When a festival requires around twenty hours of travelling, and a round trip of nearly 1000 miles, it sets a certain anticipation level for said festival to be completely brilliant. Fortunately, my first trip to Newquay for Boardmasters 2016 not only lived up to the hype, but made me wonder why I’d never ventured down before now.
Boardmasters prides itself on being one of the few dual interest festivals in the UK. If music somehow isn’t your thing, ticket holders were also involved in surfing competitions and lessons across the weekend, taking place in Watergate Bay and Newquay’s Fistral Beach. The chilled surfing ethos spread all throughout the entire site – from the atmosphere in the crowds, to the indie-pop brilliance on display across a number of the musical acts.
The weekend’s highlight came in the form of indie rock’s finest, Catfish and the Bottlemen. The quartet brought their recent UK Number 1 album The Ride to the Newquay coast, alongside countless stand out tracks from their debut record The Balcony. Playing just before Friday’s Main Stage headliners, Chase and Status, the Welsh based outfit firmly graduated into the upper echelons of British rock bands with an enthralling performance. It’s easy money to guarantee you’ll see them headline Reading and Leeds Festivals at some point in the future.
Boardmasters has a long standing ability to book a wealth of new bands on the cusp of huge successes. Ahead of their London gig for us and [PIAS] Nites, sisters Coco and Holly of Xylaroo brought their heart warming acoustic country folk crossover to The View stage, including a whole new version of Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. Over on the other side of the festival, SG Lewis worked the Unleashed tent crowd into a frenzy with his three piece live band, proving why he should be on everyone’s ones-to-watch lists for the upcoming months. Johnny Borrell played in front of probably the most stunning backdrop of his career, as his new music project Zazou headlined The View just as the sun set. The dusk even causing an unexpected mid-song outbreak of dancing from the initially subdued audience members, which continued for the duration of the set, much to the surprise of the six piece outfit.
Amazing Radio’s own Tips For 2016 had a huge presence too. Much like many of the weekend’s artists, The Big Moon praised Boardmasters’ perfect setting, with new single Silent Movie Susie and recently Madge-approved cover of Beautiful Stranger going down a storm. Despite their early afternoon billing, Spring King and Vant both managed to get the still sleepy crowds rocking out. Rat Boy drew the biggest crowd of the weekend into The Land of Saints tent, despite stiff competition from the legendary Primal Scream over on the Main Stage.
Speaking of our Tips list, it was a shining moment for one of our big tips for last year, James Bay. His Sunday night headline set was the perfect way to close the festival. Heading into a 60+ minute headline set, I wasn’t sure how much the set would rely on covers or drawn out jams, but the whole show ran perfectly. Only a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary came from outside Bay’s debut LP Chaos and the Calm, and went down a treat with the 50,000 strong Newquay crowd. Every possible emotion was on display – from the gentle whisper of Scars to the screaming anthems of Craving and set closer Hold Back the River. Admitting early nerves about playing his first ever festival headline set, the Hertfordshire singer-songwriter never shook for a second, with a stage presence not far from The White Stripes’ Jack White.
The benefits of hosting a festival in the deep south west of England, right on the Newquay coast were absolutely endless. Most major fests muffle their stages to appease local residents… Boardmasters? No problem. Just point the main stage right out into the actual sea, and have every other music arena practically clinging to the cliff edge. A perfect set up to have all stages running into the wee hours, and every sound system turned all the way up to eleven. And not only did this reduce any issues, but it lead to some stunning scenes. I didn’t realise just how appropriately named The View, Corona Sunsets and Relentless’ The Point stage would be, until I was watching our very own Frank McWeeny with Watergate Bay’s beach and surfers glistening in the background. Combine the latter stage setting with closing performances from Eats Everything, Dusky and Jackmaster meant ravers – including myself – could literally dance the night away until the sun came up beside them.
When quiet finally hit around 1am Monday morning, it was somewhat of a welcome silence to go to sleep to after 4 days of sun, sea and excellent sounds. Thankfully – before I had even fully made it back North to Amazing Radio HQ – organisers have already confirmed their festival dates for next summer. Boardmasters will return on the weekend of 9th – 13th August 2017, so make sure you grab tickets for one of the best small festivals in the UK, and one of the most unique musical experiences in the world.
Words: Chris Murray. Check out his ultimate Boardmasters 2016 playlist below.