Boomtown Fair is like no other festival. Constructed in a natural bowl in the Hampshire countryside, this massive adult playground is split up in to eight elaborate fantasy ‘town districts’. These themed districts are packed with an array of sculptures and structures that make up the town. In this vast arena, for the 50,000 punters or ‘citizens’, it can actually feel like you’re on a walking holiday with hundreds of steps or a very steep hill to contend with when travelling between ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown.’ I’m not sure how many miles I did, but my legs felt rather wobbly after the weekend.
This is a festival for those who have an eye for detail. All kinds of unexpected and bizarre creations surface in the most unexpected moments. Walking down the streets of Chinatown I stumbled across a sculpture that took a while to assimilate: a man inside a car size fish tank. It was the strangest creation I’ve ever seen- like something out of a demented childhood fantasy world. It fitted in perfectly.
Spread out through each district there are twenty-one stages bringing you an eclectic mix of reggae, gypsy ska, folk, world, hip-hop, drum and bass, jungle and trance. Last year we saw the residents of the Barrio Loco district descend upon make-shift ghettos, hosting dance-offs to the likes of Rick Ross and Goldie Looking Chain. This time they kept things a bit more down to earth (well, just a little). With a big top, big attitude and weighty sounds, along with the live aerial trapeze and fire-eaters, it delivered non-stop action all weekend. The highlights included; Toddla T, Cause & Affect, DJ EZ and of course The Bug and Flowdan.
The Jolly Roger area was impressive, made of out a huge ship, exhibiting a brilliant mix of theatrical music with the Gypsy Sound System, My Bad Sister and La Pegatina. The festival’s Bang Hai Palace was a highlight, and possibly the best post-apocalyptic construction ever. As a ‘citizen’, the time, dedication, craftsmanship and art that goes into constructing these stages blows your mind.
For those wanting some hiphop, funk and drum and bass they could head over to Poco Loco with acts like DJ Yoda, Kate Tempest, Jungle Brothers, Akala, and 9 beatbox world champions who put on a show to remember. The Beat Box Collective was the best thing I heard all weekend. The noises coming from these world class performers seemed to defy the laws of sound. Lions Den was the place to hang out and unwind to some reggae. Acts like Stephen Marley, Protoje and Sir David Rodigan made for a strong lineup this year. Bringing his world tour to an end, Alborosie was also there and treated us to a none stop medley spanning the last 10 years of his work. His new tracks “Poser” and “Rocky Road” were surprise additions to what was already a stellar performance with a deep message of peace and unity.
After the music, The Psychedelic Forest offered a chance to jump down the rabbit hole. Here you found fluffy hippies bouncing around barefoot and dancing like nutters on the sandy floor to artists like Infected Mushroom, System 7, Liquid Soul, Mad Scientist and Psymmetrix. For the slightly more tame crowd there was The Old Mines stage. Citizens of Boomtown could kick back in the woodland to indulge themselves in some rich sounds of the world. Songhoy Blues, stole the show with their energetic performance straight from the banks of the Niger River.
Boomtown once again proved itself to be an epic journey into a magical world where all kinds of mysterious and wonderful things can happen. It’s playground for the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels and the troublemakers. It’s a place to experiment in the search of the limits of imagination and consciousness only to find out there really aren't any. It is the festival of all festivals.