In Review: Boomtown 2019
A few weeks ago, our guest writer Liz Dunn-Hallett travelled to one of the biggest indie festivals in the UK Boomtown, to explore this unique festival world. >>
Boomtown 2019 blew me away both literally, thanks to the unrelenting British weather, and figuratively as I was struck by the festival’s amazing power to adapt, improve and expand on previous years.
This blog has to start with a comment on the weather, heartfelt sympathy goes out to the organisers and ticketholders of Boardmasters and Houghton who saw their events cancelled. Luckily Boomtown had slightly more favourable forecasts, but warnings were issued and on Friday the crew and festival goers braced themselves. I witnessed first-hand the dramatic moment when a piece of plywood was ripped by wind from the incredible new structure of Relic. However, to be honest I was too busy enjoying ShyFX with the epic crowd he always attracts to pay too much attention. Luckily no one was hurt but his set was cut short due to safety concerns and rightly so. Other festivals might have panicked or cancelled but Boomtown’s quick thinking saw Friday’s Relic lineup relocated. After all the show must go on but thankfully in the relative safety of the protective natural amphitheatre of Lion’s Den.
Where it might take other festivals years to make a change or update an area, Boomtown smashed it this year by redeveloping and expanding the former Sector 6 stage into an entire area of enticing venues and live fire performers. Area 404 is a smart move if you ask me because this offers a slice of the dystopian nightlife normally found Downtown to the lazy little legs of those camped Uptown. Here, the opening show for Nucleus included a Keith Flint appreciation hour and it was nice to see various artists commemorating the passing of this pioneer in dance and alternative music.
In the past Boomtown have struggled with sound levels due to weather conditions and local licensing issues but this year they finally cracked it! It is no mean feat to have such large open-air venues such as Relic and Nucleus with good sound quality but hats off to them, they persevered and with state-of-the-art sound engineering thanks to the Boomtown Radical Design Group this year it was great.
Another big change this year was the introduction of a free festival App which allowed you to customized lineups and locate friends in real time. Personally, I found it really useful for locating AWOL friends and checking set times. Getting rid of the lanyards might have upset the collectors out there but in terms of the environment it just makes so much sense.
The environment really was at the forefront this year, from the opening ceremony with a guest speaker from Treesisters and a call to action by the festival, to the Extinction Rebellion parades and appearances. Not many festivals can boast that they have planted a tropical forest. Even the interactions with the various performers often turned out to have an eco-message. I tried the luck exchange and was gifted with a bamboo toothbrush and statistics on landfill. It is these little touches that make Boomtown the incredible place it is. Even the interactive maze had a green message! When they decide they are going for something…they go all in. The fields looked significantly cleaner come Monday afternoon but there’s still a long way to go before the leave no trace wish becomes a reality.
Musical highlights of the weekend included Thursday night’s absolutely stellar headliner Little Dragon who, despite the wind and rain, drew a huge crowd up at the new Lighthouse stage in Whistler’s Green and put on a performance worthy of any of the bigger stages. Also gracing the stage on Thursday the sheer volume and energy of Napalm Death dragged us into the Earache Factory for the tail end of an impressive and musically tight set. Friday openers at Lion’s Den Gentleman’s Dub Club got the 25,000 strong crowd in the mood for the weekend (and changeable weather) ahead and Four Tet proved he is still a force to be reckoned with. Saturday saw Groove Armada return to the festival circuit with a set of upbeat classics which got everyone dancing. Not to mention Mike Skinner and The Streets, always the cheeky one, he went for a quick climb and a dip in the waterfall onstage as security looked on bemused. Sunday’s headliners Prophets of Rage did not disappoint with anthemic singalongs and everyone was pleased when Lauryn Hill finally made it onstage. With so many stages and micro venues it’s an impossible feat to see them all but you can rest assured wherever you are you will find something to astound and delight.
If you still haven’t made it to Boomtown then watch the 20 minute mini-documentary ‘What it takes to make a world’, it will give you an insight into the sheer scale of the city and its ethos as an independent festival which really does what it wants and does it incredibly well. See you there next year!