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
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor