Fifteen years of Bearded Theory, and let’s cut to the chase up front, for its size and pricing value, this Reviewer regards Bearded as up there with the very best. Our FFA Reviewers have been with Bearded since the early days, and even back then, there was always something special about the festival. A spark. A vibe that set it apart. You just knew that unlike many established events that still remain little more than bands in fields, with toilets and food stalls, Bearded would transcend all that and become a true EVENT, bigger than its yearly artist offerings, with its own ethos, culture, community, and sense of belonging. Its people are the thing. Everyone on that site becomes a player, part of a living, breathing entity. At Bearded you belong to something bigger; there is a camaraderie that many other festivals would die for. There were not many chilled and friendlier places in the UK that May weekend than those hallowed Derbyshire fields, and it was truly wonderful.

Jane's Addiction @Bearded24

Take a read of the Festivals For All Bearded Theory 2023 Review for just of hint of the past glorious malarkey that’s gone down over the years.

For a festival in the small/medium category, Bearded is a Tardis of a place, cramming in over half a dozen stages, plus many other entertainment and chill zones. It covers all the bases of music genres, spoken word, and a myriad of other top quality shenanigans over its five-day duration. Everything else is pretty much on the button with great facilities, organisation and attitude. For its pricing points, the festival offers excellent value for money, particularly when Bearded’s increasingly rare policy of allowing punters to bring their own alcohol onto the arena is factored in. The crowd is as diverse as the festivals music policy, with everyone from FFA's old fart hippies, to young strapping Space Cadets becoming part of that swirling mass of beautiful humanity. Don’t forget that Bearded majors on its kids and teens entertainment too. Read more about the festival details and offerings HERE.

Mud @Bearded24

A word on the 2024 weather and its impact, cos it did unfortunately impact. Well actually the underfoot conditions impacted; the weather was normally quite good, with Saturday positively sunny. Given the high water table due to the Noah-esque conditions of recent months, and then heavy rain immediately preceding the event, parts of the camping fields were flooded and the arena area had cut up into a bit of a mudfest. This is Bearded after all, so 10/10, they owned the problem and did their damnedest to alleviate the worst of the issues. Late Wednesday they issued the unprecedented request for punters to defer arrival until Friday to reduce bottlenecking and delay, and give the site time to recover, which many attendees commendably did. Many vehicles were towed both on and off site without too much hassle or drama. It did impact FFA’s preference for dossing on a blanket for hours watching this mash-up of humanity go by, and easily mooching about between the stages, but with classic British stoicism, most in the crowd simply thought ‘Sod It’ and got on with partying!

Jim Bob @Bearded24

Now then.  Here’s a view this Reviewer has championed for many a year about Bearded: the artists each year are transient – they come and go - at Bearded the FESTIVAL itself is the thing. And you know what – the bands really don’t matter, it’s the festival entity, its living, beating heart that creates the vibe, that famous Bearded Buzz, not some bands in a field. Don’t get me wrong; Bearded always excels in everything it offers – its artist roster is to die for given the festivals size and budget, and it’s been like that for fifteen glorious years. But if you judge festivals like Bearded solely on its yearly line-up, this Reviewer would politely suggest you’ve made a category error. This event would still provide a magical weekend irrespective of who graced the stages. 

Amyl and the Sniffers @Bearded24

As always, this year’s batch were pretty much splendid across the board, and here’s FFA’s take on what worked for us from 2024’s contingent. Don’t expect a list! Buy a programme if that’s your bag. FFA witnessed some terrific performers that don’t even make the cut. It’s likely your faves don’t get a mention. It’s all opinion after all, and the beauty of Bearded is that the depth and diversity across those stages provides enough to satisfy everyone’s personal heaven. This happened to be ours….


It was the heady dub beats of the excellent Headmix Collective that drew a bleary eyed FFA onto the somewhat muddy arena. Nothing like a midday jig in wellies to create the right mindset for Bearded’s messy fun. This band were just the ticket, and FFA were up and away.  Over on the Pallet, the absolutely splendid The Big Moon held court and the band enthralled an appreciative crowd with some truly lovely melodies and vocal harmonies. Yet another outfit who should be bigger than they are – but that’s the music biz for you.

The Big Moon @Bearded24

You want raucous? Then roll up to a Peat & Diesel gig!  This chatty, folky mob brought a Stornoway bluster to proceedings, and certainly set the tone for the merriment to come. Now there is raucous, and there is Therapy? raucous. The bands’ set over in the Meadow was up there as one of the sets of the festival for this seasoned Reviewer. Absolutely stonking stuff. These guys are consummate masters at perfecting the three-minute rock nugget, compressing more classic riffs and hooks into their little staccato bursts of pure energy than many similar bands manage in a twenty-minute meander. Its high intensity stuff, and when they let rip with a thunderous ‘Stories’ early doors, you just knew this was likely to be one hell of a set. Cairns and McKeenan strode the stage like titans, whilst birthday boy Cooper excelled on percussion. A blistering ‘Potato Junkies’ put the cap on it all for FFA. A cracking live band.

Therapy? @Bearded24

New Model Army always bring their own fiercely loyal following and always bring their own unique atmosphere to whatever venue they play. Cue crowd pyramids, full throated sing-alongs, Sullivan’s biting social and politic observations, a band still right on top of their game, and this was a superb headline band to close the Meadow. Part of their ‘Unbroken’ tour, the band still mean business and still maintain their relevance after all these years. Respect.

