God could only ask himself where he went wrong as he looked down into his church. Manic dancing took place in the aisles, on the pews and behind the alter as your weird uncle at the wedding’s weirder mates dissonantly bellowed ‘give a little respectttt, toooo meeeeee!’. This was one of the many, many vices that took place in the Beat Herder church over the weekend. It didn’t seem that peculiar when you looked at the town and its folk though:
The church was actually quite tame compared to the rest of the village that resembled the set of a fantasy film. “This could be heaven or this could be hell” people asked as they gazed upon The Hotel California. Upon entry it was quickly evident that it was heaven. Despite the absence of The Eagles there were enough wide eyed birds and even some burlesque dancers to accompany an eclectic lineup of DJs. What DJs? I haven’t a clue!
You see Beat Herder was most definitely not about following a strict schedule. It was about crawling through underground tunnels, braving mudslides and getting lost in the woods; and of course enjoying whatever music happened to be on whilst you were there. It had a distinct rave atmosphere with a strong sense of community. There was so much peace and merry making that even security guards seemed to take a step back and just let you get on with things, all with the safe trust that only kind actions would take place all weekend. There really wasn’t a bad vibe in sight.
Unless you counted the weather anyway. 6+ inches of mud meant curled toes struggled to keep shoes – lined with bin bags – firmly on feet. The bright lights and fancy dress added to the brown sludge in scenes that were as wobbly as an ether fuelled circus binge. If you managed not to fall over and be lost to the mud forever, then you were rewarded with the delights of the main stage. Every act I caught here over the weekend I could tell had been cherry picked for quality. Friday saw The Parov Stellar Band give the place a continental feel with brass filled swinging beats whilst the Saturday extended things further out into the universe as Orbital played an extraordinary, extra terrestrial set filled with wonky analogue sounds and even a bit of Bon Jovi.
Alcohol and food were reasonably priced too. Pub surroundings provided beer and cider for £3, a cost comparable to Beach Break which is a student festival. To make things even cheaper for everyone, there weren’t many restrictions on what could be brought into the campsite. Crates, spirits, inhibitions: everything went!
Of course Sunday sadly had to come, it was planned to be a take it easy day but ideas were quickly turned around as Mr Scruff played a seven hour set for another consecutive year. It was the perfect remedy for a Sunday afternoon and eased my bones ready for another night of chaos. And what a night it was. Doing my best to take in as much of the magical Toil Trees as I could; I took a final gaze up into the majestic canopies that had overlooked everything between electro, drum and bass, tech house and the crazy lady who loved doing handstands in the mud.
Beat Herder did a great job living up to its laid back and enchanting reputation. Most people I met had been multiple years in a row and it was clear why. Even before the characterful closing sets from Lee Scratch Perry and the literally show stopping live performance from Kraak and Smaak I knew deep down that I’d been pulled into the strange community that should hopefully see my return next year!