With the odds stacked against them with extreme weather conditions, the organisers put on an unforgettable event.
Every now and then a festival goes above and beyond, stands out and the experience will live with you forever, this was one of them years and one of those festivals. We woke up on early Wednesday ready to start off our sustainably festival experience, the 200 plus mile journey was about to begin when the news was coming in about the cancellation of other events due to extreme weather. It had me worried, as I was travelling by bus, train and coach with no easy escape from the festival if the worse was to happen.
The coach was provided by National Express and was a great experience, enjoying the trip down to the festival site with other excited festival-goers. We would recommend the coach to anyone to take out the stress of driving and being able to enjoy the full festival with no worry of being over the limit or too tired to make the journey back. It also helps the green mission reducing your carbon emissions.
Arriving on Wednesday we headed to our home for the next five days in the Springs area. Being greeted by Springs characters with a glass of bubbly and massages. It’s always the best way to start any festival! Having stopped at Springs last year I knew what to expect but my newbie festival buddy was blown away at his first experience and view of the festival. Boomtown Fair really knows how to blow your mind with stage designs and the immersive gameplay with the characters.
We checked into our Bell Tents with Beds, being in our early 30s these little comforts for intense festivals are a lifesaver! The tent held up incredibly well considering the weather conditions. Now is probably a good time to talk about the expense of this experience, luckily for us we get tickets and Springs upgrade as part of our coverage for the event, but we forked out for the pre-pitched and bed option. All in we would have been a couple of grand for the two of us! Just let that sink in.
Yes, it’s expensive and you could have a decent holiday spending that sort of money. I may have gone mad but let me just try to give you an idea why I think it’s worth it. Boomtown Springs is an experience all on its own. There are characters amongst you that are part of the wider immersive storyline that interact with you most of the day and into the evening. We actually ended up sharing the full festival experience and befriending a lot of the crew in Springs including them playing characters. The food options were a different level to the rest of the festival, it was more a fine dining experience and extremely tasty, in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. The bar was open more or less 24/7, good god those staff put some hours in, relentless and always smiling. The shower and toilet facilities were as close as you could get to home comforts in the middle of a field in Hampshire. There was music and DJ’s on in the large Springs tent where you could relax on beanbags or dance until your heart’s content. There was also security at the entrance to the self-contained area, only allowing festival-goers in the area with a dedicated wristband. Then there is the swimming pool!
After we got settled in and sank a few drinks at the brilliant Springs Bar we headed out to get our bearings. Despite having attended three previous Fairs there was a hell of a lot of changes this year. We found our way to an old favourite Whistlers Green the chilled out area that overlooks the festivals. Stumbling in the Floating Lotus we became mesmerised by River Roots a vibrant mix of roots and alternative acoustic, playful and uplighting. A great way to start our musical journey at Boomtown 2019.
Photos by Dan Evans – Gig Addict Contributor
Friday morning we caught the opening ceremony at the Lion’s Den stage, the message was there, with Boomtown’s Green Mission and to encourage the festival-goers to be more sustainable, however, the performance and speakers were substandard. It was very unpolished. Maybe I just expected too much and with the challenging weather conditions, they can be forgiven. We caught Gentleman’s Dub Club after the lacklustre opening ceremony with their winning balance of high energy and deep chill set.
The Keith Flint tribute performed by Freear at the new Nucleus stage was a mix of emotional, thought-provoking and epic. The Prodigy was the soundtrack to our lives and was the first-ever album I bought, so have played a huge part of my life. Having seen them multiple times I was hoping one day I would get to see them smash a Boomtown stage, the festival would have suited them down to the ground.
Photos by Dan Evans – Gig Addict Contributor
Having more time to chill at the Springs bar we befriended the crew who recommended we go to see Johnny Flynn with them and boy I’m glad we did. I get captivated by the performance, the laid back approach to a live gig always grabs me more rather than an over-polished, perfect set. The blues-infused folk tracks and powerful voice is well received by the loud and enthusiastic crowd that seems to grow with every track.
The Streets headlining the Lions Den is one of the highlights of the festival. Mike Skinner singlehandedly created a genre that defined an era with his poetic garage-inflected hip hop, he swaggers out onto the Lions Den with a set full of old favourites, new bangers and banter with the crowd. It was gonna happen sooner or later, with Skinner encouraging festival-goers to climb into the waterfalls of Lion Den during Lauren Hill’s set the next day, the man himself decides to take a dip.
