Arcadia Spectacular

Arcadia Spectacular Official Website

Charlie Raven Photography ©

“Rave meets circus, with an alien twist

This unique set up is a stage completely worthy of it’s own post. This monstrous fire-breathing mechanical spider-like beast took over all of Downtown Boomtown this year, before that it lit up the skies at Rockness Festival and now it is set to blow a lot more festivals away this summer. This includes:

17th – 19th August – Beautiful Days

6th – 9th September – Bestival

22nd & 23rd September – BrisFest

“This is probably the most awe inspiring performance you will have seen at any music festival”

Make yourself familiar with what you can expect by watching this Boomtown 2012 Acradia video:


Boomtown Fair 2012

“The UK’s maddest city!”

boomtown festival fair

Boomtown Fair Official Website

Date: 9th – 13th August

Location: Matterly Bowl, Winchester.

Price: £125

Capacity: 10,000

Security: Lenient and sparse 

Rating: 9.5/10

If you didn’t go to Boomtown Fair this year, then I’m sad to say that you missed out BIG TIME and if you have never heard of it before, you have been missing out on one of the most unique festival experiences out there. It’s all very reggae and roots based, with ska and a lot of gypsy funk, but even if that’s not your thing, you can still guarantee yourself a good time.

“Not for the faint hearted – an absolute nightmare for health and safety inspectors. You need to see this to believe it.”

Matterly Bowl is an interesting venue. You will most likely be pitching your tent up on the side of a hill. The initial walk into the site is killer. If you’re carrying a lot, you will need a few breaks on the way. The main town and campsite are located at the bottom of the bowl and in that heat, it’s one of hell of a mission that will leave you getting pretty ratty with your friends. That is, until you find your space, put your stuff down and crack open your first beer.

Now one of the best things about Boomtown Fair is that once you’ve gone past the first bag check where you scan your ticket, that’s it, you’re in. You can set your tent up less that 15ft away from the entrances to the town, if you wanted to. This means no being searched before going in, which means for a very messy festival. Being able to take your alcohol into the venues is a luxury that shouldn’t be taken for granted.. and it certainly wasn’t. Absolutely everyone was smashed. Smashed in a incredibly friendly manner. Festival goers are easy to talk to and it’s easy to meet new people. In a place where you are so mentally enriched and blown away by all the small details means that there is always something to talk about.

The organisers and decor team did an incredible job in actually creating a town. When you walk inside you are actually entering “Boomtown”. Each entrance leads to a venue, a shop or just some random little installation. You can look in all windows and go through every door. It’s actually amazing, even if you are totally sober. There is some crazy stuff wondering around town as well.. You will almost always come across something that will make you look twice:
boomtown fair flame horseboom town fair crazy pram

Health and safety inspectors would have had a heart attack at this festival. I just looked behind me to see this metal beast/motorbike stomping my way and bursting flames out from it’s mouth, without a steward to guide it in sight. I absolutely love this nitty gritty and dirty feel, where you’re not being coddled by officials every step of the way. Although I wouldn’t be too surprised if I heard that some people got burnt.. or even run over. Then I originally thought this was just a lady with some nice get up transporting her baby around, then I looked in the pram to see this bruised up face with powder all around her face staring back at me. I followed them for a little while just to watch other people’s reactions. These are just two of the hundreds of little details that made this place so mental and pretty fucking trippy.

The hidden forest was a great place to escape the heat, when you were sick of melting to your tent or turning into a pork scratching outside. It was full of fairy lights and suspended butterflies playing funky reggae beats. Laid Back were sick with trippy effects echoing all around and plenty of spliffs lighting up all over the place. In fact, I saw more spliffs this entire festival than I did cigarettes.

Arcadia will blow you away, quite literally.

