Boardmasters Festival, Watergate Bay, Newquay - Saturday 10th August 2013
Boardmasters - The calm before the storm.

Not only has it been a while since I have been to a gig, it' an eternity since I've been to anything resembling a festival so this was going to be a serious test of my gig legs and the quality of music on offer. Arriving on site at in the late morning, there just enough time to do a circuit, pick up a pint of Cider and find a comfortable spot in front of the Main Stage. Bang on noon and the sleepy calm of Watergate bay is rudely disrupted by Plymouth's finest funketeers Land of the Giants as they launch in to a frenzied half an hour of funk fuelled, ska-tinged rock. It's the perfect wake-up call for the calm site and the only downer is that the crowd watching their set is either absent or half-asleep. To the band's credit though, having the energy and inclination to rouse a relatively disinterested and half asleep crowd at what, in festival terms, was sunrise, is
Land Of The Giants
no mean feat so they should be applauded.

In the interests of catching as many bands as possible, it was time to head straight to the Maverick Stage to catch Essex noiseniks Remember December. It was pretty early in their set when we arrived but singer (loose term) was already well in to her stride abusing the sparse crowd and ordering people to move forward and enjoy this show. Needless to say there was nothing to justify her arrogance so move we did, on to The View area which had the most dramatic backdrop of the day as a small stage was set up with its back to the sea, providing performers with nature's most breathtaking setting. As we picked our way through those still sleeping it off and those hugging the hay bales a little too tight, the gentle but earnest tones of London singer-songwriter Charlie Hole drifted up the hill to greet us. With more than a little resemblance to Damien Rice and with some Dylan-esque phrasing, Hole was the perfect soundtrack to a much needed gentle start to the day for some in the audience. Warming to the theme, we hung around to watch Joss White, a young Cornish singer-songwriter ably assisted by a bassist and The trio get a an impressively complete sound from a relatively simple set up but the tunes are a little bland in a McFly or the Script kinda way. So, we hauled ass over to the Main Stage again to see what was occurring and that, for what it's worth, was the tail end of a set by Londoners Dexters. As we arrived, the 5 piece were in full flow and trying their best to whip the crowd up but even with a three guitar onslaught and a whole lotta denim the band still come across as a slightly less charming version of the Kaiser Chiefs.

Rat Attack
The search for something fresh and new takes us back to the Maverick Stage to watch highly touted rockers Rat Attack hit the stage in a blur of feedback, gold sequins and, well, black. Some big riffs and some serious stage energy make these guys compelling watching, like the Yo-Yos in their prime, but either a lack of monitor awareness or just a lack of care means the vocals are unintelligible and waaaay off key. Time for a bit of a chill out so we headed over to the Marley area to listen to some blissed-out, dubby beats from Premise and generally just soak up the surroundings while children dance like drugged up loons - and by that I mean unaware of how they look or their immediate surroundings. After a brief pause it's back to the main stage to catch the hotly tipped Man Like Me and as we arrive, 2 minutes before they are due on stage, we are greeted by the sight of just four evenly space microphone stands and a laptop - suspiciously similar to the set up you might expect from a boyband in a shopping centre. Man Like Me are, however, no boy band and despite the only live instrument being an occasionally used saxophone, they make a mighty pop-rap riot with 80s and 90s influences mixed up in a North London cooking pot, spiced with Collapsed Lung-esque raps, Goldie Lookin' Chains sense of timing and dance moves that pretty much any audience could learn. With a frontman fusing Suggs and a young Will Smith it is hard to resist the cheeky charms of these lads so I expect to see much more of them in the coming year
Man Like Me .

