Makky’s BoomTown Diary 2016 – Part 1

Thursday, August 11th and Friday, August 12th

The BoomTown diary is back after what is safe to say another incredibly successful festival from everyone involved in making this weekend happen. Once again I shall share my experiences of this almighty, unique home of diversity; which is still more like a theme park producing live music than a bog standard music festival.

Thursday – Arrival Day

Boomtown old town 2016

Unlike last year’s horrendous queuing in the rain with the rest of the regular festival goers, I not only got to skip that gigantic line by going in the crew entrance, but the sun was out and scorching hot. The idea of not having to set up in windy and wet conditions was a brilliant feeling to start the festival with.

Even on arrival day, there were bands playing as early as four in the afternoon while people were still coming through the gates. But with three more days of music to come, I decided this was still the best opportunity to check out any other changes. I do regret skipping out on Skaciety though.

The majority of the layout was the same, but, just like last year, walking through the festival you could see the amazing effort the organisers had put into the settings of each district. There were minor changes to last year in terms of how each setting looked. For example, the Town Centre stage looked less like a house and more like a town hall. I prefer the new look too.

The Bad Apple bar opposite was turned around to face towards the Old Town instead of the Town Centre stage. Little things like added tables and even hammocks in the open space of the Town Centre and in the woods, four poster beds up on Hippy Hill. You could tell that the organisers were going that extra step.

ChinaTown, where I would spend most of my weekend had grown a little since last year. There was a new outside stage called the Last Stand which was placed directly opposite the popular Devil Kicks Dancehall tent. The Devil Kicks tent had some nice new oriental looking scenery around its entrances too. Mayfair had grown too, wider to accommodate more bars and hidden venues.

On the first day, you could see people were really in the party mood; with plenty of festival goers covered in face paint and glitter along with outrageous outfits. While some people were still arriving, others were getting trashed and partying to the acts that were already performing. The food choices were just as wide as last time, it was almost too much choice sometimes. Pimp My Fries was a personal favourite this year though down in the Barrio Loco area.

Talco – Devil Kicks Dancehall – 11pm-12am

I waited until the evening to catch my first act in full. Talco, an Italian third wave ska band on the verge of releasing their album ‘Silent Town’ for the first time in the UK next month. The energy was high in the Devil Kicks tent, lots of positive vibes and plenty of people dancing around to the fun anthems erupting from the stage. The noticeable thing about Talco is that if you don’t speak Italian then you won’t know what the hell these guys were saying. But who cares if you can still dance around to it? There was non-stop movement throughout the set. I was quite surprised how great of a reaction they got from the crowd. It was a thoroughly enjoyable set to kick off my weekend, it got me ready for the next few days which were packed full of music.


The hot weather had continued and it became unbearable to stay in your tent after 9am. This gave a perfect excuse to get back to exploring the festival before any of the bands were starting. I checked out the brand new Sector Six district, which gave a very industrial vibe to it. It was a very large stage, not too different in size to the Banghai Palace. There wasn’t a lot other than the stage in terms of scenery, but I’m sure that district will get added designs next year.

Bad Manners – Town Centre – 12pm-1pm

After some lengthy delays and rabbitting on from the resident BoomTown town crier, the legendary two-tone band got off to a bang. Kicking off with an instrumental segment to get everyone moving before the iconic Buster Bloodvessel hit the stage to shout “THIS IS SKAAA”. Throughout the set, the band unleashed popular ska anthems ‘Special Brew’ and ‘Lip Up Fatty’ as well as covers of ‘My Girl Lollipop’, Frankie Valli‘s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’ and the ‘Can Can’. All of which had everyone skanking around, singing along and having a great time. Bad Manners was a perfectly positive way to start the day.

Afterwards, I headed off to the Hidden Forest to hide from some of the midday heat. It was a completely sandy and shady area underneath trees, lots of wooden platforms to give it a Carribean feel. I caught a little bit of the Brighton Ska/Reggae act Samsara playing an incredibly relaxed set as people drank cocktails and others just bobbed about to the grooves. It was a nice little break before going off to see The Defekters over on the ChinaTown Courtyard.

The Defekters – Chinatown Courtyard – 2pm-3pm

Last year I caught the Stevenage dub/ska band and I found their set underwhelming compared to my expectations. I decided to give them another go and this time round they did not disappoint. The Defekters had a much larger and more enthusiastic crowd in comparison. People were dancing around in the scorching sun to the chilled out rap fronted ska rhythms. Occasionally the band threw in some high tempo segments to lose your shit to. This was much more like it.

