Festival Review: Boomtown 2019


“It ain’t all glitz and gravy” wrote the late music writer, Lester Bangs.  I keep this in mind as I trek through wind and rain over hilly terrain (which is frequently forewarned in all the Boomtown info) for nearly two hours in search of the mythical ‘Media Compound’, being sent in several wrong directions by festival staff who seem just as perplexed as me!  I finally find it and I’m greeted by friendly, polite organisers who are very sympathetic and helpful.   A bit of a rocky start, literally, but I put it behind me and go in search of BEER and MUSIC.  I wanted to see the Keith Flint Tribute set by DJ Mike Freear (this same set had appeared at Glastonbury in June) over at the new ‘Nucleus’ stage.  Staging here is a sight to behold and Nucleus is no exception, I’m calling it steampunk-Mad Max-gothic-chic, very fitting for a presence like Flint.  I was a big Prodigy fan growing up, grew up in Essex, saw them live twice, so this set meant a lot.  It felt very personal and emotional, with MCs onstage full of celebration for Flint.  Freear’s set was flawless, bold, and everything you’d want it to be.

The different districts that have been built at Boomtown are very impressive, the ‘Oldtown’ is like stepping back in time, the street performers and actors do a brilliant job of making it such an immersive and convincing town from the past.  It’s passing through the ‘Town Centre’ on my way to Oldtown that I manage to pick up a bit of Goldie Lookin Chain, who sound great and give very amusing patter in-between raps.  As the sun went down and the rain came, Gogol Bordello make a captivating entrance.  Frontman Eugene Hutz is brilliantly entertaining, a total showman in his sequin jacket, thrusting about on stage like he’s on fire, belting out lyrics in pure punk fashion.  Talking of fire, the giant burning torches to the side of the stage shooting out flames were mesmerising to witness.  Stage design here is a big thing, so much thought and hard work is put into it and it really pays off.  Walking through the many districts is so impressive, Paradise Heights – they must have had San Junipero from Black Mirror on their mood-board!  Other parts of the festival make me feel like I’m in The Hunger Games, especially with the teenage-25 age demographic here.  You do feel like you’re in another world, and that’s what keeps bringing the people back here, its originality.

One of my favourite parts of Boomtown was discovering the ‘Copper Feel Cabaret’.  The music in here was brilliant, I loved it – burlesque dancers, a plastic fairground lion, cabaret characters in costume, loved it.  Genius little place to enjoy a festival cocktail whilst dancing to Karen O.

After shovelling noodles in my mouth in the space of 4 minutes, I make my way back up the hill to steampunk-Mad Max-Nucleus to see Four Tet, I love Four Tet but I was struggling to enjoy the set due to the torrential downpour.  It was cold, it was wet, I was surrounded by gurning 21 year olds so decided it was finally time to turn in at 12am.  The light show for Four Tet was stunning by the way and suited his music perfectly.

We’re surprised to find our pathetic tiny tent still standing yet we’re lulled into a false sense of security as we endure ONE OF THE WORST NIGHTS OF OUR LIVES.  Okay, dramatic.  But it was a miserable night of camping due to extreme weather conditions, wind, rain, wet clothes, no sleep, foot & leg pain from a lot of walking (this site is HUGE and the districts are quite far from each other).  I was contemplating leaving, it’s one thing being in your twenties at a festival and off your face (those were the days, when you would laugh off being absolutely shattered and soaked and just holler “Get me another tequila!” whilst tucking into your overpriced cooked breakfast) but it’s quite another being nearly 40, with back pain, leg pain and sleep deprived in a leaky tent.  However, I had a job to do, for Joyzine, so I soldiered on, bought a veggie cooked breakfast at 7am with no tequila shots involved and the staff had to ask each other “Anyone know how to do eggs?”

She Drew The Gun were a particular favourite on the Saturday, wowing The Forge stage with their infectious live persona.  Other Saturday favourites included Slaves, such a live force onstage, I always feel part of something special seeing them play.  Carl Cox in the new Area 404 district brought back nostalgic memories for me, just like Keith Flint had the night before.  I couldn’t quite manage the full 1.00-3.00am slot because I hadn’t slept (not sure if I mentioned) so instead I had a cup of tea, a vegan doughnut and walked the long wellie walk home, to our wet and abused tent.

On Sunday the sun came and we worshipped it like we were in a Polyphonic Spree music video (google them kids).  I had a train to catch so I took my shopping trolley, my bag of peanuts that were searched earlier and cradled my failing body as I fought the gales a-top the exit hill.  I was disappointed to miss Salt n Pepa, my favourite band as an 8-year old, who were headlining on the Sunday, but the train home and clean clothes needed me.  In all honesty, I found Boomtown a bit too young for me, and yes that makes me sound about 102 I know.  The sheer size of it is a battle for the feet but I overheard a lot of regulars explaining how it gets easier each time you go.  The design and work that goes into it all is fantastic and I can see why it’s so popular and unusual as a festival.  The weekend was unexpectedly fraught with weather panic but it didn’t stop the crowds from enjoying the festival whatsoever.  The press office commented saying “the entire Boomtown community came together demonstrating full support, patience and respect for each other” throughout the weather difficulties.  Tickets sold out over the Boomtown weekend, with a total of 66,000 crew, artists, and public in attendance. I’ve been looking a lot at Boomtown feedback over the weekend and the best one for me has to come from @mollyfthes on Twitter: “me & Harv were part of some black magic cult ceremony & knelt in front of the devil in some caravan, whilst heavy metal was playing & some witch screamed in our ears & they wiped blood on our face & poured red wine all over us & if that doesn’t sum up Boomtown, I don’t know what does”.

Listen to Molly and Harv, it’s people like them that Boomtown is made for.

Review by Jo Overfield
Photograph by Ray Morgan



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