Frankie & the Heartstrings © Kate Goodacre, 2012

Beacons 2012 Festival Clockwatch: Sunday, August 19

00.00: From the moment Andrew Wetherall and Sean Johnson appear behind the decks, every single square centimetre of dancefloor in the Beacons Social tent is occupied by passengers eager to depart on their four-hour expedition into the uncharted territories of nightlife. At the halfway point, a wave of midnight latecomers exiting from Wild Beasts' headline slot arrive just in time to hear this collaboration entitled 'A Love From Outer Space' reach its astounding crescendo. BT

00.50: Spy a girl proudly brandishing what looks like Eagulls' fairy light-bedecked headless shop dummy by the Stool Pigeon tent during a refreshment break. KG

01.20: Your second correspondent's dancing feet are long since shot, however (well, have you tried going for it to 'All The King's Men' by Wild Beasts in wellies that are a size too big, with feet that would likely make a chiropodist recoil in horror after two days of the Dales' tempestuous elements? You should really give it a go sometime, it's bloody marvellous). The Into the Woods tent serves up a fine line in hot beverages, tasty cake and ample carpeted space to kick off your outdoor footwear and sit back, and a couple of hundred sleepy punters are packed in for a screening of Ben Steinbauer's illuminating documentary Winnebago Man.

The premise is as follows - Steinbauer has become fascinated by a quick-tempered Winnebago sales rep whose foul-mouthed outtakes have been circulating the globe like some sort of visual chain letter for over two decades - first on home video, then on the internet - and makes an attempt to track him down. But the man in question, former broadcast journalist Jack Rebney, wants our filmmaker to help him get his views on life, politics and big business out there. Alas, just as it's starting to get interesting, the projector overheats and decides to call it an early night. And with that, so do I. KG

05.30: Awoken by an impromptu rendition of some Definitely Maybe-era Oasis tracks courtesy of a couple of (off-duty) Motel contributors and friends. Consider getting up to investigate, but ultimately decide against it. KG

Frankie & the Heartstrings © Kate Goodacre, 2012

Frankie & the Heartstrings © Kate Goodacre, 2012

14.00: A lazy start to day three means that the first band both for myself and Benjamin today are Frankie & the Heartstrings, who were on the bill to play at last year's rained-off event. I warn Benjamin that the Sunderland quintet may not be to his tastes, suggesting he could 'go either way' on them, but their blistering live prowess - plus a reminder of how jolly nice Frankie and Michael were when talking to us about all manner of things from their debut album Hunger to jazz documentaries to sex shops for the 2010 Fugitive Motel Review of the Year - seems to win him over in part.

The band are hampered by technical difficulties right at the start of their set, but this thankfully doesn't kill off the momentum once they get going. Frankie's showmanship has developed since their last encounter with the Motel at Salford Lads Club, and he uses the floor to great aplomb, flailing around the stage without it ever becoming laboured. 'Possibilities' - all 107 seconds of it - and 'Ungrateful' are the highlights of an excellent performance, and my sense of anticipation for forthcoming new material just skyrocketed. KG

15.00: Willis Earl Beal, an infamous X Factor USA reject from Chicago now signed to XL, unexpectedly steals the spotlight with a performance so outstanding it's almost enough to make you hurry immediately back to civilisation in search of the nearest record shop. With a voice beyond compare, backed by boombox loops and sometimes his own ramshackle guitar playing, he unbuckles his belt and quite literally whips his audience into a frenzy with fifty shades of blues. BT

15.30: Willis Earl Beal was really quite something. Having tried and failed to get to grips with his patchy debut Acousmatic Sorcery, released earlier this year, his songs are given a new lease of life in the live arena and command an uneasy, silent, reverent respect from the audience. And What. A. Voice. So full of pain. KG

15.45: An honourable mention to the good folk of Gandhi's Flip Flop, whose fine veggie and vegan fare makes for a great alternative Sunday lunch. Seriously, I haven't had a korma that good in years. KG

Willy Mason © Kate Goodacre, 2012

Willy Mason © Kate Goodacre, 2012

16.00: Willy Mason, unlikely as it may seem, proves himself to be folk music's answer to Usain Bolt in this inspirational Olympic summer. His five-song, 25-minute set is so focused it's over almost before it begins, the antithesis of Springsteenesque. And he is well deserving of a gold medal for what is perhaps this event's most outstanding sprint performance. Highlights selected from his first two albums, beautifully backed by a pair of vocalists from his native Martha's Vineyard, include 'Where the Humans Eat', 'Oxygen' and 'We Can Be Strong'. BT

17.00: Dirty wellies must be discarded at the door by those wishing to enter the Into The Woods tent. Being barefoot somehow adds to the cozy, relaxed and domestic ambience of Beacons' comedy and cinema auditorium New Order at Home, just one of the many screenings on offer, is a documentary which shows the Mancunian dancefloor pioneers on stage at their peak and engaged in all sorts of bizarre antics with their Factory Records colleagues. Once you've watched Gillian Gilbert interview a naked Tony Wilson in the bathroom of his palatial suburban home, and Peter Hook take Alan Erasmus on a high-speed motorcycle ride across the fields of his farm, 24 Hour Party People suddenly seems very PG-rated in comparison. BT

18.03: New Order at Home was thoroughly enjoyable, even if I'm still a smidge confused by the relevance of a nude Tony Wilson to proceedings. (I suspect the fact it is completely irrelevant was the point). Alan Erasmus's wry assertion that running Factory Records and a farm were comparable experiences by dint of the amount of excrement involved in both endeavours was quite possibly the highlight of the whole film. KG

18.15: Hailing all the way from the seaside idyll of Brighton, Tall Ships' repertoire is a treasure chest of nautically-themed progressive symphonies. Their popularity swells thanks to a sudden downpour which forces the crowds to seek shelter in the Vice tent and leave shortly afterwards as devotees. BT

Patrick Wolf © Kate Goodacre, 2012

Patrick Wolf © Kate Goodacre, 2012

19.30: The evening is still young, yet already Star Slinger has quite literally blown the walls off the Greendales stage, as its canvas exterior is dismantled to accommodate the vast crowds clamouring to sample his uptempo cut 'n' paste skills. Meanwhile, fans of somewhat more sedate sounds have the choice of encountering Patrick Wolf, just a few steps away on the Stool Pigeon stage. As always, Wolf aims to perplex with his androgynous creativity, sparking late-night debate at Motel HQ as to whether tonight's attire is a dress, a robe, or some sort of smock. Whatever he's wearing, it's hard not to be impressed by his acoustic renditions of hits and rarities carefully chosen from five albums spanning across a whole decade. BT

20.15: Patrick Wolf has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, and his transformation from cocky, mildly pretentious upstart to assured and confident entertainer is celebrated this evening with a remarkable acoustic set that's one of the highlights of the festival. Majoring on last year's glorious Lupercalia, this is the perfect advert for his forthcoming 10th anniversary tour.

Wolf sings 'Happy Birthday' to a punter, dedicates a track to anyone who's had their heart broken "by a Greek waiter, an Italian lothario... or a Yorkshire farmer" and changes the reference to Southwark stone in 'House' to reflect our location of Skipton, to rapturous whoops from his audience. There's a healthy dose of old material too, with 'Tristan' and 'The Magic Position' - arguably two of his best songs from the early/earlier days - given truly beautiful stripped-down treatments. If you get the chance to catch Wolf live this October, do it. You won't regret it, I promise. KG

Beacons Festival - neon signs © Kate Goodacre, 2012

Beacons Festival - neon signs © Kate Goodacre, 2012

21.00: Already, it's obvious that Beacons offers a somewhat more lavish experience than the typical festival weekend, but those still in doubt would be well advised to pay a visit to the real ale emporium hosted by renowned local tavern Whitelocks. Here, fine liquid delicacies from Yorkshire and beyond are served, along with cocktails for those unafraid to mix their drinks in defiance of advice from their parents (or, indeed, Mercury Prize-winning bands from the Greater Manchester area - KG). BT

22.30: In the 50th anniversary year of Jamaican independence, Toots and the Maytals are the most fitting of festival headliners. 'Monkey Man' and 'Pressure Drop' are just two fine examples of how music can make all kinds of people from all kinds of places sing along together, and tonight, that's exactly what happens. BT

23.15: Toots and the Maytals' performance tonight is a vast improvement on their short and slightly lacklustre set at Bestival last September. The crowd are in a celebratory and genuinely joyful mood (and have remained so all weekend - everyone I've encountered has been very calm and pragmatic, which is increasingly rare at larger, more corporate-focused events). Interestingly, a man nearby has even been inspired to sketch the band as they perform. 'Monkey Man' and '54-46...' are as joyous as always, but it's a rendition of 'Louis Louis' that proves a surprising highlight. KG

23.30: With the clock ticking ever onwards towards the inaugural Beacons Festival's final curfew, Maya Jane Coles plays intense bass in a zero-visibility smoke machine haze to the densely packed masses of the Greendales tent, as four unforgettable days and nights fade to grey. BT

Monday, August 20, 00.20: Toots is done, the inflatable slides have been deflated, the queue for crepes is enormous and the whole festival briefly runs the risk of jumping the shark as two men duel above a rubbish bin and somebody marches through the campsite holding a four-man tent aloft. However, any fear of unquelled festival madness disappears fairly quickly as people disperse to their tents and chat long into the night. KG

Monday, 03.40: My final visit to the (now spotless!) toilets is greeted with a burst of airhorn, then a joyous shout of "IT'S A HORN!" from the man waving it. Very nice, dear. Now put that down and go to sleep, I've an early train to Reality to catch tomorrow. It's going to be hard to tear myself away. This has been an entertaining and strangely stress-free weekend for a festival 'on duty', and I'm genuinely very thankful for that. KG

Monday, 11.00: So often, festival organisers provide outstanding line ups of entertainment, yet forget to take care of the basics. For our long-anticipated weekends of fun and freedom, great music is an essential, but there are a few other things which always add to the enjoyment: Pleasant weather, new friends, good food, clean(-ish) toilets, cheap(-ish) beer and speedy transport home once the good times are over for another year.

Beacons, a tiny festival with an enormous atmosphere, provides all these things and more. Meanwhile, elsewhere in these Isles, almost 200,000 people are embarking on the annual pilgrimage of mediocrity that is known as V Festival. They don't know what they're missing, and let's hope it stays that way, so the rest of us can keep our muddy, marvellous little secret to ourselves. BT

words by Kate Goodacre and Benjamin Thomas
all pictures by Kate Goodacre