New Model Army @Bearded24


Jim Bob. One of the most cutting, smart-arsed, funny, intelligent, poignant and thoughtful lyricists of the late 20th Century. Sometimes lost in the bright lights of the Carter USM experience, the man’s words shine like a beacon whenever he’s played solo post Carter. Bearded saw him in full band mode this time around, and this all worked a treat. A different spin, something new, moving forwards. Some new material and some from the vaults. In was, however, ‘A Prince in a Paupers Grave’ which stole the show. The crowd sang every word – artist and audience as one. A fabulous Bearded moment. Throw in a five-minute cameo from Fruitbat (for it was he) towards the end of the set, and this was all a triumph dear boy.

Jim Bob @Bearded24

Over in Coda, FFA were blessed to witness the mayhem and sheer Good Times of a Bentley Rhythm Ace performance. Throw in EMF’s Atkin on twiddles and looning, and this gig was a full-on party zone. Crazy times, cracking beats, and everyone grinning like maniacs – typical BRA show then. Oh, 3 Daft Monkeys we love you so! Festival stalwarts, always value, guaranteed to get any crowd dancing, and always generate a fantastic festival atmosphere. It all appears to come effortlessly, but without any hint of complacency; this band simply love what they do – and its infectious. No wonder they are constant staples on the festival circuit.

3 Daft Monkeys @Bearded24

Brace yer’selves – News just in… FFA set of the festival goes to Jane’s Addiction !!, We thought them splendid. What is it about big American bands compared to many of their UK counterparts? It seems to be the US default that bands are slick, tight as nuts, professional, fully rehearsed, and actually put on a show! Notice how at least one band member is doing something to entertain on stage all the time? No mumbling downtime or dead space.  Jane’s Addiction ticked all those boxes and more besides. Front man Farrell exudes overwhelming stage presence; the bloke only has to take off his hat and the crowd gasp! He’s got it – always has. Musically the band excelled, their precision breathtaking at times. Well-paced, from full on rock ‘n roll boogie, to the raw emotion of  Jane Says’. At the end, the band returned to a stage bedecked with kettle drums to thump out a remarkable ‘Chip Away’. A wonderful headline performance from a top top band. Excellent stuff.

Jane's Addiction @Bearded24

Dog Show!!!! Beats on wheels. Two blokes dressed as dogs playing drums and keyboards on a moveable trolley. Totally surreal. Always go see these guys. Trust me.

Dogshow @Bearded24

Want music for your wedding? Souk party? arena stadium gig? Then look no further than Tarantism. FFA caught them in two-piece Tarantism Acoustic Disco mode in a late night set over at the Tea Tent. A brilliant collective of multi-genre musicians, with Rogers vocals as pure as the driven snow, and Martin appearing to summon a symphony orchestra or funk band at will from his acoustic guitar. The Tea Tent always has a special atmosphere, but it was totally kicking for Tarantism’s take on popular classics from the 60’s onwards. The gaff was bouncing. What a way to end a splendid Bearded Saturday night.


English Teacher @Bearded24

Caught the English Teacher set over in a heaving Meadow stage. This young band looked somewhat nervous at the off, but given a couple of songs to settle, and they blossomed into something rather good indeed. Out and about touting a new album, do try and catch them soon. Blimey! German Hardcore Outfit Shook Woodland Stage To Its Foundations Shock!!! Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Slope. A stage twice the size could not have contained the antics of these guys. On the small Woodland stage it was like letting fireworks off in your wardrobe. The supercharged performance belied some fine beats, vocals and musicianship. Wild times and FFA loved it.

Slope @Bearded24

Quality EDM sets abounded on Sunday, and FFA took in the Orb & System 7. The former have always been a class act through the decades, whilst any set even hinting at a sniff of Steve Hillage’s guitar is worth crawling miles over broken glass for. Both were excellent. Gong links all the way, with a Steve Davis & Kavus Torabi DJ set leading into System 7’s electronica extravaganza. The pair made little effort to appear busy twiddling the sliders, instead opting to have a great time with the punters. Chilled, relaxed, and wonderful, and it did feature Torabi looning about with a 4-way gang plug (don’t ask). A fine mashup, including arguably the best ‘Two Tribes’ mix of all. FFA loved it.

Davis & Torabi @Bearded24

The Pallet closed with Amyl and the Sniffers. Front woman Taylor is an absolute whirlwind, and she is supported by a fine band. Classic Ausie pub rock at its very best. A pounding set with the up-for-it crowd bouncing along. A shortish set and perhaps a tad single paced given the relentless full-on intensity, but a fine end to main stage proceedings.

Amyl and the Sniffers @Bearded24

FFA ended Meadow festivities with a superb set from Baxter Dury. Of course he channels his dad sometimes, who wouldn’t? But there is far more to this guy than having a talented and iconic father. There is a depth, quality and uniqueness to the bloke and his band that FFA thought excellent. The interplay between the Dury-eque laconic vocal style and the crystal sharp female vocals of keyboard player Hart was simply wonderful at times. ‘Cocaine Man’ stole the set. Another Bearded winner!

Fireworks @Bearded24        

So. There you have it then. Bearded Theory remains one of the definitive, benchmark experiences on the festival circuit. Excellent as always.

Article & Snaps by Barrie Dimond