Boardmasters Festival has long since been the place to be for sun, sea, surf & music. The sun is never a guarantee but with the festival in an ideal location, a top the cliffs of Watergate Bay near Newquay, having the Atlantic Ocean serve as a backdrop and an eclectic line up of aritsts/musicians, you can understand why it now attracts 50,000 festival fanatics.
Despite the sight of sea and sand, the first day of the festival was hit with predictably bleak British weather. It takes more than a bit of rain and gusts of wind to bring the crowd’s spirit down as they drink and dance away to punk folk troubadour, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls.
The band’s self affirming Springsteen-esque anthems such as ‘Get Better’ have the crowd on their feet from the get go. A veteran of the festival circuit, Frank has control of the crowd the entire time as he weaves his way through a myriad of up beat folk hits, even taking the time to sing ‘Eulogy’ entirely in Cornish.
A highlight of Friday’s festivities included a set from the delightfully quirky alt rock group, The Flaming Lips, who’s sweet melodies and ear blistering noise helped keep the jovial spirit of the crowd intact. At one point, lead singer Wayne Coyne produced a set of silver balloons that spelled the words, “FUCK YEAH NEWQUAY” a real show of appreciation all the way from Oklahoma.
Two Door Cinema Club had the unenviable task of closing out a great day of music as Friday’s headliners. The quintessential UK festival band had a set list packed with a wide range of joyous tracks, that seem to have the perfect anthemic quality needed to take a festival crowd on a continuous ride and justify their headlining slot. Old favourites such as, ‘Something Good Can Work’, ‘What You Know’ and ‘Undercover Martyn’ pack the most punch, as the fog descends on a crowd drenched in sonic euphoria.
As the festival revellers shake off their early morning hangovers, the sky opened up and immersed the festival site with glorious rays of sunshine, unveiling the true beauty of the beaches and oceans providing a back drop to The Corona, and The Point stages which were blasting non stop beach party vibes.
One of the most promising British hip hop artists, Loyle Carner graced the main stage with tracks from his Mercury prize shortlisted debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’. His stock has ascended at a blistering pace as he has captured the imaginations of many with his introspective and honest lyrics, delivered so effortlessly but still packing plenty of power. He amassed quite a crowd and once his half an hour set was finished he was met with delighted applause, one to watch for the future.
Over at the ‘Land of The Saints’ tent was the always candid singer/songwriter, Kate Nash, she has most recently been touring to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her debut album, ‘Made of Bricks’. Her set was filled with old gems such as ‘Dickhead’ while interspersing new songs ‘Agenda’ and a song written about her dog ‘My Little Alien’, of course finishing the set with the irresistibly catchy ‘Foundations’.
Late 00’s indie rockers, The Vaccines were making waves on the main stage with their infectiously catchy indie anthems. Lapping up the Cornish sunshine, a crowd had gathered to bounce to the band’s early hits ‘If You Wanna’ and ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ as well as getting to hear the newly polished off tracks ‘Rolling Stones’ and ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’.
1990’s funk lord/master/hero, Jamiroquai closed out the Saturday night with a less than classic set list as it wasn’t until over halfway that the dance hits ‘Cosmic Girl’, ‘Canned Heat’ and ‘Space Cowboy’ were given an airing. Early on the crowd were treated to new tracks ‘Automaton’ and ‘Shake It On’ as lead singer, Jay Kay sheepishly grooved across the stage, dressed in a tracksuit and a signature robotic, LED antennae for a hat. Nevertheless, the crowd were dancing like it was 1999 from start to finish.
Since the festival’s inception in 1981, organizers have combined live music with surf/skate competitions. This year was no different as the annual surf competition, the biggest of its kind in the UK, took place at Fistral Beach over the 4 day period. Today was the culmination of the competitions that attract the world’s best and really helps to add a unique feel to the festival.
As for the music back at the Watergate Bay site, UK rock quartet, The Amazons had the chance to showcase their talents as they wowed the crowd, with their unabashed rock sounds from their self titled debut album released earlier this year. Tunes such as ‘Black Magic’ and ‘In My Mind’ had the crowd singing a long, a good indication for how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time.
Ziggy Marley, the eldest son of reggae legend, Bob Marley, brought the spirit of reggae all the way to Cornwall as his mellow vibes swept over the crowd, swaying them as he and his band glide through their back catalogue with songs such as ‘Black Cats’, ‘True To Myself’ and ‘Moving Forward’. Bringing a slice of Jamaica to the Cornish crowd as the sun continued to shine overhead.
The penultimate performer on the main stage was the man of the people, Stormzy, currently riding a meteoric wave that has seen him be named as the pioneer for propelling grime music into the pop mainstream. The crowd was hotly anticipating his arrival and as soon as he took the stage, an amass of people surged forward with such intensity that it left many really after pacing through the first two songs, ‘First Things First’ and ‘Cold’. Taken aback by the intensity of the crowd, he paused the set in an effort to keep the peace and took the energy down with ‘100 Bags’ before roaring back into control with ‘Bad Boys’. After taking the mood down once again with a verison of Ed Sheeran‘s ‘Shape Of You’ he had the crowd worked up into a frenzy with his biggest hit to date, ‘Shut Up’.
After such chaos, the crowd would be forgiven for wanting a more calm and serene ending to the final night, and they got just that with the atmospheric, harmonious indie pop band, alt-J. The band managed to bring a less intense energy to the stage by playing new tracks, ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ and ‘Deadcrush’. A hushed sense of appreciation fell over the crowd as they gazed at the illuminated forest serving as a backdrop and adding an extra sense of drama to songs such as ‘3WW’, as well as the band serving up classics, ‘Matilda’ and ‘Tesselate’ that had the crowd swaying a long until it was closing time.
For years, Boardmasters has been known as a surfer’s paradise but its recent history suggests, that there has been a more added focus to the music side of the festival. This year’s lineup had world renowned artists and DJ’s but the roots of the music on offer drew deep into the current UK musical climate. Offering a palette of eclectic genres of music, with grime, hip hop, indie and folk having a huge presence this year, it shows that the organizers have their ear to the ground and one can only hope that the festival manages to retain its unique status, among festival revellers. In an already over-saturated festival market, the hope is that Boardmasters doesn’t drift too far off shore while still continuing to take on the big waves.