A rainy weekend did not derail the successful mix of quirky smaller stages with big headliners at Boardmasters, writes Deputy Editor Kat Smith
Set against an iconic Cornish backdrop, Boardmasters returned for its annual appearance in Newquay this August. The three-day weekend offered festival goers the choice of seven stages boasting line-ups spanning all genres, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Though Sod’s Law dictated that the heatwave ended a day before our arrival at the festival, the rain failed to dampen our spirits. We managed to pitch our tent outside of the muddy mess and ventured into the already bustling arena, adorned with fairy lights, fairground rides and food stalls. Arriving at a festival before the music starts is never the highlight of the weekend, but Thursday night made a positive impression with a huge silent disco at the Main Stage. With 18,000 of us, it was the biggest silent disco in the world, and meant that the festival started with a bang.
The sun’s twelve-hour appearance on the Friday was the perfect setting for the likes of RAYE and MNEK, two of pop’s new royalty. The latter was a surprising highlight of the weekend with his strong vocals and Becky Hill’s guest appearance. However, the headliner of the night, Catfish & the Bottlemen, put on a safe, underwhelming show. With non-headlining acts having such immersive staging and engaging sets, this was a somewhat disappointing start to the trio of headliners. A stronger option would have been the glorious Years & Years, with their unapologetically bold dancers, outfits and energy. Perhaps it was hard to predict the reception of their sophomore album Palo Alto, but the Boardmasters organisers certain made a mistake missing them off the podium. Nonetheless, they were an outstanding support for the Chemical Brothers on the Saturday, building the energy before the duo’s epic set.
The weekend got progressively better in terms of music even if the weather steeply declined. The English summer was brightened by the likes of Gengahr, Monki and Dusky on the smaller stages, while the Main Stage remained the strongest of them all. Another highlight was when 19-year-old Declan McKenna lit up the stage, not only with his sequined jacket, but his magnificent stage presence. Seamless transitions between songs and an unrivalled energy led to him also being a highlight for my fellow festival goers, who hardly knew who he was. With only one album under his belt, I was impressed at the size of the audience and the experience he seemed to exude while he performed.
Though there were more than enough stages, a hidden gem we were lucky enough to stumble across was the Kraken Bar. At first sight it seemed like a normal rum bar selling drinks I would have to extend my overdraft to afford, but with DJ Just Geo on the decks for all three nights, it swiftly became a favourite spot in the arena. Surprisingly enough, he is one of the best DJs I’ve ever seen, and is a wonderful advertisement for exploring the nooks and crannies of festivals. Another smaller part of the festival was Coney Island. The music was nothing special while we were down there, but the fact we had to crawl through a tunnel to get into the secretive venue made it worth the while.
George Ezra drew, without a doubt, the busiest crowd throughout the festival. As the last act to grace the Main Stage on Sunday night, the atmosphere was incredible. From the first to the last song, Ezra was masterful; if you’d isolated his vocals from the sea of screams and bursts of fireworks, it would be practically identical to his album. He navigated his set perfectly with anecdotes between songs and a variety of ballads such as ‘Saviour’ and summer classics like ‘Budapest’ and ‘Shotgun’, making for a magical end to the festival.
Boardmasters was quite simply brilliant. If the weather had been better I’m sure the beach yoga and other additional activities would have made our time even more special, but I couldn’t ask for more from our time in Newquay. From the music to the atmosphere to the food, it was a weekend I won’t be forgetting any time soon.