Review by Hayley Clark with Photography by Mike Burnell

On a weekend where torrential rain and storm predictions caused numerous festivals to cancel due to health and safety issues, Hampshire’s Boomtown showed why 65,000 revellers make the journey every year for this festival of fun and frolics, not even storms could put a dampener on the delights Winchester has to offer.

Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5808

With the site opening on the Wednesday some had already felt the battle of the winds and rain, on the Thursday evening however spirits weren’t dampened with DJ sets keeping them entertained and tents getting cosy, twitter reminded us to bring extra pegs so luckily there were no scenes from the Wizard of Oz on the fields.

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Awash with vibrant colours and smells the organisers worked hard to provide something magical and it’s easy to understand why it is one of the hottest festival tickets each year, selling out before the final wave of acts is released Boomtown’s crazy yet chilled atmosphere is one to behold. Lads in bucket hats and man pouches with scantily clad girls in swimsuits and shorts, neon is a hot colour along with sequins and rainbows this year promoting the boohoo catalogue revellers gave it their all dressed to the nines in the muddy field. Wellies are swapped for sneakers with Converse and Air Max rocking the mud, stained and most likely not the best footwear for a muddy weekend but it didn’t stop the party, faces of joy were everywhere and spirits were high, people joined together for a weekend of fab music and friendship and for the oldies in the crowd, aka the late 30 somethings like myself it was a jolt down nostalgia lane, re-living youth and the acts that made us who we are today as well as banging DJ sets and discovering new artists.

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The immersive festival’s opening show was filled with colour and design, theatrical and musically on the next level as the production was second to none, festival goers in awe at the performers in front of them as Boomtown 2019 was fully underway.

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Over the weekend Extinction Rebellion were on hand to show attendees how to become peaceful activists with nearly 10,000 recruited in the activities raising awareness of both political and climate changes in the world and hoping to make it a greener place, participants were also offered the chance to win tickets for next year by taking home their tents in the environmentally conscious festival.

After a number of pre party DJ sets it was time for the live stages to get up and running and Friday was no disappointment as the weekend had truly came with a bang.

London MC Ms. Dynamite was determined to not let the drizzle spoil her party, a trip down memory lane with her at the helm showcased the hottest jungle rhythms, bouncing around the stage the crowd went crazy as the Mercury Music Prize winner gave them all the classics. The melancholy beat of hit ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’ hasn’t aged as it takes you on a trip, the crowd singing along before hitting the fast paced energy of ‘Lights Down Low’ this is UK garage at its finest, she beams when performing onstage, having more recently become an old hand with the festivals she promises new music to come very soon.

Ms Dynamite Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3362

Ms Dynamite Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3376

At 56 years old Super Cat is still wowing the crowds and tonight is no exception, the dancehall legend’s energetic set comes two days before a sell out London gig as the DJ and artist kept the vibes going, winding waists and grooving a plenty to the penultimate act of the evening.

The rain didn’t stop CHRONIXX from bringing the heat to the Lion’s Den, bringing the sweet reggae beats the crowd bounced up and down to their idol on stage, dressed in a combo of yellow and green and accompanied by a full band his mellow vibe rocked the place “I want to see all the hands in the air” the crowd immediately fulfilled the Jamaican superstar’s request as they rocked from side to side. His mix of lover’s rock, hip hop and reggae is infectious as the 24 year performed in the UK ahead of his upcoming solo arena tour.

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Day two and at the Lion’s Den the crowd was rocking to the dirty drum and bass beat filling the air, skanking on one leg then two the crowd were getting down as General Levy raised the temperature and showed the newcomers how it is done. The drum and bass pioneer, who shot to fame in the 90s, kept the audience moving with his fast paced rhythm and rhymes like an energetic gym work out, the festival goers giving it their all as bangers like ‘Incredible’ graced the sound system and the General assembled his troops. Klaxons boomed as the audience revelled in the music, the short but sweet set kept them warm on the opening set of the day.

Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5143

Crowds milled about tired and weary from extreme conditions in the twelve different districts and stages for all, bright psychedelic colours and glowing tents as well as fire flames bounced off the larger stages. PA systems remind the festival goers to seek help if needed and worked around the clock to provide a safe atmosphere for those that needed it, from shelter through damaged tents or potentially high doses of drugs that had been tested in the onsite drug testing centre, safety was paramount in the difficult circumstances. With The Relic and other stages closed due to damage on Friday they juggled around sets to make sure the majority of performers could still perform to their fans, in a wash with jungle, drum and bass and techno music highlights of Saturday included the Nova Twins and also Groove Armada.

Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-4878

The crowd were excited as it was nearly time, even after taking a hiatus, The Streets returned like they had never been away, their infectious beats and lyrics and tales of everyday life warmed the souls and hearts of many, Mike Skinner the everyday jack the lad told it how it is where others wouldn’t dare embrace the problems of every day life in society with the likes of ‘Fit But You Know It’ and the doting agony uncle for ‘Dry Your Eyes’ it’s easy to see why the masses love him and Boomtown was no different, the love here is strong as they come on to cheers and screams from the crowd.

“Alright” if you shut your eyes for a second it could have been Danny Dyer on stage, but here is Mike in all his glory dressed all in black, eager to get the party started the crowd are taken on a rip roaring set of both old and new tracks.

Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-3265

Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-4594

“Sometime you need to take a moment you know” referring to Boardmasters being cancelled due to the adverse weather, “You guys prayed but remember tomorrow those at Boardmasters are gonna feel better than you tomorrow, but what would you have rather done? Your head may be banging but you’re gonna have memories”.

