Fellah Hotel, Morocco
28 March - 1 April
The smell of lavender and herbs compliments the lush surroundings of the Fellah Hotel, just outside Marrakech. A truly luxe environment for the cross-section of music, culture and food that makes up The Beat Hotel Marrakech’s inaugural year.
For the uninitiated, The Beat Hotel is a standalone stage at Glastonbury, developing its own singular identity across recent years. Recovery hotspot, outdoor terrace and party playground, the precisely-curated area has developed a reputation for varied, accessible beats, cocktails and cool – and this spin-off borrows from the boutique aesthetic found in this exceptional corner of Worthy Farm. The result is a level of intimacy that feels more akin to a private party.
Housed in a clear polythene tent, the production quality on the main stage is outstanding and an opening night salvo of Moroccan local instrumentalists Master Musicians of Joujouka and Awesome Tapes from Africa showcases a sound quality absent from most UK festivals. It means everyone dances more and the vibe is excellent.
There is also a slickness to the operation that is unprecedented for a first outing, despite awful weather conditions on Saturday threatening the very fabric of the event. A temporary nightclub is the glorious outcome of the R$N stage being moved indoors away from the impending mud pit of the second stage. It’s spectacular with Dan Beaumont and Lovefingers laying down the kind of modern disco/house crossover set that felt perfectly at home here amongst the chic clientele.
Whilst the term boutique festival is overused, it made sense here more than ever. From the impeccably attired attendees (all flowing pool kimonos and brightly coloured shirt combinations) to the optional food banquets (the one we attended hosted by Brixton’s Salon was exceptional) to the glistening pool, the overwhelming feeling was one of opulence. However, those cynical of any event that feels more bourgeois than banging would’ve struggled to deny the quality of the programming. Roaming from trusted names (Andrew Weatherall, Giles Peterson) experimental leaning artists (Flamingods, James Holden) and newer faces, the line-up had a wide-ranging appeal. Highlights included Peach, whose extremely punchy set received the best crowd reaction of the weekend, and Donna Leake. The Brilliant Corners’ affiliate delighted with off-centre selections which felt challenging and brave. British band Young Fathers were the perfect choice to close out the festival, their political, energetic and vocally arresting delivery demonstrating why they’re heralded for their originality.
The event also united cultural commentators and artists in the form of many conversations over the weekend, with this reviewer getting under the skin of provocative Scottish author John Niven. Afterwards, DBC Pierre and Irivine Welsh had a packed audience for their talk. It was this ability to draw people in, coupled with excellent programming, creative decision making and the sense of intimacy that gave Beat Hotel Marrakech a first year spark that will no doubt see it return.