It's 6am on Thursday the 10th of September and I am up and ready to hit the road, even though the plan is to leave at 11, I couldn't sleep any longer. Big ol' Aldi shop was done. Nachos, hummus, chocolate chip cookies, 20 cans. Let's do this. We somehow managed to fit everything into the car even though my sleeping bag was actually laughably large and took up a whole seat itself. Everything was almost going too well. The roads were reasonably clear, I managed to do a real decent job of my make-up in the car which just never happens (thank you Lucy and your smooth maneuvering), I needed the toilet and what happens? A service station right there, with a WHSmiths which sold disposable cameras which is just what we were looking for. They also sold adorably funky beanie babies that would make great mascots for festivals... Which brings me to introduce you to our Boomtown mascot, Dr. Psych, doctor of all things psychedelic.
Ah, yes. Everything was going so well. (laughs) We were so naïve. By the time we got there it must've been about 1 o'clock. We got, what I thought was everything, out of the car and as I was already struggling with my bags, I realised that I had forgotten my suitcase. You know, the thing that's supposed to have everything you need in it? I thought it'd be fun to have more than that though. I thought it would be a right laugh to have a sleeping bag the size and weight of an overweight child, a bag of food, 20 cans of cider and 12 bottles of water, a 4 man tent and the suitcase.
See, I was going for the alluring tortured soul look; slouched, limp walk, tears flowing, sweat pouring... you know the one. So, we finally drag our stuff down a slight hill to hit a heard of people just... standing. So, we sit down and talk about how we'll probably get in by 2 or 3, have the tent pitched by 4, giving us time to explore the festival before we go rave it up. (hysterical laughter with tears) Every 15 minutes or so, the crowd would serge forward a whole HALF STEP!! It was insane. By the time we got close enough to see what was stopping us from going further and getting our wristbands, we realised that there wasn't a barrier, there wasn't a gate... nope. Just 5 men standing with their arms crossed in a line. I couldn’t get my head around how the crowd hadn't tried just stampeding forward, but then again, the brits do LOVE a queue. Looking back, I take my hat off to those guys. They had to stand and take abuse being hurled at them for as long as we were in the queue and longer, which at this point was over 6 hours.
(me after being chirped up after one strongbow not knowing what lay ahead)
We were at the stage where rumors started brewing. "Well, my mate just text saying that a guy got randomly strip searched and anally probed on his way in and he wasn't even carrying anything!". As people began shuffling about and rearranging their bags, one of the guys at the front let a load more people through. It reminded me of that scene from Finding Nemo where Nemo and Dory have been trapped in a net with hundreds of other fish and they all come together to break the net, by swimming downwards, chanting the phrase "Just keep swimming".
We had made it! (hysterical laughter with tears and wheezing) Oh no, my friend. The only good thing that greeted us at the top of that next hill was the absence of anal probing. Now we only had another 2 and a half hours ahead of us, on a route that would usually take about a minute to walk. By this time, we were in a crowd of people that were either very pissed off or VERY PISSED. One guy was so out of it that by the time we actually got to the ticket exchange, he had dropped all of his belongings on the way. However, the great community of Boomtown pulled through and amazingly, a man (who had been anally probed) had been collecting this guy's belongings and putting them on his trolley the whole time. Wholesome moment. Hope: slightly restored.
Now we actually have made it. All under 10 hours! Amazing. We got our wristbands, we passed the barriers and we collapsed. We planned on maybe camping in Lion's Den or Whistlers Green... Or how about a few feet away from the entrance? Yeah. We genuinely couldn't make it any further. Tent = pitched, cold one = cracked open, rave = on. We headed down to the Psychedelic Forrest and believe me when I say this, all of the misery of waiting in that queue vanished. Walking into the forest and seeing what we saw just blew us all away. Straight away we knew it was all worth it. It was massively evident that a lot of effort had gone into this place. No matter where your eyes wondered, there was always something to look at. The visuals were just unlike anything else. Not only did it look incredible, it felt it too. There was just such an intense and insane energy in the air. Everyone had been through the same, painfully long day and now we were all here to enjoy ourselves and sink into the mud.
BoomTown is made up of different districts, so you have Town Center, Trench Town, Old Town, Wild West, Mayfair, Whistlers Green, Kidz Town, Forrest Parties, Sector-6, DSTRKT 5, Barrio Loco and Chinatown. The next day we headed over to the Lion's Den to watch Toots and the Maytals. This stage was in a valley which allowed for you to have a great view no matter where you were. It was true bliss being able to sit on the hills in the sun with many others awaiting these iconic artists. The Lion's Den host was brilliant and reminded me of how lucky we were to be there with such beautiful weather. He even brought out Beans On Toast who gave a quick talk on drugs and explained to the crowd how there were places over camp where you could go to test the quality of the drugs you had to make sure they were 'safe' to use and to seek help if needed.
I thought this idea was brilliant and it should be used in festivals all over the world to prevent death in drug use. There are always going to be people who take drugs at festivals, so let's be real about it and do something that actually helps prevent any accidents. The opening ceremony was spectacular; music, dancers and Chinese dragons flying about the place before Toots came on and got the reggae juices flowing. They played all the classics and even got the audience to 'HUH' 10 times in 54-46 Was My Number, which they claimed had never been done with such a big crowd before.
