Boomtown Fair. Home to freaks, weirdos, punks, crusties, hippies, pillheads, rockabillies and people who look a bit lost. This was my third year in a row attending the festival, held in the same place for 2 years running in the first time of it's history, and it's my favourite place on earth. I still have festival blues a week after it all ended, and this review is an attempt to make some sort of sense of everything that went on over the course of the weekend.
Compared to other, more mainstream, festivals that I've been to, Boomtown maintains it's own spirit and atmosphere unlike anywhere I've been before. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes creating the 'town' and acts that I would like to personally shake everyone involved by the hand and give them a pint. Unfortunately, I have neither the time or the finances but I sincerely hope they carry on to do the work they do!
We arrived on Thursday afternoon, with the sun beating down, having successfully snuck in our 'illegal' cider, beer and rum supplies and trekked across the campsite to find fellow Boomtown veterans and some Boomtown virgins. Surveying the campsite (we were in a similar place to the year before) we could see that the site was much, much bigger. We set up the tent, had some beers and got a bit merry, then before we knew it it was evening. We ventured into the town to see (I think) the end of Roughneck Riot and then we saw Faintest Idea, who, if you've read earlier reviews, we're pretty psyched on. They were brilliant as always, although perhaps not yet ready for such a big stage. I'm not really sure what happened after that to be honest, due to consuming Janet's Jungle Juice (make of that what you will).
Friday soon came around and was met with cider, beers and sensi in the warm sunshine. I'm not really sure where Friday went but I remember wandering around near the Bad Apple Bar and wandering around the site in general seeing what was about. We were sat near the main stage and heard what sounded like some insanely catchy music. This was the Movits from Sweden, and served to reinforce my belief that this country provides some of the best party bands around (this has been proved to me every year at Boomtown so has now become something of a tradition).
We hit the Boombox to see Balkan Hotsteppers, who play a mashup of balkan, gypsy and hiphop. Dancing around not really in control of what I was doing is perfect on a Friday afternoon in the sunshine with rum in hand. I remember seeing a bit of Gentlemen's Dub Club who were alright, and then we went to the Hidden Woods stage to see The Skints, who I'm pretty sure played the best set I've ever seen them play. However the end of the set was marred by my smoking too strong a spliff and needing a little lie down staring at the trees above. Nevertheless, I picked myself up, and after some more wandering I remember seeing a bit of The Peacocks set, who were pretty awesome, and then we stuck around for The Meteors. I can't describe how big of a letdown The Meteors were. The singer was a bellend of epic proportions and they just didn't really seem arsed. We left midway through the set and passed out at the tent to Arcadia's heavy bass vibrations.
By Saturday I was fully in the festival swing and welcomed morning with a swig of water and a can and plain bagel. We headed to the Hidden Woods early on and saw Black Star Dub Collective, who were amazing. I've loved the tunes I've heard by them but was yet to see them live, but they didn't disappoint. Perfect for chilling under the trees whilst giving you something to think about. Hopefully they will be playing south at some point again soon.
Again, not really sure what happened on Saturday. I know I saw some bands and they were good....but the only things I remember with any great form of clarity were Random Hand, who slayed it as always (I will never get bored of them live) and Slamboree, a circus/rave/balkan mashup of extreme mayhem. It was chaos on a stage! Probably one of the very best highlights in a weekend of amazingness and a band I would encourage everyone to see. Their cover/remix of Zorba the Greek (a traditional Greek classic) is truly inspired and worth seeing them for alone. Insanely brilliant band!
Saturday evening we decided to investigate this weird, noisy metal spider thing known as Arcadia. Every night there was an Arcadia show. I honestly haven't seen anything like it before. Acrobats! Fire! Lasers! Bass! More fire! More lasers! Fireworks! Fire! Fire! Smoke! More fire! The shots of fire were so intense you could feel the heat off them from several metres away. The Arcadia show coincided with a massive controlled propane explosion on the hill behind the 'town' and it lit up the whole site. IT WAS AWESOME!! Looking back at photos of it now it looks like it's from a film or something. Pretty sure I'm never going to see anything like that again in my lifetime. It's no wonder there was so many acid casualties with that shit going down every night. I thought it was complete madness and I was relatively in control of my mental faculties. Even though it probably didn't look like it as I stared at the display as if I'd never seen fire before.
On Sunday I was feeling a little the worse for wear and everything seemed like a challenge. I had some rum and some cider and that didn't do the trick. I was in a state of despair. I was near the main stage. The sun came out. The Skatalites came onstage. Everything was good in the world again! Like the Selecter last year, I firmly believe that if everyone had an injection of ska in the mornings there would be no problems or worries. For that 40 minutes, nothing else mattered. True legends and true heroes.
Sunday seemed to be the day that loads of bands I wanted to see were playing, and the day I felt most haggard. I saw about half the set of The Slackers, then moved over to the Lion's Den to see Mungo's Hi Fi who were sweeeeeet. I knew there was only 1 way to get through my personal hell and that was to hit the rum, and hit it hard (and get some vegan food along the way - of which surprisingly there was plenty). We then saw some of Bootscraper, who were amazing! Everything I wanted in a piratey-esq band, especially when swigging rum. A band I'd like to see lots more of! We then chilled outside for a bit and went to see Tyrannosaurus Alan. Unfortunately the power went out midway through the set, however they carried on for a bit with the brass section and the drummer, and eventually the power came back on and they played a blinder of a set.
Unfortunately we missed most of Jimmy Cliff's set but heard some of his sweet sweet reggae/ska classics. We rocked back to the Devil Kicks Dancehall to find mates throwing themselves around to Jack Rabbit Slim. We threw ourselves around too. They were wicked! We headed back to the mainstage to see a bit of Caravan Palace who were lovely! I think I'm growing to like this electro swing business. We saw some fireworks, then we saw the Wall of Death (which amazed everyone I think) then saw the last band of the weekend, The Filaments. It wasn't the best I've seen them play but they never disappoint! And really, I think everyone loved flinging themselves round the tent to Bastard Coppers.
I've had such a severe bout of festival blues since Boomtown ended! Couldn't have asked for better weather, better company or a better mix of music. This year taught me that I can get out of my comfort zone and enjoy genres in a way I never thought I could - although the bands I knew before the festival were (largely) amazing, this year for me the highlights have been things I wouldn't normally listen to - Slamboree were so enjoyable I can't wait to see them again, I could've danced at the Boombox all day, and if rave and jungle is played on Arcadia it's the best thing on the planet.
Here's hoping the rumours aren't true and Boomtown isn't sold off to someone with less passion and creativity and are just bothered about the money. Keep Boomtown as it is, I love it too much!