Our inaugural trip to Boomtown started a little later this year arriving on Friday, in the midst of some of the worst weather we have seen in August. With both Boardmasters and Houghton festivals already cancelled, we did expect the worst but the organisers had other ideas to keep everything on track.
Being avid Drum and Bass fans, we were disappointed to hear that we wouldn't get to see the all-new Relic stage as it had temporarily shut over safety concerns. This, however, didn't stop Boomtown crew who worked tirelessly and provide a silver lining to that dark cloud that lay over Temple Valley. They pulled together to ensure the show, not just went on, but to the jaw-dropping standard which is now customary of any Boomtown main stage rescheduling a majority of the acts to the Lion’s Den by extending it's running time. This ultimately provided DnB lovers with a once in a lifetime experience of hearing some heavyweight Drum and Bass hitters at one of the biggest stages of Boomtown. Drum and Bass has evolved significantly since Boomtowns inception, and it was mesmerising to see so many die-hard Drum and Bass fans pack out the massive auditorium of the Lions Den in such challenging weather. I mean the whole place was packed right up to the hills as Break and MC GQ played an absolute stormer and perfectly complemented the wether with some deep, dark and dangerous breaks and beats. To be fair, with that amount of people that had congregated in the rain only added to the whole vibe. As there set drew to a close, MC GQ made a passionate statement, addressing everyone in the Den, thanking them for their support and patience thanking everyone involved for keeping the show going. You could hear the emotion in his voice as he stated the Lions Den DnB crowd was by far the best he had seen over his busy summer schedule over Europe and beyond.
Keen to see what other new offerings Boomtown had laid on, we decided to have a gander and commence our trek through the Main Drag and Town Centre. It's all very weird and wild here, literally, you can expect anything, actors in full character, wild and outlandish outfits, insane theatrical performances and secret alleyways rampant with activity. Nearly every nook and cranny has something to offer here, and they are so insanely different, just like the music. You'll find everything here from ear-bleeding techno to country-folk music with all the bells and trimmings. We ventured down to another new stage Boomtown had laid on for this year which gave House and Techno artists a bigger platform to perform on. The Nucleus Stage was frightening big and had a sound system to match matched with creativity levels that simply has to be applauded. They leave no stone unturned with its a full-on visual and a sonic battering for those in attendance. We ended up finishing the evening here as the likes of Ben OFO, Joy Orbison, Four Tet who all provided a unique blend of house beats to help the dry off the damp and windswept ravers who turned out to dance in the rain.
This year the organisers made a real statement to the community to reduce their environmental impact on this beautiful South Downs beauty spot. This became evident on Saturday as we noticed recycling bins littered around everywhere, plastic bottled water ditched in favour of canned variety and plastic cutlery replaced with a biodegradable alternative. Yes you did have a few pricks that didn't adhere and play ball, leaving rubbish around and worst still, leaving the site at the end with all their crap, tents included, but overall I believe (and hope) that the message hit home and that the organisers and community will make this festival a truly sustainable one in years to come. We stumbled across the Hidden Woods and decided to take in some of the Soca Vs Jungle sound clash was in full swing. Needless to say, Jungle won and we got to hear some of the classics which coined the word "jungle" back in the nineties. With decided to "up" our Jungle game and make a beeline for the Relic stage, as we wanted to see what all the fuss was about after they had abruptly closed the night before.
