As the completely immersive experience of Boomtown Chapter Ten beckons us towards it, here’s what we’re looking forward to at this year’s showdown.
On the 9th to the 12th of August, the giant natural amphitheatre of Winchester’s Matterley Estate will once again burst into life as the 60,000 “citizens” hit Boomtown Fair’s colourful, character-lined streets. With brand new stages, four new districts and its renowned explosion of outrageous theatrics, whether or not the machine can be stopped (this year’s story tagline) from getting its glitter together and rolling into town, our friendship circle certainly can’t.
This year the tickets sold out faster than ever, but if you weren’t hovering at your keyboard on release day there’s still a little hope with resale tickets going live in June. And if for some reason you’re unconvinced – and the only reason you would be is because you’ve been living in a silent retreat in the outback for the past ten years – please: allow me.
Alongside Boomtown’s usual joyful explosion of architecture – ranging from shanty towns to industrial power stations to repurposed shipping containers that reverberate with drum and bass – that takes all year to prepare for, in 2018 there’ll be new playgrounds galore. A brand-skanking-new district, Diss-order Alley, will house punk, metal and ska music across three new live venues in an abandoned military base, creating an alcove for the enraged combattants of the marginalised – the new place to go if you want to blow off steam in a sea of beaten screaming grunge with the homespun twang of old school hardcore. Mayfair, Chinatown, and The Wild West have all been similarly updated into Paradise Heights, Metropolis and Copper Country respectively; I can’t wait to see what new delights – with the talent this place has for riffing on and exploding the real life drama and fake news of today’s world – these updated districts will explore. There’s going to be some seriously big musical names to look forward to this year as well: Gorillaz, Soul II Soul and Lady Leshurr are just the tiniest taste of the voluptuous buffet of music on offer. The sheer range of frequencies provided by the bassy forest sound systems are never going to go amiss either.
With Boomtown, it’s never just about the music though. Its theatrical, “more virtual reality than festival” world carefully weaves together the whole experience, riddled with subtleties and references to humdrum life without distracting from the escapist atmosphere that emancipates and charges the conic arena. Actors interact with other actors interacting with passersby dressed in strange costumes and in secret rooms until it’s no longer clear who’s telling the truth, who’s acting, and who’s spent too long in the sun drinking cider – although, let’s be honest, it’s probably you playing the latter role. This year you can even legitimise yourself as the real-deal formal city-dweller by acquiring your very own citizen’s ID – a hilariously legal form of ID with a PASS hologram and everything – on Boomtown’s website.
The hedonistic city has become a nostalgic meeting point for many of our oldest friends to reassemble and break our respective daily drudges. Most of us free now from uni but spread right across the country, the question is never “shall we go?” but rather, “which district shall we align ourselves (read, pitch our tents in) this year?”. It’s an annual trip of ambling and nonsensical confrontation both internally and with other citizens. At a festival so friendly, you can always count on a wonderfully chaotic atmosphere created by like-minded and charming “revolutionaries”, especially when it comes to creating bewildering physical expression to music. Should you ever get stuck on a temporarily tangential path to your comrades, be it due to a large crowd or a quick trip to the compost loos, you’ll be in the capable hands of a wealth of strangers, despite being unlikely to ever re-meet them, to save you from any dangerous mosh pit. Because this year, there will be mosh pits.
With all standard tickets selling out in record time and a very limited amount of tickets for resale in June, make sure you sign up with the ticketsellers to grab your last-chance tickets. And if you’re feeling really luxurious, tickets for an all-new boutique camping experience in “Boomtown Springs” go on sale at the same time – just make sure you’re signed up.
Photo: Scott Salt