added: 31 Aug 2012
// gig date: 9 Aug 2012
reviewer: Halima Amin
Selling out for its fourth year in a row, Boomtown Fair tore Winchester apart with a rip roaring festival of ska, reggae and dubstep between 9 Aug -13 Aug.
Travel to Boomtown and from Winchester station is far from a chore (with taxi sharing costing little over £3), with a free, if very late, shuttle bus running to and from the station. As expected, swarms of dreadlocks, Obey caps and somewhat Indian-esque MC Hammer pants were floating around the station and the city in abundance. Considering the sheer size of the festival , it sometimes became a bit more than frustrating when the box office were flippant and something as basic as walkie talkies seemed like a hidden treasure.
Boomtown boasted an admirable line up of musical acts. Tanya Stephens, headlining reggae legend, was an absolute joy, being ushered in with classic dancehall tunes to a merry crowd at the wonderfully designed Lion’s Den stage. Taking a while to build up to her classics and more well-known pieces, Stephens still had the crowd eating out of her hand. Similarly, London born and Jamaican accented Natty was moving a massive audience with soft beats and quick rhymes. Other massive reggae headliners included the very popular Alborosie and the revered Beenie Man, who had unfortunately dropped out at the last minute.
The touring Wandering Word stage hosted by Dreadlock Alien was a great corner to relax and vibe, despite it being placed too closely to a very loud main stage and some of the poetry and stories simply repeated from their tour last year, forgiven by the inclusion of many new poets.
Folk and punk acts entertained the more receptive audiences, with a massive highlight being Reading based act Will Tun and The Wasters, with their charismatic and intimate performances from lead singer Will Tun and technically pronounced drumming worth noting. On a much more ska sound were the Skattelites, one of many repetitive ska bands dominating the Boomtown sound.
Reggae acts and spoken word represented a much more relaxed vibe to the weekend, with a real sand filled beach style Hidden Woods area smelling of rum and twinkling with outdoor LEDs.
The décor and installations of Boomtown were greatly impressive. Interactive art pieces and ‘secret’ doors, clubs, shop windows and a bounty of stages were all intricately and interestingly detailed. Furthermore, the Arcadia stage of a colossal fire breathing spider hosting big names such as Shy SFX was nothing short of spectacular. Other electronic acts who blew crowds away included Asian Dub Foundation in the huge Bassline Circus. One area of particular interest was the skate ramp with its own DJ and brilliant speaker system.
On the much more somewhat angry side to Boomtown, which often seemed to overtake the more enjoyable vibe, were revellers succumbing to a sometimes fairly unfriendly atmosphere. No ‘chill out’ areas or quiet zones were really available, leaving many to mill around each other, prolonging the rougher atmosphere and individual feelings. Boomtown crowds often reflected a hostile episode of Skins, with myself being far from a kill joy and instead a very enthusiastic and open regular festival goer giving my insight into the atmosphere.
The idea of a perpetuated aggressive overtone to a festival is not one expected at a place hosting ska, folk and poetry. Certainly, to say the least, it is not recommended, despite kids tents and shows, to bring children under ten or eleven to this festival, based on the experience of this weekend.
This problem lay also with amenities- very, very rarely cleaned non flushing toilets (even by seasoned festivaler standards) and often broken water taps which were usually accompanied by huge queues, signalling a lack of very basic and necessary needs. Phone charging and locker services were available, however no service at Boomtown, suspiciously including a ‘Pootopia’ stall charging goers for a clean place to defecate, should be expected as free or by donation as seen at some other festivals. Whilst security was rife, as were police and paramedics, the strains of coping with a festival some were mistakenly assuming was staged only to house ridiculously destructive drug use was showing at times. As usual, Oxfam stewards were lovely, helpful and plentiful. Food was very limited, with one struggling to find a good old burger and not a vegan falafel. Considering the mass of human bodies floating around the site, it was perhaps an unavoidable let down that cars and trucks were constantly driving through paths used by goers.
Overall, the festival was made by reggae crowd drawers and a delightful surrounding. The ambience was often belligerent and distracted from a high powered fun feeling that one would expect from a festival such as Boomtown, a playground of stunning visuals and big reggae names.
Have Your Say
Click here to win an iPhone5!
> For more Music-News live reviews click here