Sat at home watching videos from last years Beach Break Live in Wales we were pretty excited the festival had moved closer to home to the UK surf capital that is Newquay. With a great track record of amazing acts, last year seeing Dizzee Rascal, Nero, Chase and Status, Labrinth and Friendy Fires to name a few, it seemed like we were on for one hell of a weekend. Big crowds, bands, extreme sports and more looked right up our street and we were pretty sure Newquay would be delivering the same; or so we thought!
Now I’m never a big fan of giving things a bad review and I always like to be constructive so this review is a challenge for me. Beach Break lived up to it’s name but in a more literal way. It was more like a break on the beach with the buzz and excitement of a festival no where to be found. Let me give you the rundown *deep breathes*.
To explain this fully, and bear with me because this could/will get confusing, I will do my best to break this down into two festival goer experiences. Number one will be that of the a standard ‘Silver’ ticket holder, staying in a B&B in town for example, and one of an all access ‘Golden Ticket’ holder with access to the Trevelgue camp site and extra stages.
So let me explain these two types of tickets a little bit more and what you get with them..
Silver: Access to the Fistral Beach Main Stage as well as free entry into the Beach Break clubs and bars in the town (of which there was around 8)
Golden: Access to all of the above with camping PLUS a whole number of extra stages within the Trevelgue campsite, workshops and a free bus that runs to and from town.
Day 1: Saturday – Staying in town – The ‘Silver’ ticket Experience.
Unfortunately missing the Friday due to other commitments we rocked down from our B&B in town on Saturday to the main stage mid afternoon. Took about 15-20 minutes walk to get down and on arriving we were greeted to the unfortunate sorry sight of London indie band Waylayers playing to what must have been no more than 20 people (credit to em for still putting on a show. They were pretty good as well so please make an effort to check them out). Putting it down to the weather, as it was a bit miserable, although manageable, we hung about the main stage to check out some of the main festival headline acts.
The first we managed to catch properly were Leeds based Sub Motion Orchestra who bought their dubstep, Portishead-esque tones to a thankfully slightly larger crowd than earlier. Bass heavy and complimented by the beautiful vocals of lead singer Ruby they got the crowds head nodding and were a perfect ‘chill on the beach’ band. Up next were one of the festivals headline acts, AlunaGeorge, who got the party started with their pop/electronic beats. Getting the crowd a bit more lively with their latest single ‘Attracting Flies’ and their huge Disclosure collaboration hit ‘White Noise’ the crowd were ready for tonights, and main festival headline act, Jake Bugg. Putting on a great show, although not too vocal between tracks, Jake treated us to his hits along with a few new tracks to tickle your musical tastebuds and got the crowd singing along.
Now that doesn’t sound too bad does it? Well you might find it strange that after all this it was only 8pm. Yep, the main stage finished at 8pm. What is also strange is Jake Bugg and AlunaGeorge are advertised as the festivals ‘Main’ headliners. It’s Saturday?!? Surely they should be playing on the final day of the festival? This combined with what was quite a small turn-out didn’t exactly get me, or anyone else from what I could see, in any sort of proper festival spirits. The odd drunk seemed to be enjoying themselves but the buzz just wasn’t there.
Back at the B&B I thought maybe it was an idea to check out Twitter and see what people are saying. Have I missed something maybe?
There wasn’t really that many tweets but one certainly did stick out; a tweet from one of the acts!
“As an unsigned/unknown artist, v. Disappointed by @BeachBreakLive least welcoming, least grateful festival I have been to. Such a shame.”
Not the most promising thing to see as you can imagine; especially from an artist playing.
Determined not to try and judge too soon we hit the town later in the evening to check out some of acts in the clubs and pubs. First issue, finding them. Everyone we seemed to speak to were down on a Stag-Do or just down on holiday and most had no idea the festival was even on. Where were all the festival goers? After randomly checking the Beach Break facebook I realised there was a mobile app that told you who was playing and where! Brilliant! Well was for us anyways as everyone we spoke to had no idea this even existed; including the press team. We were offered to buy a programme earlier in the day for £5 but thought ‘Hey, it can’t be that hard to find our way around. We manage at every other festival’. We were wrong!
A small Beach Break banner outside and an A4 piece of paper with the line-up for the day was all that made the set venues stand out from the rest of Newquay town. We ventured into a few clubs and bars checking out the acts and one major thing hit-me. This just felt like a night out in Newquay. The places were full of the usual clubbers and locals there always were, the only difference is some bigger name acts were performing. There felt like there was no exclusivity at all. Some of the bars you weren’t even checked for wrist bands meaning having an actual wristband and paying for a ticket meant nothing. Had we paid for our passes I can imagine us questioning why we even bothered buying them.
