Thursday, 28 August 2014

GUEST BLOG - DJR's Boomtown Report

Owing to my pal Benjamin deciding to get married on the same weekend as Boomtown  Fair I was unable to attend this year's jamboree. This was a sad state of affairs, since Boomtown is just a few miles from the my family's country seat, has the best Vintage Remix line-up of any festival in the world, and is one heck of a party. Fear not, dear reader - Ben has been chastised.

BUT, I would never leave you wondering what went down at an event like Boomtown, so I went on the hunt for a correspondent to give you all the lowdown.. Happily, DJR of the Free Breaks Blog stepped up to the plate. Without further wittering from me, here is what he had to say about the weekend.

Hey hey swingers and swingettes! Jack The Cad couldn’t make this year’s Boomtown festival and since I wouldn’t shut up about it he asked me to write a report of some of the goings on. In case you’re wondering who I am, some of you will know me from my own ‘Electro Swing Roundup’ over at Free Breaks Blog. For those who don’t, I’m DJR and I try to keep an eye on all the latest music in the scene. If you’re a DJ looking for fresh music, or just keen to hear the latest tunes check out my posts on the 1st of the month (or thereabouts!)at

So. What was Boomtown 2014 like then? Well it’s a hard festival to sum up. They focus less on having lots of superstar names in favour of having an incredible strength and depth with every single small and medium size act they can find from a diverse range of styles, including swing, reggae, roots, ska, punk, and pretty much the whole spectrum of dance music (apart from mainstream house), and they seem to find a home for every single band in the country that has lots of members. Brass section? String section? 'Orchestra', 'Collective' or 'Ensemble' in your name? Yep you’re in. They also have a legendary attention to detail which means that the site looks incredible. In truth I can’t even start to describe it, so best watch this instead:

From a swing point of view they always have an incredible line-up, in no small part due to Town's Sherrif Kaptin (solo DJ and part of the Big Swing Soundsystem) who ensured that they continued to have the hottest line-up of vintage artists of any event in the country. Last year’s festival was triumphantly completed by Pavor Stelar, so this year they had to pull all their strings and ensure that they could match the line-up again; and match it they did, recruiting amongst (many) others Dunklebunt and the Secret Swing Society, Tape Five, Algorhythmik, and pretty much all the stars of the UK based swing scene. Here’s the promo mix they put together in advance:

I’d like to say that I managed to see all of these, however Boomtown is one of those festivals where due to the sheer number of stages (over 70 fully programmed stages for four days) you seem to spend lots of time missing everything you planned to see and discovering other incredible stuff instead. Therefore I’ll just talk about what I saw.

The main stage for vintage mayhem at Boom is the Ballroom stage which once again looked incredible. Over the weekend it was graced by a veritable who’s who of the swing world, plus circus performers, (if you’ve never seen them search 'hoop hooligans' online!) , burlesque beauties, and all sorts of vintage reprobates.

In musical terms my highlights were: 

Elle & the Pocket Belles who seem to be going from strength to strength since adding Mistatrick to their lineup. This means that they can choose between doing a classic swing style show, and doing a electro swing show where Mistatrick adds beats and bass. This is what they played in the Ballroom and it went down really well on the Saturday afternoon. Sadly there's no footage from their Boomtown performances, but here's a video of them shot at Glasto this year.

The Big Swing Soundsystem rocked it late on Saturday night, giving Kaptin a chance to relax from festival duties while Hypeman Sage did what it says on the tin and hyped the crowd. 
The Electric Swing Circus always go down a storm and this they did again, particularly with a great set in the town square early on Saturday, including The C@ In The H@ on FX and scratching duties.

Other acts worth mentioning are the Chicken Brothers who seem very at home on the big stage now; Chris Tofu who is always in his element at any festival both performing front of house, and backstage controlling the multitude of bands and ensuring that the show went on; Smokey Joe & The Kidd with their great live and VJ show; and Madame Electrife who followed last year's Chinese Laundry with a new General Store Venue in the Wild West district.

The weather did make the festival. It was a little challenging at times, particularly on the Friday night when it did turn nasty, creating a lot of mud to contend with (on a very hilly site!) however, apart from one small glitch, the Ballroom, being indoors was a brilliant respite from the elements.

Alex’s Last Gigs With Dutty Moonshine

For myself and many other swing fans, one of the most important, 'can’t miss' moments of the weekend was Alex Furley's last gig with Dutty Moonshine.

As was reported in this blog (check here if you missed it: ), Alex has decided to move on from Dutty Moonshine and focus on other projects both within music and his career. So how would they sign off with their time with him? Well to start with, newest member of the group Danny managed to get himself locked out of the site after returning after the 10pm curfew when everyone had to be inside the site. This was sad for him, but maybe appropriate for Mike and Furley that they signed him off as they started – together.

So with a packed Ballroom stage at 3am on Friday night, Mike and Furley tore into their customary swing & bass set for about 20minutes before Mike handed over the controls fully to Alex and let him do what he wanted. I think even Alex wasn’t quite sure what he was going to play, because he tore into a set of big bass heavy hip-hop classics, mixed unpredictably and at a furious pace. There was no swing in sight, however Furley clearly enjoyed having the freedom and it went down really well with an excitable crowd. Then finally to sign it off, Mike called Furley to the front of the stage, and well, this happened...

Athough this was treated as Alex’s proper last gig, in actual fact it was the day after when, all three of them this time(!), played a much lower key set at Charlie Brown's across from the Ballroom (a spectacular speakeasy populated with gangsters and molls in brilliantly rendered style).

The post-script to this farewell is that following on from this gig, I actually managed to catch Dutty Moonshine play a week later in Birmingham. This time they had a much smaller crowd, however Danny and Mike will clearly have fun together because they showed they are still masters at rocking any venue big or small. Danny’s clearly enjoyed the ride so far although he is going to have some work keeping up with Mike’s infamous partying! Still they did get to be put on the side of a building.

While I’ve got the chance, there’s one more slot I can talk about. 24 hours after the Dutties' big sendoff, I had the privilege of playing the Ballroom stage to close the Saturday night lineup. Following on from the ever reliable C@ In The H@ who had the crowd rocking to his bass heavy shenanigans, I had a great set, enjoying the chance to play quite heavy for once and dropping in plenty of bangers transitioning from hip-hop tempo right up to drum & bass including a healthy dose of swing, soul & funk and rock & roll. If you fancy checking it out have a listen to this:

That’s it. I hope I’ve whetted your appetite, and I’ve barely even mentioned everything else that went on... the best reggae stage in the country, the mighty Arcadia (if you don’t know – check Youtube) and so many other stages also featuring the cream of their particular scene. In fact, don’t bother listening to me just see me on the dance-floor next year!