Review of Lounge On The Farm 2012 held at Merton Farm Canterbury on 6th, 7th, 8th July 2012

Lounge On The Farm celebrated its seventh birthday in some style over the weekend. The site was re-configured again this year as a few more new attractions were brought in and one old one was repatriated with its original inhabitants. No guitars, keyboards, drums or bass' were heard in the Cowshed this weekend, just the odd cow bell as the bovine massive steaked(!) their indigenous claim to what was once the main stage. Santus Circus provided a huge big top for use as the dance tent (Hoe Down), a Roller Disco sprung up neatly next to the newly positioned Main Stage, The Sheep Dip was transformed for Lounge Originals and the whole arena area was made more user friendly and less of a sprawling hike.

Lounge On The Farm

As far as the weather was concerned, it was generally a lucky 7th weekend in the idyllic Kent countryside. The rain did come but mainly at night and when it arrived during the day, it was short and sweet and in no way detracted from the entertainment; as one observer put it,'It's a festival, you're supposed to have mud.' Indeed.

Having pitched up late on Thursday, it was great to be able to take a leisurely stroll around. From its unassuming and rather humble beginnings, Lounge On The Farm has certainly blossomed into a fabulous festival and the momentum of recent years seems to be unabated in 2012. There is still a focus on local, sustainable and organic food, drink and music, but there has also been a step change to enable the increasing crowds the ability to enjoy the impressive headlining acts in an environment that works for artists and audiences alike. Lounge On The Farm has achieved a beautiful balance that manages to cater to all whether you're a young toddler or an aging rocker and, at the same time, does it in such a way so as not to alienate the more discerning, 'on-trend', occasionally fickle and generally youthful demographic.

My first taste of live music certainly occurred by luck more than judgement as I happened upon Emeli Sande just as she began her sound-check mid-morning on Friday. The select audience, numbering around 10, were treated to some very appetising sound bites that certainly whet our appetite for later. The first proper live set of the weekend was provided by the utterly delightful Dani Groombridge (she and her band are now collectively going to be known as Weathering). Outside, the sun shone and, inside the Farm Folk tent Dani, looking resplendent in her 40s style full-length pleated skirt, smouldered. Dani's set, which included a stirring performance of a song written at Lounge On The Farm when she was 14 entitled 'Morning Light', tripped along. Tales of love and loss were tenderly and effectively performed before the receptive Loungers. 'I'm Not Lonely' and 'Girl With No Heart' were made all the more engaging through Dani's smokey, slightly affected vocal before she rounded off a great start with a dedication to "My baby in my belly"... ahhh.

Scott McFarnon's 5-piece picked up the Folk Tent baton with an eager excitement and would not disappoint. They were in party mood and cranked up the atmosphere with a stomping cover of R Kelly's 'Ignition' and a partial cover of Celine Dion's 'I Will Always Love You' that morphed, as the beats kicked in, into the toe tapping, jamboree 'Wolves'. The highlight of the set, however, had to be 'Time Machine' where a blistering guest vocal rap was interwoven with the frenzied folk to deliver a fantastic musical fusion that, on this evidence alone, has an interesting future. Later, Canterbury's very own reality TV stars Amber Room, (think Rubeus Hagrid meets Nessa and you won't be far off the mark) took the Rock and Blues route for their introduction with some barnstorming numbers being given the full treatment. Tom Williams & the Boat lit up the evening with a riotous set pulling on newer songs from his latest album 'Teenage Blood' as well as some 'old' favourites.

Elsewhere over on the main stage, Foxes did her/their best to enliven the crowd with some very powerful synth lead songs that were not too dissimilar to the best SO7B's recent material. Louisa Rose Allen and her band created an incredible wall of sound with her expressive, soulful voice as she ripped through some cracking versions that included 'Youth' and 'Echoes'. The Fossil Collective by comparison seemed a little too subdued before hotly tipped Theme Park re-injected some energy into the proceedings. Over at the Hoe Down, Kito was mixing it up as she played to the intimate gathering laying down some very tasty tunes with consummate deck dexterity; her barmy beats equal to the now barmy weather. Even the mum at the back, looking for all the world like she'd just finished work in her crochet cream top and flowing black dress, was throwing some fabulous shapes (clearly she hadn't yet had time to climb into her Onesy!). By contrast, over in the Playhouse tent, Bridget Minamus and Lara Akinnowa among others were performing some very touching and powerful spoken word pieces.

