The last time I went to Knaresborough Bed Race was some long time ago. Now, it’s my experience that you always remember things in the past to be a lot busier than they in fact were – this may partly be due to the fact I am a DJ and things actually WERE busier back then and for a career there was no need for me to try branch out into, say, journalism – but before that, as a kid, things did seem bigger and better, didn’t they? However, Knaresborough Bed Race seems MUCH busier than back in the day, the town is packed and the amount of people by the river side made the amount of people trying to get into a tent at Download Festival to see the Prodigy seem like the amount of people trying to get in a nightclub to see me DJ on a Thursday (16, S.I.X..TE.E.N.). So after a really hectic busy day in the sun, what better way to unwind than with a bit of live music?
Bedfest is at Henshaws Arts & Crafts Center and kicked off at 5pm. Because of some poor planning on my part I knew I was only going to be able to be there for the first couple of hours or so, so I’d made a firm commitment to not miss any of the action that I could catch. So true to form I turn up hour late. I’ve not been to the Henshaws Art’s and Crafts Center before, in fact I’ve not been since it was The Knaresborough Zoo. The last time I was there then, all I can remember seeing was a lion that I think was called Lenny, but a better name would have been “Deppressedy”. I once killed a tiger with a single punch and am not sure if my animurder skills would transfer between the big cat species, but I can’t feeling I’d have been doing that lion a favor. You may be wondering what this has got to do with Bedfest? Well, the thing is, this once disturbingly dispiriting place has since been transformed into a really beautiful space. There is a sensory garden that displays Sculptures and other works of art that my girlfriend said were really good. I love the tree carvings but I’m not much into art – my favorite painting is that one of the dogs playing poker… I also like the one where that Haywain cart is stuck in a river, I think it’s called “Cart stuck in a river” – but my bird appreciates the aesthetically beautiful (well, she IS going out with me) so I will take her word for it. All this makes up for a really excellent and unique back drop for a music festival.
And what a festival Bedfest is! The organizers, Rufus and possibly others, have put together a really excellent line up of local artists plus a couple of acts from further afield and things are clearly running incredibly smoothly for such a large bill. The first notable thing is that entry is FREE, which is really impressive given the amount of effort, time and actual HARDWEAR that is involved to run a gig like this.
Acts are spread over three stages and as we form an orderly queue at the little bar for an ace pint of the always delicious Daleside Blonde (I assume the keg is in the post yeah?) its clear that the cafe stage is just this, a stage in the cafe area, which is a great idea as it means whilst you’re waiting to get served you get to hear some lovely music. It’s also worth noting that the food smells awesome but I’m trying to drop half a stone and stop sweating when I’m reading, so no burger or fries for me today.
If my information is correct – and when isn’t it? – Laurie Birchall was opening this stage, his nice acoustic stylings setting the tone for a easy evening in the sun, and indeed the sun is calling… So after getting a beer it’s time to head out to the sensory gardens. These are a kind of walled courtyard garden that is pretty much the best place I can think of listening to live music on a Saturday afternoon, certainly up there with Knaresborough house (home to Feva in the park, which is another great free festival in K-Town, this year on Saturday 17th August. That Dj Trev’s playing you know?).
Lobo are the first band on that stage, conducting an admirably swift line check they get straight into it. There’s already a good turn out and as the sun beats down Lobo’s melodic grunge goes down as well as the Daleside (make it two kegs yeah?). They’ve got some really good tunes and front man Lex’s vocals are particularly strong, their jamming sounding tracks are anything but frantic or rushed, almost as if they were written for this kind of situation. Whilst they play with the air of the herbally relaxed, they keep things tight and moving along at a good lick, and if their groove based songs are not exactly hurried they also don’t ramble on, think Queens of the Stone Age playing Pearl Jam numbers. Great stuff.
The stage announcer comes on and tells us Aaron Bertenshaw is on in the Gallery stage. It took a bit of convincing to get my girlfriend to come out of the sun and into the gallery, but once we got there she was clearly quite happy as Aaron is one of those good looking young lads that makes people like myself unsmile. In the gallery they have this really cool lighting effect aimed at the stage that looks like the reflection off a swimming pool, so it’s a really nice tranquil setting for Aarons acoustic numbers. He’s got bags of confidence that is well placed in his voice and ability, indeed during his first song I thought for a while he was playing with a click track, but he’s actually tapping out a rhythm with his wrist whilst playing and it sounds as tight as a metronome. Whilst acoustic singer songwritery stuff isn’t my personal choice of music it is really nice to relax and let the songs wash over you like a cool shower on a hot day.
Unfortunately my girlfriend drinks like a fish and at this point started dropping hints that I needed to go to the bar. Rather than saying “why can’t you go” I meekly submitted, like a butler. I was getting nicely into after his cover of Bastille’s “Pompeii” and was a bit gutted cos I wanted to see more of him (which possibly also Hanna did and that was why she sent me away) but the fact that the cafe also acted as anther stage then really comes into play, as I also then got to catch a few songs from Salvage the Dream. This is a guy who is also in a band called The Buffalo Skinners, who until today I didn’t know I knew, but upon checking out,on the basis of what I heard today, are in fact a folkey band I’ve seen play in York, who are really good too. So this is pretty cool, I’m drinking and hearing great music, and I’ve not even paid to be here! Catching the last couple of tracks from Aaron back in the Gallery stage I notice that the crowd is mainly female and they are all hanging on his every word. This reminds me a bit of myself – only with the fact that it’s actually happening, – and it’s gratifying to hear them genuinely go wild as he brings his show to a close. You can catch Aaron a fair bit in harrogate, keep your eyes on my gig guide I’ll always plug his gigs cos he’s right good.
Back into the sun then for the last band I’m gonna get to see before I have to head away to Leeds. Hell Fire Jack are a two piece who I’ve seen a few times and in the past I’ve always found them swaggeringly bluesy. Today they seem a lot more straight up rock n’ roll, knocking out several tracks I’ve never heard before. Front man Alex is probably the best looking person in Knaresborough today and is on top form, filling the stage all by himself and also engaging with the diverse crowd like a consummate family entertainer. They slightly mar their set by doing a song about beards, dedicated to “the best facial hair on earth, the beard” which, as a mustache wearer, I feel is a worthy of reclassification as a hate crime… but the song itself romps along and is good clean fun, going down really well with the crowd, as does all their set. They bring their time slot to a close to shouts of “more more” from the crowd, but as the announcer says that regrettably they are running to a tight time schedule, I realize that, regrettably, so am I.
I GENUINELY didn’t want to leave, and bearing in mind that I’m going to see one of the best dj’s in the world, playing one of the coolest club nights in the world, the fact that I actually toyed with the idea of ditching Derrek Carter, Back to Basics and standing up my mate on his birthday speaks a great deal about the success of Bedfest.
If I had to offer one piece of constructive criticism, I’d suggest that in the event of such good weather next year, the gallery stage could be held in the entrance courtyard, giving more opportunity for people to enjoy the weather, that said, I’m sure once the sun went down the indoor stage options came into their won, so really there’s not much I can say that would improve this great event. Here’s looking forward to next year! Salutations to all involved.