By Liam Monaghan
Festivals in the UK are popping up all over with more niche music being covered than ever. I had heard from friends and DJs who specialized in Reggae and Dub about Boomtown Fair and i was incredibly excited to see the line up released. Boomtown has a lengthy brand story and theme of the festival, which is unique, and unlike no other. The interactive experience of BoomTown Fair returned to Hampshire’s Matterley Estate over 13th – 16th August, welcoming a record amount of ‘citizens’ as the festival grew by 10,000 from 2014, expanding the metropolis to 50,000 capacity. Even with the additional numbers the fair achieved a sell-out for the 7th year running, with tickets getting snapped up across the globe and a huge international audience heading to the theatrical extravaganza from over 50 different countries.
The line up accommodates so many different genres of music and has really hit the nail on the head in terms of booking people they want to book, not just who is ‘in’ and in the country promoting their new album. The morning the line up was released was ultimately refreshing and exciting including Stephen Marley, Soja, Gogol Borello, Alborosie, John Butler Trio, Matisyahu, Protoje, Shy Fx and many many more artists. It was also refreshing to see lots of UK based Reggae DJs and bands but Boomtown isn’t focused on just Reggae, Ska, Punk, D&B, Jungle, Psy House, Gypsy, Hip Hop and lots more alternative genres.
Apart from the rain being horrendous on arrival the tent was up and time to explore. Each district has different stages with different themes such as China Town, Lions Den, Mayfair and many more. As soon as we arrived and set up the music began with a range of different DJs and performers including the infamous Gentleman rhymer.
Boomtown thinks of everything you didn’t think of. 500 individual musical acts from across the world, hundreds of walkabout performers and actors, Characters dressed up walking round with floats getting you to jump on and dance away, dancing in windows or on top of bridges and buildings squirting you with water or throwing Boomtown money at you. Event vehicles with Boomtown number plates and banners following the revolution of the story of Boomtown.
All the stages were created to be impressive and may of the big stages were on hills offering a clear vantage point to see your favourite artists from close or far away. Lions Den was a grand stage detailed to the finest with carved stones, in contrast, the hidden woods are pretty much what is says on the tin, a stage hidden in a secluded wood with an intense sound system. Bang Hai Palace was one of the biggest and impressive stages built which was the perfect setting to close the weekend with an insane fireworks display.
After witnessing high jumping competitions & food eating competitions and also taking part in various classes which were avalible such as Reggae dancing, Yoga, Massage, Wood Carving it was all about the music. Boomtown pushed the boat out in booking artists who need to see their UK fans and don’t get to reach blighty.
First of all I arranged a meeting with Dancehall trio and super producers Ward 21, it was a plesent surprise to see them on the line up and they attracted a crowd of Dancehall fans and Reggae fans and the audience doubled in size by the end partying away. Ward 21 delivered high energy and positive vibes that echoed around the Lions Den. Having met Andre & Kunley to discuss what the guys was getting up to back in the studios at home, they revealed new music and new production work with the likes of Sean Paul and it was going to be a busy year for them. See the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS9C_LX6Fbc Catch Ward21’s new single here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2USCckm2q8
On Reggae Roots & Bass I support UK reggae to the fullest! There is a lot of amazing talent to be heard and previous guests on the show and also featured in World A Reggae was Shanty. The guys took to the stage with Becca Dudley who presents for MTV and delivered a great performance including new single ‘Long Time’ (https://soundcloud.com/shantyband/longtime-1). Ben’s harmonious vocals bounced from tree to tree whilst a packed crowd bounced around. Having caught up with the guys after their set, they aim to head into the studio and pursue on more projects working with some great names in producing.
At the other end of Boomtown on the evening the Garage, House, D&B started to roar through the site and we headed down to catch Toddla T. Warming up for his stage a Notting Hill, the carnival vibes rung through the air! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg61iIWp09g) having caught a quick word about his new Steeze clothing line, I bumped into a producer and MC who hails from Manchester called Chimpo who’s featured on RRB before, Chimpo is taking part in a producer and event challenge in collaboration called City Hack with Desperados, he’s also heading into the studio to work on new music.
