BoomTown Fair 2014 festival review

'BoomTown fair retains its charm for another year'

Photographer: Trevor EalesMatt Miles on 13 August 2014

Increased capacity and bouts of bad weather are not enough to dampen the spirits of the BoomTown citizen. 2014 was another brilliant year and chapter in the history of the UK’s maddest pop-up city.

BoomTown Fair 2014 begins with, fittingly enough, raggae forefathers The Wailers (8) on the Lions Den stage, and it seems like the entirety of the newly-increased capacity crowd turned up to usher them, and the weekend, in. Marley's former sparring partners deliver a smooth and mellow set that soothes the blurred and tired eyes of those still hungover from the journey or subsequent party the night before. With classics like ‘Jammin’ and ‘Everything's Gonna Be Alright’ in their arsenal it’s impossible not to leave this set feeling revitalised.

Hayseed Dixie (9) were up next and put on a hellish hoe down like no other. Utterly offensive and completely enjoyable, there were only three kinds of songs played in their set, drinking, cheating and fighting songs and no one was asking for anything more. It was about then that the heavens opened and it continued to rain for the majority of the day. Although it's the initial downpour that's the fiercest, soaking everything and soaking it completely in minutes.


Easy Star All Stars' (6) take on prog gold with ‘Dub Side Of The Moon’ was delayed by the torrential assault and thus tragically under attended. Pink Floyd’s classic shined through however - played in its entirety and cloaked in their trademark and rather resplendent reggae style.

Back at the Town Centre, Russkaja (8) did not seem to even notice the rain, instead they set about turning the entire crowd into a ‘Psycho Tractor’ wheel in an incredibly bouncy take on the circle pit. Later on Son of Dave (9) play to an ever growing crowd as more people ran in to the Rusty Spurs escaping from the rain. The stomping, beatboxing odd one didn't disappoint, putting on a set that was pure soul and sass. Everyone left a fan.

As the clock chimed midnight Demented Are Go! (8) took to the Devil Kicks stage and performed a putrescent set. Perhaps not as explosive as they were last year they still delivered powerfully, blowing away any thoughts of sleep and breathing a breath of fresh wind into the creatures of the night in attendance. All this meant more than a few Town residents managed to find their way into the The Lucky Cat to catch Dorset's The Jack Ratts (8) put on a 2am masterclass in punk folk revelry.

Saturday morning greets the still damp citizens with something completely different: dry weather - allowing most to sit back, laze and get crisp in the morning sun. Autonomads (7) blast away any dampness that still remains with an energetic and captivating performance over at the Devil Kicks Dancehall, swiftly followed by Oscillator (7) who lay down some sweet funky rhythm that has the Chinatown Courtyard crowd skanking out any moisture that remained. Over at the Lions Den Sister Nancy (6) puts on a solid and soulful set that is inexplicably snubbed short. Down at the Wandering Word stage however Adam Kammerling & The Head Collectors (8) jam out, mixing poetry, rap and basic beautiful live music into a foot tapping, head bobbing cluster of good times, it was a small but enthused crowd.

The Devil Kicks The Filaments (8) remind everyone why they are always on the line-up, with a solid performance that set the crowd up perfectly for Mad Sin (9) who, although late on stage, stole the show. Rushing over to the Town Centre to catch NOFX (5) for most seemed to be a mistake. Fat Mike and co. seemed none too impressed by Boomtown and its residents as they mocked the ‘Disneyland’ like surroundings. They played a set that distinctly felt as if they were holding back or phoning it in, perhaps as they were heading to Rebellion the following day they were.

Sunday was spent exploring the site and catching up with The Cat Empire (8) as they put on a performance that was infectiously energetic. The entire crowd seemed to move as one as they enjoyed one of the final performances from another excellent BoomTown.

The increased capacity of the festival cannot be ignored. It was felt in longer queues all over town, the extra population was also felt when attending headliners at the main stages where in previous years it seemed a little easier to move freely and enjoy the band as you wanted to, this year's crowds were a little more static - mostly out of necessity. With plans to increase the capacity further next year, BoomTown organisers must know they will need to also expand the confines of the site itself and provide even further distractions to space that additional body mass out.

The festival sold out this year which meant there were an additional 8,000 people in attendance over last year's 30,000. Having grown by almost a third, next year organisers are planning to make that 45,000. The festival is no doubt at a crossroads and it will be interesting to see if they can make the additional footfall and notoriety work for them.

What makes BoomTown so amazing and unique is the level of child-like wonder they can muster up in their citizens. Through great attention to detail and a fantastic level of devotion and passion from everyone involved in setting this year's festival up, it once again was an experience like no other, the environment is one of community, revelry and freedom. The magic hasn't left it entirely. It just felt a little muted this year under the din of all the extra voices and the ever looming presence of the rain. For now Boomtown retains its charm, but the monster effects of success and an ever expanding capacity lurks over the festival for now, where they go from here will be interesting to watch, but possibly disappointing for the diehard attendees.


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