Words & Images By Kieran Webber
As most people know the town of Newquay sees a huge influx of people during the first few weeks of August, this is due to the schools breaking up and of course the notorious surf, skate and music festival Boardmasters.
For the past decade Boardmasters has changed shape and grown in size drastically. This is no doubt due to it’s uniqueness, fantastic location and stellar lineups. It is one of the few festivals in the world where you can watch the some of the world’s best surfers battle it out then see one of your favorite artists perform in the night. It truly is one of the town’s greatest treasures and it is fast becoming one of the UK’s most popular festivals.
For a week the whole town of Newquay bursts into life, providing a huge array of activities for everyone. The street stalls offer braids, henna tattoos and the surf shops and cafes have a rejuvenating buzz rioting through them. Once you leave the town and head to the infamous Fistral Beach you are greeted with a temporary village that is stocked to the brim with stalls selling amazing street food, quality surf clothing and hardware as well as a pop up bar that provides refreshing beverages and hosts a variety of live music throughout the day and the night.
You can also watch some of the world’s best surfers compete at the home of British surfing, all gunning to be crowned champion of Boardmasters. However, normally the conditions work against the surfers and Fistral Beach either goes super small or super messy and unfortunately this was the same this year too. The competitors still put on one hell of a show and surfed incredibly in the challenging conditions.
Come Friday the main event at Watergate Bay kicks into action. Being a Newquay local I am lucky enough to be in walking distance to the festival and as I head over Porth hill I am greeted with a mass of tents and the realisation of just how many people are in attendance at this year’s Boardmasters is almost overwhelming.
Once my short trek comes to an end I am met by the thunderous noise of rides and dance tents located near the entrance and the aura of a party starts to swamp the area in which I am standing. People layered in glitter and party outfits dance elegantly around and all seems pretty controlled. There is no air of violence, no one too far gone and everyone (for the most part) carries a smile on their face.
I strap my camera to my hip and start to head towards the Land Of Saints stage where my first taste of live music at the festival came in the form of the fantastic Honeyblood, a female duo that has a similar sound to the likes of Girlpool with a dash of Cherry Glazerr. They were a true delight to watch and really appreciated the crowd’s response which is always great to see, if you get a chance to see these guys live then make sure you go, they are the epitome of a fun rock ‘n’ roll band.
Following them was the notorious Pulled Apart By Horses who are a regular at the festival and are known for bringing the fucking roof down. To say they did that successfully would be an understatement, they came, they saw and they conquered. This band have a way of creating such chaos not only with their music but throughout the crowd. I have caught these guys a couple of times in the past and every time I am left slack jawed at their live performances, they truly are a spectacle.
With my neck still throbbing from the headbanging I wandered over to the main stage where I was to have my acoustic tastebuds tickled by Newton Faulkner. Unfortunately the music from the rides where so loud that they were drowning out the sound of the mainstage and it was hard to appreciate his music in anyway at all. So with this agitation I huffed off back to the Land Of Saints stage where I was uplifted by the beautiful folk sounds of Lucy Rose, her voice was majestic and simply beautiful. Amongst all the chaos that surrounded us at the bars, stalls and other stages we found a moment of peace whilst she serenaded us with her stunning music.
In fact, The Land Of Saints stage become a quick favorite during my weekend at the festival. For my personal music taste it was a hub and its location meant that it didn’t get overcrowded by the main mass of people attending.
Following the beautiful sounds of Lucy Rose was the hilarious comedy/MC crew Kurupt FM who have gained huge popularity due to their TV show People Just Do Nothing. In all honesty I really wasn’t sure what to expect from these guys, at the very least I was expecting to have a giggle. However, they put on a fantastic show and had the crowd eating out of their hands. To my surprise MC Grindah could actually emcee as could his counterpart DJ Beats, not to mention Steves can really spin!
It was a fantastic surprise to see these guys whom I have spent many a hours laughing at and quoting at mates actually turn up and show us that not only are they funny people, but they are pretty musically talented.
As their set came to an end and the masses of bucket hats and glitter dresses moved in different directions, I took myself to the mainstage where The Flaming Lips were set to ignite the stage with a flurry of psychedelia. I consider myself a huge fan of psychedlia and psychedelic rock but I really did not understand The Flaming Lips set, maybe I am just not a big enough fan but I found them to be completely boring. The tried to spice up their dry music with fanfare and plenty of stage props that included a blow-up robot and a unicorn (at one point Wayne Coyne rode this which I must admit was pretty entertaining.) It was a shame as I was expecting big things from the veterans but for me unfortunately it was lackluster.
