We did it, we actually did it, we finally crawled our way out of the curdling gutters of Oldtown and into the greasy arterial heart of the festival. You won’t catch these intrepid newshounds slumming it in a tent with the rest of the raucous rabble, no no, this year we’ve got ourselves VIP passes to Boomtown Springs baby! Bring on the champagne and pretty women, pull up a chair at the crab buffet, buy stocks in foreign oil then sell it for a profit and buy yourself a handsome Moroccan manservant, we’re doing Chapter 10 in style!
We packed our bags with the usual trappings of the bourgeoisie; avocado, white wine coolers, strawberries, avocado, clothing, avocado, items with which to wash off the muck of the lower classes, and grapes. At this point, we realized we had a great deal more room left in our usually heavy burdened sacks and so proceeded to fill them entirely to the brim with the libations, tinctures, and potions of the usual Boomtonian fare. You can fit a lot of booze into the space in which a tent would normally reside, and this is the true reason the wealth stays with the wealthy and the poor stay poor. Whilst you’re being taken for a mug at the bar because you chose to bring a tent instead of having it pitched for you, the smart money is bringing in 20 bottles of M&S own brand gin instead. We’ve tasted the good life and it is so sweet with sloe berry succulence that we never want to have to suckle at any other teat again.
We arrive late on Tuesday, our taxi pulls up to a gate we’ve never even seen before. As this will be our 6th Boomtown we are perhaps overconfident in our ability to navigate the city even after having gotten started early quaffing in the cab. We stumble out and show our credentials to an unimpressed gate goblin who raspily informs us we have about 10 minutes to make it inside before we’re locked out for the night. We thank the creature and make for the entrance, bursting through unhindered by the usual cursory bag checks. The gate closes behind us and we take a moment to breathe it in; the air of Boomtown Fair has a particular fragrance, it prickles the nostril with the heady aroma of anticipation, those with the right nose to follow it can track their own particular brand of debauchery to its source and dance with the devil there. I break from the reverie and turn to my photographer as we both smile maniacally at each other and hoof foot it into the fair.
About 20 minutes later at the same crossroads we have zigzagged through at least twice before; we are paused staring up at the sign trying to work out if we are reading it wrong. The site is still in construction, we are far from the usual landmarks we use for orientation and even if we were correctly located by our usual haunts it’s unsure they’d be erected to a recognizable state anyway. In climbing the ladder to the elite strata we had missed a few of the key navigational steps along the way and we are already hopelessly lost. We decide to pursue one of the two directions still virgin to our eager boots and are lost to the dust of dusk.
Checking in with our handlers for the weekend I’m hit with the juxtaposition between wanting to be like them and reviling anything and everything about them. They’re nice enough, country club types who are either from money or worship those that have it; picture Tarquin whose just got back from his gap year around Asia and wants to see what the working class live like to takes a job at his Dad’s favorite golf club. They are kitted out in all white tennis gear, ready to serve, eager to please and full of pep. The entire exchange leaves a sour taste in the back of my throat which must be quickly medicined with hard liquor. We are shown to our cabin and throw our bags on the floor before ravenously setting to making an impressive dent on the overflowing Dionysian bags of merriment we have brought with us.
When co-inhabiting with members of the upper classes it’s important to let them know you are not intimidated by them. Be loud at all times to let them know you exist. Mark your territory frequently and visibly with discarded clothing and by urinating on the outskirts of your tent or domicile. Ingratiate yourself by letting them feel financially superior and morally altruistic by drinking heartily and continually from any offered communal alcohol source, NEVER offer any in return, they will be outraged and offended. Dress appropriately, they are expecting to be slumming it with the dregs of humanity and by god, we must give it to them, a cunning mixture between human and beast was our chosen form of costume. Above all else, never sleep, they are waiting for a momentary slip so they can slither in and slit your throat to drink the still warm blood in the quest for eternal life, don’t give it to them, they don’t deserve it.
