“This town is rocking like a boomtown” with a little play on The Specials song, Slamboree launched into a whirlwind of colour and bass, as pyrotechnics fired overhead. The group really captured the spirit at Boomtown. A big collaborative effort between performers and musicians, amazing theming and all backed with by a heavy drum and bass track. The crowd certainly loved it, giving it their all, while the rain poured down.
Set near Winchester in the South Downs National Park, Boomtown, now in its 10th year, was held across a rainy early August weekend. With 60,000 festival goers converging on the festivals 100-acre site. The set up at Boomtown is something else. Billed as a fair rather than a festival, it really captures the more immersive vibe. Unlike most festivals which separate the festival into a camping and arena area. Boomtown has made the simple innovation of mixing camping in with the stages. Making the whole site feel more like the town it’s aiming to be. With people living in amongst the streets and stages, it adds more life to the whole site.
The site is certainly a world you can get lost in. With little stages dotted all over, you never know what you’ll find. Whether it’s the Peoples Front room where soothing jazz gave people some respite the madness going on in a living room setting. Or the impromptu actor led robbery/hostage situation that surprised punters mid electro swing one afternoon at Paradise Heights. Amongst it all, the strangest find was a small stall called slime time. Hidden away in Barrio Loco, attendants will gleefully tell you about a slugs reproductive system while punters have the option of covering themselves in slime.
The centrepiece of the festival was Banghai Towers. A giant structure, home to Banghai Industries the villains of this year’s ongoing Boomtown story. The detail and size of the structure tests belief that was built as a temporary installation for a music festival. Complete with pyrotechnic towers and lasers that shot seemingly miles into the sky. God only knows what any unsuspecting motorist passing on the road overlooking the festival thought was going on. Presiding over this was a who’s who of UK bassline, drum and bass and UK Garage talent with Taika Nulight, Etherwood and Wookie all laying down memorable sets.
Over in the Metropolis district, formerly Chinatown, Pagoda Plaza hosted the festival’s house, techno and disco talent. Cassy played a warm soulful techno set, which had the crowd entranced for the duration. Simian Mobile Disco was also in attendance, playing a dark brooding set. Far from upbeat and bouncy productions, they are known for but no less impressive. The Town Centre in uptown hosted many of the bands at the festival. There Enter Shikari, laid down an energetic performance, their set climaxing with a fast-paced medley of four of their biggest songs (Sorry You’re Not a Winner, Sssnakepit, Meltdown & Antwerpen). Dutty Moonshine Big Band took to the stage during on the festivals few sunny spells. With a live drummer laying down a drum and bass beat and full brass complement to add a soulful element to the bassline wobbles they certainly delivered a memorable performance. Completed with a trombone solo from a crowd surfing trombonist.
Set away from the madness was Whistlers Green, the calm outskirts of the town. There you could take part in a multitude of wholesome activities, from yoga to woodworking, from welding to meditation. At night a giant bonfire at night for people to relax around and jam sessions during the day. It was the largest chill area I’ve seen at a festival so far and in if so wished a festival unto itself.
As midnight Sunday rolled around, Andy C was announced to be the secret headliner at Sector 6, the festivals biggest dedicated drum and bass stage. He laid down characteristically heavy jump up set including all his own biggest productions, remixes and VIPs. The closing ceremony began immediately after and as fireworks fired off overhead, Boomtown took the time to call out its patrons behaviour. Questioning the festival’s future if there’s no change in the 200 tonnes of camping material abandoned each year and other waste produced and discarded. It was an important message to end the festival on.
With the festival over there certainly was a lot to reflect on. It certainly seems to be cut from a different cloth to most other festivals out there. The best thing about Boomtown though is getting lost in it. Whether that be in the great music on show, the mythology you can work to piece together or the multitude of side activities. With the title for next year’s instalment, A Radical City, we can only look forward to what Chapter 11 has in store.