Bygrave Wood, Baldock
15 - 16 July
It’s difficult to reflect upon Farr without immediately mentioning its size.
Petite in its 5,000 person capacity and in its boutique woodland setting, this two-and-a-half day party just thirty minutes from London promises a particularly intimate style of hedonism that its larger scale counterparts could only dream of achieving. But then you have its line-up. Having previously hosted DJ Koze, Âme and Erol Alkan, its 2016 bookings once again proved its prowess as amongst the vanguards of electronic music-focussed festivals.
There’s a cohesiveness to Farr which sets it apart from many other festivals of its calibre, perhaps due somewhat to its comparatively shorter schedule which makes no room for energy levels to deplete. Though Thursday night teased in the rest of the weekend with music cutting off before midnight, Detroit Swindle’s hip-shaking, synth-infused drum grooves and classic vintage cuts like Inner City’s Good Life set the tone for the crowd pleasing weekend ahead.
In admiration to both the crowd and the selectors, the only real difference between daytime Farr and nighttime Farr was natural light and lack thereof. Blessed with warmth and the occasional slice of sun, that daytime activities were limited mostly to food, yoga and documentary screenings only concentrated the attention further on all that the music. Alongside the latest addition of a tent almost entirely dedicated to live performances (namely Afriquoi and Auntie Flo) the new, more secluded Hidden Palace stage became the main hub of afternoon dancing. Funkineven hosted a notably varied set which spanned from afrobeats to fist-bumping, flavourful techno, taking respite only occasionally in the likes of Pepe Bradock’s Deep Burnt. There, too, Terry Farley and Pete Heller traced through their 25 year strong careers back to the roots of the UK house scene.
Bleeding smoothly into night, the energy of the festival continued apace. Move D, ItaloJohnson, Andrew Weatherall and the six hour b2b2b featuring Ben UFO, Joy Orbison and Midland were all placed across the variation of small, woodland-dwelling stages, making sampling a selection of all that Farr had to offer pleasantly easy. Though the sound control in the early morning hours kept noise levels frustratingly quiet, Helena Hauff’s warehouse-sized, mutating, acidic selections still proved to be a weekend highlight, and Sunday’s Optimo set kept things characteristically off-kilter and crowd pleasing even when cutting Larry Levan’s Stand on the World to play Bob Marley. John Talabot’s final hour at The Shack – a stage clad in corrugated iron, and draped in flickering lights and clothes strung out on washing lines – provided a fitting, if not spaced-out, end to the weekend. Opting for warm and ambient tracks such as DJ Koze’s remix of Roman Flügel’s 9 Years, Talabot’s soundtrack for the sunrise became a defining moment of the festival.
Nestled amongst the flat and expansive plains of corn fields in the Hertfordshire countryside, and grown out of a small gathering of friends, the end product of its seventh year running is a festival characterised by wholeness. Farr feels organic not only in its settings but in the weekend’s experience, in the ease at which underground acts flow into electronic music’s pioneers, and the close proximity between them and their audience.