JERSEY, CHANNEL ISLANDS

With festival season well and truly upon us we saw the much anticipated return of Jersey’s very own Boom Towng. The Wonky Town Festival lit up the largest of the Channel Islands on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July. A spectacular neon explosion filled with psychedelic decor, lasers for days and some of the worlds finest Dj’s and MC’s. The Location for the festival also showed off the organisers brilliant out of the box level of thinking by holding the shindig in the grounds of St Heliers legendary Fort Regent. A 19th-century fortification and leisure centre, on Mont de la Ville (Town Hill), in St Helier, Jersey.

The fort is in close proximity to the fortified South Hill, Engineers Barracks at La Collette, and overlooks the 16th-century Elizabeth Castle and harbour to the west. The fort’s main features are substantial curtain walls, ditches and a parade ground was in the centre, which is now built upon, and covered with a roof. The Centre has held some amazing events over the years, everyone from Echo and the Bunnymen to Ian Brown and The Bootleg Beatles to Goldie Looking chain. However over years of neglect the Centre itself had fallen into disrepair with many if not all of its leisure facilities closed or relocated. However those forward thinking wonky towner’s injected new life in to the grounds by building its very own mini city complete with 2 main stages, 7 small venues and 4 pubs, even the toilet area had a Dj booth complete with massive disco ball and party lights.

The main entrance to the festival was through the centre itself but it wasn’t your usual entrance with beefy looking security guards and a police presence that resembles a well known itv drama from the 90’s. Instead of the high vis cladded body builders we were met by Wonky Airlines pilots and multi coloured uniformed air hostess. After an extremely polite bag search and ticket check you were led down a fantastic neon lit tunnel and out into what can only be described as a futuristic party town perfectly called The Neon City. The first thing that strikes you is the abundance of colour, huge walls painted with psychedelic murals and the crowd itself donned some ore inspiring outfits. One thing was obvious, this place will be a vision of spectacular illumination once the sunsets and the night rolls in.

Kicking off the Saturday neon city line up was some of Jerseys very own superstar DJ’s. First up on the one’s and two’s we had Marlon Ferreira and Alex Dasca setting the tone with some House vibes as the bass drum beats down on the crowd like an electronic sun. Following on the fresh summer vibes was Sam Tumkrew and Harley Wilson while the final local slot of the day saw local legend Ben Thomasson whip the crowd up into a frenzy before future legend Elliot Adamson who is one of the most exciting and talked about new wave of house and techno producers making waves across the globe and make a wave he most certainly did, as you look out from the neon city stage which was designed to look like an old American apartment block, all you can see is a sea of happy faces with hands permanently in the air and some serious shapes being thrown in every direction. Due to perform a full live set next was loop master KiNK but unfortunately the ongoing disruption with every airline in the world, apart from wonky air that is, meant him and his loops got stuck in Vienna as flight cancelations once again messed with peoples partying. However the party did not pause as an extended set from Elliot Adamson kept those bodies moving before Leftwing and Kody took to the decks paving the way for headliner Cristoph to smash up the neon city which by now looked like a scene from close encounters with the amount of lights and lasers making the old fort seem like one massive spaceship.

So that was the Neon City but that was only the half of it. As you stroll further into this man made town your spoilt for choice with loads of little venues dotted along the cobbled street. It wasn’t just all Dj’s, Wonky cater for all tastes with the beautifully titled Soul Garden hosting some of Jerseys top Singer songwriters, again what captures you is the amazing installations and different colours. The ceiling was a wash with hundreds of lanterns and the yellows, pinks and blues definitely give the eyes a feast as we listen to cracking sets over the two days from the likes of Jared Crespel, Phoebe Over and Axon Bower, the getaway frontman Drew Goodwin and lead singer from The Taratulips Mr Nic Dinnie filling up the Saturday showcase while on the Sunday we saw Ben Shea, The Riffs, Von Cassidy and brit school attendee Hamish Brodie all showing the crowd that Jerseys songwriting talent can hold its own to any nation. Also along the make shift high street we had Club Apocalypso playing some cool funk and grooves feat The French Funk master himself Stefunk, Radio Reeni with her mix of 80’s classics and Dj Andy Manson keeping this little night clubs floor full and bouncing. Thats not all as the Dirty Disco was pumping out the tunes in the toilet area and the Cosmic Disco has its doors open all day long and featured back to back sets from those fantastic local Dj’s including Misty vs Mawson, Radio Reeni vs Spim and the legend Tony Safe Going Back to back with Kruise.

