“We can without a doubt say that Boomtown Fair is the most insane festival we’ve been to.”
With Boomtown Fair looming, we caught up with Laura and Alec Freestone the organisers behind a couple of our favourite stages at the festival, Devil Kicks Dancehall and the Last Stand. The Last Gang In Town are a large part of the ska and punk community that invades Boomtown each year. Laura and Alec talk about the start of their promotion, their connection with Boomtown, some of their favourite moments and their dreams acts to book.
Broken Arrow Magazine: Who is the Last Gang In Town? How and when did it start?
Last Gang In Town: After moving to Cambridge and finding ourselves un-inspired with the live music that was on offer, we decided to try putting on a gig ourselves. Inspired by The Clash and the late Joe Strummer, we named ourselves ‘Last Gang In Town’ and our first gig was a Strummerville benefit in December 2003. We raised a tidy sum for the charity and everyone had a great night. It was supposed to have been a one off, but the rest is history.
Through organising gigs in Cambridge over the years we have made lots of friends, some of who wanted to help out and become more involved whether it be flyering around town or DJing at gigs, and so we have become a crew of great friends who are all into organising fun gig nights. We are DIY, not for profit, antifascist promoters who put on Punk, Ska, Reggae, Psychobilly and Rockabilly bands – although we tend to concentrate more on Punk and Ska these days.
Broken Arrow Magazine: What is your relationship with Boomtown Festival? How did it come about?
Last Gang In Town: We started being involved with Boomtown Fair in 2010 when we were asked to DJ in between bands on the Devil Kicks Dancehall. There were quite a few of the Last Gang In Town crew at the festival that year and we ended up helping out backstage too. After a couple of years we were asked to run the Devil Kicks Dancehall, doing everything from programming bands, DJing, band liaison, creating and making the décor and venue management. Last year we came up with the idea of having a bandstand outside of the Devil Kicks Dancehall, called the Last Stand, to showcase semi-acoustic Punk and Folk singers and musicians. The acts on the bandstand perform in between those on the Devil Kicks Dancehall so it works really well to provide non-stop Punk Rock entertainment!
Broken Arrow Magazine: What are your thoughts on the festival? What are some of your favourite aspects?
Last Gang In Town: We can without a doubt say that Boomtown Fair is the most insane festival we’ve been to. To be able to be involved in it is an amazing experience. It’s like an explosion of music, art and theatre. There is SO much variety and creativeness manifested in the festival and the diversity of music is amazing.
Broken Arrow Magazine: What are some of your fondest memories of the event over the years?
Last Gang In Town: As you can probably imagine, once the festival is open, we don’t really get a chance (read that as never!) to go and explore around the site so our fondest memories are based around the Devil Kicks Dancehall. When we heard that King Prawn were to reform to play at Boomtown in 2013 we were so stupidly excited, and they absolutely smashed it to a totally rammed Devil Kicks Dancehall, which closed the stage on the Sunday night. Last year Stza from Leftover Crack joined Days N Daze on the Last Stand, and then Days N Daze jumped up on stage to perform with Leftover Crack on the Devil Kicks Dancehall. The Ruts headlining the Thursday night a few years ago was insane and I know for Alec that New Model Army playing the Devil Kicks Dancehall was very special as he had been a fan since he was a teenager. Giving hugs to Jaya the Cat as it formed part of their (extensive, and very amusing) rider. The look of wonder and amazement on people faces when they get to Boomtown for the first time, and that includes a lot of the big names from across the pond who wonder how the festival manages to ‘get away with it’. The Monday morning after the first year we managed the Devil Kicks Dancehall, just thinking ‘wow, we did that!!!’ haha. And definitely the team spirit from our Last Gang crew!
“We’ve been lucky enough to be able to book lots of our ‘wish list bands’ over the years”
Broken Arrow Magazine: What is the selection process for choosing who plays each year?
