Despite the British weather deciding to change its mind yet again this August, a sure favourite amongst UK festivals, Boomtown Fair, excelled in the 10th year of it’s creative adventures. Boomtown Fair which takes place at Matterley Bowl in Winchester, Hampshire opened its gates to the world of ‘unity, creativity and freedom’ once more last weekend. This year saw the eccentric festival bring this stage of its unpredictable story to a close with ‘Chapter 10: The Machine Cannot Be Stopped’. The events creators embarked on bringing yet another year of music, theatre, escapism, and interactive set design to its fans who enjoyed singing in the rain to the likes of South-African alternative duo, Die Antwoord, virtual hip-hop group, Gorillaz as well as performances from old-school rap-metal band Limp Bizkit and a secret set from Drum & Bass fan-favourite, Andy C. To those unfamiliar to the concept and story of Boomtown, the festival since Chapter 1 in 2009 has seen a growth from 1000 goers to 65,000 in attendance last weekend. The festival is renowned for its ability to push boundaries and licensing to create a wonderful world that is far from reality. Fans have walked through more than 80 different street venues over the years with this year seeing the reveal of new venues such as ‘Paradise Heights’ and ‘Dis-order Valley’ taking the Boomtown of the last 10 chapters into the new age.
After the Thursday entry problems of ‘Chapter 9: The Man Behind The Mask’, it was easy to see that this year Boomtown simply just got it right. In 2017, Boomtown Fair suffered vast amounts of complaints from it’s punters when some were stuck in 25 degree sunny weather where they waited up to 12 hours to enter the festival with no stations to get water as well as or go to the toilet. Due to a fault on the scanners for entry and a miscommunication in crowd management, many suffered from heatstroke and sunstroke, as well as being severely dehydrated. This year however, the gates opened early to it’s keen ravers who got in with a speedy entry system in place and it was clear to see that the issues of last year had simply been put to bed. The energy from it’s staff was rife at the gates to get everyone’s spirits started for the weekend and the exceptional voluntary actors of Boomtown started the party as soon as everyone passed security, offering trips on their steampunk-esque bikes down the hill to the campsite (however, not quite the steady taxi service that you’d think it would be of course).
If anything can be said about Boomtown Fair, it’s certain that it’s simply just that little bit more than a music festival. After being plummeted into this mysterious world you then start to question what is reality. With a team of 12,000 on site throughout the weekend from security, to stage runners to the actors, the festival paints the most beautifully creative yet equally absurd story. With the likes of the infamous Boomtown ‘JobCentre’ on site where it’s bewildered fans can venture and be made to fill out an application form asking questions such as “If you could be any type of tree, what tree would you be?” or “What type of house do you live in?” with answers such as “Semi-Detached” and “Targaryen”. To those who are a little more worse for wear, it can be quite the confusing time.
With bands such as M.I.A, The Specials and Cypress Hill headlining last years BoomTown it was sure enough going to be a hard act to follow for this years headliners. Fresh off the back of their latest album release, Gorillaz took to the Lions Den stage Saturday night and sent the crowds brains into overdrive with favourites from almost every album. Opening the 28-track set list with ‘M1 A1’, the crowd was instantly transported into everything that Gorillaz was about. With the obvious Gorillaz animations taking the limelight behind the performance, everything with this performance was exceptional, if but perhaps it needing to be turned up just that little bit more with the winds blowing around the Matterley Bowl. With surprise collaborations from De La Soul and Shaun Ryder completely exciting the crowd, it was that Snoop Dogg’s video that spun the crowd into madness as the track ‘Hollywood’ taken from the latest album began to play. Sunday night saw the likes of two headliners grace two separate stages at BoomTown. South-African duo Die Antwoord tore apart the stage at Lions Den with old-school favourites Limp Bizkit bringing in a mixed crowd of people at the Town Centre. Band member DJ Lethal got the entire party started by mixing Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ and Toto’s ‘Africa’ for the crowd to get their vocal chords warmed up. However, it was in fact the opening chords to ‘My Generation’ that literally erupted the entire site. With the rain holding off for the second evening in a row, every member of the crowd went for it. Young and Old, hits such as ‘Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)’ and ‘My Way’ brought us straight back to the early 2000’s and couldn’t keep the entire crowd from headbanging. For a band that is supposedly coming to the end of their careers, it is impossible to see why as the whole performance completely stole the show for BoomTown 2018.
So what can we expect from the creators next year? As the festival ascends into Chapter 11: A Radical City, it is the unpredictability that is what makes it so exciting. After the hacking of last year’s end video and breaking down of Mr Boom introduced AMI (Advanced Machine Intelligence) a new security system for the whole of BoomTown who is set to protect all of BoomTown from fake news and reality. As seen in this years finale video, where the issues of freedom, pollution, and liberty were touched upon it’s certainly going to be interesting to see where the journey of BoomTown Fair is going to go. Alongside the new street venue and stages, it is certain that the founders are certainly not stopping in pushing the limits of creativity and absurdity. As the gates of this years festival shut for another year, we can only sit and wait for what is in store next.