After clocking up a few thousand steps, we arrived at the Relic whilst it was in full swing with the London Jungle don DJ Ron alongside the powerful vocal presence of MC Navigator. The stage was even bigger than its Sector 5 predecessor and extremely busy with bodies bustling everywhere. Before we knew it, minutes had turned into hours and Chase and Status were ready to tear the Relic a new hole with some crazy one away edits of jungle classics which only they could pull out the bag. The place was erupting with excitement with masses of people arriving after their long pilgrimages across the site. Needless to say, the Chase and Status gang absolutely killed it with their ever-energetic mic controller MC Rage. Fabio and MC GQ took over after the Chase and Status mayhem and provided the perfect selection of beats to keep the tempo at full throttle with a musical edge. Fabio gave us a masterclass in Drum and Bass, seamlessly switching from Liquid rollers to hard-hitting bangers that gave of an emotive delicacy which has become a constant within his sets. It’s a set of immense beauty that encapsulates Boomtowns natural balance of hedonism and destruction. With it being the main night of the weekend, we followed masses who wanted to get a taste of the godfather of UK electronic music and make our way over the site once more to catch one of the most significant legends in the game, Carl Cox. He was eagerly anticipated ever since his name appeared on the Boomtown lineup and the big man certainly didn't disappoint. As the world’s top underground house & techno DJ stepped up, he delivered an unbelievably bumping soundtrack for his Boomtown appearance that rounded off a perfect evening.
After Saturdays Jungle and Techno fiesta, we decided to tone it down a bit for last day as my liver (and legs) probably needed a more relaxed start to the day. We refuelled on some very delicious cheese toasties and being in somewhat of a nostalgic mood, we headed off to Copper County and made a beeline for The Wrong Side of the tracks where Kool FM's beloved Uncle Dugs was shelling out some old skool garage sounds from the '90s. Not his usual musical offering, but it suited the Sunday afternoon vibes nicely as the weather became milder making dancing easier without mother nature bitch slapping you up every two minutes. Taking advantage of this we managed to take in some of the Boomtown more exotic offerings checking in for drinks at Sky Bar and mix with some of Boomtowns "Highrollers". After our fizzy frolics with the big rollers, we found ourselves at the Old Town where Hip Hop royalty Salt N Peppa had just begun their set. The Town square was heaving with a mixture of old and heads a new, and people of all ages got into the encapsulating performance from these legendary ladies. Going through countless hits such as "Let's Talk About Sex", Whatta Man" and their classic "Push It", everyone was in the great spirits, singing and dancing along to a set which fully engaged the crowd. The OG female hip hop crew from the '90s have still got it people.
Our 90's nostalgia continued as made the short journey over to the Lions Den for the icing on Boomtown's cake, Ms Lauren Hill. Meeting with Friends who we intended to bump into much earlier during our Boomtown escapades we made a nice little camp at the hill of Lion's den so we could take in all atmosphere. Arriving before her scheduled start, we mingled a bit and waited. We then waited some more, and as the crowd grew, they became a little more vocal to Ms Laurens Hill non-existent appearance. Spirits were lifted a bit when Lauren Hill's deejay took to the decks and gave the masses a little something to break the mood. After about 40 or so minutes into the set, the music eventually dies down, and a little figure appeared and walked up to the mic. "Hello, Boomtown 2018" bellowed out, as the lady herself finally made her entrance. Somewhat confused at the 2018 remark, we realised that in the mind of Lauren Hill it didn't matter and her appearance here today was more a wake-up call for and message for justice, equality and peace. We took the positives from Mrs Hills performance, even though many didn't and were hacked off at her arrogant and unapologetic cameo. To be honest, it wasn't the spectacular headline show I had hoped for, but again, I tried to take away the positives and focus on the message being portrayed.
As the dust settles and the Boomtown faithfull make their way home, you're left with a feeling that you have just been a part of something really special, a community who are driven to keep a sense of togetherness for those who make the trip to lose it in this fantasy realm made for adults. If you have never been before this festival is certainly one to add to your bucket list and even if the bass infused music does not excite you, the production will surely blow you away. We loved that the organisers are wanting to move to a "leave no trace" policy, however, I think it might be a few more years, and restrictions before this come into play, hopefully reducing the impact on its surroundings as Boomtown's story continues to unfold. Our highlights of the weekend included seeing Break and GQ at the Lion's Den, and Salt N Peppa showing everyone (including the main headliners) how it's done. Boomtown has lofty ambitions, big ideas and ecological worthiness that has to be praised and trust me when I say that no other UK festival is quite like it, which is why we can't wait to see how its illustrious tale will unravel next year.