The Mighty Boosh Festival

It must be fun being a member of the Mighty Boosh clan at the moment.

The creators and performers of other, similarly cultish and celebrated British comedy shows – such as Spaced or Peep Show, say have the option of either making another series or moving into film-making.

But Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding have created an entire self-contained world in which pretty much anything is possible.
At the moment they are rehearsing for their second UK tour, there is a book coming out this September, and a film and even dolls are possibly on the cards. This might all sound a bit Little Britain, and some hardened fans do have their doubts; but the difference is that no matter what medium the Mighty Boosh turn their hands to, they can never be truly mainstream. They’re massively popular, sure, but their particular brand of off-kilter, and sometimes deliberately obtuse humour means that Little Britain-esque overkill is seriously unlikely.

Their ‘thing’ at the moment is being a band. Music has always been a huge part of the television show, of course, so it’s a logical progression, but whereas others might stick to having it a part of their live show, or small gigs to start off with, the Boosh decided they would headline their own festival, with only a couple of warm-ups beforehand. It was a risky idea, certainly, especially when it was announced just a few months before taking place, but with Vince Power behind them they could put on the sort of sponsorship-free event that fits in with their low-fi ethos.

Despite the most recent series of the Boosh being dark to the point of genuinely disturbing at times, this clearly hasn’t put off hip young parents introducing their kids to the show early the Hop Farm was dominated by families, and face-painted young things running around in fairy wings and Spider-Man outfits. Add to this thousands dressed as various characters from the show having little picnics and meet-ups, and it all made for a fun but above all laid-back and friendly atmosphere.

At 50 a ticket, plus a tenner’s worth of compulsory extras, it has to be said that this was not a cheap day out, and as such must be judged, at least partially, on a bang-for-your-buck basis. Without the Boosh, I think it is fair to say that the event was slightly over-priced. The promoters clearly didn’t realise that Boosh fans are probably pretty hot on their comedy, and would be wanting to see much of what was a seriously impressive line-up of comics. Comedy superstars Ross Noble and Frankie Boyle were joined by cult favourites such as David O’Doherty, Josie Long and Pappy’s Fun Club on the bill, but a tiny comedy marquee meant that the number of people able to see them was in the low hundreds. Definitely something to work on if this festival returns. As for the main stage, the line-up was eclectic to say the least, but then I kinda liked having White Denim‘s fuzzy punk/blues coming straight after the shouty-catchy-electro-pop of Robots In Disguise.

It has to be remembered, however, that this was The Mighty Boosh Festival, not a festival which happened to be headlined by the Mighty Boosh – it was more Oasis at Knebworth than Glastonbury. And it was absolutely their festival : Rich Fulcher MC’d the day as Eleanor (a character which has appeared just once in the show) and the merchandise stands were named Nabootiques for the day. Keeping this in mind, then, and knowing that the entire audience was united, presumably, in their love of the Boosh themselves, the day would always be judged ultimately on what their set was like. On that score, I can have no complaints.

Costume changes a-plenty, a dance-off between Har Mar Superstar and Bob Fossil, sweary punk tracks, a nu-rave song about eels and thrash metal performed by grannies…

The original idea was, I think, for the band to be made up exclusively of members of the Boosh family (Bollo on drums, etc), but Julian the true music aficionado of the bunch wanted, and I quote “the backbone to be shit hot”, and so professional musicians were brought in on bass and drums. Apart from Fielding (Naboo) though, the others still played their part. Noel/Vince was on lead vocals (who else?!), Julian/Howard displayed impressive skills on lead guitar, Dave Brown/Bollo/Joey Moose added percussion to the mix, and Rich Fulcher bashed on the keyboard with characteristic gusto. And it worked. They functioned as a band fantastically well because the set up is already there, ingrained in Boosh mythology. Vince was born to be the strutting, posturing, Jagger-esque front man and Howard was born to be the jazz-inspired muso at the side, stroking his guitar. And so were their real-life alter-egos, of course.

But this was more than a set from a band; it was, and had to be, a proper show. The Moon introduced the Boosh (and later appeared as Jay-Z; “I got 99 problems, four of ’em are catering”) and there was plenty of trademark banter between Julian and Noel. They were hugely generous to their audience too, as they threw in everything from their most famous crimp about soup (it’s an odd world, that of the Boosh, but go with it) to a song only heard by their most ardent fans in a late-night radio interview. Vince appeared on stage on a huge pirate ship, while Howard had a little blow up dinghy, but he got his moment later on when performing New Sound and Isolation on his own – and blowing the audience away with a killer guitar solo.

There were costume-changes a-plenty, a dance-off between Har Mar Superstar and Bob Fossil (Rich Fulcher), sweary punk tracks, a nu-rave song about eels and thrash metal performed by grannies. Would this have made any sense whatsoever to someone who had never seen The Mighty Boosh? Of course not, but then you don’t usually judge a gig on what it offers people who aren’t already fans. And even if there were some Boosh virgins in the audience, I’d hazard a guess that they were swept away by the spectacle and joy of it all anyway.

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