Reviewed: Boomtown 2019: A Radical City
Following the collapse of Bang Hai Industries that concluded the Nicholas Boom chronicles in last year’s Chapter 10 and introduced the citizens to AMI for the first time, ‘A Radical City’ was born for this year’s Chapter 11. Swapping Bang Hai’s oppressive regimes, revolutions and the rise of corporate control for Boomtown’s Artificial Machine Intelligence, citizens and the city’s digital systems were all under the control of AMI, but the question remains; will Artificial Intelligence lead to social evolution or the eradication of life as we know it?
After Thursday’s pre-festival warm up parties and exploring the latest street venue offerings downtown in Metropolis and District 5, Friday morning rolled around, and we psyched ourselves up for the DnB workout up at Whistler’s Green. An early start of 10:30am didn’t seem to put citizens off, as they powered through their hangovers to burpees, grapevines and the sweet selection of jungle and Drum and Bass classics. After half an hours’ worth of bouncing around and lunging, a well-deserved break was needed, so we headed over to the hammocks before making our way over to the opening ceremony at Lion’s Den.
With a heavy focus on the environment for Chapter 11 and already banning single-use plastics on site, it came as no surprise that Boomtown 2019 had teamed up with Extinction Rebellion to help convey the important message throughout the weekend.As the thousands poured into Lion’s Den, the eerie deep bass began to resonate through up the valley as men and women donning geisha-style painted faces and flowing red robes began to move slowly in unison. Known as ‘The Red Brigade’, the group stand to represent all the animal and human lives that have been lost and continue to be lost through climate change. Following the theme of ‘respect the land’ Boomtown also teamed up with the ecological network ‘Treesisters’ who planted one tree for every ticket sold, resulting in over a whopping 48,000 trees being planted in 2019. These fast-growing tropical trees have been planted all over the world in places like Kenya, Brazil and Nepal. With this just being the beginning of Boomtowns pledge to offset carbon emissions we can’t wait to see the what environmental programs Boomtown achieve in 2020.
After their piece, the Lion’s Den opening ceremony plunged into full swing with an explosion of reggae, dub, dancehall, colours and diversity; celebrating everything that Boomtown stands for. Following a rich tribal theme and recruiting local primary schools and dance troupes, the citizens roared as confetti cannons rained over the crowds to mark the official opening for the 11th edition of the festival.
With Boomtown regular Shy FX set to open the newly transformed ‘RELIC’ stage (previously Bang Hai Towers) later in the early evening, the capacity appeared to be splitting at the seams as the crowds piled in; attempting to get the best views of the stage. As he tore through his jungle classics and played his own unheard edit of Chase and Status’ ‘Program’ that left all of the Drum and Bass superfans teaming with excitement, his set was unexpectedly and abruptly cut short due to high winds and stage maintenance, meaning the stage would be shut for the remainder of the evening to everyone’s discontent.
As everyone disappointedly trundled back to their tents or headed over to the techno stages at AREA 404, all the Drum and Bass fans were yearning their dosage. With Unglued playing at the intimate venue of ‘The Wrong Side Of The Tracks’, they headed there, only to face more disappointment as the venue was shut down due to overcapacity.
One of the most exciting announcements for Boomtown 2019 was the revamped ‘Nucleus’ stage (formerly Sector 6). Over the course of three days, Nucleus would become to some of the world’s best house and techno DJ’s. After the unexpected closing of ‘RELIC’ due to high winds we headed over to Nucleus to check out a highly anticipated back to back; Joy Orbison and Ben UFO. As we descended into the valley we spotted a behemoth of lasers, pyrotechnics and twisted metal and the pumping of 4×4 house music. As we entered the crowd we marvelled and the set design of this stage. It felt ginormous yet intimate at the same time; it was a perfect fit for the hypnotic music it would house over the 3 days.
As we partied at Nucleus my phoned buzzed. New for 2019 was an interactive app called ‘Woov’. It broke down the festivals set times, displayed maps and allowed you to talk to friends at the festival, however, its key feature was its ability to push out alerts to all festival goers. “NEWS UPDATE: RELIC ARTISTS WILL NOW BE PERFORMING AT THE LIONS DEN FROM 10:30 – 3AM”- This was a complete game changer. We swiftly hurried over to the Lion’s Den stage through the biblical wind and rain storm to catch a monstrous line-up of Drum & Bass featuring artists like Mefjus, High Contrast and Bad Company. While not the first choice for Drum & Bass, the Lion’s Den did an amazing job with its atmospheric waterfalls, tearing sound system and its inclusive reggae vibe.
When attending Boomtown, one of the most thrilling parts is interacting with its storyline. It employs thousands of actors which roam the Boomtown streets interacting with the festival goers and contributing to its immersive storyline. Stumbling across a small room very aptly named as ‘Villa Avarice’ which featured walking actors staged as life coaches and mentors preaching the ‘destructive power of community’ and the ‘strength of the individual’ we were told to forget about the poor citizens of Boomtown and were instructed to perform as swans and ‘fly’ around the room. As we left the villa slightly perplexed, this was only one small part of a much wider storyline.
As the Saturday rolled around, one artist who stood out on the line-up was DJ and producer DJ Rap. Famed as the queen of Drum and Bass, she tore through RELIC with an eclectic mix of dark rollers and ripping amen jungle breaks. It was a masterclass in mixing and she delivered one of the standout performances of the weekend. Headlining that night was the heavyweight duo Chase & Status who stood out amongst the rest. Recently releasing their album ‘RTRN II JUNGLE’ they blasted their heavyweight jungle sounds out of RELIC’s powerful speakers to thousands of revellers and had some of the best crowd reactions the whole weekend.
Come Sunday morning, and the Boomtown 2019 revellers showed no signs of slowing down. Packing down a hearty meal to keep us going for the rest of the day, we headed over the yearly Boomtown tradition of the infamous ‘Office Xmas Party’ at the Job Centre. Running for several hours, a team of festively dressed actors create a crazy Christmas haven of Santa raves, pass the parcel and my absolute favourite- musical bumps. It was an afternoon of craziness as the actors entertained us for hours with hilarious games and silly prizes. It was highly amusing and next year I promise to dress in my best Xmas jumper!
As the Sunday sun began to dip, we headed to the largest reggae stage in Europe to see a childhood favourite; UB40. Featuring both founding members of the original band they took to the Lion’s Den with an incredible 8-piece reggae band performing a multitude of hits of their platinum selling albums. It was a fantastic way to wind down the weekend and UB40 sounded album perfect as they belted down ‘Red Wine’ down the speakers as everyone sung the ballad back.
As Boomtown 2019 drew to a close there was one last performance left. As the clock struck 11:50pm the ‘Assimilation Finale’ or closing ceremony began. Featuring a remix of the Brazilian tribal composition in the opening ceremony, it doubled in speed as it had been twisted into a neurofunk face melter. With lasers, pyrotechnics and an impressive firework display Boomtown 2019 went out with a bang. As the song finished the computer-generated A.M.I sparked up with one last parting statement:
“ACT NOW, LEAVE NO TRACE”
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