Festival watch: BoomTown – review

Matterley Estate, Winchester
Damian Marley’s affecting tribute to his father stole the show in a troubled weekend for BoomTown

The vibe

A 50,000-strong crowd attended the notoriously wacky four-day event on the Matterley Estate’s steep hilltops. Back for its eighth and biggest year, the makeshift shanty town hosted countless stages, seedy dives and pop-up sound systems playing everything from jungle and bassline to folk and funeral marches. Arts and crafts workshops, flash-mobbing actors in costume and spoken-word performances were also to be found in the BoomTown’s nooks and crannies. A few courageous parents, with their children in tow, stayed safely tucked away in KidzTown, while other festival-goers placated themselves with Hooch, hula-hooping and trance.

Unfortunately there were also serious issues. On Friday, 80 cars were damaged in a car park fire. On Monday, tragedy struck when an 18-year-old woman found in her tent was pronounced dead.

The crowd

An assortment of old-school ravers, fairylight-clad students and lads with fish bucket hats and painful-looking sunburn. Some culturally insensitive get-ups left a bad taste, including one “Chinese rice farmer” in stereotypical garb. Random celebrity spot: Outnumbered’s Ramona Marquez.

Best act

Fans in their thousands flocked to the Lion’s Den stage to catch an exhilarating performance by Sunday’s headliner Damian Marley. His rendition of his own songs, including Beautiful, Patience and Road to Zion, proved popular, but it was his heart-warming tribute to his famous father that had the biggest impact. The sight of endless lighters and phone torches waving along to Exodus and Get Up, Stand Up was a highlight.

So Solid Crew: but which MC is performing?
So Solid Crew: but which MC is performing? Photograph: Alex Laurel/George Harrison

And the worst

So Solid Crew’s haphazard set of garage, drum’n’bass, Atlanta hip-hop, Drake and Justin Bieber featured too many mismatching genres. At least 20 of the crew were on stage at any one time, so it was never really clear who was MC-ing. Frankly, the only thing the crowd really wanted to hear was their timeless hit 21 Seconds .

Best discovery

Tribe of Frog, just one of many hidden forest stages, was a visual delight. Rapturous, sand-covered dancers moved nonstop to the sounds of pulsating trance under dappled sunlight and a torrent of bubbles.

Best dressed

Among the sequinned gowns, Halloween costumes and inappropriate onesies, one woman’s T-shirt, emblazoned with a supermarket logo, stood out: “Tesco - Everyone’s a c**t”.


“Those boys need their mothers,” said one middle-aged woman in response to two young men spitting, complaining and playing music from their phones in the box-office queue.

Best tweet

Simon Says rapper Pharoahe Monch following his performance:

Now having beans and tomato for a well balanced Brexit before I leave the UK. 😋

— PHAROAHE MONCH (@pharoahemonch) August 15, 2016


Isa Jaward

The GuardianTramp

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