Beach Break is an unusual music festival, pitched amongst Pembrey Country Park, en route to the main arena you’ll pass a dry ski slope, woodland and a beach. This is a festival that is as much about activities as music, previous years have boasted high rope courses, parkour and beach wakeboarding. For Beach Break to thrive, good weather is pretty imperative, with gale force winds and a thrashing rain forecast, it didn’t look good.
Arriving late Thursday evening in the midst of a monsoon, I had my reservations about the name of this Festival. After an hour of wrestling with the storm, one drenched tent was pitched and a drink or six were essential. Moans aside, the main arena was already open for business with undercover venues such as The Leeky Sheep and Chai Wallah packed out with revellers. The surroundings were strewn with fairy lights and numerous musical coves, dub-step, indie, folk and soul were all on offer and spirits were quickly restored as we joined in the festivities until the early hours.
Friday afternoon and official opening day, Charlotte O’Connor took to the main stage, demure and charming with only an acoustic guitar; she drew an ample crowd despite unrelenting weather. Afraid to brave anymore downpours, we headed to The Leeky Sheep where Yorkshire four piece Yannick played a storming set which included a superb cover of Sbtrkt’s Hold On. As expected, a lot of planned activities had been rained off, the beach itself was closed, there was a collection of people who braved a fairy liquid slide only half-clothed, I salute them. I couldn't help but scoff at the toilets which had sunscreen dispensers, poncho dispensers more like it. Whilst the weather did deter people from the open air main stage, it meant some took refuge in intimate tents, giving smaller artists such as gnarly Welsh rappers Astroid Boys a platform to shine.
Later on Chase and Status brought their usual bass heavy swagger to the table. The third time watching this band live, they are fail safe headliners. Lying dormant for the last year, there was little new material, but old hits such as Pieces and Blind Faith work undeniably well in a Festival setting. One thing that was new to their set, was Saul Milton’s requests,
“I wanna see some f****** moshpits.”
His wish was granted, but I found this bizarre of an electronic band. Could it be because Chase and Status played Metal festival, Download, just a week before? If so that would explain why the last song was their own rendition of Killing in the name of.
Thirty minutes on, at dance venue Merlins Forest, DJ Mistajam clearly shared the same opinion on the moshpit onslaughts as I.
“If you wanted moshpits, you should have gone to Download,” he shouted, breaking the music and playing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 until the circle pits came to a close. Tent Headliners Nero took to the stage next, with their infamous space glasses in tow, the crowd erupted to acid house floor fillers Promises, Crush on You and Guilt. The electronic duo created euphoric pandemonium; in fact, I dare say Merlin’s Forest is really the venue where Beach Break flourishes. Every night from 11-2 the tent was chock-a-block and you got a sense that this was what everyone had bought a ticket for. Over the weekend, big names High Contrast, Benga and Netsky created chaos in equal measures as the Students lapped up this ever popular display of drum and bass, dubstep and house.
By Saturday, many tents had capsized and word of the worst storm in fifty years lead many to up sticks and leave altogether! Watching Levis Roots perform Reggae Reggae Sauce was the perfect anecdote, the entrepreneur even brought his daughter on stage to perform. Brother and Bones were a standout act of the weekend, like a heavier Mumford and Sons, this is a band on the cusp of success., Frontman, Richard, may just be the most beautiful frontman, ever. Songs such as Gold and Silver were performed with vigour, they are certainly ones to watch. Closely followed was the most disappointing performance of the weekend and one I had anticipated to be a highlight, Ghostpoet. A man of many words, it was such a shame that a monsoon preceded his performance, reduced to wrapping his equipment in sack liners, the buttery voice we hear on record and matchless lyrics were inaudible and escaped. This performance was sheer bad luck and the organisers would have done well to move Ghostpoet to an undercover venue.
Later that evening, mainstream giant Dizzee Rascal won the biggest crowd of the weekend and the promoters went all out with fireworks and a fancy light show. The greatest hits set list saw Dizzee perform all the greats like a cheetah in his prime. Even the photographers and journalists lost their cool, with everyone up on their feet parroting his lyrics. The set closed with not one but two performances of Bonkers to which the response was apt.
Better late than never, the sun came out in full effect on Sunday and revellers flocked in drones to the main stage and beach for some much overdue sun calling. Irish act, Abandonman is an artist that caught my attention, sporadically picking people out from the audience, he proceeded to impro/freestyle comedy raps. The cynic in me wondered how it was possible, from further research it is.
Dry the River charmed with their down to earth demeanour.
“We need people to buy our album so we can buy Ferraris and get haircuts, but until then we’ll stick to what we know,” quipped Peter Liddle inbetween sips of red stripe.
Here is a band that is seriously underrated, their performance was tremendous and enigmatic songs from new album Shallow Bed really are on par with the likes of Fleet Foxes and Mumford.
As the sun began to set, crafting the perfect backdrop, it could only be time for soul bearing, Ben Howard to take to the stage. Songs like Only Love and Old Pine were well received and pitch perfect. Despite all his success, Howard showed no signs of arrogance, even when his set was cut short he merely stated it was ‘all a bit of a fuck around’ and quickly apologised.
The Maccabees proved their worth as one of Britain’s best bands with a set list that encompassed all three albums, no stone was left unturned as the audience were treated to sixty minutes of all the favourites including Latchmere, No Kind Words and Grew up at Midnight. There was just time left for party headliners Friendly Fires to conclude the Festival with suave Ed Macfarlane working his hips on the crowd.
Beach Break is an enjoyable festival, it’s a great first time festival, but it is not a music festival per se. To contend with big kahunas, Glastonbury or Reading, Beach Break needs a better identity. Offering so many different platforms is both a strength and weakness in terms of audience participation. For example a band that had been voted in by hundreds of students to play, achieved an audience of fifteen people, this made for an odd watch. To conclude, Beach Break is a unique festival with plenty of room to grow.
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