Another year, another Boomtown over. And what a Boomtown it was! The tenth chapter of this immersive festival pulled out all the stops and then some, producing a weekend of excellent live music along with a large helping of pure madness.
This year Boomtown started a day early for us. Wednesday entry meant that we were able to walk in with virtually no queue, and from speaking to people it seems as though the whole festival managed to avoid the queue chaos that myself and many others were stuck in last year. Queues were at most only a couple of hours so Boomtown definitely learnt from their mistakes.
We camped in the Boomtown Springs area for the first night, and we definitely felt like VIPs: as you’d expect to for the £200 upgrade. We were welcomed into the sectioned-off field with a glass of bubbly and a big comfortable sofa, and facilities included flushing toilets and showers. The main attraction was the pool (we didn’t see this in use but it must have been at some points over the weekend) and the mansion which seemed to contain a constant feel-good party. By the time we had put up our tent the sun was setting so there was just enough time to explore the handful of venues that had opened up early. We found the Downtown Roadblock but we weren’t quite ready for whoever was DJing so we settled on the much more chilled Hidden Woods which is where we ended the night, excited for what the next four days would bring!
As Thursday dawned we decided to give up our luxury and slum it with the rest of the festival for the remainder of the weekend, heading to the usual TPA camping spot in Old Town and watching the fields slowly fill with tents. The festival was pretty much in full swing by mid-afternoon on Thursday, with the majority of people now arrived and a lot more areas open and acts playing than there have been on this day in previous years.
We spent the afternoon taking a look round the developed Districts of Metropolis, Copper County and Paradise Heights. As always the sets were incredible throughout the festival: the amount of work that goes in amazes us all over again each year. Wandering around Paradise Heights we happened to be in the right place at the right time for one of their big shows. The main structure (about 5 storeys tall) was covered with performers dancing, abseiling and fire spinning and it was amazing to watch. We ended the night in the best way with Jaya the Cat in Hangar 161 who were as great as always. The enthusiastic crowd danced away to their hits, especially Hello Hangover which was definitely most people’s anthem for the mornings to follow.
Despite so much happening on Thursday, Friday still marked the official start of Chapter 10 with the festival opening ceremony at the redesigned Lion’s Den. The new structure was awesome, an oriental-looking building complete with turrets and spires, made to look as though it was on a cliff top with huge waterfalls flowing from underneath it. The ceremony was a celebration of colour and carnival with amazing costumes onstage and drew a massive crowd.
Kicking off the music on this stage after the opening were Shy FX. Their danceable drum and bass kept a lot of the initial crowd at the Lion’s Den, but later on in their set the heavens opened and the first lot of seriously heavy rain of the weekend started. It was at this point that we decided to check out some of the smaller (inside!) venues on offer throughout Uptown. Dipping in and out of the smaller venues not quite knowing what you’ll find inside is always one of our favourite parts of Boomtown and this year was no exception. Copper County’s venues were top notch, with some great bands in Croaker Club and in Crazy Calamities. One of these that stands out were Benji & Hibbz. They’re a hip-hop soul group whose own songs we loved and who finished on a mash-up of covers that was pure brilliance.
Fast forward to early evening, Dubioza Kolectiv were on at the Town Centre stage and their performance was infectious. From Bosnia, their Balkan spa / punk / reggae is like nothing else and their music is the kind that it’s pretty much impossible not to move to. During their set of tracks like The Pirate Bay Song the crowd kept growing as people walking past came to join the party and the band jumped around onstage in their matching yellow t-shirts. Confetti, streamers and plenty of fire exploded out of the stage adding to the atmosphere.
As the sun set on another day in Boomtown, we made our way Downtown for Regime. These guys were a real highlight of the festival for us. We’d picked them out when listening to the line-up as one of our must-sees and they lived up to our expectations. They performed in The Skankinn’ to a crowd which was over spilling the venue and who seemed to love every minute of their set as much as we did, especially Like You Mean It and Queenie. Their songs tackle political and social issues in a way that gets people moving and they got sure got everyone in the tent dancing and jumping. We’re going to look out for future gigs from them!
Saturday was another day of exploring street venues and getting involved in the crazy role-playing games in the array of interactive venues like Boomtown Bobbies and the Job Centre. The whole day seemed to be building for the evening headliners, although we did catch some great sets including Blackwood Redeemers at Rusty Spurs and Molotov Jukebox at Town Centre whose ska and samba sounds were the soundtrack to the afternoon.
We arrived for the Gorillaz just as they were starting, planning on staying near the edge so we could escape Downtown after a few tracks. The crowd was monstrous by the time we arrived so we were further back than we hoped and the sound properly reach us, so we only stayed for a couple of tracks.
Downtown was refreshingly peaceful compared to Uptown although this did mean that a lot of the venues had smaller crowds than they deserved thanks to having clashing sets with the headliners. In Diss-Order Alley we dipped into Hangar 161 to catch some of Authority Zero and their punk / reggae rock. The band as a whole were seriously impressive live but special kudos to their guitarist Dan Aid who is a hugely talented guitarist in spite of having one arm amputated below the elbow: it was a treat to be one of the small crowd seeing him and the rest of the band.
Next up, Earache Factory for Soulfly. The Arizonan metal heavyweights rocked the sweaty indoor venue with an onslaught of drums and guitar. The legendary Max Cavalera’s vocals were as intense as ever, and he brought Conan’s lead singer onstage for one track which somehow managed to double the intensity.
Our last band for the evening was Moscow Death Brigade, another that we’d picked out from the line-up and couldn’t miss. They performed in their signature black hoodies and balaclavas and incited a lively mosh pit while rattling through their charged punk hits: another band that definitely didn’t disappoint. After that we let the festival guide us where it wanted, ending up in the Psychedelic Forest and finishing at the huge Bang Hai stage in the early hours.
Sunday morning started slowly and the afternoon brought more heavy rain but we made it Downtown through the worsening mud back to Diss-Order Alley. We caught Faintest Idea at The Skankinn’, whose ska-punk tracks filled with plenty of brass quickly made us forget about the rain. On our way past Hangar 161 we stopped for a couple of tracks including Slaughterhouse by Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life.
Sunday night’s headliner clash meant a choice between Limp Bizkit and Die Antwoord. Liking both and intrigued to see their performances, we settled on the first half of Limp Bizkit and second half of Die Antwoord. The Town Centre crowd was huge, but Limp Bizkit’s performance wasn’t for us. Listening to them drag out My Generation and only a handful of their other songs (and some obvious-choice covers) into what seemed like an eternity interspersed with Fred Durst’s random chat killed any desire we had to stay. We decided it was time to make our way to the Lion’s Den one last time. Die Antwoord didn’t disappoint, again arriving late meant we were quite a way back but it still felt like we were right in the middle of the action. Yolandi and Ninja are as wild and mesmerising on stage as you’d imagine.
We wanted to catch one of the main closing ceremonies so settled on Sector 6, although got pulled into the Psychedelic Forest for some more stomping on the way. When it got to 11.30pm we managed to drag ourselves away from the magical forest for the final show. Drum and bass DJ Andy C was on the stage accompanied by lasers and…you guessed it! Lots more fire.
Then the storyline’s closure and as the words Chapter 11: A Radical City appeared on the huge screens there was the biggest roar we’d heard all weekend from the monstrous crowd, with everyone’s sadness at the festival being over being taken over by the promise that the city will return.
To sum up, Chapter 10: The Machine Cannot Be Stopped was incredible. It seems as though the festival has now really consolidated its increases in size over the past few years, and the addition of some big name headliners didn’t mean that the rest of the line-up was any less diverse. Boomtown cannot be stopped.