Lounge On The Farm 2012
Shan Vahidy (words) and Sophie Barnett (photos) went down to Lounge On The Farm this year to check out what the fest had to offer...
The Great British Summer being what it is, festival-goers are understandably trepidatious. To all ye fearful ones I say this: go small. Go chilled. Go to Kent.
LotF, now in its seventh year, was smaller than in times gone by, but still quite perfectly-formed. A diverse line-up of music (when have you ever seen Fionn Regan on the same bill as the Scratch Perverts?) was just the beginning – with a roller-disco, Solar Cinema, tea dance and some excellent comics, there was genuinely something for everyone.
Hit with accusations of under-age drinking and overspill of rowdy grebos in 2011, they’ve stepped up their security (initially alarming, but they seem to have recruited a rather reasonable bunch of folk) and reduced the size of the site. Now, I like a compact festival (less mud to wade through, quick stage switches less stressful) but they really didn’t work out their sound issues. The bleed from the Dance tent to the Main Stage was truly awful, and a number of the smaller stages were entirely drowned out by the Meadows Stage. A serious mis-step.
Despite that, I caught some good gigs. Goodnight Lenin deserved higher billing for their jangly, multi-instrumental, thinking-person’s indie – beautiful harmonies, good banter, a gratuitous concertina solo and an unexpectedly full and powerful sound. Incredibly tight musicianship, and some excellent crescendos. The highlight was their set-closer, the slightly martial Glory Be. A bit of a shame the audience were seated – they could have rocked the crowd (had they not been on at 4pm).
A slight drizzle signalled a move to the Cabaret tent for some hit-and-miss poetry. Award-winner Lemn Sissay was the headline act, but rather too angry for the mellow festival crowd who were left a little baffled; the featured poets were far better received, particularly Mel Jones, Catherine Brogan and Christian Watson – by turns political, personal and polemically preposterous. Escaping from the slightly dire slam session, I stumbled into a tea tent and encountered an impressive quartet of young ‘uns (Men of Few – average age 15 and two months) entertaining the troops with an eclectic assortment of covers – featuring some skilful banjo-ery and the jauntiest accordion player ever. Kids today, I tell ya.
Then a panicked rush to the Meadows Stage, where the Dub Pistols have inexplicably started their session 20 minutes early. Exactly what was called for, a proper jump-up set – in fact, the best I’ve ever seen them play. They were heavily plugging their new album (their ‘new direction’ appears to be old skool d‘n’b), but balanced the old and new exceedingly well and left everyone satisfied. Despite my doubts, Ghostpoet managed to keep the crowd hooked: the wistful beat poetry of his album turning into an incredibly compelling live show. He forged a real connection with the crowd, getting everyone fully involved. A quick foray to the dance stage and a total change of pace with crowd-pleasing, bass-tastic tunes from Caspa. Headliner Roots Manuva gave us a solid set, but the ongoing sound issues became too irritating, so dashed over to catch some of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. Their vibe varied from tea-dance to barn-dance, depending on who took lead vocals, and was rather delightful.
I finished up with some late-night comedy from Terry Alderton. Truly one of the most original acts I’ve ever seen. His hour-long set had perhaps 5 minutes of prepared material – the rest of the time he was simply riffing off the audience, hecklers nay-sayers and all, with brilliant mimicry and physical comedy playing their part. Not for the faint-hearted (no taboos left unbroken).
That’s a pretty fair taster of what Lounge on the Farm is all about. Good bands, yes – but also strolling minstrels (watch out for the Ian Beale Tribute Band), pop-up poetry, arts and crafts in the sunshine and many a Tea-pi – an easy, relaxing festival. I’m obviously mellowing. Or maybe just aging.