as one of the ’50 Bands To See Before You Die’ by Q Magazine, witnessing the institution that is The Fall is no less than a spiritual experience.
Beacons Festival tickets can be purchased here at £109.50+bf for adults and £89.50+bf for students, including camping.