The party didn’t stop as the rip-roaring set had the crowd singing and bouncing along on a mad one, bringing on upcoming grime artists Jaykae and Grim Sickers to keep things moving they whipping the crowd into a frenzy as day two headed to a close.

Sunday evening was a hard choice in more ways than one, having two days of experiencing the crowds and festivities people looked a little drained, the pace was still busy even though a little slower but the real dilemma was who to see, the buzz around the fields was Prophets Of Rage or Ms. Lauryn Hill, re-live the 80’s disco with Salt ‘N Pepa or re-live family parties with Ali and Astro from UB40, maybe it’s just a Brummie thing but it wasn’t a proper family party if you didn’t hear Red Red Wine or Homely Girl at aunty so and sos party who wasn’t really your aunt but you were brought up to call them that when more likely they were your cousin twice removed. With the exception of the real UB40 I’d seen the other three acts before, all amazing and ones I’d see again, whether it be a gig or festival.

Prophets of Rage Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5552

Prophets of Rage Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5727

Nova Twins Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5015

Over at The Town Centre the 80’s vibe was huge, neon lights, clothing and sounds boomed from the stage as the new look Salt ‘N Pepa appeared with a bang, playing the UK for the first time without DJ Spinderella the duo showcased their fun and frolics proving why they were most likely the pioneers of female rap in the 80s.

The crowd laughed and sang at the fun stage antics, Pepa misbehaving in her leather mini skirt and cap whilst Salt trying to keep her best friend in check as she writhed and ground up the male dancers accompanying them. The beats were popping and the audience loved the trip down memory lane, even those young enough to have been a twinkle in their parents eyes knew the words and sang along to all the hits, ‘Whatta Man’, ‘None of Your Business’ and you know when this American duo ask you to ‘Shoop’ and ‘Push It’, Boomtown you did yourselves proud, the energy was high and there was no chance of any musical statues when these ladies were around.

Salt N Pepa Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5338

Salt N Pepa Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-5390

Running across to the Lion’s Den to catch the second half of UB40 proved why they were chosen as the penultimate act of the night, easily capable of being headliners within the strong line-up the crowd swayed as hit after hit flowed from the stage. The deep reggae sound took over as the godfathers of British reggae amazed the crowd. Age didn’t matter as the instantly recognisable sultry tones of Ali Campbell filled the air, dressed casually in cap and bomber jacket his distinctive tone and gravelly sound wowing their fans new and old in the spectacular set, accompanied by Astro the Brummie legends were infectious, you couldn’t help but smile as you listened to the sounds and lyrics. Re-living your childhood as the sway of the music as strong as the smell of a certain plant filling the air and the bright stage lights beamed across the audience enchanting them in this feel good show. A giant beachball bounced through the crowd as they were kept entertained with the boys bringing a glimpse of sunshine to the weekend the crowd sang along to favourites like ‘Red Red Wine’ and ‘Rat In Mi Kitchen’ Astro bounding across the stage energetically dressed in white keeping the crowd rocking with his rhymes and stage presence.

Sometimes you look at an artist and really don’t know what to expect and there isn’t many around that have the genius of Ms. Lauryn Hill, multiple award winning, both as a group and solo artist, she has always been one of the hottest female artists to grace our stages. Who would thought that Rita from Sister Act would go on to be one of the biggest influences in 90’s R&B with the platinum selling Miseducation of Lauryn Hill being the soundtrack to so many people lives, tonight Boomtown witnessed the magic at the Lion’s Den, the beat popping lyricist on fine form as she left mouths ajar and the arena rocking in one of her final festival performances of the year.

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Admittedly Ms. Hill doesn’t always get the recognition she deserves, social media polls seem to discredit her when discussing the all-time greatest female rappers however if it wasn’t for her then a lot of the names mentioned in these polls would never of been as most credit her as an inspiration, in interviews she has previously said she doesn’t align very well when it comes to time zones and tonight was no exception. Whilst quite a huge chunk of the restless crowd headed back to catch a phenomenal Prophets Of Rage set as the other Sunday night headliner, those who stayed knew that they were in for a treat, warm up DJ Reborn entertained the crowds for the just over an hour delay, the 90’s classic R&B mixes and old school classics kept the eager ones on their feet as it was time and the wait was coming to an end.

Accompanied by her band and three backing singers in ‘MLH’ tees the icon wowed the crowd from ‘Intro’ straight into the ‘Lost Ones’, eager to please her vocal range soared as she showed why she is one of the best in the business, the energy rose as she powered through the iconic album, the smooth beat from ‘Ex-Factor’ had the crowd swaying from side to side. The aura from the stage was powerful as the lights dimmed and the vibe slowed for ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ the hauntingly beautiful Frankie Valli cover showing her at her best, like a voice sent from heaven.

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Screams roared as the recognisable intro boomed from the stage, jumping up and down Boomtown erupted as Ms Hill embraced her adoring audience with ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’, the singer was on fire as the lyrics flowed freely, mesmerising her fans witnessing the talent before them, and then flipping into the chorus her soulful tones shining as bright as the star on stage herself. You didn’t want the night to end, it’s easy to see how many call her music royalty in this short but sweet set that closed Boomtown 2019.

As Boomtown 2019 comes to an end, all I can say is what an amazing weekend. I’m wondering what 2020 will bring, Boomtown is more than a festival it’s an experience that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime, complete with the loving Boomtown community get your early birds as soon as they go on sale as it’s going to be one not to miss.

Mik Artistiks Ego Trip Boomtown 2019 pic by Mike Burnell-4945

See the full photoset from Boomtown​ Chapter 11 here.

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