Boom time: Portugal’s top psytrance festival

It’s only when we get to the tiny, seemingly deserted hilltop village that we think is the nearest to the Boom festival site, and the sun has set, that we realise we forgot to print out the exact directions. We pull over in a cobbled parking space off a little winding street and wonder what to do. Beyond the village the landscape is pitch black. There are none of the usual indications that a festival is going on nearby – no signs, no long car queues.

We roll down the windows, letting in warm air and the sound of cicadas, and I lean out, hoping a bassy beat will give us a clue. We wait. Then a dilapidated junk-ship of a campervan pulls out ahead, psychedelic flower patterns painted on its sides, a trail of techno leaking in its wake.

“Follow that van!” says my friend Anna – there’s no doubt it’s headed the same way.

Boom is not a natural choice for me. Primarily a psytrance festival, hosting big names from the scene (in 2010, Eat Static, Gus Till, and Zen Lemonade played; for 2012, Ace Ventura, X-Dream, Ajja and Manmademan are among the main acts), it is also heavily “not just about the music” – raising consciousness, living outside the dominant culture and spiritual social activism are all key aims. I’m rather dubious about all this stuff but my buddy Anna is a fan, and anyway the festival has more to recommend it than the hard dance line-up.

Held in the middle of the Portuguese nowhere, every other year in August (on the full moon of course), the setting, beside a dazzling lake at Idanha-a-Nova, three hours’ drive north-east from Lisbon is simply incredible. Guaranteed sunshine is another bonus: we will not be bringing wellies, nor our cagoules, and to make the most of the trip we’re going to a surf camp on the coast for a few days afterwards.

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