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Boomtown Fair - Matterley Estate, Winchester - August 8-11 2013 (Live Review)

Friday, 16 August 2013 Written by Adam Holden

Most taglines are slightly hyperbolic. Not so in the case of Boomtown Fair. It’s dubbed “the maddest city in the country” and, well, that’s pretty much accurate.

The festival is one of the UK's most creative, with inventive themes and acts from the worlds of reggae, ska, dub, punk, drum ‘n’ bass and hip hop. The atmosphere created by the revellers who flock to it is completely different to Reading, V or Creamfields and, if anything, is closer in spirit to the early days of Glastonbury, or even Woodstock.

For 2013, the maddest city in the country had been separated, its districts split and spread around the festival. This ensured that more revellers had more space, but ended the urban, city vibe that had been present at previous stagings.

Despite that, Boomtown has grown in many other areas. The repositioning of the Arcadia Spectacular stage was needed and worked excellently. This year the giant three-storey high spider was the centre of the main bowl, on show for everyone to see, as it should be.

With acrobats pulling people from the crowd, lasers, CO2 canisters, small explosions and a 360 degree stage, Arcadia Spectacular was one hell of a show, particularly during Friction’s closing set on Sunday night.

Also, the latest incarnation of the Lion's Den stage delivered plenty of spectacle. A 15m Mayan pyramid, it perfectly fitted the ambience and surrounding areas. A highly creative and innovative part of the festival, it kept most fans flocking back throughout the course of the weekend to catch the best in reggae, punk and dub.

Veterans David Rodigan and Lee Scratch Perry, along with Gentleman’s Dub Club, proved to be massive hits, although there was no real surprise there, while the Skints, who fuse a delightful mix of ska and reggae, were outstanding.

Unfortunately, with so many attempts at spectacle, Boomtown Fair 2013 was let down somewhat by its line-up. There was a dip in quality from last year, and with the addition of new stages there was confusion about where exactly the attention should be focused. Still, this was something of a transitional year, and all will be well in 12 months' time. Let the countdown begin.


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