Wow, what a festival! I’m hoping to get to a full review of the madness that was Boomtown 2018 later (because a review would only be at most half about music, which is a great sign for a festival in my view), but for now I’m going with what’s become the traditional ‘best bands’ post, which, to be honest, I write as much for the benefit of my ailing memory as anything else.

As you’ll probably gather from the below, I’m not someone who was drawn to Boomtown by its massive beat-driven lineup, though I did enjoy a few non-descript DJs later in the evenings. I found the glory in it to lie largely elsewhere, from obscure tents where 40 people watched gorgeous jazz sets, to comedy guitar northerners playing to mud-splattered courtyards. In fact, I approached this in a different way to almost any other festival I’ve ever been to.

We skipped out on Gorillaz after two tracks, as we couldn’t get close enough to the main stage to hear them at a decent volume (perhaps the festival’s only major flaw aside from uncontrollable weather was the main stage sound). I only saw three acts that appear on the top five lines of the line-up poster (see right). But this was all kind of epic. Here are my highlights, from the obvious to the less so…

Sleaford Mods

Sure, I’m probably telling you nothing with this one – the secret’s long since out – but what a band, despite one of the two of them basically spending the whole set pressing play on  Macbook. Charisma by the bucketload, controlled anger and viciously brilliant lyrics that forcefully takedown culture’s ills. I could watch Sleaford Mods running commentary on British culture unfold for an age, an hour wasn’t enough…

Capdown

I used to watch Capdown play tiny pub back room stages in Salisbury as a teenager and bounce like an idiot, so I headed along to their set on Saturday night largely for the nostalgia trip. Little did I know they’d grown wings, converted the always excellent buzz track Ska Wars (below) into a real belter, and were now able to fill a really quite chunky stage with manic fans. It went off. Class.


Captain Hotknives

What more could you want on a Sunday afternoon than a half-cut sarcastic man from Bradford singing about cat-generated sources of power, hating babies and stealing his granny’s drugs. This lad had me in stitches, tucked away on a tiny stage off the Old Town drag and throwing sarcasm at the mud-drenched, tight-leather clad masses and one man so out of it that he had to be given a very lounge chair to ensure he stayed upright. All round excellent.

Morcheeba

Soulful slow-build summer songs in the middle of the weekend’s worst downpour, played to perhaps 500 people on the main stage because, presumably, everyone else was trying to stay dry. Absolutely no regrets, though. This was one of very few outings I made to the main stage, and Morcheeba brought sunshine in their own way, with ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’, ‘Friction’ and ‘The Sea’ perfect summers-gone-by sounds. Skye is a fantastic frontwoman, too, charisma personified.

Beans On Toast

This guy is just perfect festival fodder. Thought-provoking songs about the chicken industry, bringing his dad on stage for his birthday, lots of laughs through a distinctive wit and memorable mid-song quips, plus a little bit of real-life romance in his song for Jamie and Lilly. What a man…

Meute

I’d never come across this group of brass-dance nutters from Hamburg before, but what an intro this was on Friday morning. Flamboyant trance-like beats reproduced using tubas, saxophones and trumpets, touching on lots of dance staples along the way. Seriously colourful live, in full old-school military garb and dancing in a way that would definitely get them court-martialled. One to keep an eye on.


Deluxe

A French dance-pop band playing only their third show in the UK, Deluxe wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea at all, but they totally won me over with upbeat, extremely danceable pop in the inch-thick mud. Easy, accessible fun on a Sunday afternoon, a real pick-me-up of driving cheese that was impossible not to love.

Limp Bizkit

Nope, I’m not kidding. I’m well aware that bigging up Limp Bizkit is not the done thing in music circles, but when it’s good, it’s good. Massive turnout for this, they seemed really chuffed to be there, and they took the roof off the place with mammoth choruses and plenty of stage-side fire. They remind me quite a lot of The Prodigy and Rage Against the Machine live. Also, Break Stuff is the perfect angry song. A whole lot of fun.

Ruth Royall

Our detour from Gorillaz after that sound fail brought us to a tent called The People’s Living Room, behind a door that had been closed every other time we’d strolled by. Inside, we found an incredible jazz/ soul singer, Ruth Royall, and what seemed to be an ad-hoc band (though they were excellent) delicately wowing the place. A real privilege, and one of those festival finds.

Omar Souleyman

This lad’s been around a lot of Irish festivals over the years, and I’ve never got around to checking him out. In hindsight, that was a serious error of judgement. Omar Souleyman kind of strolls around the stage clapping politely whilst putting out these massive bass-heavy mixes of Middle Eastern dance music with intense vocals layered over the top. I suspect some of the shtick is a little bit put on, but it doesn’t detract: some of his stuff is produced by Four Tet, which tells you all you need to know about how good he is…

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