Ahh, Boomtown Fair. The big boy of this summer’s line-ups. A hedonist’s playground. A welcome retreat for those of us with child-like souls in overgrown bodies, who want nothing more than to boogie and skank with loved ones and lost s
Boomtown Fair is a psychedelic wonderland – a world where fantasy and reality collide, where the absurd and the true dance at the many stages and districts, alongside the revellers themselves.
Now, moving into its 10th year, “Boomtown Chapter 10: The Machine Cannot be Stopped!” has continued to develop and expand upon what the festival does best – an eclectic mix of theatre, music and wild aesthetics, embracing production values that puts the Fair miles ahead of most commercial festivals.
Wandering through Boomtown’s many districts you find yourself immersed in a new, unique and exciting world.
Across the 25 main-stages within 14 districts, you never find yourself short of something to do. In fact, when arriving on site, it’s almost bewildering knowing where to start!
We liked to start the day at Whistler’s Green, a kind of chill-out, hippy-style area with plenty of activities, crafts and relatively chilled-out music to indulge in.
After a heavy night out, there’s nothing more peaceful than chilling at the beautiful Windmill Stage, admiring its waterwheels and windmills spinning in the breeze, whilst listening to some downbeat nu jazz.
Once nicely relaxed, we’d head down to the festival’s hilltop area. The Hilltop is home to classic Boomtown areas including the Town Centre and the Old Town as well as new areas of Paradise Heights and Copper County (an evolution of the older, Wild West area).
The Hilltop area is a great place to catch some of your favourite bands, but it was also one of our favourite places for interacting with Boomtown’s many characters, and for finding crazy little parties hidden away behind innocuous doorways!
We discovered parties entered by biting blocks of cheese proffered by strange men at the Inconvenience Store, and others which involved bribing the Boomtown Bobbies to let us in their Police Station!
After sinking a few ice-cold Red Stripes, it would be time to head Downtown. Downtown is a sprawling wonderland, where you can easily lose a few hours (or days) stumbling from stage to stage, through each strange backdoor and enticing alley-way.
After leaving one of the venues on Friday night, I happened to find myself on a street reminiscent of Amsterdam’s red-light district – with glass doorways populated by dancing cross-dressers, drag-queens and trans-folk.
I managed to get so distracted by the spectacle that I turned around to find I’d lost my friends – that was an interesting one to explain back at the tent later that night!
Any and all kinds of music are on display Downtown (and, it must be said, across all areas of the Fair) – with something for everyone, from goths to gangsters. Amongst the ever-present drum and bass, techno and house you find yourself grooving through venues playing grime, metal, trance, hip hop, disco and even gabber!
As a metal-head turned raver I was extremely pleased to find that Boomtown’s new Diss-Order Alley has created a home-area for metal at the festival – one that fits seamlessly. Despite the aesthetic differences between dance music and metal, there is an attitude shared between the genres – one that makes them welcome and at home next to one another.
After raving for a while in Downtown, it would be time to move onto one of the smaller forest parties, at the Psy-Woods or Tribe of the Frog; or else onto one of the big, twin dance stages – Sector 6 or Bang Hai.
The forest parties are great fun, but the spectacle of the twin stages is truly something to behold. The lights, the sounds, the lasers, the fire, the awe-inspiring beauty of these stages make the shows here totally immersive – a place to get lost in the moment and forget about life for a while.
With these stages, Boomtown gives the big-boys of the international festival scene – places like Tomorrowland and Electric Daisy Carnival – a run for their money. These stages are huge, these stages are otherworldly, and they make you feel proud of the production values that are making Boomtown rapidly expand into a major international player.
And in this manner, Boomtown 2018’s line-up has distinguished itself as ready to challenge the big boys in terms of international superstar acts, with Limp Bizkit, Die Antwoord and most notably the Gorillaz topping the line-up.
The Fair’s mainstage, the Lion’s Den, can certainly accommodate artists of this size. The vast majority of Boomtown’s 60,000 attendees must have been dancing to the Gorillaz, yet with the stage situated within a giant, sloping bowl, it felt like everyone got a good view of the action. And what a blessing that was! The Gorillaz show was spectacular.
Damon Albarn, surrounded by big boys talented backing musicians, brought on stars such as De La Soul, Shaun Ryder and Little Simz to light up the Lion’s Den stage. Little Simz appearance was a triumph – the Gorillaz were already rocking, but when the young rapper came on stage the atmosphere was cranked up to the proverbial 11.
After that, the show remained a high energy, hit-filled dream. I doubt one person left unsatisfied.
One of my only qualms with Boomtown’s ever-expanding line-up was the clash between Die Antwoord and Limp Bizkit.
Topping the line-up posters, you would have assumed these artists would have played separate days on the main stage, but they ended up clashing on Sunday night with Die Antwoord on the Lion’s Den and with Limp Bizkit at the Town Centre.
We agreed to watch half of each set, but watching Limp Bizkit crank up the energy-levels with covers of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Killing in the Name, we found it impossible to leave the nu-metal party.
It is easy to be cynical about Fred Durst, but the setlist that Limp Bizkit played shows a high degree of self-awareness and it produced a great show. Die Antwoord looked great for the 10 minutes we managed to catch – again, the Lion’s Den was packed with ravers doing what ravers do best. It was just a shame we couldn’t catch the whole thing!
The Fair’s closing party this year was held at Sector 6, where Andy C made a surprise appearance as the festival’s “secret headliner”. Mr C’s set was well received, with the drum and bass pioneer representing a fittingly high-profile act to close such a high-profile festival.
At the end of the show, this year’s story was drawn to a close by a video featuring AMI the AI machine, who appeared to overthrow Bang Hai Industries – the apparently unpopular magnates who “own” much of Boomtown. This set the stage for next year’s Boomtown, Chapter 11: A Radical City.
Whilst the show itself was great fun, many of the people who we spoke to seemed a little perplexed as they had not followed the festival’s complex storyline over the course of the weekend. Making the festival’s story arc more accessible is perhaps one way in which the festival can improve an event which on the whole feels extraordinarily polished and enjoyable. A revamped Boomtown app – which seemed underutilised this year – would be useful in that regard.
With that said, Boomtown is an exceptionally high quality festival and you would struggle to find a festival of its size with such great production values. The festival itself feels like a huge, crazy, immersive work of art.
With Glastonbury conspicuously absent from the festival scene this year, comparisons between the two festivals are bound to be made. And, indeed, for us here at TheFestivals, Glastonbury is the festival to which Boomtown is most similar.
They are both huge, immersive, artistic, 5-day utopias. In terms of spirit, Boomtown is Glastonbury’s little brother. But, Boomtown is growing! In ten years it has expanded from a 1,000 person capacity, local festival to a 60,000 capacity, international festival. And this year’s festival sold-out back in February.
It is known that Boomtown’s organisers are looking to expand the festival with an 80,000 capacity license. With the number of districts increasing, and with the number of internationally renowned, stadium-filler artists starting to fill the upper echelons of the line-up, Boomtown’s future looks bright.
The challenge for Boomtown’s organisers will be to continue to expand the festival, whilst retaining its signature magical, other-wordly, independent feel.
At TheFestivals, we have no doubt that the Boomtown organizers will continue to do their good work, and continue to create a festival of which we can all be proud. Boomtown is the most exciting festival to watch as move towards the future. Salutations citizens. See you next year!
Boomtown have now released the official Chapter 10 after movie. Check it out below.
Main image credit: Scott Salt