2018 was my first year at Boomtown as a ticket holder, but my 6th Boomtown in total, and of course, even though for the first time I had no shifts, I still feel like there was such much I missed! I had the BEST time though and I just wish I could have cloned myself in order to see it all! This blog is LONG so I’ll get right to it, this is what I got up to at Boomtown Fair 2018: Chapter 10 – The Machine Cannot Be Stopped!
Thursday – Arrival at Boomtown – gates, Reserved camping, first night’s party
Thom, Eldon and I set off from my parents house near Southampton at just before 9am, and arrived at South Gate just after 9.20. We had been given a Family Parking pass, hence why we ended up at one of the quieter gates! You may have heard that last year, Boomtown Fair had some problems with the gates that led to a build up, and some ticket holders were waiting a number of hours to enter. We were interested to see how the entry system would be this year, and having arrived at the gate carrying our tents at 9.30am, we expected to at least sit and wait until midday when the website said the gates would open. However we were pleasantly surprised! They were already letting people through the gate, and had separated ticket scanning & wristbanding from security, meaning the flow was super smooth. We were through the gate by 10.15am!
We walked the short distance from South Gate to Reserved Camping, near the Lions Den, where we had prebooked 3 pitches for our whole squad. Each pitch costs £80, and is a 5m x 7m area which you can fill with as many people as you like, and is on one of the site’s only flat areas! As an idea, we fit 7 rather big tents and 12 people in our 3 pitches, which worked out at £20 each – for us, the knowledge that we had a space waiting for us that wasn’t overcrowded was worth the extra expense. My only comment here was that in 2017, the Reserved area had it’s own toilets, this year it did not. Please bring them back for next year, Boomtown!
After setting up our tents, I went to pick up my ZooLoos weekend wristband. ZooLoos are the luxury toilets & showers available both Uptown – next to Copper County camping near the Psy Forest (convenient for us in Reserved camping!), and Downtown – next to Barrio Loco camping on the corner of Metropolis. I’d never treated myself to these before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but they are individual cubicles of actual porcelain toilets with sinks and mirrors! They turned out to be a godsend in the mornings!
I returned to the campsite and waited for the rest of our friends to arrive. They came through the other, more ‘main’ gates of East (main car park) and West (coach/shuttle/drop off), and though none of them had quite as quick an entry as we did (South Gate is the quietest!), they all said it was smooth, organised and much quicker than they anticipated. It is clear that the Boomtown team worked incredibly hard after 2017’s Fair on logistics to ensure that they had learned from mistakes and that entry was smooth and still secure. Our friends, like us, still reported they were thoroughly searched by security at the gates, but staff were friendly and efficient, and there were more than enough of them.
As I’ve mentioned, for the first time this year, I was attending the festival as a ticket holder (aka not volunteering/working shifts!), and the friends that I brought with me to Boomtown had all never been before. I was so excited to show them around their first Fair! So once most of us had arrived and we were all set up, we went for an explore. I took on the role of tour guide, and walked everyone through Hilltop (Uptown). Even for a veteran like me, I soon could tell the production had stepped up hugely even just in one year! The sets were more detailed, the stages and venues larger, and Paradise Heights (previously Mayfair) was absolutely mind-blowing! It literally was an 8 storey Hotel in the middle of the festival!
We went to the top of Hippie Highway to take a first glance at Downtown, before snapping a pic and heading to Tangled Roots for our first foot stomping of the weekend at the Hold Tight Records Showcase – an awesome mix of 140, dub & reggae. After an hour or so we decided to nip back to the tents to pick up our final crew members & more alcohol, and get ready for the evening. Our walk home was paused in the middle when a 20min burst of torrential rain had us hiding under a stretch tent with lots of others. We used the time to get food, and were rewarded with a double rainbow when the sun came back out.
After a tent pit stop, we got the whole gang together and of course made our way to Hotel Paradiso in Paradise Heights for a whole line up of Where’s My Tent? favourites! First up were Oh My God, It’s The Church!, and for a lot of my friends it was their first service! They’d heard me speak about them a lot and were super keen, but it’s always one of my favourite things to watch other people experience these guys for the first time!
We then stepped outside to go to the bar and have a break, and happened across the Paradise Heights opening performance! There were fire dancers, performers scaling the walls… it was so impressive! Here’s a video to give you an idea, bear in mind the main route down to downtown passed below this structure so scores of people were walking underneath!
Next up were another favourite, Cut Capers! A combination of hip hop and swing, these Bristol legends always get a party started. If there’s one thing my friends and I love, it’s bands with a large brass section. Then the headliners of Thursday night’s Hotel Paradiso stage were the super talented, the British-answer-to-the-Beastie-Boys, fast spitting hip hop lovelies; Too Many T’s! I realised recently that I am unable to count how many times I’ve seen them, but it’s definitely upwards of 25 times and each time I leave in awe at their skills and incredible tunes! Lovely lads too!
At midnight, the music stopped and my gang headed back towards the tent. I decided to make a move to the Crew Bar to spend some time with friends of mine from previous Boomtown Fair’s; the lovely volunteers I worked with in 2017, and some Oxfam stewarding friends I knew from before then. It was lovely to say hi to these wonderful festival people I’d met throughout the years over a few beers! I even got to have a chat to the Too Many T’s boys, Ross & Leon, before they had to leave to drive to Boardmasters for a set the next day. After a couple of hours I headed back to Reserved camping for some much needed sleep before a big day Friday!
Friday – first full day; rock n roll with horns
Friday morning started slowly but surely. I woke up around 10am feeling mostly OK, then a smooth flat white coffee sorted me right out. We got breakfast from Olivier’s Bakery in the form of a delicious tomato and onion focaccia, followed by a pain au chocolat. Olivier’s have fresh breads and pastries made and brought on site every day, I was really happy to discover their stall was right by Reserved camping! We then quickly got ready to make sure we got to the Lion’s Den for the official opening ceremony with Shy FX.
Most of us managed to make it to the newly redesigned Lion’s Den in time for midday, the giant bowl arena of the stage is always impressive and clearly everyone was excited as the place very quickly filled up. The Opening Ceremony was a whirlwind of colour and dance, the highlight of which being the Winnall School children’s routine. Taking inspiration from the Lion’s Den’s reggae roots, the costumes and different dance troupes really gave it their all.
Seamlessly the opening ceremony moved into Shy FX‘s set, which became one of my favourites of the whole weekend! He started things slow and played singalong classics such as UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’ and The Specials ‘Rudy’ before picking up the pace, adding two MC’s, mixing in some filthy beats, and getting everyone skanking to his excellent party drum n bass. Any tiny sign of a hangover was danced out by lunchtime.
I’d dressed for the day in all of my favourites – my custom Burnt Soul Clothing catsuit and my matching Disco Monster headdress from Headspace, with Shine Shack gems and glitter on my face. After Shy FX’s awesome set, we decided to go get involved with some of the immersiveness of Boomtown, and went to sign on at the Job Centre. It was here you would find out if you were worthy of a job, or if not, if you qualified for benefits. We went in as a group of 7, which was our first mistake! Next year we’ll split into smaller groups! The madness starts in the queue; you have to create a character for yourself and be a quick thinker. The banter with the actors is the best part of the festival!
Inside the Job Centre, our large group approached the desk and were told we would have to battle it out to see which of us was worthy of a job or benefits. We played the Wheel of Misfortune and had to complete some hilarious tasks. I won’t ruin all of the surprise but it’s worth visiting; I’d just advise to split into groups of 4 to maximise chances of getting a job – which help you with the Boomtown Storyline and are great fun to do! I wish we had made time to go back again!
We spent some time exploring Town Centre, getting some drinks at the Bad Apple bar, and taking some photos using the awesome backdrop of the stage area. I’ve already mentioned it but the production at Boomtown Fair is just so incredible, it’s easy to forget you’re in a temporary town in a field!
Next up were Elvana, conveniently on the Town Centre stage, who are a Nirvana cover band fronted by Elvis reincarnate! I’d heard so many good things about these guys and I was not disappointed. The mash up of 90s alt rock/grunge with the King of Rock N Roll just WORKS, I can’t explain it! You haven’t lived until you’ve heard A Little Less Conversation seamlessly merge into Lithium. My friend Amanda in particular is a huge Nirvana fan and I knew she would love this. We were head banging right down the front and all of us loved the injection of proper hard rock into our afternoons. Truly special! I even got a cuddle from Elvis when he came down into the crowd!
By the end of Elvana’s set we were all on a huge happy high! We planned to nip back to the tent for a quick refuel but ended up meeting up with more of our squad and having some campsite drinks. As an even bigger team we made sure we got back to the Town Centre to catch the spectacle that is Slamboree. The sun was beating down and the crowd went crazy for the full Slamboree collective, the core of which is DJ Mike Freear, and vocalist Kathika Rabbit, who spits bars faster than any female I’ve ever seen. Add on to that a menagerie of dancers, fire eaters and circus performers, and even then it’s difficult to describe the madness that happens on their stage. My friends all said afterwards that this was a highlight of the whole festival, we all couldn’t stop smiling and dancing. One of our peaks!
Next up was Mungo’s Hi-Fi again on the Lion’s Den, we were all happy for any excuse to carry on bouncing, and their dancehall beats were the perfect soundtrack. You may be thinking that so far we’d been ignoring Downtown, and you would be correct. So Thom, Laurie, Luisa, Gema and I decided to forgo the Hilltop headliners of Goldie or Sleaford Mods and head down for our first taste of Bang Hai Towers.
On our descent of what some refer to as the “Steps of Doom” that cut through from Lion’s Den/Whistler’s Green down to Barrio Loco (these are tough on your thighs for sure!) we caught our first proper view of Downtown and once again it was clear that Boomtown had really stepped it up this year. We moved straight to the Towers for Jack Beats trademark hybrid bass sounds. Bang Hai was super impressive as it always is, shooting up over 13 storeys into the early evening sky. I had to keep reminding myself to dance and not just stare transfixed at all the screens, lasers and fire!
After a few hours we went for an explore around Downtown, taking in some of the sights, and stopped for a rave at Pagoda Plaza, the main stage of Metropolis (formerly Chinatown). The area still had an oriental theme to it which looked wicked. Honey Dijon was laying down some RnB/soul-influenced house which kept us bouncing for a while, especially when paired with the fabulous drags queens parading the stage. It was around 11pm we realised as a group that none of us had eaten for a while so we went in search of noms, luckily coming across the wonderful Strumpets with Crumpets (a long time festival favourite of mine), and I’m not ashamed to say we each ate at least 3 each. The camembert & red onion marmalade is a delight!
After our disco refuel we met up with our friends who had been at Sleaford Mods and once again headed to Bang Hai. This time the music wasn’t quite what we were craving, so we made the choice to mission up the hill to Sector 6 for the Virus Records take over of Ed Rush B2B Optical. The walk does take a little while, but we knew we were heading in the right direction towards our tents too so it made the climb a bit easier! It would probably only take you 20 minutes from Bang Hai to Sector 6 if you were a fast walker, however we were a group of 10 drunk people so it took us a lot longer 😛
We stayed at Sector 6 for a good few hours dancing, laughing and somehow drinking even more, before heading back through Oldtown campsite to our tents in Reserved. I wish I’d stayed out a little longer and tried some of the smaller venues but by 3.30am I was slightly worse for wear and bed seemed like a good idea!
Saturday – Springs, courtroom justice and Gorillaz
After two days of sunshine with intermittent rain, excessive alcohol and a whole lot of glitter, we woke up Saturday feeling not very fresh. I took this as my opportunity to go an explore the new Boomtown Springs area, which I’d been amazingly granted access to to check out. I invited Thom to come with me, and we took a stroll over to the North side of the site. I made the mistake of going the long way around, but soon found that there was a much quicker cut through the woods by Copper County. It turned out that Boomtown Springs was actually where my volunteer campsite had been in 2017!
First impressions? The area was gorgeous, with PodPads, yurts and pre-erected tents on one side, and open camping on the other. Looming over all this was the incredible Springs Mansion, which had it’s own swimming pool (yes you read that right!) in front of it. It was when I saw this that I felt gutted I hadn’t been able to make it to the Boomtown Springs Wednesday night opening Pool Party, I bet it was wild!