Going back to the acts, as I feel they do deserve some coverage, there was a few stand-outs from the Saturday evening. Possibly one of my favourite bands of the weekend had to be Tankus the Henge in the Newquay Arms. Like a mad ska/circus act it was the most lively I had seen an audience all day. With an eccentric frontman, a piano bellowing out thick smoke from under it’s hood and a horn section it was by far the well needed pick-me-up required to keep me going. These should have been on the main stage. Crazy, bonkers and stupidly entertaining!
Heading into the clubs we caught some great DJ Set’s from the likes of Dismantle in Sailors who gets kudos from me for dropping TNGHT‘s ‘Higher Ground’, and then danced the night away in Salt to the bass pumping sounds of Walter Ego and BBC Radio 1′s Monki. Mid-way though Monki’s set tiredness was setting in (it had been a looong day) and we went back to the B&B, unfortunately missing Artwork and Shy FX who’s sets didn’t start until around 3am. Did I feel like I’d experienced a festival yet? Nope. Felt like I’d seen a few bands on the beach and been clubbing.
Day 2: Sunday – Camping – The ‘Golden’ Ticket Experience.
‘Was I missing something?’ was my thought when I woke up Sunday morning. “This doesn’t feel like a festival”. After chatting with the press team I thought maybe I needed to be up at the campsite. After all, festivals are all about camping and there was also a whole load of stages for the campers so maybe everyone is just staying there and that’s where the party is at? I honestly felt a bit bad. I felt like I just wasn’t getting it.
Also heading up to the camp seemed like the right thing to do after the bombshell was dropped that due to the weather the previous day the Main Stage has now been dubbed un-safe and the whole main stage has moved to the campsite. Crazyness!
So attempting to clear my mind and have a positive attitude, and ready to give it another go, we headed up to the campsite; to see lots of people leaving. People were packing up and leaving the festival. Surely this isn’t the usual scenes of a Sunday of a weekend festival? I mean I’ve been to a lot of festivals in the past but this is usually unheard of?
Popping over to the ‘Making Waves’ stage, which is where the main stage had moved to, we are shocked to discover that because of the move the stage now starts at 3pm. And yes, it still finishes at 8pm! So that’s only 5 hours of main stage. But wait, what’s happened to all the bands that are playing main stage before 3pm? And even more importantly, where are all the bands from the ‘Making Waves’ stage going? Simple answer, cancelled! According to the programme that’s 18 bands cancelled? If this is wrong and they were moved somewhere then someone please tell me as no one seemed to know. I’m not even sure half the campers knew the main stage had moved at all as the only signage we saw was a piece of paper taped to a railing. I can imagine a lot of people ventured in to town to find that out.
Unfortunate, but surely there are lots of other stages here to check out right? So we trek through the campsite which kind of reminded me of Reading Festival, on the Monday when everyones leaving and the shops are packing up, to head up to the Apres Surf Lodge hoping to catch who ever was performing there. Not even slightly exaggerating, we were the ONLY people there. Well unless you classed the bar staff and sound guy. We were told the first three acts had not shown up and probably due to the poor turn-out the stage had all weekend. Also we heard some bands were booked in for 11am even though the bar doesn’t have an entertainment licence until 12 so therefore couldn’t play. In fact once we started asking people more about the weekend at the campsite it seemed everyone was in agreeance; the whole thing was a shambles. We honestly had the most fun of the day chatting to the lovely team in the Coppafeel.org tent who were doing their best to put on a brave face and promote their Breast Cancer Charity; which while I have your attention you should definitely check out. Great charity and run by some lovely people! Make sure to check your boobs people!
Hearing there were extreme sports we followed signs to the ‘Skate Park’. After walking around for 20 minutes without sign of any kind of skate park, and no one knowing anything about it, we decided this had probably been cancelled as well.
Finding out there was a beat-boxer ‘The Ox Box’ on site we thought we would give him a shout to film a live session for us. Also a chance to actually see someone perform; it was around 2pm by this point. Chatting to him we found out he had played 3 sets today (including our session) to fill in for bands that had pulled out and had also being booked in to do a workshop for festival goers, with no one attending! Maximum respect to this guy for sticking with it. Honestly, a credit to the festival and one of hardest working people we met all weekend! Make sure you check him out - https://www.facebook.com/OxBox2?fref=ts
Checking out the main stage, when it finally kicked off, I almost felt like I was watching a band in a half empty school hall. Big respect for the bands for giving it their best shot though. Will And The People gave it all they could and got the crowd active and The Ship Band magically turned the hall into a giant dance class and was genuinely nice to see everyone so happy for the first time all weekend.
