Festivals are full of surprises, confusion and joy; an overwhelming sensation of everything, all at once. Sonic adventures, big bouncing crowds, general crustiness, riotous cheers, losing everyone, finding everyone (cue louder cheers), glitter, tassels, costumes, skin and (on some occasions) bare-bottomed glory. They include; constant tipple consumption, bladder capacity-testing followed by toilet queue despair, ridiculous footwear decisions, bag-lugging, severe bouts of campervan jealously and moreover, the incredible first day versus last day emotions, most often witnessed in the joyous ease of a pop-up tent and the vexing horror of the take down. They’re an exercise in 24 hour outdoor appreciation, test the limits of personal hygiene, and feel like a real invitation into the woods where camping incompetence really gets to shine.
We arrived at Boomtown Fair for Chapter 9 and it was the first UK festival we’ve ever played. Four days of music, sensory overload and mud-based mayhem ahead of us, it was a welcome feast for our bodies and minds, and a total release from what is definitely a less flamboyant 9 to 5. We’ve been to a few festivals, but nothing quite like this one. The story of Boomtown paints a dystopian picture that doesn’t seem too dissimilar to our own tremendous though turbulent world. With a wild and lawless past, it’s the story of travellers, community, a circus and with each passing chapter, the introduction of new characters in the rise and fall of unpopular regimes. The narrative continues in Chapter 9, brought to you by Bang Hai Industries, where sponsored multi-channel ads are shared and splashed out across billboards alongside the punching shouty chant of ‘We Want Your SOUL!’, broadcast across the whole fair- a constant reminder of the power pulling the strings and of the visceral corporate pinch. All of this; and more, is played out in immersive theatrics with an unmistakeable tendency for mischief.
MEET THE BAND
Joe; not only a multi-instrumentalist, a vegetarian, a Mancunian and a Garmin-wearing speed freak.
Me; Faye, hairy vocalist, songwriter, piano and melodica punching, extroverted introvert.
Dean; the most stylish and magnificently-moustached trumpet player, a jazz and yoga nut, James Dean lookalike and secret mechanic.
Paul; Italian-Antipodean saxophone wizard with the presence and body language of a professional body-popper; ironic Brexit jumper wearing, constant surmising, big energy.
Colin; the West Coaster, the American beatkeeper with 24hr pragmatism, so laid back he’s almost horizontal, a rhythm enthusiast.
And the friendliest, French speaking and most dreadlocked member, the softly-spoken Scotsman and solid bass-beast that is Ben.
We were bloody excited to be invited to weave our narrative into the delightfully twisted cabaret of Mayfair Avenue which had an incredible line-up (see link: http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk/artist/), where funky vintage remix meets swing and jazz-fuelled gypsy flavours rule. Tucked between the extravagant Ballroom and Bearded Kitten’s Royal Theatre and overlooked by the dangerously decadent Park Hotel, our stage was the Bandstand – and we were perfectly placed in this boulevard of excess. We sang and played our hearts out, enticing a delightfully engaged and stompy crowd during our hour-long set and even caught the ever-beady eye of the giant CCTV-headed puppet that is Gynormous Rawkus. We’d written a song for this rather special occasion, and one which we will be sharing soon..
After our Friday set, we set about exploring to absorb all the music and experience everything at the festival. An impossible task; and in doing so, each evening without fail we’d lose a member of our gang and finally resigned ourselves to experiencing the omitted festival elements through each other’s amusing stories the following morning. Bleary-eyed, with heads poking out of tents, our post-evening conversations slowly becoming the graveyard for good intentions.
Each sound had an appropriate setting and there was so much to discover. Boomtown is a real celebration of underground music, heavily influenced by reggae, punk and ska. The big hitters, in no particular order (because time is not linear, especially at festivals) included Reel Big Fish who played Town Centre Stage- we stumbled upon these guys (having not realised they were playing) much to the delight of our trumpet player Dean (one-of-his- favourite- bands-seen-them-6-times-knows- all-the-words), a very chilled afternoon set by Ziggy Marley while we sat in the sun cradling never-ending ciders, and a stand out set from The Specials at Lion’s Den, enjoyed with a 20,000 strong crowd, the bouncing singalong masses moving with the trombone slides and 2 tone joy. It’s also a place for new music discovery, and we stumbled upon Smerin’s Anti Social Club at the Town Centre Stage- this 7 piece brass group blending ska, reggae hiphop and drum and bass into a deliciously groovy set. The sun was beating down on us, everyone was dancing. We also came across an incredibly funky band Animanz, fusing the funk of James Brown with the hip-hop groove of The Beastie Boys. On the Sunday, we enjoyed the set from Sublime with Rome – the 90s heavy weight legends smashing it out with a new frontman.
When it all got a little too much, we headed to Whistler’s Green for some chill out time, discovering the ‘Illumaphonium’, recycled tubes made into music making wind chimes. If you sat there long enough, the soothing clangs and tones took the edge off the heavy revelry of the night before. Just.
The vibrant street party attitude of funk and hip hop was alive in Barrio Loco and for you drum and bass and jungle heads, you’d head deep into the industrial haze of Sector 6. The acoustic action was found up in Wild West, Old Town and on the Windmill Stage.
For some appreciation of soundsystem culture, reggae and some heavy dub-based sets, we made our way to Tangled Roots, and as the sun set, we headed into Downtown for some dancing, and ended up in the forest for some psy-trance, a place full of friendly faces and where to glow was to exist.
Sunday night went off with a massive thunderous bang, a real pyrotechnic party of epic and intensely fizzy proportions. Monday morning meant a slow pack up and brushing off the dust. It was a four day off-kilter celebration of creativity, music, and interactive theatre, and we’ve never experienced anything like it. See you there next year.