Leading from the mansion there was a walkway splitting the campsite that was lined with gorgeous solar lights, and there was so much space between tents it was lovely! As we were walking up to the showers I couldn’t believe my eyes… I had expected a small block of portaloo-style showers with a queue, what I got instead was a huge hall split in two, one half for girls/femmes and one for boys/masc, and on each side were rows and rows of the biggest, most luxury individual shower cubicles I’ve ever seen! No queue at all, and lots of space to get dressed in the middle part of the room, with benches and hooks to hang your stuff on. I couldn’t believe I was in a field.
After that miracle-working shower, I used the blow dryer in the adjoining Pamper Room, and just to make sure all our batteries were back to 100%, Thom and I stayed for a yummy coffee and breakfast in the Springs. It was a perfect morning, and I’d definitely recommend staying in Springs for 2019 if you can afford it! I’ll admit, I was somewhat resenting my friends on the way back to our camp as I’d had the option to camp here. Maybe next year I’ll convince the whole gang to experience the Springs life!
Once again we decided to spend the first part of the day exploring. Even after our Springs breakfast, I was hungry again by the time we had gotten ready and glittered at the tents. I decided to check out the Chicken Balls (teehee) from The Teriyaki Shack. These asian fried chicken nuggets came with a choice of sauces and of course I went for Chinese curry sauce which was delicious. After this food stop, we strolled through Copper County, and got swept up in a protest against Bang Hai Industries.
As we turned another corner in this Western-themed town, we came across the Lawless Halls of Justice and we just had to go in. This was Cowboy Court, and we made Eldon take the stand, hoping for him to be the accused but he wound up being the accuser. A guy called “Dane-o” was the accused, he was conveniently already wearing an orange jumpsuit! The jury was made up of festival attendees too, and then two actors came out as lawyers and had to battle it out as defence and prosecution. It. Was. Hilarious. Of course Dane-o was found guilty, and then we had to march him outside, put him in the stocks, then the crowd hit him with shaving cream pies and wet sponges! I laughed so hard.
Next up we went back to Hotel Paradiso to see it in the daytime. The Hotel lobby had it’s own mini beach, ping pong tables, and a hotel room set up including four poster bed and bathtub. We got a set of photos done in the beach photobooth and got some drinks at the bar before being summoned to meet the rest of our gang and had a mini photoshoot in front of the Boomtown Fair info point. Whilst there I also bumped into my friends Mark and George the Horse (you may have seen him at festivals before!).
We raced back to the Hotel Paradiso stage to catch the Swinghoppers; a three piece who met at Boomtown a few years ago and started a band. This was their homecoming gig, they had even met in the same venue (what was then called the Ballroom in Mayfair). I loved their combination of swing, hip hop and beatboxing! Definitely one I’ll be checking out again! Straight after was another of my festival favourites; Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer! He was another artist I wanted to introduce my friends to and they all loved his hilarious Chap Hop accompanied by a banjolele!
The early evening started with the Skints at the Lion’s Den. They play original reggae music in a London style with a ska/punk edge. Singer Marcia Richards is just incredible, and can play more instruments than one person should be able to master! It was during this set that the rain started coming down hard, so afterwards we retreated back to the tent for an hour (pausing at Happy Maki for a vegan sushi roll on the way) to chat and wait for the rain to pass.
Saturday evening was the big headliner, the incredible Gorillaz. This booking is easily Boomtown’s biggest ever, and spirits were high as we made our way back to the Lion’s Den – luckily the rain had passed! It was super busy but we’d been smart and headed down early, so we managed to get a great spot quite far down into the bowl. Damon Albarn put on a ridiculously good show joined by guest after guest. The set started slow, chilled and atmospheric. For Superfast Jellyfish they were joined on stage by De La Soul (mind-blown!).
The tempo built up to a crescendo and peaked when then played three smash hits in a row: DARE (yes Shaun Ryder came on stage!), Dirty Harry, and then Feel Good Inc (which De La Soul joined again). I had seen Gorillaz headline the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2010 and remembered not enjoying it much but this was amazing, especially with the brilliant stage set up in the Lion’s Den amphitheatre-style bowl.
We left on a high and headed down to Sector 6 to carry on the party. We arrived there for the start of DJ Q‘s set, and he was providing the exact kind of filthy bass lines we were looking for, despite also pressing the “it’s DJ Q” voiceover button a few times too many 😉 We raved hard, and the energy from the crowd was electric The trick with the big Boomtown drum n bass stages is to get in towards as far as possible. The sound in there was crisp and delicious!
In the mood for a mission, we made the decision to get down to the Pagoda Plaza for Dusky. I was on the fence about this as I’ve never been the biggest fan of progressive/techno but I have to say when we got there, I loved it! The tempo stayed steady but with lots of peaks, troughs and drops that got the crowd going. This stage became one of my favourites because of this night!
Dusky rolled into a Simian Mobile Disco DJ set flanked by yet more gorgeous drag queens. My friends and I were unsure at first of the music but soon we thought it was the best thing we’d ever heard (slight exaggeration, bear in mind we were drunk!). We started calling it “Future Techno Bass” and it kind of blew our minds. We stayed there for the full two hour set til 4am!
Unlike the previous night, when the Pagoda finished for the night we were still hungry for more dancing, so took the Steps up the hill towards Whistler’s Green but instead dived into Tribe of Frog, the psytrance paradise. Tribe of Frog are a Bristol based collective who are famed for their colourful parties with incredible decor!
We were all mesmerised by the LED tree (similar to the one they had at Noisily Festival!) and then the day-glo neon butterflies floating above the whole area. It was beautiful! A few of my friends had never experienced psytrance before, and I think the genre gained a few new fans this night 😉 I went to bed at around 5am but some of my crazy friends kept it going til 6. What heroes.
Sunday – rain, mud, Bizkit & A.M.I
For obvious reasons, Sunday started a lot later than our previous two mornings. It was also pretty rainy all morning too so we decided to catch up on sleep and hibernate in our tents. I did wake up around 11 though, and went to try the ZooLoo showers with Grace. Unfortunately there were queues here unlike Boomtown Springs, but we got breakfast on the way and ate it in the queue to pass the time. It took around an hour to get to the front, and the showers were clean and hot, though again not as nice as Springs. ZooLoos also have a Powder Room with lots of hairdryers and straighteners, but this was another short queue so we decided to just air dry. A ZooLoos wristband costs £45 for the weekend for unlimited use, and I do think they’re worth the money if you make sure you camp near one of their two locations to use them as your main loos, and if you are happy to get up early for a shower/have a mid afternoon shower to avoid the queues. The staff are lovely and the facilities really are great. They just get really quite busy at peak times (7am-midday).
We casually got ready, taking our time putting glitter on (this time I went for my Pick ‘n’ Mix Festival Kit biodegradable Peppermint!) and then went for a stroll around Old Town before getting to Town Centre at 3pm for the awesome Dub Pistols. Barry & co were on fine form and had the place packed out. My friends and I went nuts for Mucky Weekend – whenever I hear that song it’s always at a festival so it’s very appropriate! After a good skanking, we stopped to get food. I had a so-so chicken & sweet chilli baguette with fries from a place called Peace & Loaf.
Next up were the awesome Mr Tea & The Minions on the Oldtown Square stage. This pirate themed area had definitely grown for 2018 and the stage area was fab! The problem was that the heavens had opened and the crowd had to try and stay up right on the muddy ice-rink in front of the stage! Still we stuck it out and had a great time bopping to the Minions flavour of Balkan ska/dub/swing beats. These guys are a favourite on the festival circuit and I highly recommend checking them out if you get the chance!
The rain intensified so we retreated to the tents for an hour to wait for the worst to blow over and apply more glitter (Amanda and I had a mini photoshoot too 😉 ) then back out we went to explore Oldtown a bit further. We came across the Twisted Fairground which was full of circus delights including the mini Melodrome stage, and the Telegram Service, which we thoroughly enjoyed. You could write telegrams to anyone then post them up for all to see!
We headed back to Oldtown Square for Tankus the Henge – started by Jaz Delorean and now touring all over Europe with their whirlwind music of jazz/rock/funk; featuring a custom piano, guitar, drums and a large helping of brass thrown in for good measure. The showmanship of this band is legendary in their hometown of London, expect Jaz to spend a lot of time on top of and jumping off of his piano. I was so excited to introduce my friends to Tankus and they were dutifully gobsmacked.
