In recent years, there has been a notable shift away from huge-scale festival operations towards more locally-based, smaller boutique events, where trudging a half hour across mud-sodden pathways becomes a forgotten memory. Farr, in Hertfordshire, just six years young, is one such experience.
Boasting a fresh, inventive program featuring artists from across the electronic music spectrum, its capacity of just 3000 allows for high-profile acts such as Tama Sumo and DJ Koze to perform in satisfyingly intimate settings. As such, Farr aimed to establish itself further alongside the likes of Gottwood and Field Maneuvers as a festival favourite for those looking for a refined, atmospheric affair where the tightly knit community feel becomes as important as the line-up itself.
The shortened nature of a festival’s Thursday programming can be a tricky affair. With the likes of Dan Shake and Shanti Celeste holding things down in the Badger Hole stage, alongside Romare finishing up in the Corsica Village, there was suitable capacity for punters to loosen up with deep, smooth textures as the evening wore on. Romare proved particularly engaging, opening with trademark sun-dappled disco before seamlessly transitioning into darker grooves. Moodymann’s Shades of Jae and The Black Madonna’s Exodus were distinct, crowd-pleasing highlights. Almost immediately as the music drew to a close for the opening night, a spectacular, extensive thunderstorm broke out, lasting for several hours into the night. It was testament to the character and temperament of the kind of crowd Farr attracts that come the morning, merely the campsite, rather than the spirits of its occupants, was dampened.
With the remaining two days being personified by glorious, unbroken sunshine, the gorgeous setting of Farr truly came into its own. The decision to move away from larger stages to a series of mini-stages proved astute, allowing the opportunity for popular acts to play in small venues. Friday’s Tief takeover was undoubtedly the highlight as Mr. Tophat and Art Alfie’s extended set teased the tension out of the crowd with smooth, flawlessly mixed house, before unleashing moments of hands-in-the-air release with the likes of Greg Greene’s After The Dance.
Farr was not utterly without its disappointments, with the likes of Tom Trago failing to genuinely engage with the crowd. Nonetheless, further highlights outweighed the positives. Leon Vynehall proved relentlessly fun – a mix of his own material – It’s Just (House of Dupree) – alongside Joe’s recent Text Records’ release Thinking About, while an unknown, swirling, string-laden disco-edit had the baying crowd completely enraptured. A rare moment when a DJ manages to nail that elusive feeling of having an almost inescapably good time, and one that can prove the defining memory of an entire festival. Likewise, headliner DJ Koze’s set – the penultimate of the weekend – similarly enthralled, with recent Pampa release XTC proving the suitability of its title – the ecstatic dancing and grins certainly hinting at an abundance of serotonin.
The shortened nature of the festival, ending on Sunday morning, proved gratifying, lessening the possibility of burning out. On this showing, in its short lifespan, Farr has demonstrated a startling ability to progress rapidly and cohesively. With this considered approach, its progression, and the festival’s burgeoning identity, will continue to improve.