26-27 July | Gilcombe Farm, Somerset
8 years back, a few mates wanted to put on a party. A party for friends. A party that their friends, and their friends’ friends, could play at. They wanted to make a bit of money for charity, too. They actually did put on a party. And it was quite a party.So they did it again the next year. More people came. And. Yep.
Now, Farm Fest welcomes a comfortable 4,000 or so folk over two days and nights.
The music is brilliant – massively varied – but it’s that disparity that is the festival’s oddly binding force. By day a consistently high quality blend of folk, electronica, post-rock, indie, hip-hop, jazz, funk, soul, you name it, and by night, when the main stage (a lorry, basically) is hiding quietly in the corner, people loose their shit and party to house, electronica and disco in the marquees. And it all makes sense. It’s a diddle. There’s nowt taxing. Everyone’s in the same field. And everyone sleeps in the field next to that. You arrive, you bosh it. You get up and slop about, you bosh it again. Then you go home. Bosh.
The original sponsor-free, keep-it-affordable and open-to-all philosophy’s not changed a tad either. When Crack arrives on Friday, it’s a fine summer’s evening, there’s barely a breeze and the sun is painting a delicate pastel shade of orange over the site. Indie pop duo Thumpers are warming things up on the main stage. They play a great little set bursting with tightly structured, pretty melodies driven by powerful but controlled tunes that whisper euphoria, but in a slightly aloof way.
Ghostpoet headlines tonight and he draws a good crowd, although Crack struggles to invest much interest. His soundscape initially carries an air of mystique, but it’s quickly replaced by the sense that he’s revisiting the same territory over and over – and that’s after only a handful of tracks. But anyway, it’s a tasty evening and there’s other fun to be had.
The rest of the night is filled with fun and frolics, including an embrace with a wonderful security man and a rumble in the hay-bails, then over to the dance tent where there are good vibes a plenty. Before we know it, Crack’s doing a stint on the tea and cake stall on Saturday morning offering samples of brownies and smiles to the wonderful folk that make up this festival.
Hanging with a pint at the bar, we’re entertained by West Country guitarist The Flamenco Thief, who despite a confession that he feels a little rough, demonstrates an exceptional level of acoustic dexterity. He’s back and forth on his guitar, painting visions of old Westerns and tumbleweed-filled deserts. Without even knowing it he clicks the festival back into gear and Friday night’s a goner. I. This. Yes. are next up on the main stage. They’re a talented bunch, that’s for certain, and the audience don’t mind a jot that the rain is finally upon us. With a sizable dose of the more refined side of Mogwai, plus a sprinkling of Tortoise, I. This. Yes. have a very promising future ahead of them.
Unfortunately, when the rain appears, it’s relentless, but the festival’s organisers wisely decide to bring the outdoor gigs indoors. Satirical art-punks Art Brut introduce themselves with a snippet of Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City, before bringing themselves swiftly back to their own level. It’s basically an excuse for the crowd to throw some loose rock shapes and air guitars.
It would be trite to say things could be done to sharpen Farm Festival, and the fact that it’s slightly unrefined is understandable for an event of this ilk. More importantly, there’s a little bit of magic to this place. And as long as Farm Festival remains true to its cause, that little field is going to be the setting for some seriously fun weekends for years to come.
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Photos: Eleonora Cecchini
Words: Dan Fowler