Friday night's best bits were both starkly contrasting but well attended affairs. Lounge regulars Summer Camp, second only on the bill to Roots Manuva, whipped up all before them on the Meadows Stage with their blend of infectious indie pop that included 'Round The Moon', 'Hunt' and a fab run through of 'Losing My Mind'. Elizabeth was in a mischievous but marvellous mood, proclaiming at one point, as a term of endearment you understand, that 'You're the tits'. I didn't stick around for Roots, although talk the next day suggested it was a fine set, but instead decided to head on over to the main stage and see if in fact the Brit Critics Choice Winner for 2012 was worthy of all the hype. Emeli Sande as headliner was either a very inspired choice or one hell of gamble. Whichever; it was doesn't matter a jot now as her performance wowed the entire crowd. The soulful Scott delivered a magnificent 11 songs with the ease of a seasoned crooner three times her age. She was on fine form throughout performing an excellent cover of Coldplay's 'Waterfall', her version of 'Read All About It' (for the first time at a festival), a new song by Naughty Boy called 'Wonder', a rather wonderfully warped Reggae version of 'Where I Sleep' as well as the sing-a-long favourite, 'You Will Find Me'. To the obvious delight of those amassed before her, Emeli Sande shone. She is indeed a worthy recipient of her first, but unlikely to be last, Brit Award.

Saturdays slow start amassed around the tent preparing breakfast was soon driven by more of a youthful theme as we headed towards the Playhouse tent to see the 'World's Biggest Rock Band'. We got there early and were suitably warmed up by the Lord Of The Lobsters Lekiddo and his 'Happenin' Cafe'. With the place packed to the rafters with over excited youngsters, it was soon time to draw back the curtain and welcome to the stage The Zingzilla's! They worked the room well, banging out well known tunes that everyone, including the adults, could join in with. Choosing not to wait around for the photo call with The Zingzilla's, we instead meandered down to visit Pierre & Catherine Woodward at their woodcraft stall. Having seen the sign, 'Why not try making something?', we couldn't resist and came away with some lovely woven wicker fish and an individually hand crafted wooden sign.

In complete contrast, a proverbial shot in the arm came shortly afterwards in the form of Laura Dre and her Vinyl Black Stilettos. The wake-up call over on the main stage was a like a mix of Juliet Lewis meets The Duke Spirit and the spunky performance was worthy of being a lot higher up the bill. 'Electrical' and 'London Skanks' were belted out before a Marilyn Manson-like cover of 'Tainted Love' was blended in. Over on the Meadows stage there were echoes of The Jam as Wildes were showcasing some new material; one song so new it was, as yet, untitled. Similarly, Trophys, from just down the road in Maidstone, were in a buoyant mood and were well supported by, among others, a Deer, a Steer, a Horse and I think Ronald Reagan. Later, back in the main arena, The Milk showed everyone just why they have had so much positive press. Closing out with 'Every Time We Fight', they were punchy and tight and exuded the confidence of a band in its ascendancy. Goodnight Lenin proved to be an unexpected high over in the Folk Tent with some superbly played tunes and light banter... 'If anyone here plays Concertina, don't judge me, I can't even spell Concertina.'

Saturday's high came early-ish as the main stage was lit up by the flamboyance and electricity of London-based, Spector. The band, and especially front man Fred MacPherson, were in a playful mood as they ripped through a truly fantastic set. Retro crowd pleaser 'Chevy Thunder', 'What You Wanted', 'Friday Night, Don't Ever Let It End' and then the all-inclusive 'Never Fade Way' were terrific (watch out for the album in August). Ghostpoet drew me away from the main stage as he headed up the Meadows stage. He drew a substantial crowd that were in for treat. At one point, I thought he may have peaked too early throwing 'Liiines' in mid-stream but the build was brilliant and the atmosphere was ramped up with each song as the mix seemingly got harder and heavier.
A quick saunter took me back to see The Wombats really put on a show. They'd enhanced the stage set and filled the top field with eager evening Loungers who were in an exuberant and expectant mood. 'Moving To New York'. 'Little Miss Pipe Dream' and 'Patricia The Stripper' (with special Running Man sequence) went down really well with the appreciative crowd, but it was the quality of the incendiary closer, 'Let's Dance To Joy Division', that ensured the night was well and truly capped off brilliantly.

The Canterbury Christ Church Choir opening up on the Main Stage (including guest vocals by class #1 teacher Miss Hayes!) was the first thing to catch my youngest daughter's attention as the sun shone on Sunday morning. This rather startling surprise was followed up by a trip to The Science Museum, after a quick face painting session courtesy of Kath Kidston and the tribal drums of Samba Pelomar, making sure our day continued with a difference. Having shot balloons with air guns made from buckets, bags and elastic, we were even more intrigued as the girls covered their hands in washing up liquid so that they could have liquid dry ice poured into them; they loved it just as much as their cookery master class the day before. Much needed sustenance was provided by a fabulous Pork and Haloumi kebab out of the Proud Fox ensuring we were all set for some more musical delights.

Canterbury's Boot Lagoon laid down some seriously jazzy and psychedelic instrumentals before more local talent was provided by the equally adept funk-fuelled inflections of Zoo For You in the Meadows. Jagga worked the crowd with his up tempo pop as he powered through 'Automation', 'Modern Day Romance' and new single 'Love Song' and, over at The Hoe Down, DJ Gemini dropped some deliriously dirty bass bombs prior to the arrival of Todla T. Swiss Lips did their best Duran Duran impression before the sultry tones of Aluna George set about capturing the crowd with some silky smooth R'n'B flavoured numbers including 'You Know you Like It' and 'Kaleidoscope Love'. Niki & The Dove provided a splash of colour as they played through highlights of their debut album 'Instinct' but it was the later performances that were the most memorable.

It was not raining but had turned a little cooler as Chic took to the stage. Dressed entirely in white suits and dresses, they looked like a throwback to the tight harmony groups of the 60s. Nile Rogers may not have taken to the weather ('Is this what you call summer') and there was certainly no need for the individual white linen towels as the chances of any sweat were minimal. However, the crowd were definitely warmed by him and his band as they played a fantastic roll call of hits including 'Everybody Dance', 'I'm Coming Out' and 'Dance Dance Dance' proclaiming along the way, not that any justification was needed, that 'Chic are not a cover band, we did this s**t first'. It was a rare opportunity to see a very gifted talent but, above all else, it was hugely enjoyable.

Trying to recapture former glories over at The Meadows Stage were the very dapper looking Dexy's. Kevin Rowland was most certainly in character as he and the band set about premiering the new album 'One Day I'm Going To Soar'. The voice of experience was in good form but wasn't necessarily playing to the crowd. It was a good while in before we were treated to 'Tell Me When The Light Turns Green' with Rowland taking things possibly a tad too seriously. Example whipped them up into a frenzy over in the dance tent and then Brit Pop stalwarts The Charlatans closed out the weekend with some rousing renditions of their best material up on the main stage.

Three days of great entertainment had once again drawn to a close. Shaun Williamson, best known for playing Barry from Eastenders, had drawn the biggest crowd of its weekend to the Farmhouse tent, Jimi, Dr Fonseca and Mistry had help drive all but the very faithful from The Lounge Originals tent and Mr Nice, Howard Marks, had waxed lyrical about his former entrepreneurial skills as the world's favourite drug smuggler ensuring that it was a standing room only in The Playhouse. Phil Kay and Ardon O'Hanlon, among others, had provided some great comedy and the local farms and eateries had once again come good with some very nice tucker and equally quaffable beverages. There were high spirits, no dramas, little incident and not even the cows were mooved this year! Simply put, Lounge On The Farm 2012 was a harmonious triumph of eclectic and engaging talent showcased in a wonderfully chilled environment.

Andrew Lockwood.

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