Last Gang In Town: It’s always one of the most difficult aspects of running the Devil Kicks Dancehall. As you can imagine the number of emails we receive asking to play is huge. We also receive Boomtown Fair band application forms from bands that are suitable for Devil Kicks Dancehall. We try and get out and about to as many gigs as we can to check out bands who we haven’t seen before to find new bands for both the Devil Kicks Dancehall and the Last Stand, and to see who is stirring up the punk scene.
Broken Arrow Magazine: Who is new to Chinatown this year that you recommend?
Last Gang In Town: Since we have been programming the Devil Kicks Dancehall, every year we have tried to book the Legendary Shack Shakers and we are stupidly excited that we have finally succeeded and they will be headlining on Friday night. One of the most entertaining bands we have seen, people seriously need to experience their infamous hell-for-leather Southern Gothic Punk Rock Blues and Country roadshow. Their wildly charismatic frontman Col. J.D.Wilkes has been described by Jello Biafra as ‘the last great Rock and Roll frontman’.
If you’re not familiar with Blaggers ITA then don’t miss their set on Saturday night. They caused a storm in the early 1990s with their uncompromising anti-fascist stance and unique mix of Streetpunk with rave culture. Boomtown Fair will be their only UK appearance this year!
Join the party Ska vibes on Thursday night with The Resignators from Australia who combine melodic horns with floating keyboards, fuelled by a tight hard hitting rhythm section and powered by a Jamaican inspired back beat. Mixing classical 80’s British Punk-Oi! sounds with Ska, Rock’n’Roll and Hardcore rhythms, Italian band Los Fastidios will have everyone skanking on Saturday night.
Saturday night’s headliners are Canadian Ska Punks The Planet Smashers who haven’t played in the UK since 2008! Catch them for some pure unadulterated party ska awesomeness. With equal parts Orange County Punk, Honky Tonk Country and a tip-jar full of Rockabilly swagger, Colorado trio Reno Divorce strike a unique chord of their own.
Back To The Planet started their career in the squats of London and on the free festival circuit in the late 1980s and are the perfect hard-to-define Anarcho, Dub, Crusty, Punk, Ska band!
Other bands new to the Devil Kicks Dancehall to watch out for are Los Angeles’ influential Punk Rock band The Generators, Welsh 3 piece Thrash Punks Pizzatramp, raging feminist Post-Hardcore band Petrol Girls and Hastings all-girl Punk crew Maid Of Ace.
Broken Arrow Magazine: Who would you love to book that you haven’t already?
Last Gang In Town: Well we’ve been lucky enough to be able to book lots of our ‘wish list bands’ over the years, but bands we’d still love to book for the Devil Kicks Dancehall….Rancid (yeah we know, DKDH is way too small), Tim Armstrong, The Aggrolites, Killing Joke, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Oi Polloi, Social Distortion, Dropkick Murphys, Against Me, Booze & Glory, Jello Biafra, Darkbuster, Guana Batz, Choking Victim, Star Fucking Hipsters, Crack Rock Steady 7 (if they happen to reform….)
Broken Arrow Magazine: Any horror story moments you are willing to share?
Last Gang In Town: Naming no names, but everyone must have heard about the Johnnie Walker Red Label ‘incident’ ?!!.
Broken Arrow Magazine: What are your thoughts on the DIY scene in the UK at the moment? Who’s caught your eye?
Last Gang In Town: With numerous venues across the country being closed down, promoters are having to work harder and harder to organise events, but we’ve been very happy to see the UK DIY scene going from strength to strength in the past few years. People from all aspects of the scene from around the country are coming together, collaborating and helping each other out in any way possible which is fantastic.
After catching them at Manchester Punk Festival earlier in the year, Pizzatramp are definitely a band to watch out for. Totally entertaining with their 1 minute ranting songs and we’re excited to have them on the Devil Kicks Dancehall this year!
The Minor Discomfort Band because Ed Ache is in it, and he’s a musical genius, and we still miss I.C.H.
Roughneck Riot and Faintest Idea just keep getting better and better, in fact we recommend you check out TNS Records if you want the low down on some of the best UK punk and hardcore bands around at the moment.
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