In a year when 42 UK festivals have postponed, cancelled or closed down completely, next year’s tickets for Bearded Theory are already going on sale this coming Friday 7th June!

What is it that makes Bearded Theory such a resounding success?

There are probably many reasons, some obvious, some not so obvious.

But I think it basically comes down to the fact that the festival organisers know what their target audience want.  Because they are the target audience themselves and they put on the kind of festival they’d like to go to: A well organised festival with a great vibe, lots for families to do, and off course – a superb line-up of current and legacy acts appreciated by the discerning music fan.

Some festivals try to cater for everyone to maximise ticket sales, whereas Bearded tends to cater for fans of punk, post-punk, ska etc, which means that most attendees are on the same page, which leads to a friendly, relaxed vibe, where strangers are friendly and only too happy to lend a hand when you’re struggling through the mud generally speaking.

Little details like being able to bring in your own food and drink not only means you can do the festival on a tight budget, or that if you are particularly fussy about your choice of alcohol, you can bring in what you like, but also means that unlike many festivals – there is no checkpoint at the entry to the arena where people who were probably rejected by Customs and Excise for being too aggressive bark at you demanding to know if you’ve got any alcohol, and start checking out any bulges on your person…

Of course, bar sales are an essential part of any festivals economics, but instead of using the stick approach and forcing you to buy cooking lager or go thirsty, Bearded Theory use the carrot approach of having interesting bars you want to try out.

The policy seems to work too – every time I passed the bars they seemed to be doing brisk trade.

Aside from the Bearded School on the Friday so that children can attend without getting fined for a day off (let’s face it – kids will learn a lot more about life at a festival than they would learn at school – especially as it was the last day of term) the kids field has loads going on for them, and is handily close to the main stage so you can still check out a band you want to see.

Myself, my partner Verity and son Jarvis (now aged 10) haven’t been to Bearded Theory since 2019 for one reason or another.  Thankfully, very little has changed (in a good way!) – the crowds are still manageable, the toilets relatively clean (for festival toilets – you still wouldn’t want them in your house!) distances between stages still close enough that you can get between them in 5-10 mins, but far enough apart that you don’t get sound bleed.

There are now 6 stages giving more choice than ever!

The one thing of course that no outdoor camping festival can control is the weather.

Following two glorious sunny weekends, on the Wednesday, the very day that the festival opened, it rained pretty much constantly for 24 hrs.  Seemingly a month’s rainfall in a single day.

This obviously meant that getting people into the car parks was no straight-fwd matter, the woodland stage was closed after flooding and the site was a bit of a mud bath.

Whilst social media posts on the Wednesday afternoon mainly revolved around weather and mud, it was nice to see them gradually change towards people enjoying the bands.

We originally aimed to arrive on the Thursday, but due to the weather we decided to leave it until the Friday.

Jarvis might only be 10, but he’s recently turned into a moody “Kevin and Perry” type teenager.  I’m hoping that since he’s become a teenager early, he’ll be a mature adult by the time he’s 14.  Well, we’ll see!

Last time we were at the festival he was 5 and didn’t even have a phone, and absolutely loved the kids field.  The only problem was getting him out of it when it was time to close!

Now like most of his peer group, he practically lives on his phone, so we broke the news to him early that there probably won’t be much of a data signal, and to download as much as he can.

“In a minute” he kept saying, but of course we arrived at the festival without him having downloaded anything, and spent the next few days complaining about the lack of signal.

For most of us, the lack of signal is a blessing – a welcome break from Social Media and all the negativity that goes with it.  But for Jarvis?  Not so much, especially as he’s into K-Pop at the moment, so there wasn’t even anything on the line-up for him.

Nevertheless, I think even he secretly enjoyed the festival despite his protestations!

We asked if he’d rather stay with Nana next year, he loves his Nana but even with the promise of good WiFi “no, it’s ok, I’ll come with you”.


