Sitting well on the metaphorical fence between absurd music festival and immersive dystopian theatre, Boomtown Fair descended upon Hampshire’s Matterley Bowl for the 10th year running this August. A world within another explicit, offensive and downright loveable world, Boomtown welcomes up to 60,000 local and international revellers each summer, selling out earlier and earlier as the years go by.
This year marked Chapter 10 of the ever-evolving Boomtown story, where the plot continued as follows: The scheming Bang Hai Corporation’s overlord and dictatorial CEO, tracking citizens’ every dream, want, need and fear before they even knew it themselves. The new system would digest Boomtown’s unsuspecting inhabitants’ social media and search history – cementing Bang Hai Corporation’s ultimate power and supremacy. The plan was stopped in its tracks when a familiar face was spotted stumbling through the crowded districts and dissonant back alleys, a face that had not been seen for a number of years – Nicholas Boom; the grandfather of Boomtown, ready to right the wrongs of the corporation.
Countless secret missions, performances and chances to interact with the storyline await the discerning Boomtown goer
It is not essential to follow the Boomtown story, but it definitely adds something to the experience. There are hundreds of actors (read: lunatics) wandering around the site, making it tough to discern the cast from the punters. Countless secret missions, performances and chances to interact with the storyline await the discerning Boomtown goer, with a plethora of unlisted venues dotted around the site, hidden behind tiny doors and covered archways, with actors ushering you inside.
This year we had been invited to join the upper echelons of Boomtown’s citizens, camping in new and luxurious addition – Boomtown Springs. Car parking within a stone’s throw from our very own entrance made short work of the usual lengthy queues and campsite trudge, with a champagne reception on arrival to the campsite – apt shelter as the heavens opened with the first bit of rain we’d seen for months.
Tucked right behind the Tangled Roots stage, the hot showers, flushing toilets, swimming pool and the purposefully-obnoxious Palm Springs stereotypes strolling around dishing out ice cubes for our drinks presented a stark contrast from what we were used to as regular Boomtown citizens roughing it up near the Lion’s Den (our usual campsite of choice). But we weren’t complaining…
The staggering size of the Boomtown operation – the stages, the theatrics, the Westworld-type experience and not forgetting the lineup – puts Boomtown well ahead of other festivals of its size
Boomtown Fair is the highlight of the 2018 festival calendar for many. The staggering size of the Boomtown operation – the stages, the theatrics, the Westworld-type experience and not forgetting the lineup – puts Boomtown well ahead of other festivals of its size.
Boomtown also cares about its citizens, abiding by an all-inclusive Respect Campaign, encouraging everyone to respect themselves, each other and their city. Anonymous drug testing facility The Loop once again took up residence in Downtown to continue their drug harm reduction manifesto. As well as their well-known eco-bond policy, which refunds ticket holders back a compulsory £10 deposit if they return their recycling post-festival, there was visibly improved recycling and sustainability facilities dotted around the site. Clearly devoted to looking after their guests and the local environment, it felt like the organisers had pulled out all the stops over the weekend.
The award for best sound is handed emphatically to the Tangled Roots stage
The award for best sound is handed emphatically to the Tangled Roots stage. Deep in the forest, the constant rumble of jungle, dub and reggae drew us in, kept our eyeballs vibrating, and became our adopted home for the weekend whilst away from the safe comfort of our campsite.
The stage brought delights such as Fat Stash’s immense energy and one of our personal favourites, Gardna. Egoless, though, was on another level. He gave the crowd at Tangled Roots something to really chew on. Tracks like Empire of Dirt are what you’d wait an entire set just to hear a glimpse of, but Egoless’ library is a bit more extensive than a one-hit wonder. Teasing the crowd for a number of excruciating minutes, Egoless’ remix of Benga and Coki’s Night was a long time coming and sounded tight on one of the best systems of the festival.
Enter Shikari was a bit of a guilty pleasure for us, but we knew that we had to get some guitar noises into our ears over the weekend. Playing at the Town Centre at the same time as Gorillaz, Enter Shikari went through their lengthy discography over a nostalgia-filled hour. Boomtown isn’t about the biggest names on the lineup and the boys from St Albans certainly proved that, with a set that left us a bit speechless and converted those in our group that would rather have seen Gorillaz, but were put off by the insane crowds spilling out of the Lion’s Den.
Young experimentalist and MOBO-nominated Kojey Radical was one of the few acts over the the weekend we did not want to miss. Spoken word mixed with grime, trap, R&B and more, his tracks combine socially-conscious commentary with UK rap
Next up was a stint at Boomtown’s hip hop mecca Poco Loco. Young experimentalist and MOBO-nominated Kojey Radical was one of the few acts over the the weekend we did not want to miss. Spoken word mixed with grime, trap, R&B and more, his tracks combine socially-conscious commentary with UK rap, and while this sounds a bit preachy on the outside, it’s anything but. He’s a master of his craft with the charisma to match – jumping into the crowd during After Winter. Compared to Ghostpoet and Kendrick in the same breath, Kojey and his gravelly vocals take on heavy topics like race and politics. He was one of our favourite sets of the weekend and well worth a listen if you haven’t already.
The Lion’s Den stage was back in the natural amphitheatre just over the hill from the Town Centre. Waterfalls cascading down either side of the stage made a perfect backdrop for Sunday’s mellow sesh, where Hollie Cook took us on a journey through tunes like Milk & Honey, Superstar and Shadow Kissing. Back with a brand new album, Morcheeba stayed true to the path we had taken for Sunday’s early afternoon and did not disappoint in the slightest. Even though crowds elsewhere parted for the ensuing torrent of rain, Morcheeba held the attention of the amphitheatre’s patrons.
It was an easy choice for us to catch nu metal superstars Limp Bizkit back at the Town Centre stage instead of Sunday night headliner Die Antwoord
It was an easy choice for us to catch nu metal superstars Limp Bizkit back at the Town Centre stage instead of Sunday night headliner Die Antwoord, who drew the biggest crowd of the weekend. Die Antwoord’s rave-rap takes a belligerent position against political correctness, and although word-of-mouth reviews post-gig were all-round good, we decided that Limp Bizkit were just too much of a childhood dream to pass-up.
Fred Durst came out donning his usual baggy hoody, flat-peak and mountain biking gloves, alongside the standardly enigmatic Wes Borland. This might be nostalgia talking, but it seemed like Bizkit were back in their glory days. Starting off strong with My Generation, they played hits Hot Dog, Nookie and Break Stuff, to name a few. Frustratingly for only an hour-long set, they also played a number of covers including Rage’s Killing in the Name and a surprisingly (or maybe not) accomplished version of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Boomtown has a unique attraction that is easy to put your finger on
Some say that Boomtown is like Glastonbury’s little brother, but I disagree. While there are some similarities and both offer the perfect opportunity to lose your sensibilities and find your freak inner-self, Boomtown has a unique attraction that is easy to put your finger on. It’s tenacious, left-field and non-stop until you claw your way out of your tent on Monday morning; with not even an iota of reluctant relief that it’s time for the return of the mundane. It’s safe to say, this won’t be our last Boomtown.
If you weren’t lucky nigh to be there with us this year, or you want to re-live your Chapter 10 experience, have gander at their official after film below –
Words by Alex Moreton
Photos by Victor Frankowski, George Harrison, Charlie Raven, Lucas Sinclair, Mike Massaro and Scott Salt
Boomtown Chapter 11 tickets will go on sale this November from boomtownfair.co.uk.