As you may have noticed, I have an autistic obsession with BoomTown Fair. It transcends itself over any other festival with the sheer genius of the district programming, every stage providing a perfect soundtrack for the area in which it’s situated to coalesce into a cacophonous, maniacal whole. I’ve heard it referred to as a huge scale postmodern artwork masquerading as a music festival. It’s also provided me personally with many of my biggest and best DJ sets to date, as well as opportunities to see and meet some of my favourite bands of all time. And the lineup informs what I play in my full-length all night DJ sets perhaps more than any other source. There are so many bands, DJs and artists that I’ve fallen in love with, who are announced every year, that I’ve still never seen live because there’s just so much going on. So, with that in mind, here are 10 acts that I really don’t want to miss this year, but probably will. I’ve also made a mixtape of artists from the initial lineup poster, which is available on Mixcloud, or as a Spotify playlist.
Normally, BoomTown consists of me dragging my wife around to watch bands that I’m obsessed with, but this year the tables are turned. Tiff said to me that she’d only go back if Skindred were announced, and look what happened. After years of begging, they’ve booked the only band I can think of to win international acclaim with a combination of metal and ragga. When combined with the Town Centre’s traditional flamethrowers, this is gonna be an unforgettable, aggressive and totally unique set.
Sugarhill Gang with Grandmaster Melle Mel & Scorpio’s Furious 5
In recent years, people have been losing their shit over seeing Mr. Motivator pop up on festival lineups. This is gonna be that multiplied by 1000. Together, these guys are responsible for basically every well known hip-hop jam from the first half of the 80s. ‘Apache‘, ‘Rapper’s Delight‘, ‘White Lines‘, ‘The Message‘…fuck yes. Though some of the lyrics may have gritty themes at times, their back catalogue is a far cry from gangsta rap. No, this is pure unabashed party music. These 2 groups are the originators, to see them together is going to be a glorious party.
Now this is a real special one. The first time I saw Frank Turner was (according to his website) the 10th March 2006, when I was 16. There was a maximum of 20 people there. I saw his first show with a full band, I skipped a day off school when his first album came out to follow him around a series of instore shows. I saw the venues get gradually bigger, and bigger, and bigger until he’s selling out Wembley Arena and opening the Olympics. Now he’s headlining my favourite festival. I may sneakily try and bump into him backstage, and see if he remembers teaching me about Fugazi.
Toots & The Maytals
Surely the biggest cannon of reggae wonderhits of any band with a surviving lead singer. I get asked to play some Toots every single week at The Full Moon, and I will never tire of it. Truly joyous music with one of the most distinctive, powerful voices in music, let alone reggae. Toots wails it like a gospel singer, and the range of hits are so far away from being samey. We’ll be skanking and jumping one minute, and slowly grooving the next. Coupled with the mind-blowing setting of the Lion’s Den, this should be a show to steal hearts.
The Original Blues Brothers Band
What a wonderful surprise. The Blues Brothers undeniably had one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time, and I’m so excited to hear a smorgasbord of funk, soul and original rhythm ‘n’ blues in the flesh, performed by what are surely some of the greatest session musicians of all time. I’m presuming this is going to be one of those classic early afternoon shows to open the Town Centre, and I promise you all, it will be the ultimate hangover cure.
Madness at The Lion’s Den last year was unbelievable. The size of the crowd, the setting, and the barrage of hits made for an unforgettable experience. But Madness have been touring for 40 years, so everybody has ample chances to see them perform before now. The Specials, on the other hand, are a true rarity. Their 2 albums were so scrappily recorded that the sound difference live is sure to be mindblowing. And if ‘Welcome to the lion’s den‘ was worth a scream last year, just imagine the roar that will accompany ‘We danced and sang, and the music played in a de BoomTown.‘
Shogun Audio Takeover (Friction, Icicle, Spectrasoul, Rockwell, Technimatic, Joe Ford & Fourward)
We’ve had Metalheadz, we’ve had Critical, and we’ve had Playaz, it was only logical that this year, the drum ‘n’ bass baton be handed to Shogun. And I’m more excited about this roster than I’ve been about any of the dnb takeovers until now. Each one of these artists is a production wizard in their own way, all with completely unique sounds, whether it’s the hyperspeed techno and footwork of Rockwell, the elastic synth work of Joe Ford, the stadium-sized Fourward, or my personal favourite, the gorgeous cinematic soul of Technimatic. This is gonna be immense.
Reel Big Fish
Reel Big Fish have always received a lot of flack for being overly ridiculous, but give them more time and you’ll see that they’re an incredible bunch of musicians. Aaron Barrett is a world-class guitarist, and the lyrics on recent albums have managed to tackle quite mature topics whilst still being laugh out loud funny. Many blame them for ska losing the last of its Jamaican roots, but if we’re talking about the all-american version of the genre, nobody does it as well as these guys, and I’ll be dead chuffed to see them in their spiritual home on the Town Centre.
Jazz? At BoomTown? I’ll have to wait for the relevant poster to appear before I see where in the hell Soweto Kinch is going to fit on the bill, but what a mind blower. For those that aren’t aware, he’s a world class saxophonist and occasional quickfire poet, taking influence from funk and hip-hop rather than simply being a jazz purist. The link between genres has become more obvious since ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ introduced the hip-hop world to a plethora of L.A.’s finest jazz musicians, but Soweto is a pure British homegrown. This will be like nothing I’ve seen at BoomTown before.
My last recommendation (for now) comes in the form of a madcap genre-blender from Sweden. The influences change from song to song, all while retaining a pop-ska party sensibility. But really, what has me so excited about Hoffmaestro is the live videos I’ve seen. These guys look like they’re bursting at the seams with pure energy, giving it 200% every time, and I want to give it right back to them.