With disappointment making its way through the core of my body I was desperately searching for something to raise me up into the astral plain. It was at the Land of Saints stage that again provided me with the goods, I was lured in by an ethereal sound that can only be explained as otherworldly.
I checked the schedule and found out that the sound that was pulling me in was Jagwar Ma, a band that I have heard of in the form of their single ‘The Throw’. Although the single didn’t really take my fancy their live performance as a whole was subsonic. Those that know me know that I am pretty clean, I don’t take drugs, I avoid caffeine and I barely drink alcohol so to have a near out of body experience to their music is a strong testament to their performance. I was blown away by just how large of a soundscape the band were able to produce and maintain. The neon lights light the stage in a way that made them look like mere shadows dancing through and around the light, outside a strong mist had settled in restricting what can be seen. For a moment in time, while we were enclosed in the tent and wrapped in the electro infused psychedlia, the crowd seemed to become one. It really was a beautiful experience.
After being lifted to the next dimension I was brought back down and as my perceived reality came back readied myself for the onslaught that was Slaves. Having heard some of the bands singles such as ‘Cheer Up London’ and ‘Sockets’, I was pretty amped to see this band live, however I was unsure to as what to expect.
After a lengthy set up the duo swaggered on stage, hair slicked back and in sharp suits. This smart look did not reflect the raw, unadulterated chaos that was about to leap from their amps. Slaves did not hold out with their performance, I have never seen a band throw so much of themselves and their energy into their instruments, it really was fucking mental. Within two songs the suit jacket of drummer and singer Isaac Holman was off and the band’s animalistic side was truly flourishing. Simply put, Slaves are absolutely wild and once the leash is taken off this is one dog that cannot be tamed, it was fucking fantastic.
Still Reeling from the absolute carnage of the night before I plucked up my strength and headed back into the festival site, no matter how crusty and drained I felt I dragged my sorry self back for round two. My first taste of Saturday came in the form of Lethal Bizzle, you get what you’d expect from the Lethal B really and that is hyped up Grime that is packaged perfectly for the general masses. Even so, It cannot be denied that he puts on a great show that is undoubtedly fun.
I spent much of Saturday wandering around trying to discover the festivals little nooks and crannies and there was a few hidden around the site. One of these said areas was the Keg and Pasty, an area that attempted to capture the Cornish spirit – imagine lots of maritime and old tavern house themed decor. This aura of what is Cornish-ness was strengthened by the ludicrous sound of local legends Hedluv & Passman. The duo where in full effect keeping the crowd moving with their high-tempo electro beats and preposterous stage presence. Although ridiculous, the pair are incredibly entertaining and you can’t put a price on being made to laugh (well actually you can but let’s not pick hairs).
With laughter warming my heart I took this moment to wander around the festival and absorb the atmosphere. There was a genuine buzz surrounding the festival that was hard not to get wrapped in, plenty of smiles, laughter and (thankfully) sunshine. As I strolled around what would be the back end of the festival, which was home to the Corona Sunset stage, Marley stage and Keg and Pasty I was struck by how diverse a crowd littered the arena. People ranging from 16 and upwards were all enjoying the beautiful weather and delicious beats that were on offer from the various stages.
I must admit, I drifted slightly in terms of professionalism and started hitting the beers as I couldn’t help but be jealous of everyone. As I made my way to the bar I noticed advertisements for Boardmasters own beer the ‘Soul Arch’ and much to my surprise it was actually very tasty. However, come Sunday I was cursing this naughty beverage for my outrageous hangover.
As someone that barely drinks, it didn’t take long for the magic juices to take affect, before I knew it I was shaking my stuff around the Corona stage. There really are few festivals where you can strut your stuff with the ocean and sunset in the background, it was another reminder to as just how beautiful and special Boardmasters is.
With a slight intoxication rumbling through me I made my way to the Main Stage where The Vaccines were just about to play. At this point the crowd had really grown and the air of anticipation was building, it wasn’t long before the first chords were struck and The Vaccines pelted on to stage. Throughout their set they played tracks new and old which included their hits ‘If You Wanna’, ‘Post Break Up Sex’ and ‘Teenage Icon’ all of which sound absolutely brilliant live. I was pleasantly surprised by just how good they were, their performance was layered in emotion yet still maintained a high level of fun. It is no easy task to match the two together yet The Vaccines did so with ease, further solidifying them as one of the UK’s leading indie-rock outfits.