Prophets Of Rage the supergroup formed by members of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill seemed to fit in with Boomtown line up like a glove with their fierce political messages still resounding as much now as they did when the collective bands were in their height. RATM holds a special place in my heart from seeing them headline my very first festival so many years ago, to being the soundtrack of my teenage years. The set is a good mix between all the bands back catalogue as well as original Prophets Of Rage material but it is the RATM material that still lifts the roof off the town centre stage. We got amongst it in the pits centre and front. It was a delight to see Lak, one of the festival owners down there with us enjoying it as much as everyone else. When was the last time you have seen an Eavis or Melvin Benn knocking people about in a pit at their festival :D ‘Killing In The Name’ provokes the ultimate of scenes and sums up how I view this festivals attitude in the most positive way “F*ck you, I won’t do what you tell me“
Now. we have seen a lot more music at Boomtown than I’ve reviewed but I could go on forever but this review would end up a full days read! We often became immersed in the story with the characters and using the app. The interactive app mapped out the developing storyline taking us on a journey. At times we forgot we were at a music festival, which I reminded my festival buddy a good few times, suggesting we go and catch some acts.
About the Storyline by Dan Evans (Gig Addict Contributor) :
Boomtown extends outside the norms of everyday life and develops an immersive world, that you never want to leave. Interacting through social media before you arrive, you already get a sense of the characters that will be playing out a developing storyline. As a first-timer, it doesn’t take too much role play to leave the mundane of the daily grind and go down the rabbit hole into the secrets and extended extras of the city. From doing card tricks in exchange for information to getting a degree in AMI studies and finding secret rooms at the back of the post office – you can become part of an alternative reality!
What can we say about the stage and set designs, they are out of this world. When every other festival rolls out the generic outdoor stage they rent for the weekend, Boomtown Fair design theirs from scratch. Not only do they look amazing they play apart in the immersive storyline bringing it to life. It’s not just the stages it’s the street sets that transport you to another time from Old Town to Cooper Country. The main stages are mind-blowing but you can also step into another world in the small street venues. It’s one of the few festivals that takes advantage of their unique site; each district, main stage and wooded venues are self-contained and quite special. It was easy to lose yourself (in a good way) in the wooded venues well into the night.
One thing I was disappointed with this year was the lack of beer options, Bad Apple was my go-to for something different to drink over the long festival weekend as well as a bar close to the Lions Den in previous years. If there is one wish I had it would be the organisers returning the Bad Apple to its former glory!
The food options were spectacular as usual. We sampled everything from poached eggs with avocado on sourdough, loaded fries, falafels, massive stacked burgers, halloumi fries, Thai food and much more. We could of quite easily have gone full veggie/vegan if it wasn’t for the tasty burgers and Thai. I’m hoping the organisers don’t go full vegan in future years, I get the message but choice is the last human freedom! Despite the lack of beer options from previous years that have included Leffe and a variety of Hobgoblin, we found a friend in spiced rum and ginger beer most of the weekend!
With the Green Mission and sustainable message of the event it made us think about how we could leave zero trace at the event and utilise responsible products. We sourced sustainable products such as backpacks from Kovered, who offer bags and other accessories. Re-use, recycle and re-purpose is central to their business. They pride themselves on fully recyclable packaging solutions, only sourcing sustainably-certified timber, and they plant one tree for every 25 products sold. We used refillable water bottles and coffee mugs throughout the event, as well as bringing our own cutlery to reduce waste. As mentioned already we also travelled by public transport and coach reducing our carbon footprint on the event and arrange pre-pitched tents with beds. The bins at the event could have done with being better labelled, a lot of festival-goers including ourselves found it difficult where to put certain waste. The good news is that it looks like most of the citizens got the green message with a reduction in abandoned tents and waste.
Being from South Yorkshire and catching the coach from Sheffield it would be wrong not to sum this event up with lyrics from one of my favourite songs from Sheffield’s own Pulp – “ I can never come home again, ’cause I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere, somewhere in a field in Hampshire….alright” – Sorted for E’s and Whizz
Boomtown Fair has grown and matured into the maddest festival that’s ever existed. With the capacity increase for next year, I hope the organisers continue to throw the best party and gathering of the summer. Every other festival, organisers and promoters need to take notes that’s how you put on an event! Overcoming extreme weather conditions, not relying upon heavyweight headliners and immersing festival-goers into a dystopian future storyline.