The Sunday headliner was a tough decision for me, I’d heard Die Antwoord put on a magnificent live show, but I went with my rock girl heart and chose to see Limp Bizkit on the Town Centre stage. Fred Durst & co came on a little late, but soon made up for it coming out to My Generation. The crowd went nuts, and moshing in the mud was just too much fun! The set was full of crowd pleasers, with My Way, Nookie, and of course Rollin’. Then things got a little weird when they bust out a number of covers including ‘Killing in the Name Of’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, which to be fair, Durst smashed.
The final song was Break Stuff which was sufficiently heavy and had everyone screaming the words! There was a surprise waiting though, in the middle of the song where there is a pause before the final chorus, the stage roof caved in and a bathtub-load of water fell onto the stage, right where Wes’s guitar rig was! Check it out (it happens right at the beginning of the video):
They finished the song though and everyone left satisfied! We half ran down towards Sector 6 as we had a rendezvous point to meet our Die Antwoord-watching friends at before the secret headliner! We made it down there quickly, luckily, as the crowd ended up being HUGE, and got a good spot slightly up the hill behind the delay tower speaker (nice and loud there!). We waited in anticipation having heard all the rumours fly round the site, and were rewarded with the announcement that it was exactly who we were hoping for: the legend that is Andy C! My friends Laurie & Gema who are massive fans damn near lost their minds! The next hour and a half was definitely one of my highlights, all my friends and I came together to party at Boomtown for one last time in 2018, we pulled some serious dance moves and loved the “wub wub wub” of the wonky drum n bass pounding our earlobes.
The excitement built up to the Closing Ceremony, which Andy C masterfully merged into. It was all about A.M.I (aka artificial machine intelligence) – Bang Hai Technology’s latest and great invention. The storyline came to a climax with A.M.I’s launch, and the closing ceremony really hit home some important messages, interspersed with fireworks and laser displays. My only comment would be that in previous years, there have been lots more performers on the stage during the ceremony. As the ceremony plays on both Sector 6 and Bang Hai Towers, there might have been more at Bang Hai but I couldn’t comment as I wasn’t there. The visuals were still spectacular, and the message was clear that we need to look after our city of Boomtown if we want the festival to continue. They’d done a fantastic job promoting their Respect campaign before and during the festival, and I definitely noticed an improvement this year, but we’ll have to do even better next year in Chapter 11: A Radical City. I posted the whole closing ceremony on my IGTV channel if you wanted to watch it!
After the ceremony, it took a little while to leave the Sector 6 area as it was so packed! It was midnight and all music had stopped, but of course we didn’t want it to end just yet! We followed rumours that the Bad Apple bar was still open, and were delighted to once again find the rumours to be true! There was a lovely crowd in the bar, all polishing off the last of the fantastic range of ciders they had to offer, and having a dance to the (very quiet) music they were playing at one end. My friends and I were all drunk as skunks but it was lovely to have a place to wind down after the epic ness that was Andy C. It was at the Bad Apple bar that I bumped into my gorgeous friend Dulcie! (you may know her as the mastermind behind Dulcie’s Feathers).
Dulcie and I broke off from my gang and went to spend a few more hours in the crew bar. She introduced me to a lot of people she knew, we had a few more G&T’s, and sat on the grass chatting to a selection of the incredible people without whom the festival wouldn’t go ahead. It was so lovely to feel the camaraderie between all the crew, and everyone was so happy that everything had gone so perfectly! The festival really was a huge success in every way!
I stumbled home about 3.30am for my final snooze at Boomtown with a big smile on my face.
Boomtown Fair you were incredible!
Despite the slightly rubbish weather, the festival was everything I had hoped it had be! It was my 6th Boomtown but first as a Press ticket holder and I absolutely loved having more time to explore! The production is always mind blowing but this year you had SERIOUSLY stepped up your game, solidly confirming yourselves as a worldwide player in the festival world whilst remaining completely independent. An incredible feat.
My own personal regrets for the festival include not spending enough time in Downtown, especially during the daytime, and not exploring the smaller venues more/following the storyline.
I think that, as there was no Glastonbury this year, Boomtown replaced it as the festival my large group of friends all chose to attend, and I wanted to maximise time spent with them as we have so much fun together as a group. However it is difficult navigating a large squad! Next year I’ll be more willing to split off on my own if I need to and really get immersed.