Arcadia spectacular was most people’s favourite place to be at night time. Midnight is when the Arcadia show kicked off and the acrobatics, pyrotechnics and laser show started. There is something truly exhilarating about raving to this lighting show and nothing more satisfying than a huge fuck off burst of flames lighting up the crowd as the music drops. Krafty Kutz did a seamless set on the final night that had everyone moving. Just behind Arcadia once a night a massive atomic bomb type blast exploded on the hill and sent a mushroom cloud up into the sky. Stanton Warriors killed it, whilst Shy FX sort of missed it a bit with sound issues interfering with the vibe on the first night. Over all quite astounding.

arcadia boomtown fair

Charlie Raven Photography ©

The final night showed a firework display like no other I have seen before, lighting up the entire sky. I felt bad for people who were inside tents at this point because it lit up the sky and had everyone oohing and ahhing. There were even a few smiley face explosions.

boomtown fireworksboomtown mobile dj raver dopplerboomtown jail house

There were also plenty of mobile stages and DJs. From the church on wheels, to the jail house that moved all around the festival to the “Police Rave Unit” which looked just like a real police van and blasted out “woot woot, it’s the sound of the police” as the ravers partied through the crowd.

I would have given this festival 10/10 if it were not for the problem with the water taps on the first and second day. There was no water available from any of the taps on one of the hottest days of the year, so thousands of unprepared festival goers with crazy come downs and mad hangovers had no where to quench their thirst. Even the stalls were putting up signs saying “No water available here”. Once the taps were fixed, it was quickly forgotten, because everything else was just so good. Everywhere you looked there was entertainment. Whether it was the music, the street performers or the festival goers themselves, there was always something going on.

Big up the security for ignoring the jays being rolled all over and allowing people to keep their nos and cannisters. I expect there just wasn’t enough space or staff to deal with this many wreck heads. Police presence increased after a serious assault on the second night, but only on a mission to track down some one in particular. Otherwise you could see them having a good time and laughing with the festival goers.

boomtown image


Beach Break Live 2012

Beach break Live

Beach Break Live Official Website

Date: 14th – 18th June

Location: Pembrey Country Park, South Wales

Price: £109 (£10+ for non-students)

Capacity: 20,000 students

Security: Strict and plentiful

Rating: 7/10

You don’t get a much better location than this. Pembrey is the ideal grounds for a festival. It’s mostly flat, very big and on the border of one of the UK’s largest beaches. When you’re next to a beach the last thing you want is rain.. and that’s what it got. However, Beachbreak can hardly be help accountable for such weather types! This is a particularly early festival, happening mid-June, and no one could have predicted the down pour that would occur during our lovely British summer. Luckily, Pembrey has a mixture of sand and soil which helps stop huge puddles from developing like other festivals and I often spotted the crew laying down wood chips in order to minimize festival goers ending up on their arse’s. There is also plenty of shelter and large tents inside the main arena that mean you can escape your tent and dry off whilst chilling out to some day time tunes.

Watch the promotional video

It must’ve rained about 70% of the entire time the event was taking place, but that didn’t totally dampen the spirits of the 20,000 eager students ready to have a good time. This festival is exclusively for over 18 year olds, so their is an atmosphere not far from what you’d see on one of the reality shows that follow youngens in places like Ibiza and Magaluf. Not necessarily a bad thing but certainly lacking that mature and loving vibe that comes from festivals who allow all age groups.

The music is pretty much what you’d find if you toured the UKs student unions with head liners from Dizzee Rascal, Chase and Status and Friendly Fires, but there is so much more to offer than just the music at this festival. This festival is big on extreme sports with all sorts of activities and competitions going on – mostly down the beach. At the campsite, Onepiece offered students the chance to jump from a crane if you purchased one of their onesies.
one piece crane

If you feel that being at the camp site is the least interesting part of any festival this is especially the case at Beach Break Live. The camp site this year definitely lacked that communal feel, which made it hard to meet new people. Everyone was either trapped in their tents trying to stay dry or seeking salvation in the main arena. It’s a reasonably long walk to and from where everything is going on and even longer when it’s pissing it down! Not to mention that security are constantly walking in and around all the camp sites. Now we all appreciate that security are there, making sure no fights are happening and no weapons are brought in, however when you see people being taken away from their friends because of soft substances such as balloons and joints, you can’t help but become uncomfortable and it certainly loses that festival vibe. Over all coast 2 coast were a friendly bunch of guys, but I expect they are on commission to bust as many people as possible (most likely to give back their findings to crew at the end).

