Festivals 2015

Having A Blast At Boomtown Fair

We ventured into the UK's biggest pop-up city, where life back home can be left behind for four days and nights of mayhem

Boomtown Fair has been a festival unlike any other for the last 7 years, offering punters an incredibly varied line-up and the décor and setup to match

As a festival it has just about anything you could ask for with its stages of all shapes and forms playing everything from drum and bass, jungle, reggae, house, garage, punk-rock, dub and so on. However, it’s the pop-up city that really marks it out from the crowd. A quiet corner of the English countryside is turned into a fantasy world, where life back home can be left behind for four days and nights of mayhem.

A persistent rainy drizzle accompanied us as we arrived on Thursday afternoon. We hastily pitched our tent and headed for the new surroundings that we had seen on our walk to the campsite. The tagline for the seventh instalment was ‘be part of a new world’ and a new world is exactly what the whole experience feels like. As we ventured between the districts we started to piece together the vibe and atmosphere that each one provides. In DSTRKT 5 it almost feels like you are in a movie set, with dystopian artwork enticing you to ‘question everything’ and anti-establishment propaganda sprawled on every wall. A lawless metropolis surrounded us, home to a world of creativity.

Thursday evening was spent exploring the magic and finding our bearings. With the music coming to a close at midnight and the rain starting to pick up the pace, the luminous hidden woods near our campsite provided excellent cover for the several hundred that were sheltered for the closing set – it was pretty damn vibesy to say the least.

The Hidden Woods

As the sun came out on Friday it was time for a wander and there was so much to take in. Inside, Matterley Bowl was packed to the rafters by the hearty bass music crowd, pirates in hare-brained fancy dress at every corner, bionic people riding machine-driven scorpions, all rubbing shoulders with each other in true festival spirit. By far, Boomtown has one of the best crowds I’ve seen out of any festival. Everyone was well and truly up for it.

A machine-driven scorpion - one of the many gut-busting sights to see when walking around

Delving deeper into the festival on Friday, we make a curious discovery through the coat filled cupboards towards the rear of the Jagermaster stage cabin. The Beatbox Collective are up on the balcony behind the bar and safe in the knowledge that this crew are the World Champions we were more than ready for their performance. The group's timing was flawless and the set can only be described as a true musical mash-up of breakneck beatboxing skill and energy.

The Beatbox Collective doing what they do best

In the midst of all the madness in downtown was Cyberfunk’s takeover at the aptly named Spaceport – a stage rocked exclusively on Friday night by Xtrah’s brand new imprint. Time seemed to fly by once inside and by the end of the label boss’s set even the forest ravers that had come hoping for a psytrance set couldn’t help but take a peek inside. Maybe it was certain substances that had pulled them to the pounding drum & bass, but watching the well-timed skanks of these people of all shapes and sizes proved differently.

Read our exclusive interview with Xtrah as he talks all things Cyberfunk

When the music came to an abrupt end at 4am, and in stark comparison to the rest of the crowd, we were really starting to flake and headed to the much-adorned chill out tent located just on the outskirts of the main dancing area. Everyone united here when the stages shut for the after hours.

Away from the foolishness that surrounded us, we reflected on the night’s events slightly more soberly and broke bread with some of the weekend’s most entertaining characters. A long-haired, self-described “Prince Charming” had an air of compassion and humility about him. He kept us entertained for hours and was only one of many playful partiers that functioned as an army of merrymakers as the sun started to rise. For me, these encounters were without doubt the highlight of the party (Shout-outs to wild Chris & Ems, Drew & Beau Danks, up-side down Stefano, Billy Christmas, The BFG and Psytrance Connor).

Locking arms with The BFG in the psychedelic forest - he must have been nearing the 8ft mark

Saturday afternoon couldn’t have come quicker. With Beef Brisket in our bellies and the sun on our face, it was time to get back to the main programme. Having spent most of the previous night in the Spaceport we ventured off and little could prepare us for the scale of the Banghai Palace.

With a relatively blurred view of it the day before, we had high hopes for what was sure to serve as a worthy successor to Arcadia. Despite a near-flawless sound system at times and a series of relentless drum & bass from big name artists, it was impossible to focus on anything else but the startling production from above. All of the 5,000 or so bodies surrounding the palace seemed to be facing the direction of the stage, sucking them in as if it was the crazy town’s sacred capital, a twenty-first century mecca for wrong un’s if you like. Patterns of crooks swirl and move continuously around you, barely settling for a minute before darting off somewhere else, only for others to flock to the empty space in seconds.

Noisia drew an emphatic response by laying down track after track of typically heaving, bass-heavy bangers. Love or loathe their sound, the Dutch legends acted as the perfect placement for the Palace’s impulsive show.

The Banghai Palace - it's 30 meters high and 80 meters long

Goldie and Dillinja have never had a problem playing records that excite the crowd, but more often than not their mixing and hit-or-miss selections let them down. Not on this occasion. If the good weather was the biggest shock of the week, this wasn’t far behind as the duo spun a supreme two hours of driving drum & bass for a Metalheadz 20th Anniversary on Sunday night. It was a fitting end as SP:MC brought the festivities to a close in the early hours of Monday morning. There was absolutely no question that the night, and the festival for that matter, had lived up to its expectations.

The diversity of the music on offer and sheer randomness of everything you see over the four fruitful days are unlike anything you will ever experience in the UK. It will be interesting to see how the Boomtown organisers maintain this special balance as the festival grows, because if coming years are as good as this then it's certain to attract bigger and bigger crowds.

Bring on Chapter 8 - The Revolution.

More festivals 2015:

24 Hours In Tomorrowland

Melt! Is Music's Best Kept Secret Festival

Our No-Bullshit Festival A-Z

Written by Barney Blackhurst

27 Aug 2015