Just as it is right and proper that you support your local football team, regardless of their performance, so it is I think that you should support your local festival. (Lounge On The Farm, set in the idyllic Kent countryside just outside Canterbury, is mine). Not everyone can go to Glastonbury and not everyone should support Manchester United; it's not all about the most money, the highest gate or the biggest names. If in doubt, there is always pride, hope, aspiration and an undying loyalty that should lead you to see the positives.
Lounge On The Farm had been going from strength to strength in recent years with numbers swelling, performance areas and performers growing in number and, in general terms, their pedigree rising year on year. Last year may have not seemed like that upon early inspection but it turned out to be a triumph of instinctive and intuitive booking: Emeli Sande (What a year she had in the end), Nile Rogers with Chic (After their Daft Punk collaboration LOTF would have had no chance this year and he didn't even headline), Dexys, The Charlatans (Both enjoying a critical resurgence) and The Wombats etc.
This year the line-up didn't look that strong, or seemed to have strength in depth, and in part that was true. It was a little like seeing your team climb from the fourth tier of the football league, show real championship playoff potential and then have their hopes scuppered by premiership teams coming in for your best players leaving you with no time, or money, left for a new signing. 2 years ago the Vaccines played at about 4pm, as did Spektor. Graham Coxon was somewhere in a far off field and Katy B wooed the crowd in the early evening before The Streets, Ellie Goulding and finally, but magnificently, Echo & The Bunnymen brought the weekend to a close. (Oh yeah and Example and Annie Mac came too....there were real decisions to be made)
It is fair to say that LOTF 2013 was a scaled down affair with fewer stages (Sadly, no Sheep Dip), fewer performers (Far less seasoned acts - no Tom Williams, Smugglers Records?? or Al's Hog Roast etc.) and, in the end, fewer WOWs.
It is also true to say that festivals may have reached or even exceeded saturation point. The Hop Farm, not far off down the road from Merton Farm, being guilty of over stretching themselves and going bust. Everyone is well aware that money is tight, so it is far better that LOTF survive than go to the wall, so it was with mixed emotion that the weekend passed. However, just as any England supporter would, I should celebrate the many wonderful performances and activities that made the weekend special. LOTF may not win best festival (this year at any rate), but it always tries hard and you can't fault a trier.
LOTF has never been solely just about the music. The food, the laid back and chilled family atmosphere and the added attractions all play their part in creating an eclectic and entertaining festival mix. 2013's Lounge was no different. It may have been smaller, with fewer farmers but it still maintained its wonderfully relaxing vibe.
Lucy Rose Performing at Lounge On The Farm 2013
The sun shone gloriously on the opening Friday of the festival. Seasick Steve came and did a meet-and-greet pre Lucy Rose gig. Chatting and signing autographs from behind the wire mesh fence that stood next to the main stage, he looked like a hill-billy convict allowed out for his thirty minutes of exercise at the Federal State Pen!
Beans On Toast livened up proceedings earlier on with his songs about festivals, 'Ketamine', 'Litter' and 'Lizzie B' all going down a storm. His attempts to get a beat-boxer from the audience were looking unlikely with the first two auditionees failing him miserably but then up stepped a young boy who delivered brilliantly raising the biggest cheer of the day for his cameo role. D-Rail over at the Hoe Down mixed up a storm with some serious bass beats, reverse rhythms and enough bleeps and beeps to soundtrack an entire Clangers box set. Norma Jean Martine had the folk tent mesmerised as she and her black guitar beguiled the crowd with her songs of love and over at The Playhouse The Private Widdle Social Club packed them in with their very unique blend of cabaret and dance hall.
Seasick Steve Playing Live at Lounge On The Farm 2013
The highlight of Friday, however, came somewhat unexpectedly as Lucy Rose finished her funkier than anticipated set... and after the mid-set installation of her bass drum! As people gathered around the main stage for the arrival of headliner Seasick Steve, a pop-up band called No Limits set themselves up and instantaneously sprang into life bringing the crowd along with them. Some fantastic covers were belted out including 'Kids In America', 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Take On Me'. Fresh from Champions league, Tower Of London and Olympics action, No Limits were on their game like no one else over the entire weekend. They drew in a big crowd wherever they popped up, so much so that on Friday night everyone almost missed the arrival of Uncle Jesse incarnate Seasick Steve. The very affable Steve won the crowd round quickly with his quick fire renditions of his blues, bluegrass and honky-tonk infused numbers playing his collection of personalised guitars with the gusto of a man half his age.
David Rodigan M.B.E brought Friday to a close, having been set up sweetly by Scratch Perverts, with a well-received set over in the Hoe Down tent treating the crowd to his usual blend of Ska, Reggae and Dancehall; the beats suitably befitting the balmy weather that had passed by before it as well as pleasing the amassed ranks with him on stage and those dancing along in the big-top.
Saturday's weather was not quite as blessed, especially in the early evening, but that failed to dampen the spirit of all those there that were just after a good time regardless. Our day started over in the Pastures to see a real curiosity. Lekiddo Lord Of The Lobsters appeared here last year but we only caught the end of his, set so we (the kids and I and few other campers I'd clearly over sold the event to) decided to head over to the Playhouse tent. To say that Lekiddo's show is only somewhat surreal is like saying that Dali was just playing with perspective. I'm not sure what the kids made of it but it all worked in a rather weird, if sometimes disturbing, way (Remember "Pinchy, Pinchy, Kiss Kiss" everyone). The Science Museum were also back to entertain the Little Loungers with explosions and liquid nitrogen giving rise to us catching 3 well attended, informative and entertaining events across the weekend.
The musical treats of the day began with a solo stripped down set from proud new local mum Dani Groombridge over at the Farmhouse Stage (An area that would prove to become more popular as the days passed). Despite the slight performance glitch during her song 'Morning Light', Dani captivated all before her, including her daughter, with her tender tales. Her mellowed out smoky and sultry delivery, including her Fleetwood Mac cover of 'Landslide', were a perfect accompaniment to the mid-day sun. James Stewart and GW Harrison laid down some bongo accompanied Balearic beats over in the Hoe Down to keep us in holiday mood and Lucy Elizabeth over at The Folk Tent, informed us that LOTF was better and nicer than Latitude last week. She performed her songs, including 'Kings X', with a captivating individual peculiarity.
Taking a break from the music, it was time to secure a seat for the comedy highlight of the weekend. Stephen K (Or 'gay' as the compare miss-said) Amos may have been delayed along the way at the BP garage but his set was tight and funny throughout despite him confessing to having to edit as he went, "I'm like a paedophile on a bouncy castle here, I'm sweating" (He clearly wasn't anticipating or told that his front row would be made up largely of pre-teens, confessing to having underpants and socks older than those before him). His jokes about the BBC's one-in one-out policy meant that he was basically waiting for Lenny Henry to die through to his experiences of being a black man in Australia...."So what happens in the dark" and his take on business class flights and growing up with a bigger sister were hilarious.
Later on, Eliza & The Bear ramped it up jamboree style. Pale Seas, in fine melodic form, made sure that the musical calibre was maintained over in the Folk Tent. Willy Moon crooned over on the main stage as the heavens opened and thunder and lightning, not blistering sunshine, lit up the Kent countryside and Matt & Sueleen gave us a bit of Country with a twist over at The Farmhouse stage. Yum Bun, Vinn Goute, Fleishmob and off course local Merton Burgers made sure everyone was suitably sustained.
The rain continued but so did the audience's determination; undaunted by such trivialities. Peggy Sue (The Pirates long since gone) packed out the Folk Tent giving a fine performance mainly drawn from last year's second album Acrobats, with a particularly fine performance of 'Funeral Beat'. The percussion was excellent and the duet harmonies fabulous to hear - very Soderberg sisters.
Jessie Ware Playing Lounge On The Farm 2013
Over on the Main Stage, the crowds continued to gather as first Tribes and then Man Like Me did their best to entertain the expectant farmers. With outfits, conversational interaction (Only half joking, I think, that Jessie Ware's mum had asked them to go on early so she could drive home), choreography and sheer exuberance, Man Like Me's funk and electro tunes won the crowd over whipping them up with great gusto in a very entertaining set that included a brilliant take on 'Squeeze', 'Nineteen' and 'London Town'. The scene was set, the weather cleared and the Main Stage area was packed out excitedly awaiting the arrival of the night's headliner.
Jessie Ware did not disappoint. She was in good spirits and clearly intent on putting on a good show, it being a "Real privilege to be asked to headline... I don't know how that happened". Having played here 4 years ago, a lot lower down the billing, Jessie was now the consummate professional. Her voice was pitch perfect and her songs delivered with an emotive soulfulness. 'Wildest Moments', 'Imagine It Was Us' and the Disclosure collaborative tune 'Running' were fabulously performed in front of the very appreciative crowd. The best track of the night though had to be her very personal and touching track about her brother 'Taking Water'. Just as Emeli Sande had proved a real Tour De Force last year so this year it was the turn of Jessie Ware. Her torch songs were a triumph of electro infused pedigree pop.
Sunday brought more sensational sunshine, a real chilled out atmosphere and some great final performances. Local band currently vying, with Syd Arther and CocosLovers, for the county's top act, Gentleman Of Few, were to provide two of the day's highlights. Their first stirring performance came in the folk tent where the dancing lady farmers collected before the stage in their flowery dresses and cheese cloth blouses like some 70's Coke ad. The band's energised and rousing performance was a great fillip for last day of the festival. Their second turn came as they joined Coco & The Butterfields on stage at the packed out Farmhouse. Coco & The Butterfields had given a fantastic performance over on the Main Stage on Friday, but although this was a smaller venue it suited them better. The collaboration was a pleasure to see, the beat boxing phenomenal and the pleasure of the whole experience seen in the eyes and smiles of the crowd was a joy to witness.
The fun fair continued to delight festival goers of all ages as the dodgems crashed and the Ferris wheel turned in the heat. Ducks were hooked, faces were painted and more pizza than would normally be recommended was washed down with more ale and Oranjeboom. The Rum Bus drew in the party goers and chilled out carnival queens and all was well with the world. Sunday at LOTF was like a blissful suspended reality, everyone had a happy go lucky vibe going on and nothing was going to spoil the fun.
Angus Gaye of Aswad Playing Lounge On The Farm 2013
As the festival drew to a close, there was still plenty to surprise and delight. The first surprise, for me at any rate, was just how good Aswad were. Their summer scented Reggae tunes were just the thing to while away a Sunday and 'Don't Turn Around', amongst many others, sounded great given a live outing. Dub Pistols followed as the crowds grew before the final headliner of the weekend. Over in the folk tent though there was one last treat. Marc Riley's favourite, Sweet Baboo, gave a suitably understated but devastatingly effective performance. 'If I Died', 'How I'd Live My Life aka The Bumblebee Song' but especially 'Let's Go Swimming' were fantastic, it's only a shame the crowd were not a little bigger to appreciate such a memorable performance.
Closing out Sunday, and so the festival, on the main stage were London R'n'B legends Soul II Soul Ft Caron Wheeler. The polished, funky and above all soulful set was a fitting end to a glorious weekend. The sun set and Back To Life reverberated around the site. Peace, love and harmony were almost tangible in the evening's warm glow.
Lounge On The Farm 2013 turned out to be a festival of delightful surprises where less is sometimes more and bigger isn't necessarily better. The intimacy of the sets and the beguiling performances from many of the artists meant that the music was really able to make a connection. Lounge On The Farm maintained its lovely chilled out family vibe and relaxed atmosphere giving rise to a very pleasurable weekend.
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