This year was Boomtown fair’s 7th year running and brought with it a fantastic atmosphere, music and aesthetics. When we previously attended boomtown fair it was a bit chaotic whereas this year the atmosphere was much more relaxed and laid back and many other festival goers agreed. We were able to relax in the sunshine and listen to the easy-going, daytime music with friends and take in the fantastic scenery which the festival creates; with the area becoming truly alive when the sun went down!
The split of Uptown and Downtown will have something to suit all festival preferences. Uptown housed much of the reggae, ska, electro-swing and jazz music with Downtown hosting most of the dance, trance and bass. Joining the two aspects of the festival was the psychedelic forest which was a magical land of dance and trance hidden in the hillside trees. The walk between the towns was steep but well worth it as the view from the top was incredible!
Every corner that you turned led you into another world of magic and mystery. The city-inspired layout of the festival is one of a kind and well worth the visit for those of you who love and good party and something out of the ordinary. The vast and eclectic mix of music will satisfy anybody’s ears. As we moved around the festival the sets morph from one city scape to another, taking you on a journey through the Wild West, China Town, District 5 (from Total Recall) and the Psychedelic Woods were just some of the areas we visited. Boomtown also never forgot the traditional festival stalls that we all love to visit and there were ever more than usual to feast your eyes on. We saw fancy dress stalls ranging from rave gear to vintage and pirate costumes, hand carved ornaments and face paint stalls. In Uptown there was an extremely calming stretch of naturalistic stalls selling both merchandise and treatments as well as healthy foods and housing activities like drumming; we even saw some shrunken heads! There were also child-friendly activities: although we did not feel that Boomtown was a true family festival due to the size, terrain and the language used around the site was amusing but generally too crude for children- if it’s a family event your looking for check out Forgotten Fields which we also attended the week before.
We were apprehensive about the lack of Arcadia this year, as it had been a real highlight in the past, but Boomtown didn’t disappoint with the Bang Hai Palace stage still showing off an impressive display of lights, screens, flame throwers and smoke all weekend long. The volume of the music was slightly lower than in the past and at some other festivals but we actually felt that this helped the calm and relaxed atmosphere as we were able to talk to other people both in our group and around the event. The music at this stage was also always lively and you just had to dance and join in each time you passed it.
The highlight act for us at the MixUp was Caravan Palace; they put on a vibrant and exciting set in Old Town Centre on Saturday night. Their electro-swing tunes had everybody dancing and smiling as the sun set beautifully behind the old fashioned street scenery in the late evening. The hilltop location helped to add to the beauty and ambiance. On Friday night the Old Town stage was host to Less Than Jake and Flogging Molly who also played energetic and exciting sets with a definite flash from the past!
The Lion’s Den was the largest stage venue at the festival. The new location for this stage meant there was lots of space and places to watch from; the bowl shaped landscape created great acoustics which you could enjoy from the top of the hill or get stuck in dancing in the basin. Steven Marley sang an ensemble of his own work and tributes of his father’s music and he even brought his son on stage to make it a full family act. The softer reggae beat was a bright start to Friday morning putting festival goers in upbeat spirits despite the initial drizzle. At the Lion’s Den was also Shy FX who also brought in enormous sweeping crowns that watched the bright and brilliant display which complemented the diverse mix of music played.
At the festival there was also no shortage of other entertainment. At the MixUp we went on a variety of fairground rides all of which were open from noon till late. We also witnessed a spectacular performance by Wall of Death who rode old traditional motorbikes around a cylindrical column getting scarily close to the spectators at the top. They rode backwards, sideways and in doubles showing off some incredible stunts! We also attended the China Town 4D cinema experience at the Happy Ending Cinema and an experience it surely was! We watched the performance of Titanic which was an hour long performance by the actors, spectators and narrated by a shortened version of the film. It was both hilarious and slightly odd experience as we were soaked, sang, danced, drew, had lettuce thrown on us and got some free sweets all within the small time frame. Everybody had a great time experiencing the oddness of this spectacle; although sadly many people left part way through so perhaps shortening the event further may better suit the overall mentality of a festival.
When we were exploring one night we also stumbled across a 1960’s style Charlie Brown casino complete with bar, dancers, roulette table and burlesque stage performance. It had a brilliantly vibrant and fun atmosphere with laughs and excitement. There was also a secret barbers room which we entered through a phone booth and found eccentric women shaving people’s heads into unusual styles. There were also hidden stages all around the event; you would walk into a laundrettes, small bedroom or job centre and after going through a second door or unusual entrance find a whole other stage of music and excitement. This never disappointed us and it was thrilling to not know what would be hidden just around the corner.
At the end of the weekend there was an impressive finale of fireworks, lights, fire and music at the Bang Hai Palace. The display was seen from all over the site; we admired the display of smiley face fireworks from Lion’s Den. Skits played a great set, tribute to Barrington Levy who they were replacing. It was great to see how happy they were to be there to close the event and finish the long weekend on such a high. We can’t wait to see what Boomtown will have to offer in Chapter 8 of the city but we are sure it will be big, bright and booming with energy!
Photography of main stage by Stef Percy