We spend the first two days of the festival trying to make sense of the madness of our new home from home. We rub shoulders with the CEO of Bang-Hai industries, we get sweaty to dizzying disco in the swank and swagger of the mansion parties, we wash in actual showers, we evacuate our bowels in toilets more classy and refined than the ones we have at home, they have modern art on the walls for crying out loud! It takes a strong will to actually leave Boomtown Springs, it’s the kind of place you can get used to, it can let you grow fat and complacent, it is a comfortable nest that saddles the roaring beast that is Boomtown. But we’ve got a job to do goddamnit! We’re journalists! It’s not about getting drunk in surreal locations and felt up by diamond-encrusted strangers, surrounded by palm trees and limousines! Well, it is… but it’s not only about that, it’s also about the music man, the music.
Boomtown Fair is kind of like the all you can eat buffet of the festival circuit. Instead of serving up main meals of any one cuisine it offers you the world and only the most memorable and delicious bits at that. Grab a plate and pile on the pizza, Singapore noodles, couscous, croissants and anything else you goddamn please you deluxe delicatessen, Boomtown never fails to impress no matter what flavor you fancy. The line-up features the best of the best and the greatest of the unknown, genre-hopping, stage swapping, and all rocking. Everyone will carve out their own unique journey through the festival, collecting a wildly varied experience based on the stages they visit and the bands they see, it’s one of the most beautiful aspects of the Fair and the one we champion most feverishly.
If you want an inside scoop on where to find the grooviest tunes then we’ve got a supernova-hot tip for you. Head for the Wild West district when all the other stages start shutting down (at about 3am on a normal night, not counting the everlasting forest raves) and then make your way into Crazy Calamities where the festival always manages to put on a weekend highlight on almost every day of the fair. All of our favorite bands from the past few years have taken this slot and almost all of them we had no idea who they were before they played the set. The crowd turn up wobbly legged, slack-jawed and almost exhausted from a days revelry and this tiny venue manages to enfuse them with energy once again to get them moving to the roaring rawness of the shamanistic sorcery onstage. The gathered crowd were either inside waiting for the band with prior knowledge of their credibility or drawn like moths to the emanating rhythm that reaches out from within and hooks them by the earlobe as the rest of the festival goes to sleep. Either way, you’re in good company and it’s a crowd that is looking to dance till their feet bleed and then drink till the sun rises. This year saw Almatic and The Iguanas play the S.O.S. set in Calamities and both rose to the occasion with merit. Almatic were this year’s new favorite band, one we didn’t know going in and couldn’t stop singing coming out, a fine mix of rhythm, rhyme, and harmony that worms itself inside you and if we need to introduce you to The Iguanas then you don’t deserve to know.
Back in the Springs, we decide to get stuck into our work as a journalistic lens with which the rest of the world can peer into this den of devilish debauchery. What does the big money want to see this weekend? What sort of magical insight do the rich and famous have into this years overflowing line-up? An almost deafening response of “oh… I don’t know… might go see The Gorillaz.” “Oh and Die Antwoord!” “Oh yeah, Die Antwoord should be pretty dope.” After hearing variations on this theme for around the 15th time we decide to abandon this line of questioning and delve further into the heart of the Springs and the people that populate it. We lurk around the information tent waiting for something to present itself, hiding behind the nearest potted palm tree. A puddle of young silver spooners don’t even bat an eyelid as they languish about on the floor the other side of the tent by the available charging points. I blink as I shrink into nothing behind the tree.
It doesn’t take long before a lead presents itself and we pounce on it like a lion on its prey. A gentleman has arrived at the information desk brushing his teeth in a dressing gown, he doesn’t ask for information, he simply wanders around for a minute or two, always brushing. If he isn’t asking for information from the information tent, surely he must be offering it, the logic follows and so do we. The languid pile of toff-spawn in the corner again doesn’t seem to notice anything past their black mirrors, but we do, oh boy do we. He leaves the tent after about his 5th circuit and we stick to him like glue, keeping a little back for now so as not to spook him. We follow him around the Springs, past the artisanal pizza place and the gin and tonic stall to the entrance to the fair itself, he stops here in a moment of reflection, his dental routine pauses in foamy mouthed confusion. We take the moment to rush in and ask him what he’s going to do with his day, surely a man who pays this much attention to his oral hygiene is equally diligent scouring the schedule for some unknown revelation or a hot piece of gossip. “Oh, I don’t know, might go see Gorillaz or something.” Curse you Damian Albarn, curse you and your ragtag wonder group and everything you stand for.
