With Summer more or less upon us (depending on which part of Europe you live in), we decided to give the Festival Season a kick start and went to check out the Beach Break in South Wales. Here’s the lowdown on our adventures
The sun burned bright in the mottled Welsh sky as we rolled through the bottom of Wales with bare feet and sunglasses at the ready, through the majesty of the looming Brecon Beacons, awash in luminous greens and wayward lambs, Tumble and Upper Tumble, Trimsaran and Kidwelly, where pebbled-dashed houses surround solitary fish and chip shops.
In the distance the glinting afternoon sun picks out Pembrey Country Park. The entrance is stern, picked out with grey bricks and metal fencing – the start line to the luscious innards it is there to protect. The festival site is small and neat, collected in a tiny pocket of the park, respectful of its beauty.
A whole world is tucked into two fields, trimmed with watering holes and fairground rides. Gaggles of people sway from place to place, crumpling into piles in front of the main stage, straight from the beach. Pints in hand, jumpers on and ready to fade into the evening.
As the sun gets plump in the sky we manage to grab a cold bottle of beer and a few minutes to chat with Tuesday’s headliner, Vampire Weekend before they haul themselves onto the main stage. Still on the crest of their ‘Contra’ tour, 5 months in they look chirpy: “It’s still crazy. It’s been very good, it’s been a fun year.”
When you put on a Vampire Weekend record on it conjures up thoughts of sand between toes, faded oranges and pinks in the sky, salted cheeks and the warm, sweet smell of summer skin but as neither surfers or skaters how do they feel about being associated with such chilled out, surf-bum vibes? “Ha, well actually I was into rollerblading…”, chips in multi-talented dual instrumentalist Rostam, “…and in our new video for the song ‘Holiday’ if you look, blink and you’ll miss it, but there’s a scene where I rollerblade – don’t watch too closely!” A video, which, incidentally, sees them get into fisty cuffs with some surfers while dressed in powered wigs and ruffs.
He continues, “I guess y’know we’re trying to capture some of the elements in our music. Like trying to express some of those nature vibes. We like to think that some of the songs on the new record are related to California.
“And we actually heard that Jack Johnson went surfing and was listening to our first record. He took a surf trip and he listened to our record in the car driving between every beach.”
And they certainly did harness those vibes. Possibly the most perfect band to be the sticky red cherry on top of the blazing sun, salted wind in the hair kind of a day that everybody has just had. As the lyrics to ‘Oxford Comma’ mix with the sea air everybody lets loose and mass of dancing bodies erupt.
A new day arrives and everybody hauls themselves arse out of tent to be met with the sun beating down on yet another perfect costal day. The snaking crowd pads its way through the heart of the main arena until it reaches the dusty path to the beach. As toes spread apart and disappear the sound of a ukulele fills in air from the beach stage.
Although perfect for chilling out the site also offers a lot for the less meek-hearted too, from its own dry ski slope, high wires through the forests of trees and kitesurf tasters on the beach. We bumped into a couple of the Flexifoil team riders Craig Sparkes and Will McKean down on the sand as they were showing some guys the ropes and doing tricks off the ground.
Later jumpers are pulled on as a stiff evening breeze descends and Ellie Goulding proves popular, despite her main rival – the football, drawing a bulging crowd at the resident pub. Stand out track ‘The Writer’ offers a poignant moment in her set, leaving those who were previously unconvinced (ahem) genuinely impressed with her stripped down vocal prowess.
Venturing into Merlin’s Forest at night was risky, sure, but it paid off. A pure battering as the smallest bones in the body are shaken by bassline after filthy bassline from Toddla T and Trigganom, followed by hours of tightly wound electro from Fake Blood and into the eagerly anticipated headline slot from 2 many DJs – a set which, unusually, did not comprise of the usual top-self sample after sample style mash up and instead, with just one Dewaele brother at the helm opted for an altogether more spacious set of electro padding featuring snippets including Human League and The Gossip.
By far and away one of the best hidden gems found scattered in the dewy midnight grass was a meek little tent by the name of The Leeky Sheep. It was home to a brilliant open mic night by the name of Jam Tart, who managed to coax headline band members to the stage, including Plan B’s extremely talented backing singers.
With enough guts and savvy female charm to make up for the amount of bums we’ve accidently seen during this weekend Kitty, Daisy & Lewis take the main stage by the scuff of the neck on Friday and ride a wave of 50s, rockabilly, blues, funk and even painted the sky the colour of Hawaii as the ukulele and gentle harmonies wash over a thousand hangovers.
Beach Break is billed at the UK Student festival and does not shy away from this task. It is a lot more student than surf-bum, think sand penis sculptures on the beach rather than queues for kitesurf lessons. And as a festival it is still very much in its youth so a number of teething problems still remain. However, its multi faceted appeal sunk into such beautiful surroundings means you can pick and chose your way to your very own perfect little festival.
Jam Tart operates as a regular night in London, check out their Facebook page