The weekend started with a long journey south-west for myself and my girlfriend. After a grueling nine hour hike, by the time we set foot on the festival site we had missed the girls’ skate sessions. We had been looking forward to experiencing this up and coming scene, especially as we’re thinking of getting into it, but are both a bit chicken. However, this didn’t drop our excitement for the heaps of skateboarding, in-lining, BMX-ing, parkour and breakdance that lay in our not too distant future.
Expanding and Exploring
With our tent pitched, we were drawn though the main arena gates by the grimy sounds of the Sika stage. When writing our preview we thought this would be the smallest area of the festival, but the massive sound system could be heard all around the campsite, which was a positive as no-one was allowed to bring their own speakers on site. It was only about 6pm, and the crowd were already filling out and getting on it. We stuck around to watch Klashnekoff and returned a bit later on for Devilman, both got the crowd going noticeably setting the spirit for the rest of the festival. It wasn’t until the next day we noticed that the Sika stage cleverly doubled up as a mini ramp.
Whilst navigating the site I spotted a lanky-looking hippie bouncing on a slack line. ‘RU-Slack’ were hosting a ‘give it a go’ area. We were instantly drawn in and before long we had mastered the art of balance on the baby line with a little advice from the guys. We only managed to stand on the intermediate line but couldn’t get any further. I’m blaming that on the one beer we had drunk as we’re obviously naturals.
The First Dulcet Tones
Walking further into the main arena we noticed the Warehouse rave. There was already a slight queue forming. Still too sober for throwing shapes we headed for the Southbank warehouse. As our eyes adjusted to the dimly lit space we noticed that Dub Mafia were playing. Their set was spot on, chilled us right out.
The main stage was discreetly positioned off to the right of the gates, where Enter Shikari’s set was in full swing. To start with it didn’t sound a lot like the Enter Shikari we knew, but true to form they got heavier and heavier throughout their set and by the end we were dancing in front of the circle pit.
After grabbing a round at the shockingly quiet bar we headed straight to the Warehouse. We couldn’t tell you what DJs were playing as the entire length of the building was full of sweaty shoulder-to-shoulder action. We danced until we couldn’t handle the heat and then headed straight for bed.
The Morning after the Site Before
We managed to grab a lie-in and for once we weren’t awoken by the temperature of our tent rising to boiling point. We trundled over to watch some fancy skateboard-based tricks. I’m a big fan of freestyle flatland, it reminds me of my teenage days watching the kids in the car park. Most of the pros in the demo seemed to know each other pretty well, which set a good dynamic for the MC to goad on each member of the team one at a time, challenging them to try increasingly harder tricks. Unfortunately the surface was full of grit and nowhere near even, so they struggled to land each move and shredded up the edges of their decks. Nonetheless some of them looked so smooth they could have been boarding on ice. In case you haven’t come across this style of skating before, freestyle flatland involves little more than a skater, their board and a flat surface. Most tricks are performed from standstill or very little motion. Choreography and balance play a huge part in making it look as effortless as a kind of ballet that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Still on the skateboarding tip we scooted over to watch the youths shredding up the public park. Damn those eight year olds and their fearless skills. After getting jealous of how adept these little muggles were, we decided to sample the pros and headed to see the Birdhouse team warm up at the Pro Park. Somehow everything seemed a little oversized and they bailed considerably more than I had expected. The park was blatantly built for the BMXers. Still, we saw some chivalrous in-house competition from the team. That wet our whistles for the vert ramp. What ample foreplay.
Skate or Die
Not only were the Birdhouse team on the stupidly massive vert ramp but so were none other than Norfolk’s own X Games Bronze Medalist Sam Beckett who went on to win the pro vert comp and number 1 female skater Lizzie Armanto. Lizzie nailed a fakie eggplant whilst ol’ Tony ollie’d some big air over her head. Pretty risky decapitation stuff there. Easily the best vert moment was when the commentator, Shaun Goff, shouted out ‘Oooh Lizzie goes down on Madonna’ when she bailed on a trick. Scripted? Who Cares? Insert rosy cheeks and giggling. Not only were the pros dialing it up, but Alessandro Mazzara dropped in with his tiny 11-year-old body and killed it, pulling off 540’s one after another. Perhaps he’s a chemical spill mutant. It’s not normal. As Goff said, he should be at home playing Lego or Pokémon, not up there with the pros.
However skilled his sidekicks might be, it was Tony Hawk who stole the show. As soon as they wheeled old man Hawky out onto the ramp he showed everyone what a 47-year-old can do. Man he’s still got it. He skated creative showing us some nice old-school tricks, then threw in a few swift 540’s before pulling a 700 and using his selfie stick out whilst skating. Mentalist.
Another ridiculously skilled sport we watched was Parkour. They had a little adult playground with expert free-runners jumping around in like happy little monkeys. I’d love to see them on the street as I felt they were a little squashed when they’re used to running around like a pack of wild dogs.
Shred or Dead
It wasn’t until the Saturday afternoon that the Kerrang! stage opened for business. It was this part of the lineup that had most caught my eye. We were ready for the mosh pit mayhem that was about to ensue. Unfortunately the rest of NASS simply wasn’t. Capacity at NASS is around 15,000 and there were about 50 people in the tent. Despite the poor crowd the bands still gave it everything they had. Heck spent equal amounts of time on stage as they did charging about the pit like possessed men, locking horns with the crowd like goats. Rolo Tomassi followed suit undeterred by the small crowd. It was around this time we had a realisation, it was as if the punters of NASS weren’t interested in anything real like instruments or sport.
