Last year we tasted the high life and it tasted like a little sip of bubbly whilst lost in the middle of the desert; even Satan’s piss charged with battery acid will taste nice to a parched tongue. We lived it up like hillbillies invited to an open bar wedding reception at the Ritz. At this point, we’re truly Boomtown veterans and with the help of the festival’s ever-shifting landscape have managed to map out magically meandering paths through each year and never been found repeating previous steps. This year before we even arrive we decide we’re going to head for the hills and make base camp with the hippies up in Whistler’s Green.
I arrive on my own, panting and sweaty from the arduous journey to get here. I drop my bags heavy with a thud to my left and right. Just looking at the sign welcoming me to my destination my bones and liver begin to quiver and quake. There’s a deep fear that runs up my aching back and settles in my gut. Every year we get older, and every year Boomtown decreases our life expectancy in a ravenous explosion of ridiculous revelry. We’re living life like maybugs and quite honestly at this point we have to question how many more times we can do this. The bag on my right is full to the brim with intoxicants, inebriants, and inexplainable costumes. The bag on my left is filled with much the same as well as the necessary distractions, credentials, and bribes needed to dissuade the dandy highwaymen on the gate from parting me with my much-needed homebrews. Gathering my courage and belongings I make a beeline for our designated assembly point in the hippy home on the hill.
Whistler’s Green has always been a part of the festival that we’ve visited and promised we would spend more time next year. It is far removed from the scrum of the rest of the festival, which is precisely what makes it so attractive. Its distance makes it a den of tranquillity with a moat of fatigue around its borders that keeps most of the marauding hordes away. By choosing to lay our heads their nightly, morningly, or middayingly, it means that at both the beginning and close of each adventure we will be settled into a slightly more relaxed rhythm, one that will hopefully rock us into calm focused reflection like a baby in a cradle. A stark difference to the usual death growl and vigorous shaking wake up call the rest of the fair usually provides.
We pitch our ramshackle tents and set to exploring our immediate surroundings whilst the festival at large is still busy setting up. On the horizon is a rumbling portent of things to come in whistling winds and grey clouds but for the meantime, we’re still too full of piss, vinegar, and an increasing supply of whiskey to pay it much mind. To the smell of campfire, chai, and good ol’ hash, we share a few magical moments with the traveling talesmen and dreadlocked outcasts that nestle into the thatch and wood of Whistler’s Green. The Floating Lotus is the ship’s mast at the center of this beautiful vessel, it offers a wide selection of artists and acts from every corner of the globe and spanning genres just as eclectic and wide-reaching. If the Floating Lotus is the driving force gathering wind into the sails of this area of the fair, then the Magic Teapot is the mess hall. Offering little more than a warm hearth and a selection of instruments they invite the ever-changing crowd to become the entertainment themselves. Hearty singalongs and moments of original music fueled by the vast array of talented musicians that tend to congregate here; only rarely interrupted by an emboldened attempt by Chad to treat us all to his scrappily learned rendition of Wonderwall, once Chad has sat the fuck back down it’s usually a great space to spend an hour or two lost in improvised and entirely crowdfunded good times.
Wandering out of the haze of the Magic Teapot our buzz is instantly blown away by the sharp slap of the now tumultuous winds. For the next couple of days, tents are flattened, ripped from the ground, and tossed unceremoniously into the bordering bracken and bushes that surround the fair. Homes are lost and hearts are broken. At the end of one particularly blustery night after stages had been shut down for the safety of the Fair’s residents I returned back to base decidedly less wonky than usual due to the abrupt apparent end to the night. I arrived at my miracle of a haversack shack still standing, but next door two teary-eyed fairy-winged angels were hastily trying to tie down the extremities of their wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman which on offering my assistance they informed did at one point, in fact, resemble a tent. As we pack it down, we exchange awkward pleasantries and a few jokes. Once it’s clear the situation can be conquered they seem to gather the second, third, and fourth winds that are blowing beneath them. They plan to deposit the cart at a friend’s tent further downhill and make a vow of no sleep to the angry gods sending this cataclysm at us; they won’t stop dancing until the gales do.
