Beam Me Up proves DIY music festivals can still thrive while remaining affordable

Rocketing touring and travel costs, fuelled by a national cost-of-living crisis, means that it’s more expensive than ever to go to a gig. In November, industry experts told The i that in the coming months, the average ticket cost in the UK is set to surge beyond £100. “People are treating concerts like mini-holidays,” said Wasserman Music booking agent Ryan Penty, describing how some fans have already shelled out hundreds of pounds to see global superstars such as Taylor Swift or Bruce Springsteen this summer.

According to a recent NME report, 2023 was the worst year for venue closures, too, despite the Music Venues Trust warning last January that the country’s grassroots gig spaces were “going over a cliff” – shutting off the pipeline of future talent without urgent government action. A recent protest against the closure of legendary Bath venue Moles also resulted in calls for a ticket levy on “record-breaking” arena and stadium gigs. There is a central, recurring question to all of this: what about the needs of young artists and new audiences?

Enter Beam Me Up, an independent multi-city festival that’s doing its bit to help save local music scenes. Having hosted NME Radar alumni such as Coach Party, Prima Queen, Opus Kink and Frozemode at its 2023 debut, the team behind the event is hoping to change the tide by putting affordability first. With twin one-day showcases in Lincoln and Oxford – notably, two cities not typically associated with thriving underground scenes – a £12 ticket offers new music fans the chance to catch a bevy of buzzed-about guitar bands for the same price as three takeaway coffees.

The Rills at Beam Me Up Festival. Credit: Leonardo Guevara

“The event started with an aim to offer a package of new, exciting and diverse artists on one bill, and offer the audience the chance to see as many bands as possible in one event for one ticket price,” says Beam Me Up co-director Simon Carpenter. This is why stepping-stone festivals like Beam Me Up – and like-minded events Ceremony in Bedford or Borderline in Dublin – are so important. Alongside helping to rectify a major accessibility issue for rising talent, they give local musicians the same platform as nationally touring bands and artists, allowing them to practise and get used to playing on big stages.

The Drill, a 550-capacity venue in Lincoln city centre, plays host to Beam Me Up this year. When NME arrives at the festival in the late afternoon, Jake Rudd, the heavily-tattooed frontman of local punk band Moskito, is shouting into the mic for an intimate yet appreciative early-doors audience. Similarly intense are moshpit-inciting punks Snayx, who tear through tracks from their recently-released EP ‘Better Days’, or Welsh trio CHROMA, who meld messages related to mental health awareness with stomping rock hooks. “Don’t mind me / I’m just having a breakdown,” sings lead vocalist Katie Hall, as she pretends to cry hysterically while whipping her mic around.

“Lincoln, it’s time to get down and dirty,” yells Deadletter frontman Zac Lawrence before the art-punk band launch into the dark yet danceable ‘Fit For Work’; by the end, of the track those down the front are moshing frantically. Although their anthemic, Wet Leg-like – and sometimes absurd – indie-pop is worlds apart from the rest of the bill at Beam Me Up today (February 9), Dolores Forever quickly win over the room with a rousing rendition of new single ‘Someday Best’.

A night out in Lincoln – where gig venue options were previously limited to the 1,500-capacity The Engine Shed or tiny local pubs – has rarely been so thrilling. Carpenter believes that The Drill, which recently underwent renovation works in order to revamp its bar and foyer area, is putting an “outlier city” on the national touring map. “The sound is great, the stage is big, it has everything you want from a venue,” he tells NME.

Snayx at Beam Me Up Festival. Credit: Leonardo Guevara

Having welcomed The Libertines – whose recent underplay show sold out in minutes last month – as well as the likes of Wheatus and Twin Atlantic since reopening in 2022, The Drill’s events manager Lee Byrne thinks that the venue fills a gap locally. “We’ve been crying out for that middle-sized venue,” he says; the building was originally owned by an arts trust that specialised in theatre, pantomimes and comedy.

“Lincoln’s a hard city to sell, because it’s close to Nottingham, Sheffield and Leicester,” he continues. “But, now, because we’ve got something else to offer when trying to get agents and promoters to come to us, it’s working well. It’s hard for any artist who isn’t from London or a major city. You always need your hometown fanbase, but that doesn’t go with you everywhere.”

The evening’s headliners, hometown indie heroes The Rills – who recently landed a record deal with AWAL [Wasia Project, Nieve Ella] – know this narrative all too well. The trio spent years knocking on the doors of local pubs, to no avail. “We had to leave Lincoln, because there were no gigs,” bassist Callum Warner-Webb tells us backstage after the band’s set. “Because we didn’t do covers, they wouldn’t let us play. To move to London and be a signed band is great – it’s a big fuck-you to the people who said we couldn’t.” Tonight, the band prove triumphant as they debut sprightly new material for an audience of dedicated fans, many of whom proudly sport their merch.


Beam Me Up is not only giving a historic venue a new lease of life, but providing a springboard for key figures within the local music scene to hone their live show. With plans to return in 2025, it’s set to become a fixture of the festival calendar, offering a preview of the new names you can expect to see at bigger events in the summer.  We’ll see you down the front next year.

Beam Me Up festival will return to Lincoln and Oxford in February 2025. Tickets for both events can be found here