Boomtown returned this year for Chapter 7 of the story, a city built from scratch in the coutryside just outside Winchester creating a place like no other. A place filled with madness and mayhem, with ravers, punks, cowboys, hippies, cyborgs and pirates all mixing with each other to have one huge party. From the Wild West to Trenchtown to walking through Mayfair or losing yourself in the forest – Boomtown here we come…
Arriving at Boomtown we could see the amount of work that had gone into creating this spectacular festival. We drove through to the far end of the site where we would be parking and setting up our tents for the weekend. While we were setting up and preparing to make our way into Boomtown we could hear music blasting away in the forest next to our campsite – so we of course headed in that direction first. There was a full on rave happening in the woods – a bit early for us so we headed to the main entrance where we arrived at the Town Centre. Less Than Jake were on the stage blasting their pop punk sounds to a huge crowd. The Town Centre showcased such a diverse and eclectic mix of music over the weekend, from the Retro Welsh Rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain to the Folk Punk of Flogging Molly, there was even time for a dance with Electro Swing Pioneers Caravan Palace.
We continued through the Town Centre where we had the choice to walk straight on, which would take us to Mayfair or take a right, which we did. By doing this we walked into the Wild West, and a chance to discover some of the best new music the country has to offer. Artists such as Funke and the Two Tone Baby, New Rising and The Goat Roper Rodeo Band, plus many more entertained crowds throughout the weekend – showing exactly what a great musical nation we are.
We then moved to The Old Mines Stage which was at the heart of the Wild West. The stage was unbelievable, set in between woodlands, just off the streets of the Wild West. The Old Mines showcased internationally renowned Folk, Roots, Blues and World Music Artists such as Mad Dog Mcrea, Edward II, Transglobal Underground, Moulettes, Peatbog Faeries and a storming set from John Butler Trio who were one of the highlights for me.
Walking through Mayfair was an event in itself, a huge mix of music genres and clubs down either side of the street. From a roller disco, an ice cream van playing the latest house classics to a young lad DJ’ing from a wheely bin. There was also some great street entertainment making everyone feel part of this truly magical event. Mayfair was coming to an end and there it was, a breathtaking view over the the whole of downtown Boomtown – standing tall was the mega-structure that is the Bang Hai Palace.
Bang Hai Palace was huge, towering 9 stories above the slums of DSTRKT5, Chinatown and Barrio Loco with shooting flames, neon lights and a DJ booth at least three stories high. Bang Hai Palace showcased the very best in Drum & Bass, Electronica and Rave from across the globe. Squarepusher, Surgeon Live, Goldie, A Guy Called Gerald and LTJ Bukem and many more mixed it up, giving some outstanding sets.
There was so much to see in DSTRKT5, many sideshows and street venues from Asbo disco, Malice in Waste Land – a place where man and machine collide to Downtown Tattoos and the Leisure Centre where the 1980’s were dragged to 2085.
Strolling around DSTRKT5 we came across China Town, a mix of old and new. The Freak Boutique, Digital Funfair and a never ending line-up of back to back Ska, and Ska-Punk with touches of 2Tone and Reggae. China Town was full of feel good tunes and an atmosphere to match.
We also got the chance to check out Poco Loco, where they showcased the best in Hip Hop, Rap, Beatbox, Live Breaks and Soul. The atmosphere was electric as Award winning Poet, Rapper and Playwright Kate Tempest took to the stage. Tempest’s flow and lyrical content were exceptional and intense, making this one of the best live shows we’d seen all weekend.
Moving on to yet another part of the festival we were confronted by an unbelievable stage set in a natural amphitheatre. The Lion’s Den in Trenchtown was a 40ft tall temple of Reggae. Flames, lasers and a soundtrack of Reggae, Dancehall, Dub and Roots. The Lion’s Den hosted some of the biggest names on the scene from headliner Stephen “Ragga” Marley – son of the great Bob Marley, Serial Killaz, Gentleman’s Dub Club and Cutty Ranks to name but a few.
Boomtown was still full of surprises as we then came across the Old Town, where a mighty pirate ship lay – Jolly Dodger, hoping that the Old Town would rise again. The ship staged some breathtaking theatrical scenes from the Invisible Circus – swinging from the rigging and unleashing cannons upon the city! As well as hosting some fantastic bands from the like of Tankus The Henge, Amsterdam Klezmer Band and Sheelanagig who gave an exhillarating and intense performance. These guys can play and I would highly recommend catching Sheelanagig live as you will not be disappointed.
Every corner of this festival brings something new, whether venues, stages or clubs – Boomtown has it all. We encountered many things at Boomtown and one thing that stood out for us was that there is some really friendly, fun and happy people out there and most of these were at Boomtown!
Boomtown is a festival like no other, but it feels more like a close family in a city where everyone is just there to have a good time. It showcases the best in the alternative arts culture and that we are grateful for.
So, that brings us on to the closure of Chapter 7 of the story and who knows what Chapter 8 will bring us, all we know is that – the revolution has begun!
For more info on Boomtown please visit: www.boomtownfair.co.uk
Review by Adrian Holden
Photography: Adrian Holden & Nigel Twelvetrees