WARNING: The following account is a true story of a group of late 20s – early 30s adult humans going to a festival. It may contain stories of early nights, tea, and driving to a town mid-festival for creature comforts.
It’s Friday night at Boomtown 2018 and we are lost. Having agreed not to split up our merry little group we promptly did just that and now three of us are in an unfamiliar camping area.
Actually, looking around, a surprisingly quiet and well kept camping area. And are those FUCKING ACTUAL BATHROOMS WITH CERAMIC TOILETS?!
Yep, we had walked past security into a (presumably) VIP camping area and after trudging past portapottys that were each a claustrophobic, plastic blue warzone, we weren’t about to leave any time soon.
Obviously we go to check out the venue. Obviously it looks like a castle from the outside and a strip club on the inside.
- A stretch limo
- A DJ
- Nothing and nobody else
Ladies, gentlemen, non binary folks, I present to you; Boomtown Fair.
Let’s backtrack to that morning…
Holy hell it’s early. Because we are a group of human adults – as mentioned earlier – we have day jobs to phone in and weddings to attend in the lead up to this festival, so ⅔ of our group are missing the first night of proceedings. We’re also travelling from Ireland and Portugal, so give us a break.
After a whole lot of travel (Car – Bus – Airplane – Shuttle Bus – Rental Car) we pull into the Boomtown Car Park only to be cruelly discriminated against as foreigners, having to fork out and additional £40 for parking, despite already having paid it online.
Shrugging off another injustice handed down by our one time Colonial Oppressors, we park up, resist the urge to pet the fantastic and hard working narcotics dogs and we are in!
I’ve been to Boomtown once before and it was sunny the entire time, at least according to my slightly rose tinted memories. This year Thursday and Friday saw a lot of rain and oh boy does it change the terrain.
Our comrades on the ground had secured a camping area and after hastily putting up our tents, we squelched our way across the muddy hills to see our first band; Elvana.
They are, naturally, a Nirvana tribute band fronted by a budget (by his own admission) Elvis impersonator. If this doesn’t make perfect sense to you then Boomtown may not be your cup of tea. They’ve added two backing vocalists/cheerleaders since I last saw them and honestly the only way they could be better at what they do would be to change their name to Nirvis. Who doesn’t want to drink and sing Nirvana and Elvis songs in a field with their friends?
As predicted by a government-funded weather and news site – and not by the inferior… let’s call them “SmaccuWeather” – the sun emerged as we slid our way across the slick surface to the other side of the festival, where YouTube darlings Too Many Zooz were playing. This walk brought home the sheer size of Boomtown. The absolute nerve of the creators of this ludicrous event! There are dozens of stages and each one of them is a work of art. I’ve heard it compared to Las Vegas for Hippies but even that misses the point.
Where was I? Oh yes, behind some tall dudes in extravagant hats during Too Many Zooz. Unfortunately while the music was cool and the atmosphere was amazing, these guys shot to fame because of the shuffling dance movements they bring. I think I may have seen an elbow, or maybe a shoulder but that was about it.
By now the Boomtown giddiness (tipsiness) was picking up in our group and we took an intentional wrong turn down an alley and found ourselves in some kind of weird hipster steampunk area. Again, the set decor was amazing. Guys, seriously, have you seen this place? It’s an actual town. Look it up, I’ll wait.
It’s cool right? I’m not sure who we saw and if she was playing covers but my scrawled notes say ‘violin’ and ‘fuck the hi-vis jackets’, which I believe was a cover song.
As well as stumbling across random art installations, the point of Boomtown for me is happening upon random bands that blow you away. Bands that usually have a brass section. Or matching outfits. Or possibly enough members to fill a Bosnian football team. Or, in the case of Dubioza Kolektiv, all three!
Yep, like cartoon characters comically levitating and floating towards a delicious smell, we found ourselves drawn towards the entrancing, yellow-clad, Bosnian band. Easily the highlight of the day, they are the perfect Boomtown band to randomly see. In a festival that literally keeps a Reggae stage and Psychedlic Forest dance area at opposite sides of the grounds, they seamlessly mix reggae, dubstep and rock. Sounds terrible on paper, right? Well, for whatever reason, it works.
10 PM (?)
After more drinks and our VIP bathroom detour it’s time for one of the bigger names in punk this year.
The Dead Kennedys
I am in hell. I am being buried alive in a tomb made of black-clad, aging punks. Dreadlocks creep like tentacles around my body. I cannot breathe. Rain mingles with sweat and drips from the ceiling. The singer is yelling about how we are all hippies who like the wrong type of football. I have to leave. Now.
That folks, is what happens when you get anxiety mid show. Turns out, I don’t like the Dead Kennedys very much anyway. Or at least, this version, which to be fair is the best damn Dead Kennedys cover band you are likely to see. People seem to dig them.
After wandering over to the Skankin’ stage I drag myself back up the hill, past the absolute Christmas tree on acid that is the Sector 6 stage and roll into my sleeping bag, curling myself into a ‘S’ shape to avoid the stones that pepper the ground and sleep, slowly sliding into the corner of my tent throughout the night. Camped on a slight incline, didn’t we?
Miles walked: 14.03
An advantage of being relatively sensible adults is that, after a pretty decent sleep, we are also able to drive to nearby Winchester (SO QUAINT) where, after a civilised breakfast with tea, we purchase essentials such as:
- A frisbee
- Nintendo socks
- A BBQ and an assortment of food. None of which we use/eat
- Glow sticks
- Ponchos (both Adult and Small Adult size)
Fed, watered and still a little hazy, we head into Hangar 161 for the first time. And if any band are going to blow the cobwebs away it’s Pizzatramp. Despite their self-confessed party-related vocal issues, they are a spiky ball of buzzsaw energy; ripping through songs with a fervour that belies their self deprecating stage talk.
Suitably rattled awake, we wander to the Skankin’ stage, where Skaciety are battling some initial technical and sound issues. But two songs in I can tell they are a band that I will be into. Despite their on the nose name, Skaciety are actually closer to an Epitaph band with bonus brass, than a tacky third wave ska band. The crowd gets bigger and bigger with each passing bassline, the drummer has us in the palm of his calloused hands and while Dead Kennedys felt like a war, this feels like a party. Cans are raised, beers are spilled, trips are had and the tent becomes a sea of weirdos of different cliques, all uniting to pick it up (hup hup hup).
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Alan’s Boomtown review, coming tomorrow.