Ed’s note… The call went out, ‘we’re looking for musicians to do festival reportage…’ and after a thousand requests for Glastonbury tickets, we found Katherine Priddy – curious about Boomtown. We were curious too.
Birmingham Review had covered Katherine Priddy at both a Folk for Free gig and supporting Scott Matthews, and I liked the idea of sending a Folk artist to a predominately bass heavy event. So I saved a double page spread for Katherine’s Folk of Boomtown report, in our Winter Edition; to run about 800 words along with candid snaps from the disposable cameras.
Not a chance. After a serious darling slaughter I managed to edit it down to around the 1400 mark, squeezing the pics into the header. But the full report, at well over 2,000 words, is absolutely worth some attention. Enjoy.
Folk of Boomtown (full disclosure)
Words & pics by Katherine Priddy
Promoted as both ‘the UK’s maddest city’ and ‘family friendly’, Boomtown is as promotionally incongruous as it is popular; selling out this year’s increased capacity with comparable ease. But is it all Ketamine kids or Fabric families? It’s dark, edgy, bass based line ups don’t appear to be an appropriate playground for actual children.
But well attended it certainly is, with the festival’s flair for theatrics enticing thousands more ‘residents’ each and every year – many mirroring the ‘show’ with their own anarchy and costumes. Birmingham Review armed Katherine Priddy with some disposable cameras, a diary and enough disco glitter to face the madness of Matterley Bowl.
Read her full four day account below:
A small car has driven past, stuffed with bags and teenagers – one leaning out the window wearing a rainbow afro and a very large, very false moustache. There can be no doubt as to his destination.
After 2hrs the gates have opened. There is a mad dash; one steward asks some boys to move. They refuse. He backs away apologising.
I’ve just overheard one steward’s walkie talkie: “There’s an unconscious woman…what do we do?” It’s less than reassuring.
I have just spent an hour watching a group of teens wrestle with their tent and incompetence. The campsite is filling up, with people, excitable cheers, the odd air horn and the unmistakable sound of nitrous oxide being released into balloons. There are loads of people hugging, and all round I hear “remember last year when…”
The teenagers are still constructing their tent. I wonder whether I should intervene.
The tent is up. Should I tell them that the fly sheet is back to front?
A few stages are beginning to play music, although tonight is a mere teaser and will be finishing early. I walk down a very steep hill and find myself in the Hidden Woods… at least… I think it’s a wood… The area is decked out to look like a beach, complete with sandy floor, beach style bars and lanterns. People are already getting down and funky to Dub and I feel the urge to dance for the first time that day. All around me is the sound of nitrous oxide balloons and a strong smell of weed.
The entire cast of Mario Kart just walked past me.
Old Town, the Gypsy & Pirate District –had a little skank to Ushti Baba and notice a man with the ‘Boomtown’ shaved into the back of his head. He turns to me with vacant eyes and shouts “BEST DAY OF MY LIFE”. It’s only Thursday.
On the way back to my tent I’m pulled into a room disguised as a giant cat, then dressed up as a pimp – complete with fur coat, money in cleavage and a large fake gun. It was…strange, but brilliant.
I can hear a universal groan around the campsite. I emerge from my tent like a hungry beast from its lair, to seek out some bacon.
There are signs everywhere telling people to avoid Ketamine, as a young girl has already died. But rejuvenated by my successful bacon hunt, I stumble sleepily into the Hidden Woods and meet a young lad in a tracksuit and cap, tinkling happily to himself on a piano set up in the corner. I find a nice tree trunk to sit on and wait for the Tribe of Frog Psytrance.
Change of plan. After bumping into Zach (a young dreaded guy I met at Nozstock), I’m being dragged away to watch Julian Marley at the The Lion’s Den. The stage is enormous, and looks like an Aztec temple.
I want to introduce ‘Karta’, who is ridiculously stoned and just jumped the fence. I ask him what made him so keen to enter Boomtown, he smirks and says he just came to sell laughing gas canisters. Can’t knock his honesty I suppose.
Karta sees my notebook and asks if he can write something in it. The results were the words ‘wallys’, ‘hippy’, ‘green’, ‘wu’ and ‘brown’. I suppose only Karta will ever know their significance, and as I leave lights up another and leans back sleepily against a fence. He’s probably still there.
