As many of you will know, if you have looked at my actual Bucket List, I have quite a thing for festivals. Not all festivals are the same. I’d never heard of Boom Town before I entered a competition to win tickets to it so that I could see a band I love called New Groove Formation back in June this summer. It is now a firm favourite despite not ticking all the boxes of what I previously would have looked for in a festival. It was grimy, a little bit shabby around the edges, and more dirty than other festivals I had been to, yet I LOVED it-here’s why:
1) New Groove Formation – They have to go right at the top here for us, because without them, I might never have heard about this mad party, and also because they had the entire tent dancing and jumping on that first night! They are absolutely amazing live, as their energy and chemistry as a band is massive!
2) Special Effects – This was just the most incredible festival I have ever been to for special effects. Aside from Arcadia, which I will mention below, I saw:
- mushroom bombs randomly going off on the hill top in the distance – these went off randomly, and looked like atomic bombs! The BOOM was so loud that the ground shook and the crowd screamed
- a giant swirling cyclone of fire, created by pointing several film fans towards each other and then injecting it with pyrotechnic fuel and lighting it
- fire dancers
- an animatronic dragon in the crowd breathing fire
- The lighting effects in the Baseline Circus that projected mad visuals onto square hanging cubes with lasers
- and of course Arcadia – This was the most insane thing I have ever experienced. It is a stage that was actually a massive rig that looked like a three legged metal spider. It had aerial artists that were swung around on it by animatronic ‘cranes’ and pyrotechnic effects like fire balls shooting out of it. I really felt like I had been transported to another world when I looked at it, as though I had been taken somewhere into a futuristic hedonistic party by a time machine. This is not exclusive to Boom Town, I understand that Arcadia does tour the country, but at this venue-WOW!
3) It’s not commercial – AT ALL. This is the only festival I have been to before that had absolutely no issue with people taking their own alcoholic drinks into the music arenas. I have never been to a festival where there was such a sense of ‘community’ previously. The organisers are apparently very much about the festival experience being amazing, rather than it being about turning a profit, and to be quite honest I am not convinced that they do ‘make’ any profit from it… I have my suspicions they are just people who love an amazing party and do this for the love and pride of the end result
4) It’s a self contained town – The Festival arena is set up to look like a dystopian town with a Bank that had a bank vault you could go into filled with mattresses to chill out on, a theatre, a leisure centre, bars that were made to look like part of town buildings, a town hall with bizarre, trippy, moving projected special effects, weird town props like traffic lights, stalls, and tiny little intimate venues where smaller bands played ‘indoors’. You really need to see it to understand the minute attention to detail that goes into the set design of this place! Not only that, but I kept getting lost and discovering new ‘streets’, new tents, or rooms to listen to music in. There was even a mobile: jail house, wedding chapel ‘marrying’ people and a Funeral Parlour where people could arrange to have their Funerals at the festival – I kid you not! …Leila and I attended a ‘wedding’ and after the happy couple were told to kiss-all spectators were herded into the chapel to dance until the place bounced on it’s axels! The funeral parlour were offering to bury people in a coffin for a short time, before ‘exhuming’ them again. Had it not been so ridiculously hot-I may even have booked it out of sheer morbid curiosity!
5) The Performers – I don’t just mean the musicians, but also the Fire Dancers, the Acrobats, the wrestlers, the stilt walkers and the crew that make Boom Town feel so completely different to anything I had ever experienced before.
6) The Hidden Woods – Who the heck would dream of putting a Caribbean beach bar, complete with deliciously cool-under-the-feet sand, and a Reggae stage in woods bedecked with giant butterflies? I don’t know, but it was INSPIRED… This was one of my favourite places to come when it was too hot to bear everywhere else. The place felt enchanted, and transported me back to visions of The Magic Faraway Tree stories I read as a child.
7) Boom Town Residents & Fancy Dress – The sheer effort that Boom Town Residents (festival goers) had gone to with their fancy dress costumes was mind boggling, and at a level I have never witnessed before; I wouldn’t begin to know how or where to obtain the costumes that a lot of these folk had! We knew in advance that the Fancy Dress theme was ‘Outer Space’ and had trawled fancy dress shops to find the best costumes we could-I think we did pretty well with our synchronised alien costumes, but some of these party people could have convinced me that they were from another planet!
8) Boom Town Residents could set up camp almost anywhere – At other festivals I have been to, you have to walk ‘miles’ to get to the action. Not at Boom Town. You could set up camp pretty much right next to the perimeter of the town, or next to Arcadia if you so-wished! It was bizarre to me to see massive music tents and stages with tents pitched up a few feet away in some cases!
9) The Police Rave Unit – This was hilarious… A Police van with all of the usual markings, complete with fake police officers who were booming out rave music from speakers.
10) Security – This felt like a very positive place, and the security were not heavy-handed bouncer types with attitudes to match their neck sizes. The staff treated residents like grown ups who didn’t need to be treated like cattle. I didn’t observe any trouble at all, and there seemed to be a sense of mutual trust and respect for others. The only thing that did spoil the trust factor was the tent looting that was going on. One of the girls we befriended had everything but the clothes she had on her back stolen. Not cool.
I hope you enjoyed this… I thought it might be easier to ‘show’ you than to try and explain…
Thoughts on Boom Town:
This is definitely not a festival I would take my children to… It does have a dedicated family area away from the madness of the main arena area, but in my opinion-this is just not one I would want my children going to. That said, there are not many festivals I would take my children to-so perhaps I am not the best one to judge.
That said, I would certainly like to go back to Boom Town again, though not in 2013 unfortunately, as I have already blown my festival budget on Glastonbury. I have already got tickets to go to the Boom Town Equinox party in March though! Woohoo!
Here are a few other random pictures from the festival… Please leave me a comment if you enjoyed this post:
If you need any more convincing about how great this place is, check out this interview by Boomtown co-director Lak Mitchell:
So Lak, how is this year different to previous Boomtown extravaganzas?
“We have learned from three years of messing it up! From mistakes like how many people are permitted to enter the venues, spacing inside the venues, over-crowding, queues on the main gates, basic infrasructure… we’re now concentrating on putting on the best show possible.”
How is Boomtown different to other festivals?
“It’s a party put on by party people, there is ‘no man at the top’, it’s non profit in a way.”
How big is Boomtown Festival?
“Well it’s 26,000 people, but the live-in vehicle spaces are limited and there is a massive crew which need a lot of live-in vehicle space. It takes five weeks to build up the festival.”
How many stages are there?
“There are 35 stages with every type of music available, except really there’s no popular or commercial music, it’s all about underground music, jump up and ska bands and hundreds of unsigned acts. In terms of headlining acts, we are keeping this a secret. The Festival always sell out anyway so it’s a nice surprise. Big headliners include Caravan Palace, Asian Dub Foundation, the Skatalies, Reel Big Fish… But there’s no emo or indie music! There’s also a real community feel, there are many workshops – woodwork, metal – and Boomtown welcome familes. We’re also supporters of eco friendly living and recycling.”
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