As the world moves forward from the royal affairs of the past month, a weary crowd of Sunday Download Festival revellers bear witness to a different kind of majesty. Enter: Bimini Bon Boulash – a British-born model, artist and runner-up from the second series of the phenomenally popular drag competition, Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, in 2020.
The regal intro of Bimini’s 2021 single God Save This Queen plays out through the sound system, and the Dogtooth tent is sizzling with screaming fans who, a day earlier, were packing out this very same tent to watch heavy metallers Bleed From Within. Bimini was an unexpected booking, but one that is clearly appreciated. Styled in a Ziggy Stardust-esque shag mullet, a bejewelled corset top adorned with the doe-eyed face of the late “people’s princess” Princess Diana, sky-high heels and pristinely-applied makeup, Bimini is dressed like a glamorous pop star from a dystopian future. The future, though, has come to Donington early – this is the first time a drag LGBTQ+ icon has been booked for the festival.
Bimini – real name Thomas Hibbits – identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns when not in drag. They serve as a role model to many, especially to those striving to feel confident in their own skin. In the third episode of their season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, they opened up about their gender identity to a fellow contestant – a moment widely praised by viewers, and one that would have given many fans watching the confidence to open up, too. It’s a theme that many Download festivallers may well have needed support with themselves, and it’s why bookings like this are so important; the rock scene desperately needs pillars of different movements and ideologies.
Especially movements as fun as this. Joining Bimini on stage is her band, a small army of queer bohemian punks. Sonically, she’s different to most of Download’s typical bookings, too; there are no heavy riffs, no mosh pits, no devil-horns. It’s simply a non-stop party of feel-good, colourfully remixed, medleyed covers, including everything from the classic club floor-filler of Britney Spears’ Toxic to The Prodigy’s unruly, rave-inducing Breathe, to Dead Or Alive’s dizzyingly fun 80s synth-pop anthem You Spin Me Round. Although limited, Bimini does add in some originals, such as the aforementioned God Save This Queen and Sex Drugs Disco. Bimini’s own output so far may be minimal, which is a little disappointing, but what she lacks in releases she makes up for with pure star-power and, quite frankly, owning the ability to hypnotise a crowd of metalheads who have become used to line-ups dominated by cis males.
In fact, during Bimini’s performance, it’s hard to look anywhere else; she’s undeniably captivating, especially when strutting across the stage like a runway model, grinding up against stage gear and slithering around like a serpent, all while addressing the audience with the tongue-in-cheek, approachable wit of a Lily Allen and the ally-cat aggression of Johnny Rotten, addressing the crowd with an abrupt ‘Oi!’
Bimini may have not come away from Ru Paul’s Drag Race with the crown, but she has already amassed considerable power. She’s been granted the ability to alter the landscape in front of her, and there’s no doubt that her appearance here was an apt representation of a scene beginning to change. The rock community is growing more diverse; artists are being inspired by a pool of different sounds, and what we’re seeing as a result is limitless creativity. Everyone is invited to the Download party now, and Bimini is here to make sure of that. Finishing the set with an encore demanded from a chanting audience, it looks like Britain’s biggest drag supersar has broken the hallowed grounds of Donington Park.