Boomtown Fair, the UK’s best festival is now just a month away. And throughout its history, the four-day experience in Hampshire has comfortably asserted itself as one of the most boundary-pushing and forward-thinking music programmers in the industry. Sidelining all else that Boomtown offers, and focusing purely on the music, we spoke with Kaptin Barrett, Boomtown’s Head of Music, to find out what goes on in the world of Boomtown’s programming, and how they go about curating the lineup.
The West Review: Where do you start curating a lineup for a festival like Boomtown?
Kaptin Barrett: I think we all have a bit of a rolling wishlist. I tend to start with that and then see who naturally builds around those artists.
TWR: Artists performing at Boomtown all seem to naturally-yet-specifically fit the aura and the vibe of the festival. How do you go about recognising an artist as a good fit?
KB: I spend most of the festival out front seeing who works best with the crowd in which districts, once you’ve soaked all that up it’s pretty instinctual. That said, I think most acts with honesty, passion and respect for the audience would work given the right time and stage, that allows us to throw in the odd curveball from time to time.
TWR: Gorillaz are perhaps the biggest headliners in Boomtown’s history, how did that come about?
KB: We always like to push the boundaries of what we do a little further each time. Gorillaz is taking a step outside our comfort zone whilst not sacrificing the spirit of the festival, so it just made total sense. Plus we’ve got to a stage now (Lion’s Den, above) where artists such as Gorillaz are willing to take a chance on us.
TWR: Boomtown has often shed light on acts that perhaps deserve more recognition for their contributions to music – Leftfield, Squarepusher, Madness, and Cypress Hill come to mind. Is this intentional?
KB: I think most of us in the family come from a background where artists like the ones you mentioned are natural headliners, even if they aren’t always recognised as such in the mainstream. I think all of us would rather see Cypress Hill than someone who’s currently topping the charts.
TWR: Boomtown has always had a focus on international and perhaps less-known genres of music. How do you go about sourcing and then presenting acts and genres not on show that often here at a UK music festival?
KB: It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle without edges, you just have to look for the next piece, or be open when it falls in your lap. For example, someone like Otim Alpha from Uganda who makes electro acholi music, I’m not sure we could have put him on so easily a few years ago before we had introduced so many other African artists. But yet the rhythms and tempos that he uses should also be accessible to a crowd who generally love fast, heavy dance music. Plus, The Windmill stage where he’s playing has opened up the festival to more experimentation, especially with the many amazing jazz acts we have on there. So everything grows naturally, even though it seems to grow very quickly.
TWR: Is there an artist throughout Boomtown’s history you saw as a ‘risky’ booking, but turned out to be a perfect fit?
KB: Oh yes so many, you have to take chances or you remain stale and thankfully most have paid off. I remember a couple of years ago I’d booked lots of acts who had never played over here such as Dubioza Kolektiv, La Pegatina and Soviet Suprem. I’d given them good slots too as they’re pretty big acts in other parts of Europe, hence them not bothering with the UK really. I was bricking it, because I knew if those gambles didn’t pay off, we’d be unable to take as many chances the next time. Thankfully they all were amazing, we even have Dubioza back this year as the penultimate Friday night act on the Town Centre because they were so good. Back home in Bosnia they play big arena shows, but you rarely see them on a UK lineup.
TWR:Are there any artists Boomtown have been trying to book for years, but hasn’t quite worked out yet?
KB: Absolutely, there’s a few we’ve been trying to get since the very beginning but I don’t want to jinx them. I think some of our regulars would be able to guess who they are mind. Hopefully you’ll see some of them next year!
TWR: With that in mind, any hints for what might be coming in the future?
KB: Chapter 10 is the finale of our current story, so you’ll have to wait and see where we take it the next year. I can assure you it’s all very exciting, and we will of course remain Boomtown to the core.
Boomtown Fair takes place from 9th-12th August in Hampshire, UK. The last few remaining tickets to see the likes of Gorillaz, Limp Bizkit, Die Antwoord, Enter Shikari, Maribou State and more, are available to buy from the Boomtown website.