“This is about tolerance, this is about sunshine”
Arcadia - BoomTown Festival 2012

“You all look like you’ve been at a party for three days.” And we feel it too. BoomTown festival has been a non-stop legitimate rave, and on Sunday afternoon the edges are starting to fray for a few people. Fortunately Capdown blast away the blues, there’s no tea and sympathy here: “If you don’t like punk, fuck off!” That’s us told. As cut-throat as they are, these punks are also honest and humble, singer Jake Sims-Fielding is shocked by the support they still receive after (in his own words) writing two great songs fifteen years ago.

“This is about tolerance, this is about sunshine,” beams Jake, a theme that runs throughout the entire weekend, nowhere more so than at the festival’s secret Sunday headliner. All weekend rumours have been floating around, with some people guessing Fat Freddy’s Drop might take the slot, or possibly even Toots and the Maytals. But there’s collective euphoria when it’s finally revealed that reggae great Jimmy Cliff will be playing the festival out on the main stage.

It really does feel like the festival has come together for this performance, bobbing as one to the set which includes ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’, ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘One More’. Sing-along classics also come from tracks ‘Wild World’ and ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ during which members of the audience can’t help grabbing whoever’s nearest and swaying to the rhythm. Jimmy Cliff may well be from another era, but his message and music is as powerful as ever as he appeals to the audience to embrace peace and love, an uplifting message which the crowd don’t ignore.

Positive vibes are squashed into every nook and cranny of BoomTown, aptly named for the village-like layout which is home to countless venues, workshops, bars and boutiques. The fact that Beenie Man cancels at the last minute ruffles a few feathers, but people don’t seem disappointed for long, there’s much more to occupy their minds and feet throughout the town.

Some of the best fun to be found is exploring the town’s tiny clubs which host music right across the spectrum, from ska and reggae, dupstep and techno, hip hop, punk and rhythm & blues. If you fancy escaping the hustle, bustle and heat of inner-city life, the Hidden Woods makes for an idyllic retreat. Nestled amongst the trees just on the edge of BoomTown is a makeshift beach where you can skank the hours away, cocktail in hand, in the shade of the canopy.

As a stark contrast, Arcadia looms over the festival in the form of a huge robotic monster. Each night the industrial sculpture comes to life as acrobats hang in mid-air baffling the crowd, while enormous bursts of fire, smoke and lasers frame the show. Suspended in the middle of the structure DJs, including Dirtyphonics, The Ratpack and Shy FX, fire out thumping tunes for the baying crowd. It’s a surreal, post-apocalyptic sight, and one that has to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.

This year’s BoomTown festival has grown slightly bigger than last year, spilling out onto the hills of the Matterley Bowl, but with the capacity capped at just 10,000 the intimacy of the festival, the stonking line up and the colourful characters wondering the streets make it one of the most dazzling, trippy festivals on the calendar.

Words by Emily Anderton
Photo by Charlie Raven

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival.

Follow Clash: