A while back I went to Lounge On The Farm. I wrote about it. I cannot post the entire article here because it was co-written so I will only post the sections that I wrote. For the full piece click here
Merton Farm in Kent is just that; a working farm. Except for three days of the year, of course. Because for one weekend every summer Merton Farm move all of the animals and equipment safely out of the way and replaces them with 6000 or so music lovers. There is something different about this festival, which may be due to it’s modest size, the glorious weather, the picturesque surroundings or a nice combination of all three – but it just doesn’t feel like other festivals. Most probably because it isn’t. For one thing the food stalls only sell locally produced food – to the extent that you can even buy a burger made from the farm’s own live stock. It is also a genuinely family friendly festival with special ‘family’ and ‘quiet’ camping zones and specific areas for kids of all ages to be entertained.
Oh yeah – and the main stage area is in an actual cowshed, complete with a wonderful, umm – how best to phrase this? – country smell? If you are thinking that it all sounds a little like a mini Glastonbury then that is not the worst conclusion to draw – after all, U2 didn’t perform at LOTF, either. Plenty of bands and artists did perform, though, and as is the case with all festivals it is impossible to see even half of the acts performing. One can certainly make a fine attempt to see as much as possible, though, and that is exactly what we did. So strap yourself in and enjoy a little run down of some of the many exciting things that were to be seen on Merton Farm this past weekend.
11.30am on Friday morning the wonderfully named Slap Alice took to the stage, or more accurately, Hannah Prescott of Slap Alice took to the stage for an increasingly rare solo performance. Armed with only a Gibson Epiphone and a sweet voice she showcased a handful their songs to a largely hung-over crowd, sheltering from the baking sun in the tent. Despite the general hung-over feel, though, the crowd were pleased enough with her unorthodox compositions – their songs have a tendency of going off on a tangent from time to time.
Next up Husband and wife duo Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou played a kind of unornamented acoustic music which kept in theme with the stage name “Folk Farm”. The twosome moved to the Kent countryside from London, making them something of a local band. They treated us to songs from their debut album as well some new songs, all the while sharing one microphone and no more than one square meter of the stage. The highlight of their show was new single ‘England’ which had unmistakable echoes of Belle & Sebastian.
Canterbury’s very own Lucy Kitt was next up. Running a little late because, she explained “my car crashed into a ditch on the way over here” she cooed her way through the kind of understated acoustic songs that the likes of Laura Marling would be proud of. Being a local, it probably should not have been a surprise that she drew a decent sized crowd but she looked genuinely shocked and overwhelmed by the turn out, particularly when requests were shouted out. She ended her set with fan favourite ‘Days Like These’ and the grin on her face as she sang the line ‘It’s days like these I’m sure, that we’re all living for‘ very much told its own story.
Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs introduce themselves with the words “We’re the worlds first Skunk band. That has nothing to do with what we smoke or how we smell!” They then perform a host of their unique Skiffle-Punk cover versions. They play songs by Motorhead, The Pogues, AC/DC and everyone in between in a hilarious fashion. Just before they play Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ Jones announces that Wino Tyrone, who until now had only ‘played’ the washboard, will play guitar on this song. Tyrone reaches into a box and pulls out a tiny plastic toy guitar and ‘plays’ it by smashing the crap out of it with a ladle in time with the beat. They finish with a melody of about a dozen different songs as the crowd are handed pots, pans, spoons and ladles to smash together in time with the beat, resulting in a delightful pandemonium.
The performance of the day award – should such a thing exist – would surely go to South London’s Josh Weller who snatched an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat. Just as he and his band began to play, the power failed, which resulted in a little unrest. Josh began apologising politely but the crowd interrupted with shouts for him to play acoustic instead. Accepting the challenge, he stepped off stage and beckoned everyone forward. With the crowd sat at his feet he performed a unique, stripped down version of ‘Limbo’ which received an enormous reaction from the crowd. With the power restored, everyone got to their feet, the band and audience in a buoyant mood, and the set of indie-pop amalgamations flourished in the party atmosphere. Smiling like a man who knew he had just come back from the dead, Josh made jokes about his likeness to Moss from Channel 4′s The IT Crowd and ended with ‘Cruella’ which turned into a huge sing-a-long. Amazing show.