His Lordship


Whilst the trudge through the mud felt like it took forever, that was soon forgotten as I headed down the woodland and caught my first band of the festival – His Lordship.

This is a band I’ve wanted to see for a while, and if you haven’t checked out their album yet then you really should- they are the perfect festival band because even if you’ve never heard of them before, their music is accessible enough to reel you in from the start of their set.

Panic Shack

Cardiff’s Panic Shack were formed in 2018, I’ve heard nothing but good things about them, and they didn’t disappoint on my first time catching them.

Bob Vylan

An early highlight for me was Bob Vylan.  If you’ve never seen them yet then I definitely recommend putting that right at the first opportunity.

The security guard asked me if he did “Bob Dylan” covers – erm, not quite!

Following Bob Vylan’s recent appearance on Jools Holland there’s a lot of debate over whether a band can be truly punk and yet appear on popular tv.

But back in the day, the original punk bands signed to major labels and appeared on Saturday morning kids telly when they got the chance.  If you’ve got a message to get out, surely it makes more sense to get the word out to as many people as possible, and surely performing angry songs on a safe show like Jools on the BBC is quite punk in itself, much more so than playing it safe by playing exclusively to established punk audiences at the likes of Rebellion.


It seems that Dexy’s can’t please everyone no matter what they do.

The first time I saw them was at Liverpool Sound City just after they released the album “One Day I’m Going to Soar” which they performed in full.  They were playing in the Anglican Cathedral Liverpool, and it perfectly suited the album being quite theatrical in places, for example the woman singer appearing on a balcony and singing down to him.

Even though I’ve never been a big Dexy’s fan I was nevertheless impressed – but as we walked down the road from the Cathedral, all I heard was people muttering “They didn’t play any hits, not even “Come on Eileen”.

I get that to a point – I mean at festivals not everyone is a big fan of the bands they go and see – many are simply curious and want to hear the hits.

At Bearded Theory when they played Geno, Jackie (or is it Jocky? 😉 ) Wilson Said and indeed “Come on Eileen” I thought that it would please the audience.

And yet, looking at social media, it would seem they were quite divisive, with complaints of waffle during one of the songs (which again tends to work better in a room full of fans rather than casual fans at a festival to be fair) but also complaints that they didn’t play the hits?  Were they confusing them with another band?…

Anyway, I thought they put on an excellent show.



After a fairly melodic set from Dexy’s I needed something loud, and Therapy? were just what the doctor ordered!  (I’ll get me coat!)

Future Islands

I must admit, although I’d seen the name, I knew nothing about Future Islands.  Someone said “Mad dancing?” Nope, didn’t ring a bell.

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one, and a few people I spoke to were in the same boat.

Thing is, back in the day, I hated Guns N Roses for example – and yet I could probably, reluctantly sing Paradise City word perfect – because in those days everything revolved around the Top 40 and if a band were popular, you couldn’t avoid them, no matter how much you wanted to.

Now, a band can be absolutely massive, and yet completely fly under your radar.

A lot of people know them from their performance on Jools Holland (4.6 million views on YouTube so far) which I rarely watch, that was 10 years ago so far from a new band – indeed Samuel said they had been going for 18 years.

So it’s clear they have the stats to backup their headline booking – but were they any good?

Well, I enjoyed them but I do think you need to watch Samuel Herring’s legendary dance moves along with the music.  I must admit when I returned to my seat to rejoin my family at the back of the field, not being able to see the performance wasn’t quite as powerful.

Sadly we didn’t make it to see the amazing Jane Weaver, but it was a long day, so we chilled a bit before returning to tent.


On Saturday we woke to glorious sunshine – which lasted pretty much all day.  But in all the preparation for Mud and Rain – we completely forgot to pack sunscreen!

The Meffs

If you like your music loud and political then you definitely need to catch The Meffs – a perfect start to the day!

