As the crown jewel of the outer rims of Winchester celebrates its 11th chapter, we thought it would be a good idea to give a few reasons why it could quite potentially be the most bonkers festival in the world (in a good way, of course).
By Marko Marincic
The story began in 2009, and when we say story we really mean it. Part of Boomtown’s unique appeal is the fact that it has run along with a continuous fictional narrative since its inception, with the intrepid explorer Nickolas Boom discovering vast quantities of gold in the foothills and thus beginning a small settlement. These were small and humble beginnings, but as the years went on this small village developed into the beastly behemoth of a city it is now.
It did not take long for founder Nickolas Boom to flee the metropolis due to the increasing danger of a coup from the power-hungry inhabitants of this burgeoning location. In his place came Commander Jose, the first dictator-like figure in the Boomtown chronicles, and ones that furthered the demand for the public to be distracted by any means. A revolution swiftly followed, only to be morphed into the secretive Bang-Hai Industries, which erected even more impressive structures still.
Last year, however, they were toppled by the power of their own glorious invention AMI, and now we pick up a thriving digi-metropolis, in which strange ecosystems are sprouting from the rubble of the Bang-Hai regime. That means several new stages and districts, with the old ones changing as well – there really is not a festival like it. Each zone is distinctly different from the last, on one hand you have the immersive Tudor-style Old Town, or perhaps the Wild West influenced Copper County, and then on the other you have hyper-modern settings like Disorder Valley or Metropolis. There are also two completely brand new districts for 2019; Area 404, the strange aftermath of the previously mammoth Bang-Hai Tower, and Relic, a vast computerised zone that rises from the ashes of the corporation’s former HQ.
And here’s the thing: alongside this genuinely immersive backdrop is also the chance to see some of the world’s leading DJs and artists across a crazy 100+ stages. Only at Glastonbury can you encounter this number of venues, and the unique thing here is that each one is bespokely designed, even Lion’s Den the main stage. Previous years have seen the likes of Gorillaz headline, and this time the line-up could be the Boomtown Fair’s best yet. But anyway, we are rambling now, here are 8 reasons why the festival really is quite a lot of fun…
Outrageous production value
Some of these stages genuinely are on a different scale compared to anything else you can see in the UK. The sheer size is one thing, but they are also unbelievably complex, often with all manner of screens, pyrotechnics and lasers. It really does make you marvel at the ridiculous extent of human engineering, sucking you into the experience even if you don’t really care for the music.
But there’s more: the wonderful thing about Boomtown is often the small details. The beautifully adorned woodland walkways, the tiny tardis-esque stages, the quiet and tranquil spots like Whistlers Green. Each day you will walk past hundreds of little stages, each one unique. Want to rave in an OAP’s living room, for instance? Just head on over to Grandma’s Living Room. You won’t be disappointed.
The stages themselves are immersive on their own, but when coupled with the unique individual stylings of each district things get a whole load more exciting. Every zone has its own unique character, and it all makes you feel like you are absolutely in the fictional city the organisers have created.
We talked about the small details earlier; well Boomtown has hundreds of street actors that further drag you down into this immersive world. Strange things have been known to happen here, and if you are lucky enough to experience them it could be something you will never forget (honestly, take it from us). There are even stereotypically Victorian newspaper venders issuing copies of The Daily Rag, where you can keep up to date with the rolling story-line.
Focus on the environment
At last years closing ceremony both main dance stages were simultaneously hacked by Bang-Hai’s mysterious creation AMI – Advanced Machine Intelligence. Although, far from being a malign threat, AMI actually warned of the environmental consequences that are lifestyle around the world is having, and this spawned a new way of thinking, a radical city.
Just like Glastonbury did this year, the forces behind the Boomtown Fair are making a huge pledge to decrease the environmental impact of the festival as much as they can. They have even introduced an eco-camping zone that will leave absolutely no trace; hopefully it is something that endures.
Seminal UK artist The Streets takes the mantle from Gorillaz as this year’s stand-out performer, and what a headliner they are. Mike Skinner helped to change British culture indefinitely with his iconic first album “Original Pirate Material”, a incredibly forward thinking work that dramatically influenced everything from pop music to UK Garage in its aftermath.
Several successful albums later and The Streets have adopted a somewhat legendary status, especially nowadays when it is not the easiest thing to go and see them live. If you are looking for a concretely musical reason as to why Boomtown 2019 will be really quite good look no further…
One of the most exciting things about the 2019 iteration is the addition of new districts to the sprawling metropolis, and Area 404 is definitely the most exciting. Rising from the burnt out rubble of the jaw-droppingly gargantuan Bang-Hai Towers, this is a zone where drones buzz across the sky, revealing a mysterious structure in their wake.
Aside from its aesthetical impact – which is bound to be amazing – Area 404 is also worth focussing on because of its music policy. For the first time at Boomtown House & Techno will have its own specific district, and some of the headliners here, Carl Cox, Four Tet and Amelie Lens being just a few, are top-notch.
Following on from this is another more broad reason why it is difficult to beat the Boomtown Fair as a music festival. The musical diversity here after 11 years in action is second to none; there really is something for everyone. Whilst the stereotype is for the place to be a haven for Drum & Bass lovers and not much else, this is completely dated and not true at all.
Instead you have a fully-fledged exploration into the various scenes of underground dance music (more so than most other festivals), but you also have all manner of other things. Malian powerhouse duo Amadou & Mariam played last year, for instance, as well as Syrian wedding singer come global superstar Omar Souleyman. Beat that.
Seminal Reggae legends
Moreover, Boomtown fully respect their sound-system culture roots, with each year inviting at least a few seminal Reggae legends, with it often being the only place you can see them in the UK. Last year saw Dancehall iconic Cutty Ranks take to the Lion’s Den stage, as well as Johnny Osbourne, this year is no different.
Probably the best female MC of the Reggae and Dancehall era Sister Nancy arrives to the Winchester site, for example, best known for her unbelievably popular song “Bam Bam”. There are also appearances from Marcia Griffiths and Supercat amongst others, making this the perfect place for all Reggae and Dancehall aficionados.
Chase & Status [Return II Jungle]
One of the other standout acts from this year’s line-up is Chase & Status, the meteoric duo who gained acclaim with Drum & Bass, before making a surge into the worlds of Dubstep and Pop. The last year has seen them plug their brand new Return II Jungle album heavily, and this makes up the basis of their performance here.
The album showcases a return to Chase & Status’ roots, namely the Jungle and early Drum & Bass culture that took the UK by storm in the early to mid 90s. Judging by the monstrous single “Program” with MC Irah this is not going to be a set to miss out on, especially for fans of the duo.
If you like the thought of Offie Mag at a festival, read about our review of Love Supreme in ISSUE THREE.