Boomtown Fair @ Boomtown Fair, Winchester, GB (Aug. 11th -14th 2016)

Revolution Rules at Boomtown
Overall Report “Revolution Rules at Boomtown” @ Boomtown Fair, Winchester, GB 2016.08.11-14

Boomtown Fair
Boomtown Fair is much like most festivals you’ve been to: There’s so much music you can’t possibly see everything; there’s partying and dancing and overdoing it and not being able to enough; and this year there was so much dust from the weekend’s glorious weather that I took home a lungful of the South Downs National Park as a souvenir cough. With over 50, 000 revelers enjoying the weekend this year, Boomtown has become one of the highlights of the UK summer festival scene and it’s reputation is well-deserved.

Boomtown FairBut Boomtown is not like other festivals: What makes Boomtown unique is its investment in theatrics. Divided into 9 unique areas, each with their own charm and cast of characters, you might find yourself chatting to toothless hookers outside a dodgy restaurant in China Town, getting a tattoo from a pirate in Old Town, or being given wodges of cash by the bankers in Mayfair in return for drawing them a picture. Walking through Mayfair looking for things to buy and bouncers to bribe with my thousands of Boomtown dollars, I caught two old ladies robbing the cake shop. Dashing out with their handbags stuffed with cash, the two old hags were shooed off with a mixture of well-aimed doughnuts and a profusion of expletives as they ran away howling with laughter. Meanwhile, a brief sojourn to the upgraded “Grandma’s Living Room” found our eponymous host shoving a beer down my friend’s throat before turning round to flash her bloomers at the revelers in the doorway. And this is a just a tiny fraction of what you can witness as you take a stroll around the city.

Boomtown FairThis year was Chapter 8 in the ongoing saga of Boomtown, a period of unrest as town Mayor Comrade Jose battled her regime against the rising forces of the revolutionary Masked Men. The Mayor organized battles in Barrio Loco where rival gangs were pitted against each other in acrobatic bouts of fighting. Meanwhile the pirates took back control of Old Town with an anarchic display of force and pyrotechnics on board the good ship Jolly Dodger, and this was just on the first day of the festival. As the weekend went on, propaganda posters were put up and torn down, people won medals and lollipops at the Job Centre, and others tracked down secret passwords in order to get into clubs behind closed (in)convenience store doors. All the while, occasional glimpses of the Masked Men increased as they mingled with the festival crowds. Perhaps something was brewing, and not just morning cups of tea on camping stoves…

Meanwhile, there was a whole load of music being played across 24 main stages and many smaller ones as well. At times it feels like Boomtown is two festivals rolled into one: While Downtown mainly deals in drum ‘n bass, jungle, techno and even happy hardcore, Uptown you find ska and reggae acts playing the larger stages and this is pretty much where I spent most of my weekend. Before we get into that though, a special mention needs to made of Mr. Motivator, the lycra-clad fixture of morning television when many of Boomtown’s older residents were kids, who made two morning appearances to get everyone warmed up and ready for the day ahead – think Radio Taiso but with Day-Glo lycra, dodgy jokes and lots of positive vibes.

Boomtown FairWith a very specific focus on certain genres, what you get at Boomtown is not only a “best of” showcase, but also more of a “deep cuts” experience, and a particularly international one at that. Fresh from New Delhi, Ska Vengers played Thursday night in China Town. The band fuse a more old-school reggae patois from male singer Delhi Sultanate with a soulful, powerful style from female singer Begum X, all to a musical backing which mixes up dub, jazz and even more Latin-laced numbers that had people dancing their way through the set. On Friday night, Mexican ska outfit Los De Abajo were also making their first foray into the UK music scene, playing in the hollowed-out hull of the Jolly Dodger stage. This band was of particularly note, not only for their fantastically catchy and danceable Latin-ska, but also their on-stage antics which included choreographed dancing, donning lucha wrestling masks, leaping around and the only bit of head-banging in the whole weekend. Headlining the Town Centre stage on Sunday night was the Parov Stelar band. Hailing from Austria, the band were also making a first appearance at the festival, and judging by both their reaction and the crowd’s, it certainly won’t be the last. The band’s brand of inventive electro-swing is laced with throwbacks to Big Band, given a modern mix-up with thumping drum beats, bass drops and vocalist Cleo Panther’s storming vocals pulling everyone into 90 minutes of non-stop dancing and wild applause at one of the best shows of the weekend.

Boomtown FairInternational newcomers aside, Boomtown also invited along some musical legends to the weekend. 80’s 2-tone/ska legends Bad Manners were great fun, pulling out classics like “Special Brew” and “Lip Up Fatty” and still drawing an appreciative crowd in their 40th year of playing together. Meanwhile Asian Dub Foundation amazed with their electric set at the Town Centre, calling on hits like “Rebel Warrior”, “Fortress Europe” and recent track “Zig Zag Nation”, bringing with them messages as relevant now as they were when the tracks were still freshly pressed. However, in major legendary position was British institution Madness, whose appearance at the Lion’s Den stage drew upwards of 20,000 people to the Trenchtown venue for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. One of the joys of seeing these experienced bands play is that you’re witnessing musicians who not only have a crowd up for anything, but who deliver their show with such ease and precision, even if their not sure whether they’re greeting Boomtown or Barcelona. Watching the huge crowd leap up and down singing along to “Our House”, “House of Fun” and “It Must Be Love” brought on goose bumps.

Boomtown FairParticular highlights of the weekend were a mix of the familiar and the new for me. Molotov Jukebox opened up the Town Centre stage on Saturday with their exotic and highly danceable sounds pulling in an enthusiastic crowd still recovering from the night before. This band were one of the stand-out acts for me at Boomtown in 2014, so seeing them again was quite a treat as they played tracks from new album “Tropical Gypsy” with an amped up sound that bust through many a hangover. On Sunday, The Correspondents wowed with their eclectic mash-up of electro-swing with jazz, drum ‘n bass and singer Mr. Bruce dancing so hard he seemed to give himself a nose bleed.

The finale of the weekend took place at the Bang Hai Palace, China Town’s massive arena stage. A spectacular of pyrotechnics, lighting and fireworks blew up around the arena as the victorious Masked Men announced their success at overthrowing the Regime in order to deliver Boomtown back into the hands of the citizens. After a weekend of beautiful weather and music, it was a stunningly fitting end to a festival unique in charm, intense in everything it does, and certainly one to visit when the next Chapter continues in 2017.

–>Overall Photo Report : “Highlights from Boomtown”

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Photos:
Laura Cooper
laura@smashingmag.net
Web Site / Twitter / Facebook
Laura Cooper's Works

Text:
Laura Cooper
laura@smashingmag.net
Web Site / Twitter / Facebook
Laura Cooper's Works

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