Once their set came to a close I wandered around some more waiting for the headline act Jamiroquai. On my wavy travels around I bumped into some old friends which was fantastic, but from this point on my time spent at Boardmasters become a bit blurry. Before I knew it, it was time to let the funk master Jamiroquai drape us in a cloak of groovy basslines and soulful vocals.
I was unsure what to expect from the 90’s and early 00’s icon but I was pleasantly surprised by his set, it was unsurprisingly funky and it was fantastic to watch the reclusive artist really enjoying his music. There were plenty of rumblings regarding Jamiroquai as a headliner at the festival but any doubts were put to rest within the first 2 minute of his set. It truly was a fantastic set that had me bouncing and dancing in ways I did not know possible, I take my hat off to you Jamiroquai you proved me wrong and I walk away a fan.
Admittedly, Sunday was a bit of a write-off for me thanks to me being naughty and having too much fun on the Saturday (it was totally worth it). I managed to make my way up to the festival until the late afternoon/evening, which was still a struggle for me, however I was determined to see the festival through and catch the the remaining artists on my list.
As I entered the festival gates I was greeted by the reggae sounds of the one and only Ziggy Marley, with a sound similar to his father’s (you may of heard of him, Bob Marley) it is hard to not be mesmerized. On a Sunday and on a hangover as bad as mine it truly was a delightful way to start my Sunday at the festival.
With a schedule to adhere to I pulled myself away from the calming reggae sounds and moved towards the Land of Saints stage where A Blaze Of Feather was about to dazzle us all with their post-rock grandeur. I also want to note that this is a project that singer/songwriter Ben Howard is a part of and I was eager to see him perform again. Although surprisingly Ben takes a very background role in this band, so background in fact if you weren’t looking hard enough you would of missed him. Much like his guitar playing for the band Ben was hidden in the background almost unseen and unheard. At first it was strange to shave him at the back but as the show went on it was more and more evident how pivotal he was to the band, and it was great to have him playing Boardmasters again.
A Blaze Of Feather blend folk and post-rock in a way I didn’t think possible, in between the harmonies and seductive pluckings where moments of carnage that can only be described as explosive.
Due to my general grouchiness and lust for a relaxed Sunday I veered away from the main stages and stuck to the smaller, more intimate stages such as The Net Loft and The View. Both stages provided a more calm and peaceful atmosphere from their decor and the artists playing within.
The first band I caught in The Net Loft was the tranquil Meadowlark who’s music is nothing short of beautiful. The interesting blend of electronic instruments mixed with the stunning vocals from Kate McGill had me in a state of dizziness. The passion that leaked from the duo was wholly evident through their music, in simplest terms it was beautiful.
My next musical taster would come from the reggae singer/songwriter Natty whom rose to fame with his single ‘Bedroom Eyes’, which ironically was the song I walked in on during his set. As is expected from Natty there was an incredibly uplifting aura surrounding him and the audience, everyone was there for a good time and that is exactly what they got.
As my legs became weary and my eyes tired I knew I was getting to the end of my tether, so with this in mind I headed back to The Net Loft to catch Banfi, a band that had come with a strong recommendation from a friend.
After a lengthy and pedantic soundcheck the band finally begun to play and thankfully their indie-dream pop sounds were a delight. Their set was incredibly emotive and was draped in a huge soundscape, which considering there was only three band members was quite amazing. Throughout their set Banfi were incredibly thankful to the crowd for taking the time to watch them play, saying “We really thought we’d be playing to an empty room so thanks for watching guys.” Banfi are an incredibly tight band that ooze talent yet they are extremely humble, out of all the artists I saw over the weekend Banfi stood out as a band that will soon be a huge success.
As their set came to a close I felt that my time at Boardmasters had also come to an end, I was tired, weak and broken from what was a fantastic festival. As I started to make my way through the fields littered with tents, food stalls and drunk people I was caught out by the last few songs of Alt-J‘s set on the Main Stage. I found a secluded spot amongst the crowd and took a seat, laid back and reflected on the weekend whilst the ethereal sounds of Alt-J covered me in a blanket of content. Across the festival I had watched some of the world’s best surfers compete, headbanged, boogied, danced and dabbled decadently in the Boardmasters party. My time at Boardmasters was fantastic, yet it left me broken. Will I be going next year? ABSOLUTELY.