BoomTown, festival review: 'A reputation for being gnarly, but surprisingly polished'

4.00

The festival organisers claim their priority is giving people a good time which could well be the reason for their booming success

Cowboys have a smoking musket shootout as saloon floozies purr from atop a honky tonk piano.  A mermaid casts a curse from the crows nest of a pirate ship. A guy writhes in a straightjacket in a padded cell. You can even attend a funeral complete with mourners shedding tears as the coffin is lowered into ground - with you in it.

This is BoomTown Fair, a fictional town with its own mayoral elections, passports and convoluted political history. Now in its sixth year, it is the UK's fasting growing festival. Based on the successful blueprint where immersive entertainment and interactivity take precedent over headline acts, this year there are a sell-out 38,000 people exploring the pop-up city.

Held at Matterley Estate in Winchester, the festival's design is elaborate and vast; a cobweb of alleys and doorways and facades. From the Wild West to Mayfair Avenue, each area is themed to give the feeling of wandering around the various sets of a film studios. Performers in impeccable costumes play out a narrative that spills out across the weekend, a rather messy and silly next chapter in the history of Boomtown.

The line-up varied from the obscure to the ridiculous, including pioneering acts across subversive genres with a heavy splattering of reggae. Ska fans were treated to the Wailers and Skatalites, and big names including Jimmy Cliff and Shaggy.

Shaggy suffered from major sound issues, which coupled with a late and hesitant start left the crowd a little miffed. Repeatedly thrusting the microphone into his crotch he teased with one-liners from his best known tracks, leaving the final delivery an anti-climax. Legendary Jimmy Cliff's Sunday set was a highlight - the whole set beamed with loveliness. For those still seeking higher BPM, Mercury prize winning Ms Dynamite was an urban alternative. She pounded the stage with a fierce energy to a hectic crowd.

Revellers dance in front of the pirate ship stage Revellers dance in front of the pirate ship stage

Downtown housed a giant cyber boombox relentlessly pumping out dance stompers, as well a grimy garage which did what it said on the tin with brilliant UK old skool all weekend. Arcadia's iconic spider nailed the pyrotechnics once again, with beats that cascaded from daytime dub to unforgiving drum and bass menacingly early. Glitch megastar Tipper thrashed out raw sonic darkness and twisting bass, starting Saturday night with a bang.

Unexpected new music discovery included the lyrical dexterity of Joe Driscoll with "Hendrix of the kora" Sekou Kouyate. With no common language when they met, the bicontinental musical partnership is world music defined. Bringing the kora into the 21st century, West African Sekou delivered dizzyingly driving melodies alongside US born Joe's rhymes.

For a festival that has a reputation for being gnarly, the production was surprisingly polished and the sustainable ethos ever present. All profits from the festival are funded back in to its production or donated to charity. The festival organisers claim their priority is giving people a good time. Perhaps this is the reason for their booming success.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement