Boomtown Fair – 10th-13th August 2017

I woke up Tuesday morning with a strange feeling, as though there was a hole inside me. A space that I didn’t know was there before, was now empty – I was homesick. Not of my two-bedroom flat in Brixton, but of my two-person tent in a muddy field in Winchester.

Every music festival is built on the promise of one thing – fun – and none fulfils this promise as exceptionally as Boomtown. A sprawling, make-believe fantasy town now in its ninth episode, which provides immersion and depth in its story-telling and entertainment that is likely unrivalled anywhere else in the country.

It is the various ‘districts’, each with their own quirks, attractions and subtle political themes, that makes Boomtown so special. Combine this with the 20-odd stages catering to (almost) all tastes, some of which can only be found if you are looking, and you have a seriously unforgettable weekend.

While the Lion’s Den, a spectacular venue situated within a green valley, can hold the gaze of massive crowds and is home to the biggest acts of the weekend, the humblingly-big Bang Hai Towers and Sector 6 stages will quell any thirst for bass-fuelled mayhem you may have over the weekend.

Nestled within alleyways and behind closed doors you’ll come across smaller, charismatic spaces. These are where you’ll form your best memories of the weekend.

A friend who had been before explained: “It’s not about where you go, it’s about what happens to you on the way there”, so as I headed out into the unknown, Red Stripe in hand, I kept his words firmly at the front of my mind.

Mr. Whompy, distributors of rudeboy basslines and woolly hats, work tirelessly out of their ice-cream truck to ensure you don’t get too cold. Later at night take a trip down to the Red Rash Inn, a sleazy red-light burlesque scattered with dishevelled men and shameless ladies of the night.

Musical acts are hard to beat at Boomtown. Los Albertos provided just the right dose of ska hilarity to kick-start the weekend while Saturday night gave us an absolutely blazen set from The Specials down in the Lion’s Den.

Leftfield techno and house sets from Joy Orbison & Ben UFO were an absolute treat, while the Exit Records takeover had Sunday night covered, providing revellers with a hearty dose of neuro-drum’n’bass. Did I mention there are three separate psytrance stages running around the clock?

The Boomtown saga follows a storyline, with each year being the next chapter. It’s a story of corporate greed, mass surveillance, and steampunk-cowboy-ninjas. The subtle hints are everywhere when you open your eyes; Fake Chanel No. 5 posters warn of animal testing in laboratories when you peak at the fine print, graffiti that runs up walls is removed overnight, and the Boomtown Bobbies are out to catch anyone who might be challenging the status-quo.

Alongside all the madness and mayhem, this year saw the addition of a drugs testing facility run by charity The Loop as part of a harm-reduction effort within the festival.

Obviously, despite a strict zero-drugs policy, a large quantity will still make it on to the grounds.

Those who want to can take their drugs into the facility, have them tested, and later receive results as to the strength and quality of the substance.

You are softly advised to answer a few questions with a professional about your history of drug use and any issues you may have, which this allows them to tailor specific usage guidance to each individual when the results come back.

This initiative is believed to have notably reduced drug-related incidents for paramedics on-site.

It’s hard to remember the last time I had this much outrageous, hedonistic fun. I advise anyone who wants to form life-long memories to go. The only thing to remember if you wish to get the most out of this festival, is get out and explore as much of it as you can. You won’t get through all of it in one go, but don’t worry, it’ll be back next year.

Luke Hemmings