The sun was shining and fresh from stage it was good to catch up with Natty. Grabbing one of the biggest audiences at the Lions Den and performing one of his new tracks ‘Gaia’ which in summery, was part of arguably one of the highly profound performances of the festival supported by adoring fans. Whilst having a chat with Natty, he’s a man on a mission with a clear vision going alone and independently spreading his music. In the recent past hes been working hard on new music and promoting his new label Vibes & Pressure. You can expect to hear so much more of Natty in the next few months with a new album on the way. Check Gaia here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XfKJTDu8hE
On the Saturday evening of Boomtown we were presented a range of international artists who’s experience stretched over decades. I didn’t expect to, but I was given a short amount of time with Jacob Hemphill of Soja. Soja took to the stage to deliver a solid performance to fields of fans that don’t necessarily get to see Soja due to the vast amount of global touring the guys do! The next tent down were Grenville, Logan, Jordan from Katchafire relaxing from their electric performance and short UK tour, assisted by UK Reggae band By The Rivers, Katchafire are ready to head back into the studio and hit the road for 2016.
Since the line up was announced, one of the most highly anticipated artists and most talked about artists globally in Reggae took to the stage on the Friday by the name of Protoje. Friend of RRB and featured heavily in the global press, Ancient Future has been a major success around the globe for combining old school thought with modern production. The Boomtown crowd gathered in masses to welcome him onto the stage and did not leave disappointed. Protoje is about to embark on a UK tour in October.
Another UK Reggae band making waves and have been consistently for years are Gentleman’s Dub Club. They came to Boomtown off the back of a successful summer of touring and the success of new single ‘Music Is the Girl I Love’. GDC was born in Leeds, UK and have gone from strength to strength. The performance at Boomtown is easily one of the top 5 of the weekend. High energy, weighty basslines and vibrant horn lines induced the crowds to bounce and jump up and down for the whole set!
Down at the Devil Kicks Dancehall was a Boomtown favourites New Town Kings with their Ska & Punk orientated songs. NTK blend Reggae,Ska & Punk to create a fusion of high energy based performances and music which makes you move! Dabs, frontman of the band told me to keep my eyes peeled for new music coming out of the NTK camp!
The original butcher & chopper Cutty Ranks took to the stage in a Dancehall frenzy style! Old riddims to new riddims dropping his hits The Stopper & Limb By Limb as well as hit song International with Chase & Status. Cutty has been in the business for over 40 years and an expecting crowd came away pleased with seeing a pioneer in the Dancehall genre take to the stage in the UK to deliver a showstopper.
Im purely reflecting on some of the artists I saw in this article, there were hundreds of artists and djs perform over the period of the festival who were incredibly talented and I discovered some amazing new bands. To top off a great Saturday, it was only right we saw Alborosie and the Shengen Band, which was an amazing way to finish. High energy, dreadlocks flying around, Puppa Albo laid out his classic songs and even new tunes Poser & Rocky Road, if you get the opportunity to see him play, do it.
To close the festival we were originally expecting legend Barrington Levy, Due to certain issues Barrington could not make it, this created much disappointment and not a great reaction when Solo Banton announced the news after Stephen Marley on the opening day. However, the great staff at Boomtown worked hard on getting the most requested band to close, which just so happened to be another friend of Reggae Roots & Bass, UK Reggae/Ska outfit, The Skints. How they managed to find a day to perform out of their schedule I do not know, the band work relentlessly across the world touring but they turned up, and so did the crowd. They did not disappoint.
Boomtown was a great festival and also very family friendly, the story that runs alongside it makes it unique and interesting as if you are a part of that story which encourages you to get involved. Within the few days you can discover some amazing bands whilst learning new skills and tasting amazing food at an affordable rate unlike most festivals where you need to get a payday loan for a burger. It will be interesting to see who is on the line up next year but ill for sure be there.
Interviews with Alborosie, Chimpo, Cutty Ranks, New Town Kings, Gentlemans Dub Club, Katchafire, Natty, Prootje, Shanty, Soja, Toddla T & Ward 21 are available on a Boomtown Special Reggae Roots & Bass.
BoomTown Fair will return for Chapter 8 on 11th – 14th August 2016 at the Matterley Estate, Hampshire. Tickets go on sale on 3rd November via www.boomtownfair.co.uk/tickets
Keep an eye on all updates and news via the links below:
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/boomtownfair1
Facebook Chapter 8 event page: www.facebook.com/events/482010171974357/