Coming-of-age rites are observed around the world in many often bizarre and gruelling ways. In some tribes, adolescents are cast into the wilderness to test their hunting skills, while in others initiates are required to jump off 100-foot towers strapped to bungee-like vines. In the case of the UK, however, many youngsters don fluro warpaint and get a little tipsy in Newquay, Cornwall’s club 18-30 mecca. A significant part of this college-leaver stepping-stone into adulthood appears to involve attending the west country’s premier extreme sports and music extravaganza Boardmasters (5- August), whose sprawling, funfair-girdled site overlooks the rippling expanse of Watergate Bay and the Atlantic beyond.
If you’re not camping on site, the only feasible way of getting to the festival is by hopping on the shuttle bus from Newquay town centre. Depending on your age or tolerance for double-deckered party mayhem, these jam-packed journeys are either the most awesome festival warm-ups or a cramped kettle controlled by shrieking, glitter-streaked ravers.
Since cutting ties with his former jazzing associates Portico Quartet, Nick Mulvey has picked up a six-string and gone solo, but in doing so has sacrificed the forward-thinking élan carved out by his old band. Introspective beardy types who explore their feelings atop African rhythms are currently ten-a-penny, and on Friday afternoon, serving up guitar-as-Kora and wan, wistful hooks, he hardly sets himself from the pack.
Presenting themselves in shiny red matching jackets, math-pop quartet Everything Everything look like in-house entertainers on release from a local holiday park. Weirdly, their apocalypse-themed anthemia has more than a touch of end-of-the-pier cheer about it, ramped up by frontman Johnathon Higgs’ enthusiasm.
Motorik minstrels Toy sound like the entire history of Krautrock being blown down a wind tunnel, while goth-grunge trio The Wytches audibly initiate a séance at the grave of grunge. It’s a wonder singer-guitarist Kristian Bell manages to pass his cold-blooded yowls through his thick, Cousin-It-style barnet, and that he does is a feat in itself.
While they hail from Norway, disco-house groove seekers Crazy P sound like they’ve been directly teleported from one of Ibiza’s beach terraces. Their smooth, sunset-shimmer synths and supple beats are so laid back that everyone in the audience ought to be issued a sun lounger for their set. After a while, though, their repetitive four-to-the-floor pulses tend to bob aimlessly in the airwaves.
Brixton’s best-loved system bashers Fat White Family are probably one of the most fish-out-of-water acts on the bill, their Iggy-Cash-worshipping sewer-sludge hilariously far removed from the beach-ready frenzy unfolding around them. The ragged-trousered rockers look like they’ve been rounded up from the nearest park bench, and play like their dole money depended on it. Their squatland rock ‘n’ roll is pure transcendent depravity.
Brighton art metallers Black Peaks look annoyed. At first you think it’s because they’re playing to a tent of about 20 people, but then realise it’s actually the concentrated stare of pure, teeth-gritted passion. The band’s jack-knifing rhythms and bludgeoning breakdowns place them on the axis-of-screamo orbited by Glassjaw and At The Drive-In.
Ninety-five percent of the crowd probably weren’t even born when Faithless dropped their revelatory 1996 classic Reverence, nevertheless the arrpegiated bliss of Insomnia and God Is A DJ prompt hysterical, mass hands-in-the-air take-offs.
It seems plausible that Bon Jovi, Coldplay and Gary Numan might all appear on the neatly-coiffured Dan Smith of Bastille’s Desert Island Discs, as his band swamp Newquay with Row Z-reaching digi-anthems.
Lethal Bizzle and Rudimental, meanwhile, bring a slice of the capital to the coast. The former in the shape of concrete-block heavy grime nastiness, while the latter imbue their populist drum ‘n’ bass with the smiley-faced 90s.
As rites of passage go, Boardmasters probably isn’t the most wild or life changing, but as with other sport-related events (surfing goes on throughout the festival) it’s the taking part that counts and judging by the smiles all around as the masses stumble back to their tents, this event remains on top of a youthful wave. Jamie Skey @jamie_skey
For more visit Boardmasters.co.uk