On August 7, as the clock struck noon, the doors to the most colourful and eccentric festival in the UK opened its doors, Boomtown Fair 2014 had officially begun. For the next few days the Matterley Bowl took a break from its purpose as docile farmland and became a haven for all things musical and exciting.
We immediately made our way to the seedy district known as Downtown and set up our new home for the next four days. There were a number of new editions to the town’s districts this year, yet the focus of the dance music was based in Downtown, with minor exceptions to the new Wild West district and the psy-trance haven that is Tribe of Frog.
Yet again the line-up for Boomtown’s Downtown district didn’t disappoint, with big names such as Dom & Roland, Black Sun Empire, Optiv & Btk, TC and Aphrodite all making appearances on a number of different stages.
The serial offenders in terms of stages were the infamous alien-esque super stage – Arcadia, where BSE, Optiv & BTK and Aphrodite played. The Prohibition Den powered by Jungle Syndicate & Amen-tal collectives, which showcased the finest in Amen heavy tear-out jungle and the darker side of drum & bass, for whom Dom & Roland was the headline act.
The Boombox, The Asbo Disco Community Centre, The Bassline Circus & The BodyShop all each showcased some of the finest underground dance music, from breakbeat, oldskool to neurofunk and raggatek. Artists such as Bong-Ra, Billy Bunter & Slipmatt, C4C, Uncle Dugs and, one of my personal favourites, the 3 Infadels (Katch Pyro & Dr Roman) each smashed their own unique sets causing a hectic display of twisting torsos throughout there respective venues.
Unfortunately, arguably the two biggest names on the line-up in terms of drum & bass, Dom & Roland and Black Sun Empire, had their sets ruined due to the sound levels being ridiculously low. Under the main platform of the Arcadia, in the epicentre of the Downtown district, what should have been an overpowering blast of punchy drums and rolling basslines was nothing more than a whisper, with conversations going on metres away being more audible.
Maybe in the Prohibition Den it would be louder? Small room, packed to the wall with an F1 sound system… but no, Dom & Roland suffered the same fate. The most anticipated drum & bass set of the festival, and it packed no kick, no bass, nada. For what its worth, I’m certain that both Dom & Roland and Black Sun Empire were much more disgruntled by this than the many revelling festival goers, however, the show must go on…
Thankfully, the next few days went off without a hitch sound wise. TC and Carasel’s set was very lively; rolling, dancey, jump-up vibes with seamless mixing and a crowd who loved every minute. His set was a prime example of how the Arcadia should have been on Friday.
Other highlights of the Arcadia where sludgey funk aficionados KOAN Sound and Opiou, whose signature wobbly ghetto sounds were a lot of fun to stomp about in the muddy cesspool that Boomtown became.
Personal highlights included outstanding electro swing outfit Tape Five. This was there first time in the UK and their performance was the greatest live music (or any music for that fact) I’ve ever had the blessing to witness.
A close second was the one and only KURUPT FM, who closed the El Barrio Loco stage on the Sunday. With the entire team out in full force, Steves on the decks and MC Grindah and Beats ‘pon mic, they slaughtered their set, spinning out banger after banger with some marvellous MCing.
Alas, their set was abruptly cut as soon as the clock hit midnight, and Boomtown was over for another year. It must be said, despite its unparalleled growth over the last six years, it has managed to retain its unique, underground charm that makes it a highlight of the festival calendar. Until next time Boomtown!