With a heavy heart, wilting eye lids and short of a couple brain cells I trudge away from the Boomtown gates, bags thankfully much lighter than when I arrived, and head towards the car preparing myself for the journey home to a bed not made of dusty jumpers. At least, that’s the journey I think I’m about to embark on. As it turns out, a couple of our cretinous mates with almost half a decade between them hadn’t yet learnt that listening to ‘a couple of tunes’ in the car without the engine on is likely to rinse the battery. Unresponsive both to jump leads and our, probably slightly humorous, attempts to bump start it down a hill packed with parked cars, we were left with the tall order of getting an AA man into the festival campsite. Still, it gave me a couple of hours to reflect on and attempt to piece together the past four days of debauchery, mischief and abuse my body had been through.
Akin to some sort of tribal celebration of dance, costume and games, Boomtown is more like a Carnival then a Festival. Stilted warriors roam among fire breathing dragons, gangsters lurk in the gloom of twisting passages and masked degenerates howl as they run through the crowds between the various zones that make up the town. And then there was us, propped against walls catching jokes, dwelling on dance floors and eating the odd microphone as we casually sipped straight JD (luckily much easier to sneak in then anticipated) and blew smoke to already firey, apocalyptic skies, taking in the scenes of a city’s annual celebration of carnage.
With visions that lend themselves so readily to dramatic prose, it would be easy to neglect the actual music, but that’s not to take away from what was a second to none, one size fits all, lineup of bass music. The Poco Loco tent housed a selection of hip hop, where The Mouse Outfit’s full band encapsulated the crowd on Friday night before a rowdy Dead Players set turned the place into a teeming mass of bodies. Saturday saw a three hour High Focus set deliver one of the greatest UKHH showcases I’m yet to see to a full capacity tent. Ed Scissortongue kicked things off with his brand of post apocalyptic poetry which had everyone enraptured and created the deepest, most vibey atmosphere of the weekend as a sea of hoods slowly bopped before it slowly built up through Jam Baxter to the more all out rowdy styles of Dirty Dike, Fliptrix and The Four Owls. Meanwhile, shouts also go to Rag N Bone man who hushed the crowd at the Wandering Word tent with a mellow acoustic blues set and then later delivered his hip hop tunes alongside Leaf Dog up at Chai Wallahs, another hip hop hub of the festival.
In terms of d&b, the machine age setting of the Arcadia Stage provided an incredible backdrop for a variety of sets, spewing fire into the air in time with the drops as the crowd surrounded the central DJ booth on all sides as if it was the destination of some religious pilgrimage. LTJ Bukem delivered my highlight with his timeless selection of liquid and jungle classics (after a jump up set from I’m not sure who that bought back a lot of memories with tunes like Mr. Happy and Downlow). Calyx and Teebee playing the final set of the festival were a slight disappointment in all honesty (from what I could gather that was primarily due to technical difficulties though) and I missed SPY, but am told he came with the goods.
The layout is split into two main sections, uptown and downtown, which would create an arduous hill walk if it wasn’t for all the entertainment along the way. Boomtown definitely wouldn’t be what it was without the dub and reggae that fills the main stages in the Uptown area and another hefty lineup of acts ensured we got plenty of variety. The Specials made a surprise appearance, much to our delight, and played an amazing set filled with classics as the sun went down over the town square. Richie Spice tore up The Lions Den, an incredible stage set on sandy floor and surrounded by open woods, where Mungo’s Hi Fi, Jah Mirikle and Iration Steppas also sent bass waves resounding through the crowd. My highlight however, was Laid Blak, back in downtown on a stage set among woods, with a set so crisp it could have been a CD. The sound engineers had definitely perfected the microphones by that point and Laid Blak’s three vocalists delivered bouncing crescendo’s as they chipped in and out of each others flows to the vision of raised lighters stretching back through the trees as far as the eye could see.
It feels like I didn’t see many headliners compared to many festivals, but that’s not really what makes Boomtown so special. So much is going on, from tiny, dark, smoke filled rooms pumping garage to strange tents full of all sorts of wierd goings on and shop fronts claiming to sell severed body parts, that it’s both very easy and very enjoyable to get distracted and just see where the flow of things take you. The production values are unbelievable and I don’t envy whoever had to start dissassembling it all on a hungover morning morning; they literally built a town dotted with statues, bandstands, shops and all sorts of strange goings on that only your attendance can do justice too. As with most festivals nowadays, a small ammount of thiefs tried their hardest to ruin it for everyone (my camera was in my hand taking the photos for this article when you rifled through my tent you mugs) but otherwise the vibe was definitely on point. It had a slightly edgy, creepy atmosphere that balanced out the friendliness of the crowd perfectly for an intriguing atmosphere. Meanwhile, the days were blessed with scorching sunshine that was the perfect weather for campsite jamming, taking in the smooth sounds of reggae in the shade of the woods and sampling the mouth watering array of food and juices on offer.
Still recovering from a rawkus hangover and a sand paper throat that’s left my voice inaudible, I realise that all great things in life come at a price. Unlike most of the people who accompanied me through the weekend, mine wasn’t in fact that of the £180 ticket, but rather my health, dignity and inhibitions. Even so, that’s a price I’m definitely willing to pay. Find out more on the Boomtown Website, check the official video below, and more photos over on our Facebook.
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