August 16, 2017 by Baker Grove
Decided to finally check out Boomtown this year. Always wanted to go but its always clashed with other plans and in some ways, my impression of it made me think I might not like it.
As you probably already know; it’s an epic site with impressive stage sets and 9 distinct districts built like towns with venues, bars, walk around characters and the whole festival has a narrative which has run since it’s inception.
You could get properly into it if you’re that way inclined. I thought I would, but I ended up mostly dancing, skanking, hanging out, drinking, meeting new friends etc.
Drum’n’bass, dancehall, dub, reggae, dub-step, techno, house, jungle, ska, punk and quirky folk music blasts out from every corner of the place.
Obviously, as a guitarist and Producer, I love lots of different kinds of music. I was big into drum n bass back in the day and I love a big dose of techno and good deep house.
What I noticed though, was that the music at Boomtown is quite conservative. It’s not a progressive, forward-looking festival culture – it plays it safe and despite the music being loud and dirty in places, there wasn’t much innovation on show. Not that I saw anyway. That’s fine for the majority of punters but for me to really come away impressed, I need something new.
I think there’s a place for more experimental music at Boomtown Fair. Sounds that challenge people and take a crowd to a new place… or that don’t simply repeat the obvious, derivitive sounds of dub reggae, drum’n’bass or other genres of electronic music.
At the risk of sounding like I’m moaning – raves used to have edgy, fucked up music – acid house, jungle, techno, hard house & gabba – and a renegade spirit. All across the country these parties spawned some huge acts like The Prodigy, Underworld, Aphex Twin, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield and tons more… acts who are innovators and pioneers who challenged the status quo of conservatism. Its a big discussion but Boomtown Fair felt to me, like there wasn’t any musical pioneers emerging. No future classics like the guys I just mentioned. Electronic festivals like Sonar and the now deceased Bloc have had impressive lineups featuring cutting edge artists alongside some classics. Maybe Boomtown Fair will move in that direction in future.
I’d like to see people like Clark, Oneohtrix Point Never, Aphex Twin, Autechre, James Holden, Flying Lotus (have they already played) from the electronic side… and perhaps some more hard edge rock too?
The crowd was also VERY young and as festival veteran (16 Glastonbury festivals since 1998), I didn’t think the vibe at Boomtown Fair was that great. It wasn’t a bad vibe but I didn’t witness much interaction between different strangers – compared to Shambala where its mega friendly and very community focused. Boomtown is a town. I was expecting more of a community around that.
I don’t have an issue with young people – I was 19 for my first Glastonbury and 16 when I went to Donnington Monster of Rock (Metallica, Slayer, Machinehead) but its like they haven’t learnt to party yet. Dancefloors were only really energetic and vibey for the more experienced crowd and the more old-school acts such as Altern8, Arrested Development and Cypress Hill.
I witnessed some of the biggest drops I’ve ever heard at Boomtown but around me, the young crowd looked bored and just swayed from side to side – not losing their shit in any way. There’s a substance beginning with the letter K that I think could be a big part of the problem. Not gonna enter that debate here though.
It’s an observation that I shared with the people I was hanging out with and we just got on with it, giving as much energy back to the DJs and bands as we could after 2 hours sleep a night!
Highlights were Cypress Hill (17 years since I first saw them rock Glastonbury), Arrested Development, Billy Nasty (Brighton!), Altern8, Proteje, Gentlemens Dub Club, The Comet is Coming, Lazy Habits, Freestylers, Beans on Toast, 12 Stone Toddler (Brighton mates), Randall, Aphrodite and all the random DJs I raved too.
I won’t mention the 6 hours it took to get in. Or the mud for the first half. You can read about that in the mainstream press. Boomtown Fair oranisers were only partly to blame but if they don’t sort out their queue system by next year, I think they’ll lose a lot of customers.
Next festival is Shambala in two weeks! Can’t bloody wait for that!
I still plan on posting a Glastonbury blog but things have been super busy.
Thanks for reading! It’s only my take on things. Hope your summer is going marvelously