13 – 16 August
Pirate wenches with dreadlocked hair hurl abuse from their perch on the Jolly Dodger’s deck. An alien autopsy is carried out on an unsuspecting passer-by in Distrikt 5 while sex-bots act-out the fantasies of their rebel leaders in the streets. Haughty Lord and Lady Funkington dance a debauched Lindy Hop to Brixton 5-piece Brass Funky’s New Orleans swing, while a crowd of grinning onlookers caked in glitter watch in awe and wafts of strong hashish fill the air. This is BoomTown Fair, a fictional town installed inside of a wooded valley in Winchester.
The festival’s wild and garish music policy, although extensive in breadth and scope – covering ska, folk, punk, reggae, bass, trance, swing and hip-hop – is secondary to the spectacle and immersive performances that have kept people returning to this festival for seven years. The headline acts such as Gogol Bordello and Kate Tempest play on Sunday night, and by this point your energy has been spent and your dignity is a distant memory.
The woods are a key component to these five days of revelry. Between the districts and camping grounds are forests each with a DJ installed inside of a treehouse. Some forests have branches draped in fairy lights and lanterns, others are dotted with UV-lit wicker pods suspended over small ponds. The hedonistic activities reach peak crazy against a backdrop of psytrance by the likes of Slinky Wizard and Infected Mushroom, pounding to an immovable rhythm from 11am through to 7am the following morning.
In Trenchtown, a gargantuan Mayan temple stage sits in the crease of the valley, and we watch as Natty pours soulful melodies from his own label into the ears of a supremely chilled-out crowd. We take a well-needed break from bouncing between the stages and soak up the intense afternoon sun as the crowd throw powdered paint – Holi Festival-style – into the air in unison.
In the winding streets of China Town we find miniscule dens hosting raves to obscure throbbing techno and Mrs Wong’s infamous takeaway stall for hungry ravers to chow down on. As day swiftly jarred into night we delved deeper into the murky depths to the areas rigged for night-time pleasures. The Distrikt 5 plaza was where it all came to a head in front of the Banghai Palace, with a scaffolding giant of flashing neon, fireworks and disturbing video footage of a laughing Comrade José.
Activity and sound rages at BoomTown Fair from sunrise on Wednesday to sunrise on Monday, and doesn’t stop for a break on the Sabbath, even for the funeral services at the Church of the Sturdy Virgin in Old Town. A fair warning to any comrades planning to go to BoomTown Fair next year; go, only if you think you can handle it.