Unlike the countless other festivals which vie for your attention in the summer months, Cornwall’s Boardmasters starts and ends with extreme sports. Part of the global tour circuit, the very best in surf, skate and BMX have congregated at Fistral Beach for over thirty years now, with a string of competitive heats dominating the week leading up to the music component of the event. Following some smaller gigs at Fistral, Beach Sessions featuring Xavier Rudd and the Black Seeds, the sonic action relocates to the cliffs that tower over Watergate Bay a few miles up the coast.
The journey from Newquay is nothing short of idyllic, a slow bus climb past golden beaches and plush apartments drenched in August sunshine to a site which features eight main stages, a fairground and the ubiquitous sea of tents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as bassbin wobbling low end theory rattles out of the clubs and tricked out cars that cruise the seaside town throughout the year, so dubstep and drum & bass form the beating heart of the festival. A plethora of rigs blasting beats and bleeps from every corner, a pressure cooker which popped in banging sets from DJ Fresh in the capacious Unleashed arena, Zinc at Marley Point and Shy FX, who courageously stepped to the challenge of an increasingly raucous Desperados Dome.
Sponsors Relentless, purveyor of rocket propelled energy drinks, and skate shoe provider Vans championed the loud and proud on their peripheral stages – with the low riding Japanese Popstars and Young Guns testing the sound system of the former, while Pulled Apart by Horses and Set Your Goals primal screamed into the wind from the latter. The sheer volume of decibels from so many sound systems resulted in something of a cacophony of noise at times, drowning out some of the more delicate moments from even the mighty main stage on more than one occasion and drawing attention to the compact nature of the location. With over eighty acts this year, both the geography of the site and complex line up have been clearly tested to capacity.
The headliners were well chosen, an easy-going daytime atmosphere around the main stage filling out and getting sweaty as the sun began to dip. The Ting Tings set expectations high for Ed Sheeran who, despite a limited amount of material to draw upon, delivered a spectacular two-hour set. Clearly enjoying himself, and no doubt psyched about his role in the closing Olympics ceremony later that weekend, he skipped across the stage throwing down anecdotes, a lot of chit chat and encouraging more than a little audience participation. On Saturday, Maverick Sabre and a killer hour from Maximo Park cooked up an atmosphere fit for bassline junkie and festival stalwart Dizzee Rascal. Gritty from the get go, the crowd were pumped for a Dirtee Disco leaving all of the other stages deserted for a sweaty sixty minutes.
For the Clash crowd however, it was at The View stage where we settled – taking a good stab at filling the Glasto-shaped gap in the summer with tea shop shabby chic and a view over the bay to die for, all offering welcome respite from the plethora of cider-fuelled stag parties and sting of inevitable sunburn. Our tip for 2013 came in a quieter moment, Scottish singer-songwriter Michael Cassidy beating off the low end theory of a nearby DJ to deliver his first single ‘Battleship’, a vessel populated with the ghosts of James Yorkston and the Fence Collective.