Dolomite Minor
One band I wanted to drop in were Southampton Blues Rock duo Dolomite Minor who were just taking to the Maverick Stage as we arrived. The noise was unholy for a band comprised of just guitar, vocals and drums and the mix of Glam rock tinged Blues fronted by a young Brian Eno channelling the voices of Bolan and Barrett was a sight to behold. Sadly for this pair, the Gods were not on their side and their 30 minute set inside a dark tent almost exactly coincided with the day's only really concentrated spell of sunshine so the crowd was sparse to say the least. Their time will come but a little more stage presence and chat wouldn't go a miss. Seizing the opportunity to enjoy some of the sunshine, we headed back to the View to soak up the delightful, tender tones of Alice Jemima, a talented singer-songwriter from nearby Newton Abbot. The gentle, delicate voice of Miss Jemima (both spoken and sung) would suggest an innocence about the musician but that would be a dangerous assumption that her cover of Blackstreet's 'No Diggity' easily dispels. More enthralling than a Norah or a Melua, Jemima has songwriting ability and a uniquely recognisable voice which immediately sets her apart from the plethora of acoustic guitar toting wannabes around these days.

Once again dictated by the weather, we decide to head over to main stage again as the wind picks up and the drizzle sets in. On arrival, the summery tones of geordies Little Comets make us forget the weather and feel like we're having a jam with Paul Simon, Chevy Chase and the Kings of Leon are their most poppy. Sadly, the band decide to play their 'ballad' song at the same time as the heaven's opened a little wider so we sought refuge in the arms of the Maverick stage's tented covering and the bluesy folk howlings of Steve Smyth. The Aussie troubador, backed only by his doppleganger on drums, flew in to a yowling, belowing, heartfelt set in front of a packed tent - partly there for the music and partly for the shelter. Hints of Seasick Steve jamming with Jeff Buckley were evident and, like a fine wine, I sense that Smyth's music is an acquired taste that is well worth acquiring in the fullness of time.   

Back over to the main stage to catch a storming set from Manchester indie-dance boys Delphic, who mixed old and new songs with an energy and performance that you wouldn't have expected from 5 men dressed like nervous stand up comedians with their first slot on 8 Out Of Ten Cats. Nevertheless, the beats were huge, the tunes were superbly executed and the mood of the ever growing crowd was lifted to another level yet again. Back to the Maverick stage now (are you spotting a pattern yet?) to watch a band I've been trying to catch live for the past year; Cornish folk-rockers Crowns. These four local lads have been steadily building a following all over the country through relentless gigging and this shows in their slick, faultless and almost brotherly performance in front of an audience of loyal followers and new converts alike. With this kind of rousing set, the stage presence or old pros and the ability to have the locals eating out of the palm of their collective hand, Crowns are surely destined to feature on the main stage next year. After a quick pause for some much needed food (paella seeing as you asked, and very nice it was too), it was back to the Maverick stage for one of the two main events of the day; Brother & Bones. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised, or disappointed, to hear that the band were nothing short of awesome and, by the end of the set, there is no doubt that each and every person on that crowded tent would have followed Brother & Bones over to the main stage for a bigger, louder, longer set on the Saturday night - it's surely only a matter of time. The songs, old and new, were exquisite, performed with their trademark passion and, with the recent addition of a keyboard player, the Brother & Bones sound is getting even bigger....if that's possible.

And so, for one last time, it was back to the main stage for the main event; Basement Jaxx. By this point the rain was swirling, the crowd had gathered, there was anticipation in the air and, for some reason, there was a woman picking class-A drugs of my shoes. It is a slow start to the set and, due to the swirling wind, nobody is quite sure whether the party has started or not but it's not long before Basement Jaxx and their assorted army of musicians are reminding us all why they are one of the country's best loved dance acts. Hit after hit after hit are churned out by the South London duo featuring guest vocalists, a dazzling light show, various costume changes and a robot (that's right, not a man doing the robot but an actual, dancing, non-aggressive robot). When they finish the set up with a high-octane version of 'Where's Your Head At?', whipping the crowd in to a proper Saturday night frenzy, you know you've seen something special and been part of a collective experience...the next collective experience I was to have that night was the 'drunk bus' back to Newquay town centre in search of a kebab but not every collective experience can be positive! Kudos to Boardmasters though, a great mix of music, a beautiful location and I never once had to queue for a toilet. You can't say fairer than that.

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