Just had a run in with the ‘Herbaceous Barbers’ in Old Town – attaching wheatgrass to people’s heads, creating wonderful (and edible) grass hair dos. They show the hydroponics, all very inventive – although apparently “a shitemare to get down from Glasgow”.
Shit, is that really the time? I have fallen foul to the time-stopping Psytrance of Tribe of Frog.
Whilst enjoying a German sausage (insert crude euphemism here) I’m interrupted by a man working on a dance off team, who explains Boomtown’s crowd are “feisty but honest”.
There’s a man dressed as a vagina with a mask that makes him look like he’s emerging from a vagina with plastic vaginas stuck on his giant vagina costume. And he’s wrestling someone dressed as an OAP and someone pretending to be pregnant. I don’t know what to say.
I’m watching an excellent pirate band called Seas of Mirth. Then the ‘district Councillor’, Cap’n Francisco, appears in tights and a crab suit – the bright stage lighting silhouetting his gentleman’s purse in all its glory. He leaps from the stage to attack the crowd with his crab claws, before being wrestled to the ground by a band member. Unexpected, but highly enjoyable.
I’m now watching people go human fishing, dangling rods off a roof with sweets attached. Wonderful.
Just woken up. In another tent. Before you jump to unseemly conclusions, I should explain what happened last night.
After leaving Old Town Theatre things got pretty weird pretty quickly. Before I knew it, I found myself back in Tribe of Frog, bestowed with orange paint by a fat Frenchman.
Then I met Aaron. Then I met Aaron’s friends. We headed to Mayfair Avenue, the district dedicated to Electro Swing, and found the Mayfair Hotel. After signing our names in the guest book we spotted a big golden bed full of strangers, where we could snuggle in and watch the music.
Leaving Mayfair, we headed to Arcadia – a giant, fire spouting, mechanical spider with a DJ playing inside the body while its legs move and ravers beneath have their eyebrows taken off by the flame throwers. The music wasn’t my cup of tea, and the pill heads who kept bumping into me were frustrating, but I stayed in their campsite to avoid the enormous, leg breaking trek back up the hill to Old Town.
Having just woken up, I’m on a search for life-giving bacon amongst a doleful crowd of dejected looking party zombies. The tenacity of hippies.
Just had a spontaneous game of knife throwing with some staff on a Camping stall, aiming tent pegs and scissors at a crudely drawn cardboard target.
I’ve found some shade in the Hidden Woods, and just met a VERY DRUNK ‘Sam and Joe’s Anything Goes Carpenting Company’. They rate the festival 8/10, and told me they’ve been here for ‘months’. Somehow I doubt it.
Police Rave Unit sighted; playing techno from their pimped up police van, they drive around setting up spontaneous raves throughout the festival. A genius idea.
I’ve just witnessed a man dressed as Pavarotti, miming along to opera music from speakers concealed in his fat suit to rapturous applause. I write this by a group of synchronised swimmers, currently doing their routine on the grass.
Down at Arcadia for a dance; the spider’s not as big in daylight. DJ Die is fantastic. The people I’m with start a limbo competition.
The music’s descended into seriously filthy bass. When fire spurts out of the spider it’s a little frightening, particularly being so close. There’s a sense of solidarity amongst the Boomtown inhabitants, but the undercurrent of sinister is ever present.
Watching the High Focus Showcase at Poco Loco – absolutely rammed with eyes rolling around in their sockets. The sweaty and somewhat angsty atmosphere is unbearable. We can’t stay here any longer.
I’m back in bed at the Park Hotel in Mayfair Avenue, talking to a woman confessing her concerns about the hard drug use. She leaves and gets replaced by a young woman transfixed by my boobs. After returning her to her slightly crestfallen boyfriend, we leave before becoming accidently involved in an orgy.
Another demonstration of the slightly darker side of Boomtown; we return from Mayfair to find a small riot going on, one man being restrained by three policemen whilst his friends kick up a hysterical fuss. I’m nearly run down by a riot van. Boomtown feels volatile, exciting and edgy. I wouldn’t want to walk around on my own.
After forcing our bodies to scale the hill up to The Lion’s Den, find lots of fire pits have been lit in the woods. There’s no music playing, but people are snuggled up happily – talking or staring vacuously into the flames. My head’s nodding. The animal is tamed. I need sleep.