Next on the Folk Farm stage were Peggy Sue, who were the first band to be interrupted by the annoying howl of a vuvuzela. Clearly not football fans, the girls had no idea what it was. They ignored their ‘horn section’ and rattled through a fast paced set of their indie-folk songs. All the crowd favourites were there; ‘Watchmen’, ‘The Sea, The Sea’, ‘Yo Moma’ and they bravely ended with new song ‘Salt Water’ which was twice as aggressive as anything else they played in the set. As quickly as they arrived, Brighton’s finest were gone.
It’s Saturday and over at the Sheep Dip stage – which has been taken over Moshi Moshi and Wichita Records today – Summer Camp draw a bigger crowd than the acts on before them and it isn’t difficult to see why. Elizabeth Sankey announces their arrival by commenting ‘You’re such an attractive festival crowd. I thought you would all be mingers’ as she chuckles to her self. They then proceed with a set of synth laden summer pop classics as beautiful as the crowd. Toward the end of the set a group of fans dressed in full body woollen cow outfits – who must be disgustingly hot – make their way to the front and break out in a harmonious post song ‘Mooooo!’ ‘Are you mooing or booing?’ asks Elizabeth.
Having spent a while in this particular tent it becomes apparent that the artists on these labels are all friends with – and fans of – one another. You cannot help but pick up a family vibe about these labels, which in the days of Simon Cowell’s make-as-much-money-out-of-them-as-quickly-as-possible-then-fuck-them-over approach to signing artists, is heartening to see.
Something else that is heartening to see is Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aka First Aid Kit, take the stage. Dancing along to a generic R&B song (presumably available on every Now… compilation for the next 3 years) that is playing during their swift sound check, you got a feeling that their set was always going to be a belter. They did not disappoint. These girls make absolutely glorious folk music, complete with the kind of angelic harmonies that never fail to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up
For the first time today the tent is full and people are craning their necks outside to get a decent view. They open with the auto-harp driven ‘Sailor Song’ and continue with beautiful song after beautiful song as they build in confidence. They also include their exquisite version of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ which pulls off the impressive feat of being even better than the (very good) original. If you were there and did not get shivers when they sang the acapella refrain of ‘I don’t know what I have done / I’m turning myself into a demon’ then I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but you are probably dead. They end with ‘I Met Up With The King’ which climaxes with Johanna playing her keyboard with her head. It is a magnificent end to a magnificent set and is met by a frenzied yells for more by the crowd.
Beans On Toast take to the stage and, Jay, dressed in Bermuda shorts and fluorescent t-shirt because ‘I wanted to look like The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air’ – is in a typically talkative mood. He continuously pauses mid song to chat to the crowd, explain his lyrics or just because he fucked something up and wants to start again. It’s unprofessional and it’s ramshackle! But it’s also hilarious and one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend. Jay sings both of his festival favourites, ‘MDM Amazing’ (‘I met a pretty girl at a festival with a bag of M.D.M.A / We both took a great big dab and went to greet the day’) and ‘This Side Of The Fence’ (‘And I don’t care if the toilet stinks / Come rain or shine I’ll deal with it / I’ve brought a pair of wellies anyway’) both of which go down superbly for obvious reasons. He is also a master at audience participation and at various different points he goes from getting everyone to pick up the litter around them and pass it to his Mum to bag up, (yes, really) to coaxing a man into doing a lap of the tent whilst taking a sip of everyone’s beer along the way, to inviting a young lad on stage to beat box for him while he ‘raps’. It is the kind improvised hilarity typical of a Beans On Toast show and everyone leaves with a smile upon their face.
West London’s Treetop Flyers were unlucky enough to have their set clash with the World Cup final which was being shown in one of the tents. Kent likes football, it seems, because the crowd was thinner than Jude Law’s hair. Nevertheless, the boys performed – as they always do – with a real energy and vigour about them. ‘Mountain Song’, ‘Rose Is In The Yard’ and ‘Is It All Worth It’ are all stonewall alt. country classics. Mercifully, mid way through the set, the match finished and people came flooding in. By the time they close with the ferocious ‘Haunted House’ – with a verse of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ from The Jungle Book crow-barred in for good measure – the place is deservedly heaving and they receive a rapturous applause.
And that, as they say, was that. With heavy hearts we headed off to wash the smell of cowpats from our clothes, bath in after-sun and have a much needed sleep. If there is a better way to spend a sunny weekend in Kent then I would be genuinely amazed. Lounge On The Farm 2010 was a scorcher in every sense of the word. Roll on next year!
For more information on any of the bands featured here, simply click on their name to be redirected to their website.