Having faced a festival season full of ups and downs, and feeling almost crushed by the weather at my last event, I ventured south to dip my toe into the Rockaway Beach experience both metaphorically and physically.
Having visited Butlins at Bognor Regis just the once back circa 2003 there was a beautiful warm feeling of nostalgia as I approached the British holiday institution. Having secured accommodation within the ocean hotel, I was blown away by the standard of the hotel! This was definitely an upgrade on my last visit, after throwing my bags into my gigantic room, and showering I made my way over to the looming skyline tent. Rockaway Beach had two main stages scheduled, hosted in the dual venues of the centre stage bar and reds bar, the 2 pretty much equal sized venues sit one atop of the other, very low ceilings in both venues gave them both that dark intense club gig atmosphere, with this intimate feeling supplementing a superb line up this weekend was already delivering on so many fronts.
Within 3 minutes I had been served a reasonably priced nice cold cider, paid for on my card, yet again another absolute unusual plus at a festival, not having to carry a pocket load of cash to cover the whole weekend was a real treat! I made my way into the crowd just in time for the arrival of We Are Scientists. With a whit as sharp as their riffs the scientists stormed through their back catalogue, with more one liners than a teenager on Tinder. They really make a deep connection with the crowd. Scientist Keith even jumping into the crowd to mingle with the Rockaway Beach combers.
With an ear piercing clear and crisp PA delivering a masterclass of indie pop royalty hits. I was starting to think I had totally undersold Butlins as a venue, dismissing it out of hand, it was punching way above the weight class I had allocated it. In what I am not afraid to admit was a blast of music snobbery!
Following We Are Scientists down stairs in Reds were The Wedding Present. Gedge took the chance to rave about the joy of Butlins, something he did more than once over the weekend. Explaining how it's shaped a part in all of our lives, in particular his parents, who met at a Butlins! Looking around I feel like I have really found the festival where I feel totally comfortable with my peers, many a decent flourish of facial hair and appreciators of a decent pint with the finest indie line up to be found round every corner.
Tonight's headliners St Etienne chose Rockaway Beach 2016 to put to bed their tour in which they have been playing their seminal album Foxbase Alpha. Lead songstress Sarah Cracknell still sending many a man into a spin during the triumphant performance, I decided it was time to get some sleep, again I cannot stress just how amazing it was to walk back in under 3 minutes into a very impressive room, have a nice warm shower and fall into a king size bed.
Starting the Saturday with a beautiful buffet breakfast, the sun was out the sky was blue, just like a retro Billy Butlins postcard!
With the programme not starting until mid afternoon, I chose to take full advantage of the facilities, with the usual screaming and hustle and bustle of kids replaces by an awesome indie soundtrack pumped into every corner of the site, it only served to whet the appetite. First on the agenda was a visit to the Splashworld water park, an airplane hanger sized building filled to the brim with wave pools, hot tubs, river rapids and water flumes it served as the perfect hangover relief, before I knew it I had whiled away 2 hours, swimming bobbing and chatting away to like minded creatures.
After drying off I checked the awesome Rockaway Beach social network accounts for some updates to find out they were holding their own vinyl treasure hunt! I shuffled off to the beachfront to find I was too late, but a few revellers had scored some very unique prizes from featured acts gracing the Rockaway Beach 2016 stage.
After an afternoon of revelry including the Splashworld, some ten pin bowling and a furious blast around the go kart track, I went to eat my evening meal and relax in my room whilst getting ready for the night ahead. I turned the tv on to find the schedule of acts on the Rockaway beach tv channel with an awesome soundtrack to accompany it. Was there anything the festival team had not thought of? After a shower and a disco nap it was time to wobble with none other than Jah Wobble. At Rockaway Beach every time you turn a corner you are presented with seminal artist after seminal artist! After a strong showing from Wobble I refilled the glass and headed for Suede! As good as all the other acts where over the weekend I couldn't help but sense the crowds anticipation for this show! A UK festival exclusive, something I thought was a hell of a coup for the Rockaway Booking team.
Bringing a huge back catalogue of indie anthems Brett Anderson's bunch of un-merry men ploughed through one of the best sets of my recent memory! My personal highlights being amazing renditions of 'Trash' and 'Beautiful Ones' bringing the house down!
Following Suede's indie masterclass I rounded of my night with a walk around the site taking in my last few hours of drunken Butlins beauty!
Now this last statement is one I thought I would never be able to say!
I can clearly say I will be making BUTLINS a staple on my festival calendar.... as long as Rockaway beach runs.
Bravo Rockaway beach!
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
festival home page
Rockaway Beach Festival 2019 review