“Boardmasters may be feeling better than you tomorrow morning. But, would you rather have a head like cheese, full of memories, or no memories at all?” questioned Mike Skinner wisely in the Streets’ headline show at this year’s Boomtown. It’s a statement that sums up the shenanigans of Britain’s festival cancellation epidemic, which unfortunately occurred over last weekend: Mother Nature devastated Boardmasters and Houghton with gale force winds – forcing the events to shut up shop, and send punters home.
Boomtown wasn’t without its share of issues though, despite opting against the trend of dissolution. Shy FX was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Opening the new DnB-centric stage ‘relic’, the London junglist’s presence instigated an Armageddon-esque stampede of wobbly teenagers, who were all being fenced off in the fear the stage’s décor could fly off the structure and injure a reveller. To the misfortune of one fan, this happened; the wind serenaded a plank of wood into the head of a bewildered girl, who apparently ended up in hospital that night.
Lauryn Hill rocked on to the Lion’s Den an hour and ten minutes late, which could be a record even for her. In all fairness to the 90s idol, she is 6 children deep into parenthood, and the gifted emcee was known for her eccentric, drug-infused lifestyle, which is probably why people stuck around to see her, finding empathy after a weekend of brain boggling antics themselves.
Despite the few unfortunate events, which happens at any festival with the nuttiness Boom boasts, the wiggy weekender lived up to the standard set last year. The event embraced the spirit of underground culture that so naturally percolates through all the stages, districts and street venues – after 11 years it would be so easy to commercialise such a popular festival, but the organisers continually opt for the DIY vibe it celebrates.
The Light House and Poco Loco stages, two hidden gems amidst the carnage of Area 404 and Relic, hosted the best subterranean mic controllers and DJs Britain has to offer: Lava La Rue stunned Whistler’s Green with her energy, whilst the Barrio Loco homed pirate radio legends Plastician and D Double for a day of relentless genre-fusing sets – definitely the area we ended up residing to most nights.
Slowthai and his Merrymen finished off the stage’s proceedings on the Sunday, generating a riotous atmosphere instantly, and inducing a cult-like vitality on the crowd that didn’t stop until the very end. The mercury nominated artist had friends flying into moshes, and fans performing wall of deaths without hesitation. It doesn’t get more punk than that.
Boom opted to broaden It’s horizons of electronic music this year; the introduction of Area 404 particularly intrigued us prior to entering the city gates, and it didn’t disappoint. The new district was the place to be on Friday night: Fixate regurgitated his unique blend of grime, dub and breakbeat on a mud-caked crowd of skankers at the Grid, whilst Mall Grab unleashed his hefty, industrial techno at the visually stunning, architectural Nucleus. The night’s showstopper though was Four Tet, who synthesised a breath-taking set of mellow bangers, a particularly astonishing mix of ‘Lush’ and ‘Only Human’ sent cheers cascading through the crowd, whilst a mesmerising rendition of ‘Back To Basics’ by Headie One sent shivers down our spines.
Of course, Drum and Bass still stole the airwaves over the weekend, with rollers being the choice sub-genre of most DJs: although big players like Benny L, Black Sun Empire and Fabio proved their worth, it was the smaller areas and street venues that really relished the opportunity to lure DnB heads into their world. Being sucked into ‘the lab’, where actors greeted you with stethoscopes and the unfortunate news: “your blood is fake, It’s from Mars”, was not what we had in mind on Thursday night, but with the help of 160-180 BPM, we were eventually cured and sent off back into the city.
Danny Rankin’s set at Tangled Roots prevailed to be one of 2019’s best, taking revellers through a journey of ragga, reggae, jungle and even some grime classics too. We missed him at the 24-hour garage girls stage, but Mind Of A Dragon and Majestic provided some much needed vibes on Sunday morning, after a night where the Streets crowned themselves champions of Lion’s Den.
The Brummy band were a perfect fit for the main stage, exciting geezers with waterfall theatrics and drenching the crowd religiously with champagne on every reload, all whilst Skinner engaged the audience with his poetic, laddish bravado. Blasting through a setlist of garage classics and indie anthems, buoyant fans bellowed the lyrics to tracks like ‘Too Much Brandy’ and ‘Dry Your Eyes’, whilst routinely cracking open Kronenburgs and egging on the 40 year old maestro to down Guinnesses.
It’s Tuesday, and my brain still feels like a wotsit; a weekend as immersive as Boomtown always has repercussions. The festival is a feast of the finest in theatre, music and arts – a celebratory banquet of DJs and MCs. Next year is already on our minds, as 67,000 people will inevitably ascend onto the undulating forests of Winchester. Get ready for Chapter 12.