All | Aquariums | Arduino | Btrfs | Cars | Cats | Clubbing | Computers | Diving | Electronics | Exercising | Festivals | Flying | Halloween | Hbot | Hiking | Linux | Linuxha | Monuments | Museums | Outings | Public | Rc | Sciencemuseums | Solar | Tfsf | Trips



Table of Content for portugal2023:

More pages: July 2023



2023/07/20 Portugal's Biennial Boom Festival
π 2023-07-20 01:01 in Clubbing, Festivals, Portugal2023

About Boom

Boom is a special festival I had heard about several times, and is not easy to get to since it's only once every other year. I found out about boom because of the number of psytrance sets I saw on youtube, and also heard about it as a unique festival that is somewhat burning man like. There is definitely a hippy component to it (and I'm not saying that as in it's a bad thing) and I'm guessing it is based in Portugal as Portugal has decriminalized all drugs from what I understand. I found out later that some good amount of those was probably required to enjoy some of the music ;)

Boom has costumes and outfits, but not so much the LED ones for night, so I didn't find many people lit but, but people did love my outfit, which made bringing it all the way there and dealing with difficult recharging, worth it (yes, sometimes people ask: it was a lot of work to build, maintain, fix, carry, and in this case, also recharge, but obviously this is all to help spread smiles, happiness, and add to the festivals, like everyone else who does the same):


getting to boom if you're not driving yourself is easiest from Lisbon or Madrid. They have busses from airports at both locations, and that's how I got there. At the time, I was not aware that there were 2 other ways to get there, and local busses going to/from Idanha-a-Nova and Castelo Branco, the latter has train service to the rest of portugal. Anyway, took the last train from Lisbon (leaving at 16:00 on the 2nd day). It was a longish and not very comfortable bus ride, but it got us there after 5h-ish hours:


filled busses
filled busses

alternate options I didn't know about
alternate options I didn't know about

Arrived by 21:00, still some sunlight
Arrived by 21:00, still some sunlight

The place is actually pretty large when you're on foot. cardboard village was a good 20mn very uphill walk from the biggest dancing area, and without big wheeled luggage, the rough terrain made dragging luggage up not fun at all:




Most people online said to arrive as early as possible to get a better camping spot, or "not miss any minute', but honestly it's already a 7-8 day festival, even arriving on the 2nd day it was plenty early enough and the main stages had not even opened/started yet, so I personally felt it would have been fine to arrive even one day later, but by then it would have to have been through alternate transportation means like the local bus.

So, now is a good time to mention that Boom is not for the faint hearted. The camping conditions are on the harsh side, I guess not getting rained on is good, but a lot of the terrain, including where I stayed, is slanted, full of very pricky leaves (by that I mean they made holes in my flip flops and would sting my feet), the biggest ants that earth has, and some pretty scary looking spiders that will come in your tent if it's not fully sealed (thankfully I'm pretty sure they aren't poisonous, but waking up next to one is still unnerving somewhat).

very long and painful walk up when you are carrying your camping equipment and luggage
very long and painful walk up when you are carrying your camping equipment and luggage

the path to cardboard village is steep, even without luggage
the path to cardboard village is steep, even without luggage

Because this was part of a long EU trip, I elected not to carry around camping gear across Europe just because of boom, and went with the cardboard village which provided recyclable cardboard tents. I'll be honest that they are not big, basically backpacking size, and they fall apart easily (held up by some staples). You could buy or rent camping gear, including tents, but that's a big gamble to come with nothing if they can run out before you arrive:


the door broke instantly, very little room for luggage, and it's not secure, thefts are a problem :(
the door broke instantly, very little room for luggage, and it's not secure, thefts are a problem :(


Each camp had a few bathrooms (not enough), and showers that were only open during limited hours. That created pretty long lines, which in turn discouraged people from using them and I guess encouraged people to take quicker showers maybe? The main point was to save water as the entire area was in a drought:


they were lacking urinals, it would have helped with bathroom lines
they were lacking urinals, it would have helped with bathroom lines

Just like burning man, you are encouraged to disconnect during the event, and obviously FB or Instagram usage are heavily discouraged. There is however reasonably good cell signal throughout the event, which is good for syncing up and meeting friends. To recharge though, you have to rely on a few sparse charging points, which is questionable if you have to leave your sole phone there for multiple hours. I recommend bringing a lot of USB battery packs, using them to recharge your devices inside the tent and leaving your battery pack unattended to recharge it. I had bigger issues with my very power hungry LED outfit that needed a lot more power than a phone or battery pack, and was thankfully able to make special arrangements for access to power to recharge those.


The Grounds

The organization of Boom overall, given that it's definitely cheap for what it offers, and staffed by little paid staff and volunteers, was quite impressive and exceeded what I've seen at Burning Man, which in itself is not bad actually. The level of care and love at boom was outstanding.


Also in burning man fashion, people at Boom were respectful of the environment and super clean. That was quite refreshing compared to too many festivals where people are just pigs and throw trash everywhere :(

a nice lady picking up the little trash on the ground, people were very clean
a nice lady picking up the little trash on the ground, people were very clean

Just like project Zendo at Burning Man, they had knowledgeable volunteers to help people use drugs safely, including even a way to test them, although demand far exceeded supply for that:



While many things were burning man-like, it was not a gift/barter economy, which honestly was helpful for me or I would have had to bring even more things, including a week's worth of food. There were lots of food options and lines were a bit long but not terrible:


ok, that was both unexpected and very welcome. Just like burning man, Boom is super transparent about their costs
ok, that was both unexpected and very welcome. Just like burning man, Boom is super transparent about their costs

lots of food options
lots of food options


the general store was also useful
the general store was also useful


very large and shaded dining areas, with a few places to charge phones :)
very large and shaded dining areas, with a few places to charge phones :)

Nice displays and decors:










They also have a market manned by attendees:



Also some art, not Burning Man levels of art, but still a fair amount:








You can also bathe in the lake:


the pipe is to allow trucks to pump water out and fix the roads
the pipe is to allow trucks to pump water out and fix the roads



Along with the lake, comes some nature of course:



Like everywhere, watching sunsets was nice:


everyone celebrated in different ways :)
everyone celebrated in different ways :)


And then, it gets very cool at night:







The People

The place is of course not your average festival, and neither is the clothing. I tried my best to come prepared :)



if you didn't bring your half eaten pickle, you missed out :)
if you didn't bring your half eaten pickle, you missed out :)



you don't need an outfit if you have a big tatoo ;)
you don't need an outfit if you have a big tatoo ;)

That said, people brought fun things to the dancefloor:

that's one way to get to the stage
that's one way to get to the stage

and another way :)
and another way :)

people brought an operating table in the crowd ;)
people brought an operating table in the crowd ;)

you can also bring your couch ;)
you can also bring your couch ;)




supplies ran low by the end of the week :)
supplies ran low by the end of the week :)

Someone brought a lit up Diabolo, and I mostly remembered how to play it, that was fun :)

The Music

Ok, so, this is where it gets complicated. Unfortunately I have to state right now that I simply couldn't enjoy most of the music that was played. There are effectively 2 big stages plus a 3rd slightly smaller one. The 3rd one played some experimental music I simply couldn't get into each time I stopped by:

experimental stage indeed
experimental stage indeed


The other 2 stages played a bit of music I liked, but was honestly also a lot of deep dark psytrance that sounded like the same thing and sometimes the same few bars stuck in a CDJ eloop for an hour+. I realize it's not an entirely accurate or fair description, but hopefully makes my point that I had a hard time enjoying most of the music. This was a big disappointment for me when I had only heard a few stellar sets on youtube from some DJs I quite liked, but in the end that was only a quite small portion of the music I heard.
Dance Temple was stellar:







When it got too hot, they had you covered:




Of course, it gets a lot prettier at night

I tried to help with lighting :)
I tried to help with lighting :)








Alchemy Circle, the 2nd big stage was not bad at all either:





It was also pretty at night, nice LED work:





Finally by the last day, my 2 favorite DJs closed the festival, starting with Astrix:



Full set:

And then Liquid Soul finished the night:






Summary Video:

Full set:

Farewell/Conclusion

First, I'll start with my Video Summary of the week:

Definitely had some good times and music I did enjoy across everything there :) (and yes, that 1H mostly has music that I liked, but there was plenty of other music that was harder to listen to for more than few minutes). Pointers:

  • 05:00: you'll hear how repetitive it can get.
  • 10:00: is a set from Okapi, no idea who those people were, absolutely hillarious and unique. That was worth it!
  • 16:00: gets freaking hillarious
  • 20:00: spinning lit dress
  • 36:00: Astrix
  • 53:00: Liquid Soul
  • The line for the busses on the way out was the least fun part of the event

    Unsurprisingly, a bit like burning man, getting into the event isn't so bad because it's spread out over time. Getting out was a huge mess of a line that was easily 4 to 6H. I think their main limitation was lack of busses and bus drivers willing/able to work certain times. They had busses leaving the previous evening, but they were running during the best music sets (Astrix and Liquid Soul), and ended too early (23:00 I think). Even if we tried to leave so as to be at the busline at 22:45, that would not have worked because they did not guarantee you'd get on a bus, just that the last bus would leave at 23:00 and anyone who didn't fit would have to find a way to sleep until the next morning, even though they already broke down camp.
    My guess is that obviously everyone trying to leave on the same day does not help, but also that it's probably not easy or possible to get bus drivers to drive in the middle of the night and start driving people out at 06:00 and at much higher pace than I saw. So I Guess this is a 'plan for it", or consider taking the city bus out to the nearest train station. Looks like people get in line as early as 05:00 and that the wait is at least 2-3H best case scenario unless you leave quite late, but hard to know and by the last day there is not much going on anymore, so just waiting isn't great either.

    Other thoughts

    If you think the above is bad, well yes and no. I also mentioned the music being an issue for me, but clearly that doesn't mean the music was bad, just that I couldn't enjoy it, and clearly plenty of other people did so just fine. Like I mentioned earlier, camping was rough, but everything else was between quite nice and very nice.
    The love from the organizers is hard to ignore, it definitely made the event that much more special.

    Should you go? Would I go Back?

  • Saying that Boom is unique doesn't begin to describe it. It's also special because it's only one year out of two, so you have to plan for that. I'll also use the opportunity here to say that the organizers really do care, to a level I've not really seen anywhere else: the website is full of messages of love, the several Emails they send to prepare you, also are. They also did a very good job answering Emails and helping, which is no small feat when you receive lots of Emails.
  • I liked the burning man feel while being open to money and commerce, which made things easier when you travel from far and can't carry everything like you have to for burning man
  • Speaking of money though, they unfortunately heavily encouraged the used of wristband money. It was at least required for most drinks and very few places accepted contactless credit cards, which if of course the correct way to do this. Those who know me well know that I hate the wristband money BS because this turns the festival into a bank, and unsurprisingly, most fail at doing a proper job at it, because being a bank that holds people's money, is hard. In my case, it's the 3rd festival that messed it up, in their case I once put 100 euros on my wristband, got confirmation, money was taken from my account, and the money never appeared on the wristband. I wasted countless time trying to get this fixed, was given repeated promises it would get fixed, and it never did. In the end I had to dispute the credit card charge with my bank to get my money back. What a waste of time, just take contactless credit cards!
  • Security, well there was none. That was refreshing. You could of course bring anything to your campsite, and there is no perimeter around the dancefloors area, you can just walk in and out. I felt safe though, thankfully it's remote enough that they can do this. Awesome.
  • The Music was the problem for me. I was really looking forward to many days of fantastic psytrance. Unfortunately for the most part it was some very experimental music I sure couldn't get into (yes, I understand Boom is also about drugs and altered states, but honestly I don't think I can get altered enough to enjoy what was being played most of the time). The rest of the time sounded like deep dark psytrance, almost the same few bars of music on a CDJ eloop. Sorry if that sounds unfair, I realize a lot of people there seemed to like it, all I can say is I love a lot of psytrance, and wasn't able to enjoy the music most days, with a few exceptions like astral projection, okapi, Astrix, and Liquid Soul.
  • the wait for the busses back was bad, as in way-too-many-hours-burning-man, bad. See comments above.
  • "Is it worth flying across the world for?". Well, this one is tricky. Honestly flying from far just to go to Boom is quite a trip, especially if you have to bring some camping equipment if you can't rely on rentals not running out. It's still easier than for a European to fly to the US and go to burning man, but not by a whole lot, it's still quite a journey ;) If you're coming from outside of Europe, I'd say it's debatable, but within Europe I cannot think of another festival like Boom. The biggest thing to keep in mind is make sure you actually like the music that is played there. I will quote (but not name :) ) a DJ I know and who played there as saying he also thought the music there was quite experimental and niche.
  • See more images for Portugal's Biennial Boom Festival

    More pages: July 2023

    Contact Email