After this we had had enough and was time to go home.
So, let’s summarise. All in all, it was a bit of a disaster and I don’t think many people will disagree. As I said right at the start, I do hate writing bad reviews so here is what I hope will be seen as constructive criticism to hopefully improve the festival for next year.
Move The Whole Festival To The Campsite: There didn’t seem to be any need to have all the extra venues and beach stage in town. It was a nice idea but just split up the festival too much and having a stage on a surfer beach known for being windy is probably not the best idea anyways. One location will keep everyone together, everything close by and create a better atmosphere. Also feels like your getting your monies worth when it’s only festival goers getting the entertainment.
Re-think The Line-Up: The main stage could have been a lot more successful. Some really big names were almost inaccessible to some festival goers unless you were a Golden Ticket Holder or willing to stay up until 3am. From the posters and website the impression you got from the main festival headliners I’d imagine gave a lot of punters the idea the festival was more geared towards a typical indie/pop crowd where as realistically it’s line-up was very much more suited to electronic fans. Moving names like Skream, Shy FX, Artwork etc down to the main stage would have got the people down there, had a consistent lineup of big names and probably sold more tickets if advertised as such.
Better Signage: When people in the campsite don’t even know there are stages 5 minutes from them there is a problem. With a reception at the front of the campsite with huge windows it would have been so easy to put all the line-up big and obvious in the windows there. Let’s everyone know what was going on. With better signage to where everything is most people are likely to head there as well.
Advertise Your Mobile App: I know you want to sell programmes for £5 but when you have an app that actually helps people get around, as it did us, a few notes on a social network isn’t enough. When even your press team don’t know it exists you haven’t advertised it well enough. Something like this would have really helped people.
I know I don’t run an event like this myself and I appreciate the hard work that goes into these kind of things so I hope this is seen as just someone trying to help and give feedback for the future rather than just a journalist slagging it off.
So, Beach Break Live, you tried and you failed this year unfortunately. For all of you reading this review though I would say don’t give up on them yet. With years of success this failure shouldn’t put you off completly. If anything, they are only gonna try and make it bigger and better next year to make up. We have faith in you Beach Break. Let’s learn from this year and roll on 2014. We know you can do it!
Reviewer: Chris Hines
*Update*: We were contacted by Red Pivot Skateboards who were running the skate park at the camp. They have supplied us with their view of the festival which you can read below.
“As a start-up company, establishing our brand and trying to get the redPivot name and our custom skateboards out to the world, we thought Beachbreak’s young clientele and its attempts to market extreme sports would be exactly the thing we were looking for, especially given the scale and tone of the 2012 event at Pembrey.
Organisation seemed a little poor, we were given confirmation only two weeks before the event to design and build the halfpipe and boards we were asked to supply, as well as publicise our presence. We were told our area was in the main caravan site and would have 4000 people walking past to see our set up and stall. Arriving at the event our park and was not even advertised under our name. After setup, most festival goers came to move into their caravans and we almost never saw them again. The rain of sent a few into hibernation and some on a 20 minute bus ride into town. But these did not make up anywhere near 4000.
We had a connection with one of the interns, and speaking to them we found out that it was held together by four unpaid interns to which one of them said, if one of them were to be ill that would have been it for the festival. With each of us in the team sporting various wristbands as no one seemed to know which were the appropriate for us we tried to carry on with the weekend.
Even without our individual situation, it was obvious from talking to other traders and festival goers that the event was largely without strategy and direction, and we were baffled as to why. As our company is based in South Wales and having family live in Pembrey, our attention was brought to some staggering news. Beachbreak, or the compnay behind, it were in administration, meaning they were in debt. A lot became clear and we realised the festival was to be under par from the beginning, with its cost free venues, minimal build team and no major headline acts like the previous years. We were committed to something that was only going to cost us.
Fortunately we did not come under the category of a trader who paid out £2-3k for a spot at this festival but, in turn, brought a greater value to the event. Our skatepark consisted of a half pipe which was enjoyed by those who came as well as a slalom course for people to have a go on our Longboards and GameBoards. We went out and mingled with festival goers for those we could find and talked to as many people as we could directing people up and handing out stickers and info. We tried to make the best of it and really appreciated the reception of those who found us and will continue to show off our boards and designs.” - redpivotskateboards.co.uk