Going strong in its ninth year as both a music and surf festival, Boardmasters is an absolute treat to the far South West in Newquay, Cornwall.
Whilst it doesn’t seem to be attempting to compete with the front runners of the larger sized festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading + Leeds, it’s certainly doing impressively well at curating a line up that’s not only vast, covering a multitude of genres, but also one that’s allowing rising and emerging acts to make a firm introduction to this, somewhat left out, area of the South.
Spring King are a prime example of this, a band who not only opened up our Boardmasters experience, but who also were – rightly so – given a main stage slot, an appreciated ode to the incredible reputation they’ve built for themselves as a live band. Despite not bringing in the biggest crowd, those who were there could be heard expressing their newfound appreciation for the indie wonders; it was pretty much inevitable that that would happen though, right?
Blossoms, fresh from the discovery that their debut, self-titled, album had charted at number one delivered a cracking set from start to finish. Truly bringing the north to the south, especially with a brief cover of Oasis’ ‘Half The World Away’ which had the crowd jubilantly singing along.
Something that Boardmasters has all the other festivals beat with is the out of this world, beautiful views that provide the backdrop to the Relentless Point stage and the aptly named Corona Sunsets stage. Watergate Bay, with the clear, fiercely blue skies and view of the waves crashing onto the beach alone, make the whole festival more than worthwhile.
It was the first glimpse of this view that made Ekkah’s set on the Corona Sunset’s stage that much more mesmerising… that and the funky melodies and unique and refreshing sax solo that got people up and dancing at the drop of a hat.
As the sun began to set, it was clear that there was one massive divide over the evening’s proceedings: Chase and Status or Maximo Park!? We chose Maximo Park and it’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed. They blasted their way through a barrage of hits, whilst expertly littering some new, unheard material along the way. Frontman Paul Smith is enigmatic; he commands the whole stage, explaining in the introduction that the set would be “intelligent, melodic, romantic and angry” and boy, was he right.
As mind blowing as Maximo Park were however, it didn’t prepare us for the true headliners of the night, Wolf Alice. They’ve been gathering a lot of attention in the past year for their high octane, raucous live sets and rightly so. Yet, that still didn’t prepare us for the confident and energetic set that was to follow. If there’s any band to get excited about what’s in store for them in the future, it’s this one. They bounce from track to track, each which seem more anthemic than the last no matter the tempo, with the ease of a band who’ve been around for decades.
His album has just been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, so it was pretty evident that Michael Kiwanuka would bring in a decent size crowd, whether he expected them to mostly be sparsely sat down enjoying his set, is another matter. This fact didn’t seem to phase him though and he powered through his set full of soulful vocals and rich production, stirring some of the seated viewers to get up and dance during his rendition of popular hit ‘Black Man In A White World’.
Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs knew exactly how to win over the Cornish hearts of the festival, proudly announcing to everyone that his first home now resides within Cornwall, however it was evident throughout the set that most of the crowd were only aware of their earlier hits ‘I Predict A Riot’, ‘Ruby’ and ‘Everyday I Love You Less And Less’, as these were the only ones to receive a reaction from the whole unified crowd, that said, Wilson and co threw everything into their performance, perhaps even a little too much with regard to the excessive camera play.
Deadmau5 provided a mesmerising, sonic set of beats and visual beauty to a vast sea of homemade Deadmau5 masks, followed by the biggest party set of the weekend by Example and DJ Wire, mixing popular crowd favourites in-between live performances of Examples biggest hits such as, ‘Kickstarts’, ‘Changed The Way You Kiss Me’ and ‘We’ll Be Coming Back’. Such a high octane set that provided an even larger blow to those looking for the cancelled silent disco that proceeded. Unfortunately, fights during the Thursday night’s disco had apparently caused the rest of the weekend’s to be cancelled, much to the dismay of the partygoers ready to dance into the sunrise.
The formerly mentioned Relentless Point Stage, with the beautiful view, was the perfect Sunday remedy for anyone who may have been struggling to get back into the festival spirit after the night before, especially Maribou State, who provided a refreshing and revitalising set of relaxed, yet up-tempo beats to get the juices flowing.
Perhaps the most surprising, high quality set was from Scottish band White, they drew in a disappointingly small crowd, but that didn’t phase them and they went on to deliver one of the best performances of the whole weekend. It’s clear that they’ve put the effort in to perfect their performances of each track, with known hits such as ‘Future Pleasures’ delivered as flawlessly as new track ‘I Liked You Better When You Needed Me’. The Big Moon followed, as did the people, who went on to dance along to hits such as ‘Cupid’ and their “Madge approved” Madonna cover that’s proven to be very popular in their live shows. It’s clear that the girls have oodles of talent, but what’s not so clear is what’s next for the group.
Over on the main stage Soul II Soul educated the young minds of the festival who’d only shown up to hear them perform hits ‘Back To Life’ and ‘Keep On Movin’, giving a well deserved shout out to vinyl collectors along the way. Primal Scream were next, delivering a set which certainly pleased the older ears of the festival, causing a rush of middle aged festival go-ers to rush to their feet as they burst onto the stage to the sounds of ‘Moving On Up’.
That rush was nothing compared to the hoards of teenagers running over to the Land of Saints to catch Rat Boy though, and when the stage manager takes to the stage beforehand to warn everyone that “anyone who crosses the barrier to attempt to invade the stage will be evicted from the tent”, you know you’re in for a good set. It’s clear that Rat Boy have matured a lot through their masses of live shows and frontman Jordan’s stage presence is definitely on its way up to an astounding level. For his entire chaos-bringing attitude however, when a flare gets thrown onto the stage he’s quick to point out how dangerous that is, albeit with a slightly smug smile on his face.
James Bay headlined the main stage on Sunday night, drawing in one of the largest crowds of the weekend… an impressive feat for his first headline slot. He provided an emotive, crowd pleasing, singalong set that definitely got the crowd warmed up for the real choice of the evening… Sigma or Mystery Jets.
Mystery Jets won it for us, charming as ever and moving us in a way that no others could. Mixing together tracks of both old and new, it was clear that they have an incredibly loyal fan base, with half of the crowd singing passionately along to their newest material just as much as crowd favourites such as ‘Bubblegum’ and ‘Two Doors Down’.
All in all an outstanding weekend, where everything just gets continuously better somehow and where the headliners are never the finish point of the night. Until next year Boardmasters, the ultimate underdog of larger festivals, we might even try out the surfing next year…