On our return from the fantastic Boomtown Fair, we reflect upon the weekend’s offering here at URB. With bouncing basslines and some serious grooving, the quality and variety of music on show at the Fair was phenomenal. From the heaviest of Drum and Bass (DnB henceforth), to the weird and wonderful live performances, this is our review of the music curation at Boomtown Fair.
A Wide Variety:
Upon arrival at the festival, we considered what we expected from the Fair. A particular topic of discussion was regarding the prevalence of dnb music across the festival site. From our exposure to media from the festival in previous years and through comments on our pre-coverage TikTok’s, we held the assumption that dnb would be all you would hear across the weekend. However, we found this to be far from the truth and were thrilled to see such a variety of both DJ sets and live performances.
In terms of live sets, a particular highlight was the energetic Too Many Zooz, whose extremely talented saxophonist, Leo P surprised us all. Similarly, there were some interesting electronic live sets to be seen, in which unique methods were used to build the music the crowd was listening to. For example, we found an artist called Careless Wispa within one of the micro-venues creating a variety of sounds from scratch using a DAW (digital audio workstation).
The live performances also represented Boomtown’s celebration of 50 years of hip-hop, many of which were hosted on the Grand Central stage. URB’s favourites were a lively and historic performance from Cypress Hill, a soulful set from Loyle Carner and a wild showcase of the new sounds of hip-hop from Joey Valence & Brae.
Finally, it was particularly appreciated that each stage wasn’t defined by a particular genre. We found we were able to go back to the same stage hours later and the vibe would be completely different, building upon the sense of discovery that the Twin Trail promised.
Some Emerging Trends:
We can’t talk about this year’s music at Boomtown without mentioning Baddadan, the smash hit from Bou and Chase & Status. Arguably the biggest song in DnB at the moment, it was of no surprise to hear this multiple times daily, even hourly, across the festival in its original format. However, we also witnessed a plethora of Baddadan bootlegs, including a wicked UKG edit from Bullet Tooth across the weekend, which we felt was reflective of the dance music industry of late.
Many of the largest and craziest crowd reactions came from bootlegged or remixed tracks, which is dividing opinions across the scene and is becoming a common debate amongst producers, DJs, and enthusiasts. Across the weekend, ec2a label owner Dr Dubplate shared his thoughts on the matter in a series of tweets as seen below:
Tweets from @Dr_Dubplate
In writing this, I share the sentiment of Dr Dubplate in the sense that bootleg culture is vital to the underground music scene. As I have witnessed for many of my peers who produce their own music, bootlegs and remixes are something that has allowed them to see vast growth in their recognition across their respected genres. For example, RHD, whose Skepta- Cross My Heart bootleg, helped to accelerate his growth in the UKG scene and allowed him to gain recognition from Universal Music Group.
The celebration of rising star, Badger, across the festival is also testament to the importance of bootleg culture to the scene. With 5 sets across the weekend, Badger’s popularity has grown vastly through the success of his bootleg of ‘Vengaboys- We Like to Party!’. With some of the scene’s largest DJs supporting this track and an official remix collaboration with the Vengaboys and their label themselves, it is clear to see that these bootlegged tracks are gaining vast recognition.
In a recent talk that Badger hosted in Access Creative College Bristol, he elaborated upon how bootlegs have been key to his success in the underground dance music scene and are inspiring budding producers to create their own, based on their favourite tracks. With this, I personally welcome bootleg culture to the scene and hope to see it encourage more emerging talent.
Impressive Stage Design:
Next, we dive into some detail regarding the experiences we had at three specific stages: Origin, Spectrum 360 and the Boiler Room takeover in Hidden Woods. The stages were near each other but held distinct differences that we feel are worth mentioning.
Origin: An Enormous Experience
IMANU performing on Origin Stage
As far as crowds go, Origin brought the masses. Heavily dominated by dnb throughout the weekend, you could have stayed here all weekend and wouldn’t have been disappointed. Notable sets were Born on Road, Enei b2b Mejfus and a crazy closing show from Hedex who brought out the highly acclaimed Mozey (our dnb dad). Straddled by two giant artificial waterfalls, the stage was raised to allow for a great view regardless of location in the crowd.
Despite the phenomenal nighttime visuals, the daytime sets brought energy that could be heard across the entire campsite. We found ourselves sitting at camp listening to acts like Shy FX and A Little Sound before making our way down to the arena.
Saturday’s Origin takeover celebrating 10 years of 24-hour Garage Girls was historic. With some lethal back-to-back combinations of Champion and MPH, DJ Q and Sammy Virji, and Oppidan and the old school legend Matt Jam Lamont, the garage heads among URB situated themselves front and center for the entire afternoon.
We were particularly thrilled to see the UK garage scene getting so much respect on the biggest of stages, a genre which we feel is generally kept to the secondary stages within many underground music events/ festivals. Shosh and the Garage Girls curated a fantastic lineup which set us up with energy and excitement for the remainder of the Saturday evening.
Our final point on Origin regards the sound around the vicinity. Whilst the stage being the only thing you could hear throughout the campsites, when you arrived the sound was less invasive than one would have expected. Proximity to the speaker stacks was a big consideration for our group at this stage. We found, despite being close to the front, some areas did not have that soul-filling volume that we wished to hear. Whilst we can appreciate the vast area the sound needed to cover, the overall volume levels and sound coverage were something we considered slightly underwhelming.
Spectrum 360: A Curated Masterclass
Dancers at Spectrum 360
Whilst on the topic of sound quality, the Spectrum 360 stage offered a breathtaking experience. The stage, curated by Mandidextrous (the undisputed queen of Boomtown this year) was a masterclass in artist selection and sound design.
With a Void surround sound system and speaker stacks around the entirety of the perimeter, this stage was nothing short of perfect. A raised stage with dancers surrounded by enough space to get a serious 2-step going brought an energy that felt different to anywhere else on the site. We stayed to watch IVY and Samurai Breaks on Thursday night and went back to the stage every night to relive the same energy.
The popularity of this stage was something that did make its entry slightly difficult. With only one narrow point of entry, the crowds tended to cluster in groups at the entrance, blocking the passage for more ravers to enter, whereas the areas behind this were much sparse. A redesign of the entry system would have made this stage perfect.
Hidden Woods: Boiling Breaks
On the Sunday we also ventured into the Hidden Woods to experience some of the Boiler Room takeover. When the live recorded sets with the classic surrounding crowd are released we recommend watching them back, as these paint a picture of just how special the Boomtown crowds were. Denham Audio b2b DJ F**koff was a particular highlight of the afternoon, blending an eclectic mix of breaks, techno, speed garage and more.
On stage with Hudson Mohawke at Boiler Room’s Hidden Woods takeover
Despite the popularity of many stages and crowds flocking to see the biggest names, no stage felt empty at any time. At other festivals, I find that many artists are left with considerably smaller crowds than they deserved due to a clash with another artist. At Boomtown this was not the case. Everywhere you went you felt like there was a bustling energy, with many of the smaller stages being at least half full to full across the entire weekend. This builds upon the sense of discovery that the Twin Trail experience highlighted, where the festival scale and variety was in perfect balance with the quantity of ravers in the arena.
To read more about the festival experience visit our Boomtown Festival Review.