I’d been gutted that I’d missed Meryl Streek’s set on the Friday as we arrived too late – but look who I saw enjoying The Meffs set…

The man himself!  It surprised me that he recognised me from seeing him at his show in Liverpool.  Really top guy, always great to catch up with him.

Goat Girl

I’ve got to admit I’ve never really got the appeal of Goat Girl, and today was no exception, not helped by the fact that their set was late after technical issues.

Nevertheless, there was a decent sized early crowd there who seemed to enjoy their set, so they must be doing something right.


One of my absolute highlights of the weekend – been wanting to see them for ages, and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest.


The ever popular Carter front man did what they do best and put on an impressive crowd-pleasing set.



Wargasm are another band who weren’t really on my radar (though I’d heard the name) and instantly won me over with their high energy set.

Loving the Prodigy vibes on this single:

Sleaford Mods

It’s fair to say that Sleaford Mods tend to divide opinion in a way that makes Marmite seem like something everyone can agree upon.

Nevertheless, their set had the biggest crowd of the weekend so they are obviously doing something right.

Jane’s Addiction


And so on to the big Saturday night headliner – Jane’s Addiction.

Must admit I’ve never personally been a big fan, but Verity was in her element right back in the 90s, and I enjoyed their set too.

Our energy levels were once again lacking, so we headed back to the tent instead of looking for late night adventures.


Sunday morning we awoke to the unwelcome sound of rain.  Particularly unnerving as a big lighting storm was forecast.

Fortunately, the forecast was wrong, and all we had across the day were a couple of light showers.


With the last-day festival blues starting to kick in, and fears of a big storm wiping out our fun, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day than Penetration’s set.  What a band!


If ever there was a band to put a smile on your face it’s New York’s Bodega – part Devo, part Blondie, all fun. Another of my highlights.

English Teacher

English Teacher are very much a band of the moment, with their fanbase rocketing, and catching them live explains why.  Go see them if you get the chance.

Ferocious Dog

Ferocious Dog need no introduction to the Bearded Theory crowd – many of them no doubt “Hell Hounds” (Ferocious Dog fans).  It was the first time I managed to catch them, and their infectious Celtic Punk brought the sun out.  When the weather people predicted a storm, I expected it to be in the sky, not on the stage!

Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaning were one of the last bands I saw before the first lockdown, so it was great to catch them for the first time since the release of Stumpwork.  Great to see them still on top form – Shaw’s lyrics, full of mundane observations and absurdist humour, quirky and brilliant.

Dinosaur Jr.


Much as I love catching relatively new bands, it’s always great to catch old favourites and it’s always good to see Dinosaur Jr. Some complained about the sound, but I thought they sounded good, could be where I was standing.

Amyl & The Sniffers

Sunday night’s main stage headliner was Amyl & The Sniffers – Amy Taylor’s high-energy stage presence was just the energy boost required as the end of the festival beckoned.

Baxter Dury

Nobody wants a festival to end, but if it must then you can’t do better than catch Baxter Dury.

Like his dad before him, wry insightful lyrics delivered in a gruff cockney accent, contrasted with his female backing singers sweet vocals and his unique stage premise was just the send off from an amazing festival that we needed.

On Monday morning it was clear that people were broken but happy, frustrations with the weather were largely forgotten and the post-festival comedown was starting to kick in.

In the words of Arnie… we’ll be back!  See you next year?

Tickets for Bearded Theory 2025 go on sale on Friday 7th June 2024


Pictures: John King / Live Music Pix
Words: John King with assistance from Verity Bambury.


Verity’s highlights: BDRMM, Meffs, Janes Addiction, Jim Bob, Bob Vylan, Baxter Dury
John’s Highlights: BDRMM, Meffs, Bob Vylan, Bodega, Penetration, Baxter Dury, His Lordship
Jarvis’s Highlights: Pizza, Hot Dog, getting a phone signal again in the car park 🙂

For more photos check out the full sets on the Urbanista Facebook Page

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John King

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