No specified time
I am, possibly, dying. The combination of indulgence, dancing and treks up the Boomtown hill have rendered me a broken woman. Therefore I have made the executive decision to collapse, and to conserve what little vitality I have left for the last day of Boomtown. My body hates me.
I make it out of my tent and lie on the grass, blinking blearily in the afternoon sun, watching Bad Manners and dying quietly. A Boomtown martyr. Around me people throw extravagant shapes. One man flaps his bingo-wings in pride as ‘Lip Up Fatty’ is introduced with the call “Who’s a fatty? We love the fatties.” I am not in the mood to love anything, but eventually manage a skank.
After a quick detour to Tribe of Frog (I couldn’t resist) I’m at the Town Centre main stage – tipped off that a Swedish band Hoffmaestro & Chraaare are worth the watch. It’s the best live set I’ve seen in years, with absolutely fantastic showmanship (I may be slightly swayed by the hot lead singer pouring water erotically over himself and rolling his hips). An inspired set, I must catch them when they come to London later this year.
At the bar in Barrio Loco, in the Latino district, we notice a small, partially concealed corridor. Exploring further we find ourselves in a secret tequila bar; two men play music on a trumpet and battered piano, whilst women in flamenco style dresses drift suggestively around the small room.
One of the ladies approaches, me batting her eyelashes and asking how much money I have and how she knows how to please a woman. Possibly an actresses adding to the atmosphere, but when she gets her nipples out and starts demonstrating (with graphic tongue and hand movements) the best way to please a woman, I feel she’s going above and beyond the call of duty.
Another lady approaches my friend, telling them about “a secret game” in another room with “space at the table” for us. Before having time to think, we’re shoved through a tiny door and into an even tinier room – where three men sit dressed as Mexican gangsters, swigging tequila and playing cards. We sit down and start to play a card game with no rules, with the dealer talking Spanish, doing tequila shots and offering us lines of salt. I am not sure what’s going on, but I like it.
Maybe it’s because it’s the last night, but Boomtown is excelling in insanity. At one point I find myself in a cage surrounded by naked ladies decked out in Mexican Day of the Dead face paint. At another, I’m in a fully functioning gypsy caravan driven by a gentleman in a top hat and tails.
A normal, battered old caravan, parked up against one of the walls, turns out to be a secret entrance into yet another secret venue. And after up running up the Bank of Mayfair steps, and spinning in circles round the Funkington Manor Gardens, we end up at the Last Aid; where, instead of receiving plastic surgery and amputations (as threatened), we’re immersed in an intense atmosphere of writhing bodies and dirty bass.
I’m so incredibly ready to party ‘till morning, but alas, it is over; we’re faced with barriers, stewards and a distinct lack of music.
One steward informs us (with a bitterly smug smile on her face, I can’t help noticing) that the licence ends at midnight. The party is over. It is done. In a state of shock and misery we head up to The Lion’s Den, only to find the fire pits that were there the night before have been doused. Instead we sit on the ground with a lovely couple from Devon, who came with their three adult sons.
The stereotypical hippie mama tells me that she’s loved the festival but thought there was a “sinister undertone” and she found the atmosphere “weird” at times. Sinister and weird, words I’ve been using too.
Back in the tent I hear three men in the tent shouting into the silent campsite. They escalate from “anyone got any ganja?” to “anyone got any crack?”, then “anyone got any heroin?” – before ending with “anyone got a needle?”.
After a lack of response from the campsite at large, the final “Never mind, I’ll just shove it up my urethra” is called over stifled giggles. Goodnight Boomtown.
The ‘maddest city’ has sucked us in and burped us out. Its helpless inhabitants; stripped of our dignity, our composure and for many, our marbles. The pills and powders are finally wearing off, the fog has lifted, and people are staggering out of the gates – blinking at the outside world as though they have just woken up after a four day long dream. Boomtown (or perhaps now Boomcity) is anarchic, edgy and sometimes volatile, but wonderfully mad.
All round me now I hear “same time next year…” and I may well be returning, to see what strange encounters and ideas next year’s crowd bring. After all there are more of them now, which helps – Boomtown’s not a place I’d want to walk around on my own.
At the time of writing, all 5,000 Tier 1 tickets for Boomtown 2014 had already sold out. For more festival info, visit www.boomtownfair.co.uk