White Air 2009: Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 30 September 2009

Overall - 6/10
Organisers of Europe’s largest extreme sports festival may have felt powerboarding their way from the Isle of Wight to a new site on Brighton beach front more headache than necessary. Unable to sell out the event their festival weekend was marred with sound problems from the start.

White Air Festival is as much about the variety of extreme sports on show as the artists taking to the stage over the three days. The attitude is very much ‘give anything a go’ and everyone is on hand to help you into safety gear before jumping on that skateboard or jet ski you had always wanted to put your hand to.

Getting there and back - 9/10

With no camping facilities it’s handy that the festival site is a 15 minute downhill stroll from Brighton station through the vibrant seaside metropolis. Brighton by is less than an hour from London by train and has good services to Portsmouth, Worthing and most of Sussex and Kent. Madeira Drive the host for this year’s White Air has limited parking when the festival is in full swing but central NCP’s are always available, if a little pricey.

Organisers also arranged discount for people travelling from White Air’s old home on the Isle of Wight, however there is no direct ferry service to Brighton so Islanders have to travel via Portsmouth.

The Site – 8/10
Quite literally nestled on the sea front, the mix of pebbles and tarmac may not to be everyone’s taste but the views out to the English Channel with Brighton Pier lighting up the foreground make for a unique festival proposition.

The main part of the festival, including the main stage, occupies a long narrow strip of Madeira Drive with everything from an EA gaming pod to half pipes and powered skateboards to keep folks amused. The real fun however is along the beach where you can get your hands dirty and try everything from orbing to martial arts all afternoon long.

Atmosphere - 7/10
An eclectic mix of intrigued locals and extreme sport fans doesn’t make for the most intense live music atmosphere. But the crowds are certainly peaceful and willing to watch everything on offer. With over forty extreme sports on display the message is very much ‘have a go’ and from skateboards to quad bikes the festival-goers can try their luck at almost anything.
The Royal Navy and Air Force have a very large presence and beyond various recruitment campaigns they perform daily displays on the beach which draws perhaps the largest crowds of the weekend.

Music - 7/10

Local punk-rock lads This City (7/10) try desperately to awaken the few early starters. Random jelly sweets aren’t even enough to bribe the crowd onto their favour. Lyrebirds (8/10) in stark contrast revel in darker, moody depths which prove a winning formula in front of their home crowd. Doll And The Kicks (8/10) next face stiff competition from the 25m high diving squad but produce the high tempo punk melodies to keep the crowd on their feet.

The Lemonheads
(8/10) chilled alt-rock vibe feels at home against the accompanying sunset before Biffy Clyro (9/10) provide a sweet stick of rock on Brighton beach even after arriving nearly half an hour later than billed. Racing through a ‘Puzzle’ heavy set list the Ayreshire boys are in high spirit, forthcoming single ‘Captain’ carves a memorable note for a set that climaxes in top five hit ‘Mountains’.

Sunday opener Ben Howard (8/10) brings rich folk melody before shoe-gazer hopefuls White Belt Yellow Tag (5/10) stamp out the loving feeling.

Hotly tipped Sky Larkin (7/10) have a hard job following but their post-rock charm wins over more than the Boxer Rebellion (6/10) who fail to shine in the sun.

Wakefield’s finest The Cribs (8/10) may seem a little at odds with the festival but the band newly strengthened by the addition of the legendary Johnny Marr have no such worries when it comes to satisfying. They to stroll through hits ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ with great aplomb but find their stroll on new material from critically acclaimed new album ‘Ignore the Ignorant’.

Doves (9/10) seem safe hands to close the musical chapter for White Air, riding on the success of ‘Kingdom of Rust’ their set borrows heavily from the Mercury nominated LP. It still means dipping into their fine back catalogue to find the best reaction of the night with the beautifully timeless ‘Caught by the River’ and ‘Catch The Sun.’


As Thundercats pace along the Brighten shoreline Natty (9/10) draws upon one of the biggest crowds of the afternoon to return one of the most inspired sets of the weekend. ‘Bedroom Eyes’ harmonises with the masses and the chilled Sunday vibe.

Red Arrows brighten an otherwise dull start to White Air with their now famous mid-air acrobatics as they pass over 11am, tragically too early for most of the festival punters.

Forty-five minutes later than scheduled White Lies (7/10) walk out to boos and the disfavour of over a thousand fans. Cursing the organisers and sound technicians vocalist Harry McVeigh promises the performance of their career however the circumstances prove too much for the four-piece who can’t deliver on any such promises tonight.

By Christopher Swindells. 

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