Monday, 12 July 2010

Lounge on the Farm 2010 - Review

There’s a very relaxed vibe to Lounge on the Farm festival, Merton Farm near Canterbury. The sun helps this atmosphere - it shines powerfully all day, but the new local authority licensing restriction that limits punters bringing their own alcohol onto site is also a significant factor. With the smell of cow pats not far away and a market area that retails only locally produced food (even the farm itself sells edibles made from its own livestock - a properly sustainable burger that hasn't travelled hundreds of miles in production) Lounge on the Farm has a welcoming local / village feel. Inflatable cows hang from the steel frame of the huge cowshed that forms the main stage and punters sit by the bandstand at picnic benches soaking up the rays and enjoying delicacies such as kipper in a bun and Russian stuffed vine leaves - not your typical festival food.

Whilst the majority were in attendance for the full three days, Breaking More Waves was at Lounge on the Farm 2010 for just one day; the motive being that Moshi Moshi and Wichita Records host the small Sheepdip Stage on the Saturday.

Things open at the Cowshed Stage with a sample from Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped. As the words “I ain’t gonna take it no more,” boom out Liverpool’s Kids On Bridges plough through a short set of booming chest vibrating electro-pop. The band seem totally out of place with the general organic vibe of the event with members sporting a blue metallic hoody, bleached blonde hair, sportswear and shades. The skewered slabs of disco synth on Check Your Head add a sprinkle of gold dust, but it’s just too damn early for most. A case of wrong place wrong time.

Alice Gold fares a little better - flicking her golden locks backwards and forwards in a demented fashion to her blend of adult friendly FM rock - although her strong passionate voice loses something in the empty echoing heights of the cowshed.

A walk past the farms flag lined sweet corn fields leads to the sunflower covered bandstand where The Momeraths are giving a gentle lesson in everything twee and lower case. Xylophones, quietly cute vocals and summery girl-boy melodies, they’re like the long lost cousins of Belle and Sebastian circa Tigermilk, and go down rather well with the sun-kissed crowd who are busy consuming Kent ice cream and cider.

Heading under canvas, The Sheepdip Stage is where the too cool for school fashionista’s can be found. In sweltering and rising temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade there are kids here wearing retro jumpers - they’ve either left their brain in another field or have a very good deodorant. Veronica Falls try to bring the temperatures down by adding icy attitude with their lo-fi early 80’s U.S styled indie garage rock, complete with shambling guitars, flatly sung female vocals and pouting red lips. There’s a significant number of bands mining the C86 gone stateside genre right now, and Veronica falls are digging with the rest of them. One for the old-school indie elite.

“You’re such an attractive festival crowd - I thought you were all going to mingers,” announces the leopard print clad Elizabeth Sankey of Summer Camp with a smile as the band begin their experimental pop. No doubt after three days of sun and cider by Sunday evening there will be less beauty and more mingers. Summer Camp get only moments in before the sound cuts out. A few minutes of frantic action by sound technicians sort the problem and the band recommence their woozy Beach Boys influenced synth-layered pop. The band are motionless verging on invisible and it's left to Elizabeth to be the star of the show, her voice clean with an almost country-esque twang. There’s a charm to what Summer Camp do, even though occasionally they let muso cleverness get in the way of pop sensibility. If they can keep the shackles on they could be as beautiful as the audience.

Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit draw the biggest audience of the day so far -albeit it’s still bums on grass at this point - and are incredible. Johanna and Klara have a raw, enchanting quality in their live performance that as yet they have not fully replicated in recorded form. Using just delicately picked acoustic guitar, autoharp, keyboard and drums their sound is quietly romantic - their mournful harmonies sounding agedly ghostlike. When they sing acappella “I don’t know what I’ve done, but I’m turning myself into a demon,” on Tiger Mountain Pleasant Song it’s breathtakingly moving. Ending with rich majesty of I Met Up With The King, their voices in turn gravely and lullaby smooth, it’s no wonder that the crowd applaud for an encore.

Besides the pullover wearing indie boys Australia’s Sarah Blasko has also arrived in the Cow Shed from the school of inappropriate festival attire. Wearing a blue tartan dress and leggings she announces “I didn’t realise it could get this hot in England.” Despite her fashion fail she is quirkily engaging with her puppet-like dancing, unselfconscious marching and note perfect songs - the spectral wail on All I Want is particularly affecting, a snow capped misty mountain romance, even on this sweltering day.

It’s inevitable when the weather is this warm that this is going to be the main talking point of the day, and so it continues. “Has anyone got sunburn?” questions Rebecca from Slow Club as a packed Sheepdip tent slowly melts. Slow Club are never going to be a slick pop band - their ramshackle unpolished country-rock-folk -skiffle style is part of their charm. Today at least they manage to get through their set of both old and new songs without any of them breaking down halfway - that in itself is a result for them. From yelling gang hollers to sweet harmonies Slow Club have it easy - most of the crowd are ready to lap it up, even if Rebecca notices that one man in the crowd is screwing up his eyes and shaking his head negatively - she suggests he’s right though - “essentially, we’re shit,” she mocks. Songs such as Trophy Room with it’s acoustic thrash and pensive “Oh oh oh,” sighs oppose this argument -the single man in the crowd was wrong.

The top end of the site pays host to the Farm Folk stage, where a mellow crowd rests on hay bales under pink drapes. Looking like a younger David Bowie or James Dean, Alan Pownall and his band play a set of fine well crafted songs that are perfect for this near sunset moment. His sound is warm and mature, laced with violin and gentle percussion. Occasionally there’s a reggae lilt to his tunes, elsewhere they’re of the more heartfelt singer songwriter style. Explaining to the audience that he was late getting here due to traffic, it seems his journey was worthwhile.

As night falls the Sheepdip stage alters its musical direction from indie / folk / pop to vibrant electronic geekiness. The numbers in the tent dwindle, but it leaves more room for dancing. “At least my nails had time to dry,” jokes a member of Silver Columns after a late start due to the dreaded technical hitches. With flashing lights all over their microphones and kit, their relentless electronic burbles sound a lot like a humorous high energy Hot Chip, and on Brow Beaten -a song which really deserves a shot at the charts re-release -a modern day Bronski Beat. Bridging the gap between audience and stage, one of their number hauls a drum into the crowd and plays from the floor to the bemused faces of onlookers.

Gold Panda continues the geek-core dance revolution wearing a T shirt emblazoned with a Tampax logo. Waves of ambient noise give way to gentle electronic chimes, crackles and then stuttering jerky beats of brilliance. His futuristic flow gets the crowd dancing spaz-like - by the time he wraps things up with Quitters Raga the temperature has been cranked up a notch again.

It’s left to James Yuill to finish the small crowd who remain off. We’ve called James the thinking mans Calvin Harris before, and this seems to be truer than ever. The bespectacled high priest of geek electronica rolls out electro-pop / folktronica bangers by the bagful under a beautiful vision of kaleidoscopic slides. It may now be midnight, the temperatures may have cooled outside, but Yuill ensures that Lounge on the Farm continues to sweat it’s head off until the very end of the day.

Lounge on the Farm 2010 - what an absolute scorcher.

You can see more photos from Lounge On The Farm 2010 by clicking here.

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