We don’t go to see Gorillaz out of spite, instead choosing The Dirty Bourbon River Show and Fantastic Negrito on abandoned stages instead. Practically the only members of the crowd, they play resplendent sets just for us and we dance like the tribute of our sweat might go some way to paying for the heinous billing these two have been given. We regret nothing, they were both absolutely perfect. Fuck Gorillaz!
One particular morning, back in the comfort of Boomtown Springs, the sun has risen and is being particularly kind today. We are lazing upon pool floats drifting aimlessly around the body of water in front of the mansion when a hubbub begins to build around us. The camp councilors seem to be encouraging the gathered crowd into some form of competition. We leap into action and from out of the inflatable dinosaur I had until recently been calling home and face first into the rancid, tepid, diluted urine of the pool itself. I emerge sopping wet and begin thrusting my microphone into faces until I get some answers, apparently, it’s a bikini competition, and somehow sellotape is involved too. Picture your worst nightmare has bred with your most beloved family member, the child is recognizably something you adore and revile, you stifle vomit behind your hand as you involuntarily coo “aww”. The contestants take turns busting a move on the dancefloor vying for the adoration of the braying mob, a winner is crowned but it’s clear we’re all losers here.
We decide the hectic buzz of the glitz and glamour is getting us down, we’ve been worn down by these animals and need to escape for a while, we hightail it from the highlife and head for Whistlers Green, a place where a man can find some peace for a minute or three. We thumb down a bus headed that way and flash our VIP bands to the driver who grunts back at us unaware of how crazy catching a bus at a festival is, I suppose the magic wears off after your 16th shift, the trip passes by in a haze of hushed sipping from our collective hip flask. We enter the fabled oasis of calm and tranquility tripping over a few burned out hippies on the way in. It’s precisely what the doctor ordered, a little-uninterrupted bliss to mellow our harsh. We wander over to the Floating Lotus for some chai to pour our rum into but get stopped dead in our tracks by the gut-grabbing pull of the music next door. There are some bands that serve up moments that fit time and space perfectly; Jimmy and Woodstock, Nirvana and Reading, the Inner Terrestrials and every Boomtown ever, Hexcut, however, do not. They are out of place on the tiny stage and would probably be equally out of place on any other stage at the festival too. They are ripping bloody-toothed into an interstellar set that brings this reporter to his knees in adoration. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, maybe it’s the smell of hash and chai, maybe it’s the fact that on this one stage at the peak of the Fair grounds, real music is happening, it’s colossal, it’s magic and it’s not the fucking Gorillaz. They blend together under the drilling command of the crashing drums as the bass and synth intermingle with chorus and verse that build and ebb in a perfect soundscape. It’s everything we need to settle back into the loving embrace of the riotous Boomtown Fair.
It should be said that no amount of words could ever truly hope to capture the unnamable madness that takes place once a year in this pop-up, gold rush, little city. No two journeys will be the same and no memory will ever be entirely lucid. You go in expecting to come out more blurred and wonky than when you arrived. If you’re going to dive horn-first into a devilish week of sin and symphony, it may as well be with the creature comforts and deluxury trappings provided by the Boomtown Springs. Because even a wild animal needs a comfortable fire to rest in front of at least once in a week of debauched bliss. Remember, this isn’t just any form of glamping, this is Boomtown glamping, and it does it with style.
Words by Matt Miles
Pictures by Jasons Haggard Faces
Check out our previous Boomtown Diaries here.