REVIEW - Boomtown: The Machine Cannot be Stopped
Words By Eldraw
Photos By Eldraw & Khayam
This years chapter of Boomtown was a milestone. A decade of celebrating a world of unity, creativity, freedom and debauchery in the depths of the Matterley Bowl in Hampshire. One of the last decent British festivals that hasn't sold it's soul. An independent city collectively celebrating underground music in a totally immersive world. A place where 65,000 liberated minds and bass junkies can free themselves from the restraints and shackles of society and the shattered manufactured dreams of corporations. A place to be who you want to be. A place to call home.
We were just outside Winchester on a Thursday when the sudden realisation of how under prepared we might be for such a spectacle took hold - forcing us to stop off at the nearest supermarket in the need to gather supplies. Beer, cider, rizla, bin bags, baby wipes, snacks and a couple of small torches were our weapons of choice. We weren't armed to the teeth, but we hopefully had enough to see us through the first days session.
Arriving on the site was easy. Every car park and entrance was colour coded with signs on the approach to the site, corresponding with your campsite choice. That immediately put us at ease - no one likes a mess
after several hours of panic when you finally arrive at your destination.
Our campsite of choice was the newly established Boomtown Springs - a utopia in suburbia. An immersive theatrical camping experience right in the heart of the city, curated by the award winning Bearded Kitten. On arrival we were greeted with a glass of fizz, much needed after downing most of the beer and cider supply in the queue to gain entry to the city - causing an ungodly acid reflux which was to remain with me for the next four days, but at least we were finally citizens of this fair city.
With our bodged campsite set, we grabbed our cameras and ventured out into the city - with what little Sun could force it's way through the overcast skyline illuminating our way. With over twenty five main stages and more than eighty street venues spread across 14 districts, we have some sort of plan as to what artists were playing when and where. Luckily we were given a designated programme - known for ever more as The Bible.
Chasing the Sun and the thunderous rolling bass of a near by sound system, we arrived at Tangled Roots – a tucked away beach in a wooded alcove, celebrating Soundsystem culture. With one of the best rigs and sound at the festival, this hidden gem was a Mecca for bass mediation, with the likes of Disorda, Dubkasm and Egoless playing their signature low end frequencies.
Pushing on after several stops for water, beer and munch, we were ushered into the Boomtown Bobbies cop shop, a small venue in the Town Centre where 'everything is illegal' is their mantra. A place we would later visit frequently over our four days between crossing the different districts. Over at Poco Loco a whole host of Hip-Hop artists – REMI, Children of Zeus and Babylon Dead – played out to a packed tent of heads.
By the time we rolled through into Friday my voice had already been lost and sold in one of the many back alley venues throughout the city - Dubtendo and Grandma's Living Room being two of them – this was only day one!
After much deliberation, breakfast and several coffees, we were ready for what day two had to throw at us. Artists that were circled to watch in The Bible the night before had to be ticked off for the day, like the mighty Spragga Benz and Friends at the Lion's Den. One of Jamaica's top Dancehall artists joined by some UK Heavyweights. Over at Poco Loco Hip-Hop reigned supreme once again with Coops and Lowkey setting the stage on fire with their signature style and flow.
Drawing our Friday bass fuelled session to a close and captivating crowds with its stunning architecture and pyrotechnics was Sector 6 ,with an immense array of Jungle, DnB, Grime and bass artists. The almighty LTJ Bukem and Clipz dropped tracks that hyped citizens in to a frenzy leaving Ed Rush and Optical to go back-to-back into the last fractured remains of daylight.
Two mornings in and what was left of my voice, fragile body and trainers had to be cobbled together with gaffer tape. Today was going to be a day of pacing ourselves, with Gorillaz headlining the night - a group we have wanted to witness live for a very long time. No pacing occurred. Instead we sank beers in many of the city's secret hide outs and bars and explored the immersive theatrical storyline - before finding ourselves once again back at Tangled Roots for the ridiclous riddims and sub bass. Realising the time and the distance between us and the Lions Den stage, we set off to bare witness to what would be the festivals record breaking biggest crowd to date.
After a fairly early night of chatting with new friends and citizens Sunday had arrived, the last full day of our adventure. Bible in hand – we set off to discover what was possibly left for the city to offer us. We spent most of our time in DSTRKT 5 and in the forest parties for our final dose of heavy bass, before retreating back to our spiritual home of Hip-Hop – Poco Loco.
Setting the standard that evening at Poco Loco was the Abstract Orchestra playing J Dilla tracks for their entire set, with help from Micall Parknsun and Joker Starr. Following on was The Mouse Outfit - Wordplay magazine's artist of the year 2016 - The Herbaliser, Lady Leshurr and Ghetts, all putting on outstanding performances for a hyped crowd.
The finale simultaneously took place at Sector 6 and Bang Hai Towers. We chose the latter for our closing ceremony – the city's communication hub, a massive towering inferno of bass. This marked an extraordinary end of the cerebrations with Special Request, Zinc and Eats Everything locked into a three way back-to-back set before an interruption of visuals directed everyone's attention to the giant screens across this monolithic structure.
These visuals brought the current chapter storyline and real life impact of the festival to a cliff-hanger - an important message about the impact the festival has on our environment, raising issues about sustainability, wastefulness and the uncertain future of the celebrations.
This British goliath of a festival has been growing rapidly for ten years and is unlike any other festival in its ability to push boundaries and fuse together a diverse line-up of underground and global artists. If there is one thing to do before you die its to escape into this sprawling city where the streets are packed with hundreds of characters, immersive theatrics and endless adventure - all the while remaining an independent festival that has managed to maintain a sense of freedom, community and respect on the circuit.
If you don’t believe they hype or need an early fix of that Boomtown drug then check out the official Boomtown 2018 after-film here: