So a little over 2 weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending NASS Action Sports and Music Festival in Somerset, and what an experience it was! Featuring some of the hottest professional athletes in BMX, skateboarding and stunt biking, as well as a monster lineup featuring some of the hottest names in drum & bass including Andy C, Wilkinson, Noisia, Netsky and more, coupled with its unique location across several warehouses at the Bath & West Showground, it would not be an understatement to proclaim NASS an epic, and very unique festival experience. Having never personally been to NASS before, I admittedly did arrive, quite bizarrely, with the wrong choice of footwear - wellies. No one in sight for the full three days had any on because the stages were all housed within warehouses and the complex itself was concrete. So I felt, to put in scientific terms, a bit of a knob. Regardless, we arrived, pitched up and headed out to see what was what.
Sports coverage will be brief, as this is primarily musical coverage, however, NASS offered dazzled onlookers an unbridled display of skill from top athletes around the world in BMX, inline, skate and stunt biking during the day time. With the likes of Tony Hawks and Matt Hoffman having graced the NASS ramps in their day, you can get an idea of the raw talent and fearlessness displayed by these guys. Day one featured training and warmups, while days two and three featured the athletes going head to head in knockout stages for the elusive first place prize of £5,000 per sport, with runners up receiving smaller, but still substantial monetary prizes. Unfortunately, this brings me to my one and only criticism of NASS; the day time. This year was the first time NASS was extended to cover a three day period, rather than two days. While I haven't been before and so can't comment on experiences in years past, big acts did not begin to arrive on stage until 5pm. While there were lesser known acts performing on the Slammer and Sika Studios stages, the prize performers were sadly absent until the later hours of the evening, leaving little to do in the day other than to see the lesser knowns, eat and watch the sports on offer. This is fine for a while, but 5pm is late and people don't tend to sleep a ton of hours at festivals in a baking hot tent! This is my one and only criticism of NASS 2014.
For an avid drum & bass fan like me, NASS's lineup this year was one of the best of any festival I've ever attended. Shogun Audio head and drum & bass veteran Friction, was one of the first day one evening performers, giving the crowd exactly what they always want and expect from him: a fast, frantic onslaught of drum & bass. Arguably one of the greatest DJs of all time (with regards mixing speed and technique) and hailed as the godfather of Drum & Bass - Andy C, proved a phenomenal highlight of day one, spinning on 4 decks with nothing but double and triple drops to keep us frothing at the mouth. Hospital Records' crown jewel, Netsky, who performed alongside his live band setup, brought out a wonderful surprise in Scarlet Quinn, the vocalist from hit song 'Come Alive' when she came onstage to sing it live. Fred V & Grafix (also from Hospital) fresh from their debut album release, unleashed a compelling and stunning set of liquid drum & bass to keep us rolling on deep into the suburbs of the night. Dutch neurofunk trio Black Sun Empire (of whom command similar respect in the production community as Noisia, [read on]) unleashed a whirlwind set of tech and neurofunk. Arguably three of the greatest producers and sound designers of all time - Noisia (toured by Martjin, one of the three, on this occasion) absolutely annihilated the penultimate slot to round off the festival with a hurricane performance of dark neurofunk burners. Finally, Wilkinson of Andy C's RAM Records (who skyrocketed to stardom through his chart hit single, 'Afterglow') then followed on rounding out the festival in its entirety with a set equal parts adrenaline and beauty; alongside many others, these highlight performances contributed to make NASS the envy of any absent drum & bass head.
Besides the heavy drum & bass influences, NASS goers were also provided with a heady dose of Hip Hop with genre legends Cypress Hill, who rather amusingly (and predictably) started blazing on a kingsize in the middle of their performance (and, I might add, in full view of the police! Naughty, naughty.) The slowed down tempo and chilled out vibes created a nice contrast for a couple of hours compared with the frantic frenzy that so defines drum & bass. Predictably, garage veteran DJ EZ proved a blazing highlight of the festival, spinning a plethora of both old school garage classics alongside newer house and garage releases to round out the festival on the Warehouse stage. The raw energy of drum & bass, combined with NASS's unique and compelling warehouse stages created an electric atmosphere across all three days. Because of its unique appeal to a unique audience (most of whom are fully into NASS's specific musical focus), the atmosphere felt communal; festival goers were all there to experience the best in the business and party all night, and we all knew that that was exactly why everyone else was there too. Good stuff.
While I didn't see all the people I'd like to have seen due to the inevitability of clashes, everyone I did see, in short, absolutely destroyed it. Official interviews with Friction, Fred V & Grafix (conducted in conjunction with Bassexplorer) and Wilkinson, as well as an unofficial interview with the almighty Andy C, are all set to arrive in followup posts so stay tuned to DailyBeat for those! In the mean time, check out the photo gallery on this article!
Credits to Emily Cornish for photography.