There’s no doubt about it: Boardmasters has a distinct electronica, house, drum ‘n’ bass throb that is the undercurrent of the festival. But there’s variety too for those who seek it. The festival is made up of twelve distinct stages for the 50,000 fans descending to the five day Cornwall summer festival. In one corner of the festivals lie mellow acoustic sets; in another, the Land of Saints stage proudly waves the rock and punk flag. Despite the Main Stage, Land of Saints and Unleashed stages positioned in a triangle in plain view of each other, somehow there’s no sound tensions between the three biggest stages.
On day two the limits of Boardmasters were tested more than ever by the wide variety of acts on display, from Grandmaster Flash to Gengahr, Lily Allen to Monki. Although the festival’s normally unparalleled surroundings of ‘sun, sea and sand’ disappeared in unpleasant downpours for most of the day, the music was more than enough distraction to keep the spirit alive in festival attendees.
The queen of the Land of Saints stage today was surely Nadine Shah. The dedicated fans who turned up to watch her would not have been disappointed. Recently described by the Guardian as ‘ simmering post-punk from the edge’, in 2017 she developed a protest album against xenophobia and the treatment of refugees that sent waves through the industry. “Where would you have me go? I’m second-generation, don’t you know?”, she asks in her song ‘Out the Way’. On stage she is an electric presence, her band only too ready to follow to wherever she pushes the limits in both music and message.
Although Boardmasters has a distinctly young audience of South-West newcomer festival attendees, they know their next biggest audience very well: the twenty or thirty-year-old somethings not quite ready to grow up. And that crowd would have been right at home with 90s and 00s rock from Editors and Feeder. Editors in particular drew an impressive crowd of brightly coloured ponchos belting out ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’, most of who then squelched in their wellies to Feeder’s tent to bop to ‘Buck Rogers’ and loudly sing ‘buy a house in Devon’.
Some of the main attractions as the day unfolded included founding father of hip-hop Grandmaster Flash, fans flocking to see the iconic DJ Quick Mix in real life. Equally as well attended was Shy FX presenting Cult:ure, with a crowd extending all the way to the food tents.
But a shout out also has to be made to some of the very talented acts who kicked off the day’s activities, from Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke singing acoustic melodies to firmly established indie rock band Gengahr.
And then finally, it was the headliner choice – would it be Lily Allen, surprise act announced only two months ago, or The Chemical Brothers? There was a fierce Allen posse forcing their way into the Land of Saints stage, but when asking festival attendees who they were most keen to see that day, there was one answer: ‘The Chemical Brothers, of course’. Giant robots leered their green lasers down at the crowd, and stunning glittering laser beams melted into the rain. Trippy scenes and looming projections were occasionally interjected with the ‘oh yeah!’ moments of well-known hits ‘Galavanize’ and ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’. Ponchos were thrown to the wind as ravers gave up and got down to one of the most muddy, windblown raves the festival had probably ever seen. What threatened at first to be a wash-out was transformed into, in Ed Simons’ own words, ‘surf’s up’; it’s clear that the desertion of the sun wasn’t enough to temper these fifty-thousand spirits.
Think I’ve finally found my spiritual home, in Newquay. Unexpected. Surfs Up 🙏
— ed simons (@eddychemical) August 11, 2018