We then headed over to Old Town which was just insane... The amount of detail involved in this district made you feel as if you were on a film set, it was so surreal. There we stumbled across The Balkanoes at the Oldtown Port stage, who played a fusion of eastern European and Jewish folk music. This is the kind of music that you HAVE to dance to. You actually look more of an idiot if you're standing still rather than jumping about the place like a wood nymph. These guys had great energy and really raised the krunk bar when they played the Cantina theme. Seriously, everyone lost their shit.
Overall, Old Town had one of the best atmospheres. There was just so much crammed into one place. I loved the idea of the post office, where you could write a letter and address it to anyone you wanted and the postmen would deliver it to the person who matched the description. On Friday night, we found ourselves back in Old Town and in the post office, a tiny room with way too many people in it. If you were there, you know how great that set was.
I have to say, you haven't experienced the wrath of Lion's Den until you've seen it at night, and it really was spectacular to see Protoje followed by none of than Cypress Hill on Friday night. What a combination... I have never heard so many people shout "I love you Mary Jane" so loud, it was actually quite heartwarming. The crowd at Lion's Den was marvelous throughout the festival, the stage seemed to bring so many people and from all walks of life. On Saturday, Ziggy Marley performed and closed with Exodus, along with his children who came out onto the stage to dance and sing along with their Dad. It was then when everyone just seemed to come together, it really was magical. The next band was a band I had been wanting to see for almost forever. The Specials. Opening with Ghost Town, it couldn't get much better, it was unbelievable! To see acts such as Toots and the Maytals, Ziggy Marley, Cypress Hill and The Specials perform on a stage like the Lion's Den was just indescribable.
Saturday was a spectacular day. One of my best moments had to be seeing The Sugar Hill Gang, joined by none other than Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio's Furious Five on the Town Center stage. Never did I think that I'd be lucky enough to tee these guys all together, let alone be right at the front of their set. These guys were non-stop. They truly gave their all and so did the crowd. I remember this moment where Melle Mel was just on the floor doing push up's, it was terrific. They gave praise to all of the artists that made hip-hop what it is today, mentioning the likes of Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy and even Vanilla Ice, performing covers along the way. I could've watched and listened to these guys all day, they had such an incredible stage presence. Again, it was really evident here how BoomTown really does unite people. In the crowd were people of all different ages, genders, races and beliefs but we were all having an amazing time listening and dancing to this music.
Alongside the music, there's entertainment going on all over BoomTown at all times. Such theatrical performances and walkabout characters such as the Police Rave Unit, Phone Zombies and The Acid House Therapy. You really are spoilt for choice. Also, you have an array of shops in Mayfair with the best of festival wear, fancy dress and accessories. They even have an Oxfam pop-up shop where I found the best suede fringed jacket that I ever did see. Right, let's talk food. There was something for everyone in BoomTown's food courts. Noticeably a lot of vegetarian and vegan stalls were there offering delicious burgers, crepes, fritters and more. It was great to see a festival cater for so many different preferences, ensuring everyone had something. However, something that really stood out was BoomTown's respect and passion for the wellbeing of our planet. For example, the festival had only compost toilets on camp and to be honest, they were more than fine to use. As long as the last person had sprinkled some sawdust on what they left behind, it wasn't too bad. Also, when buying a ticket, you are given a refundable eco-bond which means that if you hand in one bin bag of rubbish when you leave, you receive that £10 eco-bond back, which I thought was a great way to get people to clean up after themselves and respect the land they're leaving behind.
By Sunday, we were all dreading the end, 4 days just isn't enough. However, there wasn't any time to be depressed with such great artists on. We started the day with C@ in the H@ who was performing on another great stage which was on the first floor of an apartment in Mayfair. We then had some time to support a local reggae band from Southend-On-Sea, The Goldmaster Allstars in China Town. The perfect band for such fine and blazing weather, it was great to listen and dance along in the sun. It was actually really great to see that three bands from my area were performing at BoomTown this year, the other two being Primo Nelson and Slim Pickings. Unfortunately, we were unable to see them all but check them out here!
We then headed over to the Town Center to see Arrested Development who did a great job of lifting everyone back up from their chilled state and had everyone singing along, even if you didn’t know the words, people were just yelling noises and it was still appreciated. This was beautiful as the sun was just setting to 'Everyday People' and everyone realised that that would be the last sunset of BoomTown until next year. Our fantastic time at this festival was brought to an end by M.I.A over at Lion's Den. Fireworks, fire, and heads on sticks. You will find, if you go to this festival, that before it’s even finished, you will be thinking and dreaming of when it can all begin again the next year.
BoomTown truly is a spectacular festival with so much going on, there is no way you could experience it all in just 4 days which is a perfect excuse to go back and do it all over again the next year. Photos can capture a glimpse at the magic of BoomTown but you honestly have to be there to experience the incredibility of it all. However, I have been lucky enough to have people offer up some photos that they took of their weekend to give you an idea: