Beach Break Live should be a lesson for all student music fans that good festivals don't always come in big packages.
The timing for Beach Break Live 2008 couldn’t have been better. Imagine four thousand students celebrating the end of the academic year in a field in Cornwall overlooking the sandy surfers' paradise that is Polzeath. Add to that an awesome, eclectic line-up and three days of sunshine and you’ve got BBL 2008.
What first struck me when arriving was just how friendly and relaxed the whole thing was - from the stewards on the gate to the team that served us a much-needed Full English. Even the usually abhorrent bag-searching security staff had lost their edge; it was clear everyone was here for a hassle-free good time. This was most strongly reflected in the lack of crime and disorder reported at the event. In fact, the sun was the biggest offender health-wise with many students suffering from excessive sunburn rather than ailments caused by alcohol or drug abuse.
Music-wise there was something for everyone. Live sets from around 1pm til 2am across the site were hosted by the ACM tent, sponsored by Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music. Complete with a bar, sand pits and rowing boats to pirch in, the tent offered some of the festival's lesser-known, but by no means less worthy, acts. Highlights came in the form of Guildford's own Frank Hamilton, Nick Harrison and the Getaway Team.
Meanwhile, the main stage offered headline acts each night: The Wombats, The Cribs, One Night Only and The Enemy all played remarkable crowd-pleasing sets. And from meeting the bands, they all seemed genuinely delighted to be playing the festival, despite it being a relatively new event.
The dance tent, open til 2am, offered the likes of a DJ set by Pendulum, as well as Gran Turino and Mr Scruff. If it hadn’t been for the grass beneath our feet, we could easily have forgotten we were on a Cornish farm, such was the décor and buzzing atmosphere that continued without signs of subsiding throughout the week.
Elsewhere other entertainment brought in the crowds: the Cornish Games, including Slippery Log and Mud Wrestling (think semi-clad dirty students fondling each other in the sunshine), as well as The Lost Gardens, where hot tubs, face-painting, tents clad with hippy-style drapes and pillows, and live didgeridoo music made for a place to socialise in the shade of the sunbaked site.
Food-wise we were spoilt for choice. The good news is that it wasn’t all over-priced burgers and fries either. Most of the food and drink was locally and ethically sourced, like the delicious free-range roast pork and the Cornish fish curries. It was good to see that the organisers had involved so many local businesses. Even the lager and beer were from just down the road and, surprisingly, not overpriced at £3 and £2.50 respectively.
One of the great things about Beach Break Live is undoubtedly its location: about a ten minute walk from Polzeath which, if you’ve never been, is worth a visit in itself. The village has all you need: surf shops, fish and chips, a Cornish pasty shop and of course the sandy bay - mainly filled with half-naked twenty-something year olds at this time of year.
A review of the festival wouldn't be complete without checking out the toilets and showers. Loo-wise, they were better than you might expect: most even had a working flush and toilet roll. But the shower situation was poor and was the one thing which had the potential to ruin the festival experience for those eagerly armed with Radox and Herbal Essence: with four showers for around four thousand students, we can only assume that most didn’t shower in four or five days. On top of this, water problems over the course of the week saw the few showers that were situated on-site to be dysfunctional.
That said, Beach Break Live 2008 was prospectively one of our summer festival highlights, with sun, sea, sand and a wealth of seasoned and new artists performing. It couldn’t really have been much better. Let’s just hope it doesn’t grow too large, because it wouldn't take much to ruin this intimate, non-commercialised, and very chilled-out festival experience.