The Lagan –Devil Kicks Dancehall – 4pm-4:40pm

The Lagan Boomtown

The Lagan were another returning act from last year, and having been impressed last time I was certainly excited to see the London Irish folk act again. The Lagan put on an intensely energetic show to a fairly full Devil Kicks tent. There was certainly a great reaction from the crowd as fans sang along and danced around to popular anthems such as the incredibly catchy ‘Same Shit Different Night’ and the epically melodic ‘Staring The Devil In The Eye’ – you just have to love the tin whistle melody.

Popes Of Chillitown –Devil Kicks Dancehall – 5pm-6pm

Popes of Chillitown Boomtown 2016

One of the bands I was most excited about, The London dub ska punk band was my favourite discovery from 2015 and quite frankly they were one of the highlights of 2016 too. It was madness, the Devil Kicks tent was incredibly full for moshing and skanking to the incredibly lively songs such as ‘Wisdom Teeth’ and ‘Dalking Man’. This set had everything from massive clap and singalongs to saxophone, trompbone and guitar solos. Throughout the set, there were people diving off the barrier, some great, some rather embarrassing – even vocalist Matt Conner got involved with the insanity. The Spice Girls/System of a Down medley cover track, ‘Spice Up Your System’ made a festival return to receive a phenomenal reaction. Everyone’s inner 90s pop fan came out of their outer punk shells for a few moments to sing along to every word. It was just fantastic. Popes Of Chillitown are a must see for any ska fan.

Quote from Popes of Chillitown: “Boomtown is an incredible festival that keeps stepping itself up. It’s just nice to see our friends that we’ve made over the last 5 years playing there. It’s nice to be part of the boomtown story. But there were fewer bacon shops this time. And we still have never been on top of the pirate ship.”

Someone needs to make that happen!

After Popes Of Chillitown‘s set, I needed a breather so I headed back up to the Town Centre to catch a bit of The Slackers perform a chilled out form of lounge ska songs. It was cheerful and far from the intensity that I saw on the previous set. Fans were swaying around at most.

I only caught a few songs before watching the Barstool Preachers rock out a semi-full Devil Kicks tent with their chirpy third wave ska-punk with two tone influences, their most notable song was the self-titled ‘Barstool Preacher’ song, which had a decent response to the moderately sized audience.

RatBag –Last Stand – 7:30pm-8pm

RatBag Boomtown 2016

Brighton’s gypsy ska punks were the first band I managed to catch on the modest-sized Last Stand stage. Sounding like a more aggravated female fronted Gogol Bordello with a more impressive saxophone. The band unleashed a mixture of aggressive anthems, including the recent video track ‘Geezer Bird‘, and some fun filled songs to make sure everyone watching was dancing around and enjoying themselves. Gradually more and more people turned up to see all the commotion and got involved. While I didn’t manage to catch the other RatBag sets across the weekend due to clashes, I’m certainly looking forward to the ‘Rentokil’ EP they have planned.

Quote from RatBag: “We were really psyched for playing in Chinatown and are hoping that we did enough to get a chance to play on the devil kicks mainstage soon! That PA, lights and smoke would feel really ace”

Wonk Unit –Devil Kicks Dancehall – 8pm-9pm

Our favourite wonky bastards were on in the Devil Kicks tent to entertain the crowd with their ever so amusing silly behaviour and interesting stories between songs. Alex Wonk explained most song topics in a perfect manner, telling the lyrics in a story, like how ‘She Cut Her Finger’ was about when he was in the bath when his wife showed him her cut finger. Other topics included a nan who pisses with the door open or how shit it is to be a builder. All of these themes were backed by mostly gritty British sounding punk rock, some with more melodic pieces and the occasional bit of trombone playing.

There was high energy throughout, with little signs of this letting up. Frontman Alex made a big deal about interacting with the crowd, asking most people in the front what their names were and making them feel involved. Usually saying some kind of funny comment about them. Highlights were definitely people doing the elbow dance to ‘Elbows’, singing along to ‘Horses’ and the crowd going crazy and for ‘Go Easy’.

It was a great set to end my night on. Even though there was a lot more going on still for many hours, I called it a night to make sure I wasn’t exhausted from a long day of watching bands and ready for more on Saturday.

Click here for part 2

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