The palace has risen! 160ft of neon illumination and pyrotechnics stood as a beacon of the city’s wonder and it’s leader’s supremacy. Such is the power of BoomTown, with chapter seven having ballooned to record capacity. Fire breathing dragons and giant fiddler-wielding foxes held vigil over robotic burlesque dancers, wild west shootouts and raucous ravers. Last year’s democratically elected and carnival-loving mayor was corrupted and became the despotic Comrade Jose, sparking rumours of revolution as the walls were plastered with symbols of anarchic propaganda. The city’s rich and convoluted history continues to grow.
Despite BoomTown swelling in size and scope it still retained its ethical heart and remains a vanguard for sustainability. For instance, the toilets are always an unsettling experience for any festival, however Natural Event’s pioneering ablution revolution uses no water or chemicals and, together with Pootopia, the cubicles become an art space in which compost is utilised to turn the waste into fertiliser for growing food. The smell is actually bearable! Torment becomes charity and all it takes is giving a shit. As always, just don’t look down.
Now for the music. Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley helped kick off BoomTown on Friday at the Lion’s Den swiftly followed by David Roddigan MBE; Trenchtown’s temple of Reggae was the perfect way to kick things off with smooth offbeat rhythms. Later in the day Shy FX paired with long term sparring partner Stamina MC were joined by one unwelcome stage invader, unperturbed, the jungle and drum and bass was enough to help the boisterous crowd ignore the idiotic disturbance. The piano hook from ‘Shake your Body’ sent the crowd into rapture and the sing along to a sampled ‘Next Hype’ was deafening.
As with any weekend-long party in a muddy field, there was plenty of festival love floating around. Not least because of the district specific camping, it meant you were pitched up next to like minded ravers whatever your inclination may be, electro swing, drum and bass or even pirates! All the more for the brave souls that made the trek to DownTown and past that treacherous and never ending staircase. Neighbours quickly became your adoptive festival family with a sense of community deeply embedded in the mud of the Matterly Bowl Estate, even if there was a lack of moral fervor. The audience were made to wait for Akala Saturday night but such is the magnetism of the incredibly eloquent political figure, none seemed to care much as he raced through his MOBO award winning classics. Black Shakespeare indeed. As we come to expect of DJ EZ, the fastest draw in the West, he seamlessly mixed old and new school with wild abandon. His dexterity on the decks even found time for Indianna Jones and Rocky!
The Whistler’s Green helps soothe any sore heads with its array of healing and massage tents, a quiet corner away from the otherwise anarchic city. The Floating Lotus showcased stripped back and acoustic music whilst thick with incense to help cleanse you of the previous night’s sins. Ned Dylan took to the stage early in the afternoon and the diminutive, longhaired rocker was nothing if not captivating. Quite astounding considering the dude is fourteen! What were you doing at fourteen? Playing at one of the biggest festivals in the UK? Goldie Lookin Chain twisted old favourites with their madcap Welsh humour as they hilariously lampooned NWA with ‘Straight Outta Newport’ and Vanilla Ice with ‘Ice Ice Dildo’.
Back in the Wild West cult festival favourite Beans on Toast’s pledge to kill David Cameron resonated with the crowd. He quickly built up a rapport with his audience through his constant interaction, off the cuff anecdotes and singing about the use and abstinence of certain nefarious substances – it went down a storm. So too did his musical tirade against organised religion, bias media and his declaration of love for Reggae. ‘God is a terrorist’ ‘everybody has the right to take the piss’, he was amongst like-minded folk it seems. The thread of surreal fantasy was woven throughout as performers in impeccable costumes played out a narrative that spilled out across the weekend. Beans on Toast was promptly followed by an impromptu Wild West shootout with buxom wenches, floozies and cowboys pouring out of saloons all quick on the trigger. Back in the Carnival district of Barrio Loco Kate Tempest was occasionally acapella occasionally rapid, especially in her rendition of ‘Circles’, but always powerful.
The BoomTown love continued when it came to kicking time. There were drop off points for unwanted food to be given to those vulnerable in society through the project 8th plate. There was also a drop off point for unwanted tents that would go to help shelter those affected in the Calais Migrant crisis. Its always tempting to leave a tent behind, perhaps even destroy it a little as retribution for being so damn uncomfortable, but this is BoomTown and its a loving place. The festival has a reputation for being raucous yet its ethical and sustainable ethos is ever present and the use of profits going straight back into production or to charity goes someway to explain its continued success.
BoomTown’s sky was lit up with fireworks and the huge projection of Comrade Jose’s face lit up Banghai Palace during the Goldie B2B Dillanja and Sp:mc drum and bass set. Jose’s face was slowly distorted and replaced by a mad hatter; one of which took to the stage for chapter seven’s closing speech with promise of revolution for next year. Then the clock struck midnight and revellers could see out the festival at the silent disco until the early hours. What better way to cap off a magical weekend than taking off your headphones and listening to all and sundry murder your favourite tunes?
BoomTown Fair will return for Chapter 8 on 11th – 14th August 2016 at the Matterley Estate, Hampshire. Tickets go on sale on 3rd November via www.boomtownfair.co.uk/tickets