The main camp site is separate from the arena, which means that you have to queue to be thoroughly searched before entering the area where stages and performances are going on. This means that you can’t take any of your own alcohol into arena – their way of pushing you into paying for over priced drinks. Don’t try and smuggle anything inside. I saw a chap have his bag searched, then inside his tobacco pouch, only to find a tiny bud. The police were called in and he was taken away. Not worth the risk!

Once inside the area is not huge but it has all the usual festival set ups. An abundance of food stands of all varieties, plenty of different stages for all music types, fair ground rides and the occasional free give-aways e.g. a McFlurry van.

Chai Wallahs is a large open sided tent that plays all those beautiful reggae funk vibes that get everyone stomping. Chill out here and listen to live music from dance hall to ska, hip hop to soul, while sipping on an exotic tea or smoking a shisha. Merlin’s Forest is a massive indoor stage for those bass line junkies.

Sunday was the day the sunshine actually made an appearance and what a difference it made! Being able to relax next to the main stage and take off the wellies really brightened up everyone’s day. This meant many of the installations were finally able to make an appearance. Face painting was going on over at Chai Wallahs, people were eating sheep testicles in the name of charity, Bearded Kitten organising all sorts of Celtic Games that often involved nudity and of course the beloved paint fight that took place during The Maccabees set at the main stage, which leaves you looking colourful, your hair matted and your throat dry.

paint fight beach break

It’s a shame that many of the installations, performances and activities were not able to go through with due to the weather conditions but the organisers tried to cram as much in as possible when they could.

Over all the music here is very commercial, as per chosen by students, the other entertainment was a lot more fun and it was a good start to the festival season.

Love Saves The Day 2012

just jack stage castle park

Love Saves The Day Official Website

Date: 3rd June

Location: Castle Park, Bristol

Price: £35

Capacity: 3,000

Security: Only at the gate.

Rating: 5/10

Castle Park is a pretty small venue with a pretty wonky structure for those who are already wobbly themselves. When you add rain to this equation you end up with a lot of people on their face/arse. No one pictured the event to be as saturated as it was. I had long imagined sun beaming down on us for this one day celebration of emerging talent, and apparently so had the organisers. Now I don’t want the rain to be the main point of this entry but I strongly need to emphasize right now just how much the heavens opened on this day in particular. During the day this was manageable but the second the sun disappeared it became horrendously cold. Although this is not totally to blame for this not so impressed review..

For the first few hours the group of people I was with really embraced dancing in the rain, finding it quite refreshing and the muddy dance floors pretty entertaining.
love saves the day rain fest

The sound systems down at the red bull stage blew us away and we were feeling good having a little dance to some house and techno. The décor team had clearly made an effort to transform the park into a miniature festival for the day and the main stage was quite a nice set up, that was surrounded by small banks and hills that allowed the crowd to look on.

main stage love saves the day

One huge let down was the inability to see Bonobo. I am not one to rush around at festivals. I want to go at my own pace and enjoy myself rather than stress out and miss the nice little details. Upon arrival to the entrance to the stage where Bonobo would be doing his set, it was evident that only a small proportion of the festival would have the honour to enjoy his performance. From this point on, smiles started to drop and people started to get cranky.

The entire time I was inside I didn’t see a single member of security.. or even a high vis jacket. Sometimes this is a good thing.. sometimes it not. It really depends on what you want to get up to. I didn’t see any fights and no one seemed to be kicking off, so it was a kind of friendly atmosphere. It needs to be mentioned that this place desperately needed at least one extra bar. People were queueing for over an hour to get a drink. Not to mention that the bar next to Tokyo Dub stage that ran out of alcohol but still had people queueing for a long time, completely unaware.

Mr. Scruff’s two hour long set was enjoyable but lacked energy.. or perhaps the audience lacked energy. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur turned it around and cheered everyone up.. maybe because it stopped raining for a small portion of it.

An organisers job is to think through all possible situations and circumstances to ensure that things run smoothly. No one had catered for rain. There were very few places to seek refuge and this made people miserable. In hindsight, knowing that people were paying up to £200 for a single ticket, I would have sold mine in a heart beat.

As far as one day festivals go, this one did mediocre. Not worth making a long journey but if you live in or around Bristol area worth checking out.