There seemed to be two scenes at NASS. The main scene was Rave, where the people into House, Dubstep and DnB wanted to just dance it out and then hang out in their tents playing with balloons. Those kids looked pretty fly in their Adidas and Ellesse, but looked like they probably didn’t want to get them dirty. Then there were the people interested in adventure sports. There could probably be two different festivals. Luckily for us the festival still had plenty of the down to earth stuff for us to get stuck into, whilst everyone else was back at the campsite hanging out with Mandy.
Dance, Dance Till You Can’t Dance No More
Congo Natty, if you haven’t seen or heard him before, is a great mix of Jungle and Reggae. Natty lays down some sick bars over fat beats, which is also know in the Old Jamaican parlance as toasting. They have been top of the UK scene for eons and they showed us why they hold such accolades. We lost about a stone in sweat skanking around. I love it when everyone gets stuck in and throws it about. None of that “Oh God I can’t dance because I’ll look like a daddy long legs near a lamp” or whatever self-conscious nonsense people narrative is running round the group hive mind. I was so happy jumping around to these guys and girls.
Not being able to handle any more leg based movements; we decided to chill at Happy Hookahs. We ordered a shisha and a chai tea and mega relaxed to some mind-blowing Hip-Hop karaoke. There was a beatboxer on tap for people to come up and freestyle with on stage. It was like something out of a film. They were so tight I don’t know how they were doing it ad-lib. One guy even freestyle beatboxed, over the top of the in-house beatboxer.
Sunday, It’s My Fun-Day
On Sunday morning the summer was once again kind and we weren’t spewed out of our tent by the hot weather, instead awoken by the light patter of rain and the retching and screaming of teenagers. Seriously, don’t camp here if you hate teenagers experiencing the joys of freedom. We saw some pretty hilarious crab stick legs that morning. This is where white people get their legs sunburnt but only on one side.
After we got our shit together, we headed in to watch the BMX Pro park finals. Not knowing a great deal about the sport or who any of the riders might be, we were pleasantly surprised with their skills. They made the park look much more sizeable than the skaters, and one after the other shot over the tops of the ramps. To our amazement one guy touched the air conditioning unit about 16ft high. We were lucky enough to get a front row seat up on the balcony. It seems effortless and achievable until you see someone bail. Only then do you realize how high and fast they’re going. One BMXer fell into his handlebars full force in the chest. I’d be surprised if he came away from that with all his ribs intact.
Break It Up Now
By the time we left the park the rain was hammering it down. We grabbed a coffee and doughnut and settled into the Warehouse for a marathon of breakdancing. There was a round of qualifiers – the winners of which got to battle eight invited pros down to the final for a prize fund of £700 and a sponsorship from DSYFA. As we got comfy watching the warm-ups, I began to notice that breakdancing seemed to be the socially broadest of all the events we had experienced at NASS and possibly ever.
Not only was the sport represented fairly in gender and age it was also broadly represented by nationality and ethnicity. The entirety of the mesmerizing battle took around four hours so we’ll just mention our favourite BBoy and BGirl. Raw Gina got into the finals and had some sick styles doing some pretty original moves that we hadn’t seen anywhere before. Noé Chapsal, a French contender, took second place with his moves, which looked more like a choreographed dance than the others’ sets.
Hitting the Main-Line
Back in the pro-park we checked out the in-liners. They were chucking themselves from ramp to ramp, grabbing massive air. We were like cats on hot bricks watching them bail out of the mental tricks they were attempting. It looks like so much fun but they have to not clearly care about snapping their legs or piecing eyeballs with a rail to be so bold. I don’t know what the tricks are called but they were doing things like scissor kicks, cannon balls, front and backside flips and spins. Basically, incredibly fast gymnastics on wheels.
Strolling down to the Kerrang! stage we noticed it was far more lively than our visit the previous day. The Dub Pistols crowd was on top skanking form, the tent heated up and humidity clung like glitter to our skin. I’ve got to say, I didn’t really know much about Dub Pistols, however this was perhaps my favourite set of the weekend. A perfect start to the last evening.
Harder Than You Think
The headliners for the weekend, Public Enemy followed on the main stage with definitely the biggest crowd for a live band I had ever seen. Spirits were high despite the mud sloshing into sneakers. Public Enemy played most of their biggest hits; despite some songs being older than the crowd members, everyone knew the words. We may not have seen eye-to-eye with some of the festival goers over the weekend but everyone agreed on the political messages about equality that Public Enemy were preaching. This beautiful moment of togetherness seemed to remind everyone at long last what the whole festival scene should be about.
It was midnight on Sunday and the bars finally had some business, we even had to wait to be served for the first time that weekend. Everyone was talking about Hannah Wants. Apparently she had the ability to be in two places at once due to a programme SNAFU. There were some pretty extreme queues for both of the club areas so we decided to avoid both, instead we grabbing a burrito and a shisha.
Scenes of Carnage and a Merry End
Monday morning was just carnage. Proper seagull heaven. It felt like we were in a post-apocalyptic refuse site. Which actually worked to our benefit. Being festival magpies we went through the discarded crap and managed to find us some brand new camping chairs and loads of other bits. We could have had about 50 new tents if we were so inclined.
This festival got us pretty stoked about skateboarding. If a 6-year-old can do a melon grab on a mini ramp then it can’t be that hard to get on a board and not fall off. Thanks NASS for inspiring us and giving us a weekend that managed to completely shine through the weather.
For more information, check out our NASS guide.