Boomtown Fair 2013 review

'An explosive festival, Boomtown will continue to blow up'

Photographer: Jason BowlesMatt Miles on 13 August 2013

Julian Marley (8) opened up the festival on Friday at the Lions Den stage. Julian Marley was a last minute replacement (and a worthy one at that) for Toots & The Maytals and instead of forcing Marley to compete with other headliners Boomtown instead chose to let him shine from amongst the awesomely constructed Lions Den Temple as the first act to hit the stage. This assured that every single Boomtown resident was there for that show, to meet, party, skank out and set the mood for an incredible weekend. Next up were the Graveyard Johnnys (9) down at The Devil Kicks Dancehall putting on a show that slapped faces as hard as it did bass’s, turning the crowd into a party hungry frenzy. As the sweltering sun starts to dip behind the horizon, Neville Staples (9) takes to the Town Centre stage with a swagger normally only afforded to rap megastars. Just when Boomtown thought things would start to chill out a little Neville ‘Rudeboy’ Staples whips them into a sweating, panting, dancing mess. Yet as Friday draws to a close the Town Centre stage is not even nearly done being completely bombarded with the highest of calibre music, now it’s Ozomatli’s (9) turn as they pump out foot stomping jams fusing genres as easy as an electrician would wires. Ozomatli can play the crowd just as well as the orchestra of instruments that accompany them on stage, as their riot of a set closes they get down into the crowd to instigate a brass and drum led conga line party all around the Town Centre. Friday wasn’t done yet however, at the stroke of midnight (well maybe a little bit after that) Demented Are Go (10) took to The Devil Kicks Dancehall stage and put on a show that possibly stole the entire weekend. Sparky throws his head and soul into his retching vocals, he is to psychobilly what Elvis is to rock’n’roll and Demented Are Go’s after midnight set whips the crowd into a froth at the mouth rabies infested psycho pit.

Saturday starts off slowly as the Boomtown residents recover from the revelry of the night before, one possible hangover cure was to head back downtown and catch The Restarts (7) letting them blast away the grogginess with their brand of angry intellectual punk. After this a wander up the hill results in a surprise show from Rag N Bone Man (8) on the Wandering Word stage, his voice is poetry in itself, he sings blues with all the candour and honesty it deserves and his soulful set will stick with all those lucky enough to catch it. Back down at The Devil Kicks Dancehall, The Creepshow (8) put on an infectiously energetic set with new vocalist Kenda ‘Twisted’ Legaspi literally climbing the walls. After that it was about time to face the wrath of Arcadia, the giant three legged terror loomed over Downtown assaulting all in it’s laser eyed view with thumping bass and terrifyingly stunning visuals. Koan Sound (8) put on a masterclass in electronica from atop the amazing stage’s decks. You will never dance as hard as you will whilst fixed within Arcadia’s neon gaze. Another Saturday highlight came from The Four Owls (8) at the peak of the epic High Focus Showcase at the crowded Poco Loco stage.

Sunday always opens to a partied out and somewhat reluctant crowd. Chainska Brassika (6) and Neck (7) both manage to inject some life into the sleepy Boomtown residents. After this The Wandering Word stage again offers some afternoon delight in the form of a poetry slam, words are wrestled and beaten and then lovingly embraced. Jackie Clementines wins the slam and a spot on The Wandering Word stage at Boomtown next year so be sure to check out 2013’s champ. Honourable mentions to Nuff Said and Pete The Temp, runners up who both performed some seriously thought provoking and enjoyable pieces.

Back at Devil Kicks Dancehall, Citzen Fish (8) perform a righteous politically and socially aware ska punk set. As dusk hits, the flawless wordsmith Raymond Antrobus (8) uses words to wow The Wandering Word stage audience into an awed silence and deploys a poem written the day before at Boomtown called ‘An Ode To Strawberries’. Richie Spice (9) lets out a beckoning roar from the Lions Den stage and all of Boomtown seems to hear it, rushing to catch the legend tear through a terrific set, at one point getting the whole crowd to lift lighters up aflame as he chastises the evils of Ketamine. Over in Chinatown Hallouminati (8) blast out a set which will genuinely be the only time anyone will ever say ‘mate that was a sick Bazooki solo’, all whilst three ninja’s fought with fire on the ramparts of the stage, the combination was a flawless victory.

Sunday and indeed Boomtown itself came to a close for us with King Prawn’s (9) jumping, clapping, whooping set back at the Devil Kicks Dancehall, that is if you don't count the heaving unlicensed bin drum party that took place in The Hidden Woods from midnight till morning in protest to Boomtown having to end.

Boomtown Fair is the kind of festival where if you say ‘space cadet’ one will appear, An amazing blend of beautiful scenery, sets, and surrealism, topped off by some truly fantastic music. The atmosphere, party attitude and general fun loving mood it inspires in people is a thing of beauty. The only fault that can be found with the entire festival was a lack of order as everyone went off site at the end of the weekend, queue’s for the shuttle busses were ridiculously long and the traffic out wasn’t moving either. Stewards seemed under informed and this made travel off site even worse, for most of the weekend finding your way around could be a little stressful, that being said, getting lost and stumbling across amazing things is just another one of the reasons this festival shouldn’t be missed.

Boomtown Fair has such an excellent and eclectic approach to booking bands, but this is only part of the festivals appeal. The grounds themselves, the stages, the storyline, the food, the distractions and entertainment, it is all a work of love. You can feel the level of passion that goes into making this stunning and unique festival what it is. Whole reviews could be wrote on the craftsmanship and majesty of the stage design, of the absurdity and wackiness of the characters and hidden parties dotted around the town, for us it was mainly about the music and that alone netted the festival a ten out of ten. Do not miss this powerhouse of a festival next year, it is exceptional. 

Click here for all the Boomtown coverage from the weekend, also remember to follow Virtual Festivals on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest festival news.

Photography by Jason Bowles

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