Written by Richard Corrin

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When Houghton was at the last minute cancelled this year, hundreds flocked to Boomtown in a
hope to lose their sadness in the wonders of Chapter 11 - a Radical City. Despite the at times
extreme weather conditions - winds raging and often relentless rain - the event proved that it was
                    still a festival to be reckoned with, even surpassing expectations. Hidden round each turn of the sprawling                                  Winchester maze were moments of musical greatness,and one or two truly seminal sets. Hosted by AMI - the artificial
he Sub Lab was for me the nucleus representing the next wave of UK pioneers. It seemed a
continual hub of energy, driven by a group of remarkable young DJs. Foremost for me among
these was L U C Y, a name and image quickly gaining a place at the heart of the scene. L U C Y’s
sets are a rollercoaster, constantly switching and challenging expectations whilst being firmly
rooted in 140. They manage to be simultaneously an homage to the past and a glimpse into the
future. Her Boomtown set was no different, and despite a sustained power cut, revellers stayed
half an hour in the dark until it was back up and running - a testament to her prowess. What
impressed me most however was the sense of cohesive identity connecting the Sub Lab artists. In
their manner and transition between sets, they seemed to be an emerging family, all furthering the
music which they love whilst equally shining as individuals. This is clear to see in the Six Figure
Gang (a collective which includes L U C Y, Sherelle, Dobby and others), and with the launch of the
SZNS7N label, these young pioneers are showing incredible maturity in uplifting the scene around
them as well as themselves. It is reminiscent of Hatcha’s Big Apple Records of early 2000, and the
event organisers were crucial in giving these underground groups room to showcase and grow
their sound. It is a testament to the openness that characterises UK culture that the same
commitment to and respect for music could be felt all the way from My Nu Leng’s set at Relic to Sir
Hiss shelling down the Lab. These artists are the future of Boomtown, and it was wonderful to see
them own their platform.

The second truly memorable event for those fortunate enough to capture it was the now-famed
Skream B2B Plastician set in the Pirate Studios tent. With Skream having prioritised his techno
ventures in recent years, it was invigorating to see these two stalwarts of the UK scene taking a
shelly trip down memory lane. Calling on dub classics from Coki and Joker to Benga, it felt for one
minute as if festival-goers were back in Big Apple Records witnessing dub at its purest. Taking
place at the same festival as L U C Y’s set, it felt like grime and dub was well and truly alive and
being listened to. The classics are still doing as much damage as ever, whilst the new sound is
being pushed to the max. If there was to be one criticism, it may be that Skream and Plastician’s
set seemed to be the mirror image of what one may have expected 5 years ago, possibly lacking
diversity in sound. Nonetheless, they cannot be faulted for still using such crucial tunes in the
scene’s come up, and the magical air of nostalgia outweighed the need for innovation. It is a
moment that will hopefully spark a resurgence of prominent sets from dub pioneers, and any
doubts about Boomtown’s ability to keep producing special musical moments was stripped away.
Pivotal within this years Boomtown was the Lion’s Den, which seems to have adopted the role of
main stage. Hosting artists from UB-40 to The Streets, it was almost constantly packed, and
balanced Relic’s drum and bass focus nicely. With Nucleus adopting the role of techno central - the
commitment to which was impressive for a festival not typically associated with the genre - it
seemed all of music was covered. To be able to go from an uplifting Streets gig straight to the Sub
Lab was a real auditory feast, and disproved those who thought that budget cuts might hinder the
event’s success. All of this led up to the finale, where My Nu Leng closed out Relic with a specially
commissioned Mandidextrous Remix. Here AMI resurfaced, and it was revealed that she had been
‘gathering data’ on all those at the festival. If there was to be a criticism, it may be that previous
years’ themes had been clearer throughout, more closely woven with the story of the event itself.

The end appearance of AMI seemed slightly arbitrary, and didn’t feel connected to ones
experience. Nonetheless, her angry face projected all over the towers certainly provided quite the
backdrop from a truly epic closing set.


Boomtown are opening a brand new creative events venue called area.404 in Bristol, UK

Festivals are built not only on the big moments however, but on all the small features coming
together. Boomtown managed a 70% reduction in waste, and there was even an Extinction
Rebellion takeover of Paradise Heights. The food and drink seemed constantly available and
affordable - crucial for those in need of sustenance after a big day. There seemed to be an
underlying spirit of perseverance against the weather, and revellers seemed optimistic as they
marched from stage to stage. Geographically, it seemed to still lack some cohesion, and maybe
AMI’s slightly weak presence as a theme had something to do with this. Nonetheless, with
organisers trying to revolutionise the event on a weekend that looked set to pose so many
technical challenges, it was definitely a Chapter worthy of its name - the radical city. Having looked
poised to lose some of its standing, it is now firmly back on the list as a festival to go to for all ages
and lovers of all genres.