BoomTown Fair 2014: August 7th – 10th
Although only six years into its history, BoomTown Fair has already cemented itself as one of the UK’s most vibrant and unique festivals. Based around a makeshift city, with dozens of stages split between nine separate districts, the event has rapidly become something of a mecca for fans of punk, reggae, ska, folk, swing and just about everything in between. With positive vibes and a real sense of community being shared by all “residents”, BoomTown is without a doubt the top alternative to the UK’s mainstream festivals. Although it would be impossible to summarise every single act that performed, here is a rundown of some of our personal highlights of the weekend:
6) Will Tun & The Wasters
Our first band took to the Chinatown stage just after noon on Sunday, where a surprisingly large crowd battled through their various hangovers and comedowns to attend. The Reading/Bristol-based rabble boasted an impressive array of musical talents, adding accordion, banjo and ukelele to the more standard arrangement of guitar, bass and drums. Their raucous blend of punk, folk and ska was a joy to behold, and the band did amazingly well to get their jaded audience moving. Whether this had anything to do with the offer of free home-brewed scotch bonnet and lime cider to the best dancers is up for interpretation.
5) Backyard Rhythm Orchestra
The next band in our list was something of a pleasant surprise. Stumbled upon at noon on Friday at the modestly-sized Crazy Calamities stage in the Wild West district, this collection of ragtag Geordies were an excellent personification of the BoomTown spirit. With furious horns, infectious dance rhythms, songs about Irn Bru and perhaps the most fabulous pair of trousers to grace the festival, their individual brand of gypsy punk was the perfect start to the day. They went on to grace the stage twice more over the weekend, including an apparently naked performance at the Lost Horizon Sauna for anyone who “wanted to get their flappy bits out”. Sadly, Fortitude were not able to attend said show due to schedule clashes.
4) Surfin’ Turnips
One of the most memorable performances from the Devil Kicks stage was that of West Country punk band Surfin’ Turnips. With simple yet furious riffs punctuated by a good dose of cider-based humour and bizarre onstage antics, they will certainly be remembered as one of the funniest and entertaining acts of the festival. By far the high point of the performance came during in the final number, in which the band managed to get a tent full of punks fighting over a couple of marrows that had just been used to “marry” two members of the audience. Yes, you did read that correctly.
3) The Skints
When it comes to showing the right attitude as musicians, a special mention has to go out to The Skints. Playing The Lion’s Den stage on Friday afternoon, the bands’ promise of a spectacular show was clearly not one they took lightly. Their laid-back combination of roots, rocksteady and hip hop was unbelievably tight, and the vocal harmonies were nothing short of breathtaking. The set featured a complete mix of their back catalogue as well as material from their upcoming album, with a spectacular rendition of ‘The Cost Of Living Is Killing Me’ being the real highlight of the set. Unfortunately, heavy rain broke out half way through, driving away some of the audience. However, in good fashion, the band stuck to their guns and continued to work even harder for those who remained, proving that The Skints truly are a band for all seasons.
Signifying a bit of a change of scenery from the rest of the bands featured, this list would not have been complete without mentioning Tinariwen. Taking to the The Old Mines stage on Saturday night, the desert blues pioneers took hold of their audience with their hypnotic blend of spidery guitar lines, droning bass and minimalistic percussion. Clad in familiar Tuareg attire, the band embarked on a musical journey through the troubled history of their people. Even the absence of band leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who is currently in their native Mali attending to family issues caused by recent political events, did little to dispel the intensity of the performance. It is rare that a group grabs the attention of an audience so firmly, but Tinariwen managed it with style in a truly captivating late night performance.
1) Jimmy Cliff
The top of our list, the true pinnacle of BoomTown, is reserved for on of reggae’s greatest veterans. Jimmy Cliff closed proceedings at The Lion’s Den on Sunday night, and it was a performance that did not disappoint. Supported by backing band of exceptionally talented musicians, Cliff was in as a fine a voice as ever, and demonstrated an astonishing amount of energy for an older performer. Cliff proved himself a born entertainer, bounding from one end of the stage to the other making sure not one member of his audience stopped moving for the whole show. His choice of material did not disappoint either, performing such fan favourites as ‘The Harder They Come’, ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ and an extended version of Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’. However, by far the best song of the whole set was the soulful ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, which Cliff sang with passion and emotion so sincere that some audience members were nearly moved to tears. It was the perfect ending to a spectacular festival, and was only dampened by the powers that be closing the stage before Cliff could return for an encore.