So moving on past wonky high street we reach the second main stage, the Drum and Bass outdoor arena known as The Temple of Boom, which I have to say was my favourite part of the site. As you turn the corner all you can see is hundreds of people bouncing and pulling shapes with salutes of pure appreciation and nothing but love for beats and bars. With a massive line up over the two days the Saturday kicked off with Tyro then Vanguard DnB founders Terminal state show off their years of absolute experience. Following them we had Pine B2B with rising star of DnB Ana Crusis, C-Phonics and then the one and only Contagion took on Pranksta before heavy hitters Particle, Halogenix and Metrik kept the vibe massive until the end of the first day. The real hero of the day had to be the iconic Rebound M.C who hosted the stage and kept the crowd electric with a total of 6 hours of spiting bars and crowd interaction. What an absolute legend.

Day 1 completed it mate bring on day 2. 

Arriving at the site on the Sunday feeling surprising fresh apart from sore leg muscles from trying to do the running man for 6 hours the day before a little wave of excitement hit me as the days line up was jam packed with some seriously legendary names. The Neon City’s Sunday line up alone had some of the biggest names in dance music, I mean wow, first up was the lady of the decks herself Lisa Loud who is no stranger to Jersey and received a massive welcome back from the crowd. Following Miss Loud was the explosive Melon Bomb and Flashmob but then the wonky towers where in the presence of pure royalty as the one and only Todd Terry enters the city and up to the top floor treats the crowd to a triumphant set of ultimate classics, what a hero and without a doubt one of the highlights of everybody’s weekend, as Mr Terry or Todd as I know him now hands over the wheels of steel to Sunday’s final maestro Mr Richy Ahmed, again one spectacular scene is laid out in front of me as the night rolls in and the lights shine brightly into the sky I’m surprised we never got a visit from ET as you could probably see the lights from mars.

Over at the Temple of Boom the Sunday line up was not messing about either with some serious big names in the world of jungle and drum and bass joining the rave and what a rave it was. The DnB scene is massive in Jersey with it selling out Jerseys major venues week in week out so its no surprise that this little island in the English Channel is home to some the scenes hot new DJ’s and ultimate local legends. Again being hosted by lyrical machine Rebound M.C the day kicks off the beats with pure energy from BE:AU followed by legends Spim and Inkz, Kruise and Mawson, Andre B then Marx goes head to head with Romano to complete the local line up and pave the way to the next unbelievable booking and two of the coolest geezers on the planet Dub fx and saxophone sidekick Mr woodnote. Such a fantastic performance as the cool dub sounds and mr Fx’s reggae style vocal created a pure vibe with the crowd which is topped off with the unmistakable sound of the sax, a pure ska dub fusion had the crowd eating out of their hands and as the sun goes down and the lasers went up I caught up with Dub fx and Mr woodnote backstage and had a great conversation about the musical diversity of the island, the importance of heavy metal music and the influence rage against the machine had on our lives as youngsters. I must say the energy and camaraderie in the booth that day was phenomenal so when Bryan Gee, Dj Hype, Daddy Earl and Felon Mc all turned up at the same time the temple quite literally went boom. Bryan Gee and Mc Felon hit the stage first and proved once again that the jungle is massive and when legend and dnb lover Todd Terry joined us after his set at the neon city things in the booth went crazy, some serious shapes where once again being thrown and the energy from the crowd seem to lift the island out of the water and straight into space. The final set of the festival saw the one and only Dj Hype deliver a remarkable set of breaks, drops beats and beasts while Mc Daddy Earl put out the feels of proper vibes and when he was joined onstage by Felon Mc for some double trouble its safe to say the place went off. What a set and what a delivery from every single artist that made the wonky town weekend one of the greatest boutique festivals around today. Back stage the banter was in full flow with Hype and Bryan Gee reminiscing about past festivals and club scenes while we all discussed some of the weekends crazy fashions including the teal two piece I was wearing myself and Hype wanted to know where he could get one.

So as the crowd made the way out of the site to leg it to the after party I grabbed a lift with Hype, Bryan Gee and Daddy Earl back to the hotel where I said my farewells and hit the after party with Felon Mc who hit the mic as soon as he entered the club joining subfactory superhero and being of positivity Spim on the decks. As the weekend warriors used every last bit of energy to keep the vibes alive into the early hours of Monday morning.

What a superb weekend of pure love and my hat goes off to everyone involved in making Wonky Town such an ultimate success. Im sure it will return next year so my advice would be keep an eye on this festival and make your way over to Jersey for a few days and get Wonky in 2023

Words and Photos by Jim Dolan