‘The machine cannot be stopped!’ reads the (slightly ominous) festival slogan, but did Boomtown Fair 2018 deliver a futuristic festival hit, or a rain-drenched nightmare? Rebecca Cox reviews…
Boomtown Fair 2018 Review
Part music festival, part dystopian, immersive theatre production, (and partly just absolutely bonkers), Boomtown Fair truly is unlike anything else on the British festival calendar. The crowd varies from ageing ravers to glittered-from-top-to-toe-teens and tipsy toffs to tin-toting-townies. And while the concept (a music festival taking place on the set of a live theatre production about the scheming of the evil Bang Hai Corporation and its quest for ultimate power) seems slightly weird on paper, in reality (or unreality, once you’ve stepped onto the enormous festival site in Hampshire’s rolling hillsides,) Boomtown Fair is the ultimate festival experience.
You needn’t get too worked up about understanding the storyline, although there are plenty of secret missions to undertake, performances to watch and characters to converse with if you wish. In truth, the beauty of the live theatre elements of Boomtown is the invitation to go as wild as you wish for the weekend without judgement. At times it wasn’t clear who was a cast-member and who wasn’t, such was the aplomb with which attendees took on the (ever-pressing) challenge of festival dressing. And of course the beauty of wearing a rubber banana suit or a gruesome clown mask to a festival is that you won’t be too upset when the summer’s first true downpour is timed to perfection with the biggest alfresco rave of the year.
Highlights: Gorrilaz at Boomtown
While the line-up isn’t as star-studded as other major festivals (although it’s by far the front-runner of its genre), this year marked Boomtown’s biggest coup to date, with a UK exclusive Saturday night headline slot from Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, which was two hours of crowd-thrilling music and cameos witnessed by what seemed like the entire 60,000 Boomtown crowd. But even if you’d taken a wrong turn enroute to the Lion’s Den (easily done on this sprawling labyrinth of chaos and curiosities) you would not have been disappointed. Other highlight acts across the weekend included Die Antwoord, Limp Bizkit and secret headliner Andy C who closed out the festival in style.
The true brilliance of Boomtown is not the enormous stages (although check out the Bang Hai set-up and you’ll see they are breath-takingly impressive) or the 600+ line-up of top-of-their game DJs, bands and artists, but the attention to detail delivered by the Boomtown creators. Every walkway is an adventure, with woodland stages under a canopy of tree lights and lanterns, neon light shows illuminating stony steps and pop-up raves in even the tiniest venues on this mammoth ramshackle set. And while it can all feel completely chaotic at times, the mammoth cast of actors and crew seemed to pull it all together into something sensical.
This year also saw the premiere of boutique camping offering in Boomtown Springs. Set at the heart of the festival, but tucked nicely away down a leading woodland path, this boutique bedlam is the fanciest way to experience Boomtown. Never a dull moment, aside from a spacious campsite with multiple glamping options, there was a dedicated DJ plus a full-line-up of entertainment, including some of the silliest festival games ever witnessed. All this, plus the absolute poshest festival toilets ever experienced (not to be scoffed at).
After four days of non-stop music, mayhem and magic at (an incredibly muddy and hilly) Boomtown Fair 2018, we have officially entered festival retirement for the foreseeable. We’ll see you at Boomtown Chapter 11 next year though, once our batteries are recharged. The Boomtown Fair machine officially cannot be stopped.