Inspired by the mythical and magical mistresses of the woods, I reach into my own tent to grab a bottle of liquid merriment and then with the other hand outstretched to the sky grab hold of the next passing guy rope and take a tornado tent taxi like a rum fueled Mary Poppins. I’m deposited unceremoniously back into the hillock shielded den of the downtown fair. Barrelling forward with the momentum of my arrival still behind me I’m propelled into the welcoming arms of The Bunker and the impact cushion of the wall of sound erected by Ask My Bull on the stage. They tear viciously into the flesh of their set with the reckless joy and abandon of a pack of lions to a fresh kill. The Bunker is feeling the feeding frenzy from the stage and it’s unclear who dances harder, the band or the crowd. It is remedy and relief to my tiring spirit and grabs me by the scruff of the neck to set me marionette dancing with legs lassoing along to the punk fueled jazz that finally drowns out the blowing winds from outside.
There ain’t no wind that can blow us off course. Whilst the weather might seem unfriendly and the ever-youngening throngs and crowds around us may be infuriating, with my camera-wielding associate by my side, a beer or three in my pocket, and the grit and determination to have the wildest weekend yet in our hearts, we strap into our superhero costumes and decide to ignore all else and lose our minds and selves in the interactive maze of the Boomtown storyline.
What do young people love more than anything? Their phones. We decide to use the app provided by the fair and spend some time blending in with the masses by walking around hunched over our pocket squawker to get a slice of the experience. It leads us on a winding journey across the site but the focus of adventure is in Oldtown where we’re led on a merry runaround by a cackling gaggle of unwashed vagrants. The pirates inform us of a plot by the evil elite to poison the soil, a natural disaster that will act as an indirect form of cleansing affecting the lower strata of society as the cost of food and water skyrockets. This is supposed to be a fun escape from reality? This is a grossly grotesque mirror that I dare not stare into for too long without a much more hearty dosing of cushioning from good ol’ booze, music, and good times. There are already enough signs around site telling the slack-jawed and spinning disc irised masses to tidy up after their goddamnselves, as if the very simple message needed further echoing.
We wobble and weave through the insanity in a montage of music, moving set pieces, and madness. Drawing on the courage given to us by our capes we present ourselves as superheroes, here to immerse ourselves more fully into the narrative than anyone else could ever hope to achieve. We succeed but in doing so lose ourselves so completely that upon exit it may be hard to ever truly find the person we were before this long weekend began. Someone recognises us downtown though and we’re beckoned into a dark and dingy storage container to meet with “The Techno Pixie” who has been trapped in virtual reality by the evil Ami. After general chit chat and banter, some dancing, and fun times things get hot and heavy. Techno Pixie comes on stronger than a drunk uncle as a wedding reception and it’s not long before a baby is born, sadly it’s a demon child and quickly tossed aside as we make our exit never to meet again. Ahh, festival romance.
We end the festival as we usually do ears buzzing by the sudden silence after five days of ever-increasing rowdiness outside of Hangar 161 as they pull across the grates of the entrance. A couple of doe-eyed youngsters approach.
“Is it closed?”
“Well, the door is shut…”
“Yeah, but it can’t be closed.”
It’s cute that the festival has inspired in them a sense that behind every closed door is an adventure waiting to happen if you just have the courage to push. We have been here at the witching hour of the festival on its final night too many times before though and know full well how quickly it turns its back on you as the ever-rushing approach of reality reals its ugly head.
“No. This time it actually is. It’s Sunday. The rules of regular society have unfortunately drawn their grey and moth-eaten curtains across our view to blinker our starry-eyed vacation.”
She offers me a clue that she must have gathered from some part of the interactive maze.
“Where do we go now?”
It’s at this point that we realize that due to our costumes or clear superiority in age they either believe we work here or that we can help direct them to further hidden happenings. It’s reassuring that we are still so at home here that we blend in so perfectly with the madness that swirls around us.
Read last year’s madcap adventures here.
Words by Matt Miles
Illustration by Jason Bowles