Lounge On The Farm, “Kent’s Bestest Music Festival” was back this month for its seventh year. Located on a working farm less than a mile outside of Canterbury, the festival has built its reputation by offering a line-up featuring some of music’s hottest acts alongside legends from years past, while still showcasing the best of Kent’s local artists.
Although there have been some big changes on the farm, much of what has made this festival so great remains. Gone, finally, is the Cow Shed – the erstwhile main stage that had abysmal acoustics and smelt like cow crap. In its place, there is now the Hoedown Stage – a dance tent boasting an impressive line-up including Fake Blood, Example and Goldie. There have also been changes elsewhere, including a new site layout, better parking and fewer under-sixteen tickets available. All this made for a better festival overall.
As we made our way from Brighton on Friday morning through bouts of heavy rainfall, our concerns that it was going to be a wet and miserable weekend were only compounded by the repeated warnings of flash-flooding being broadcast over the car radio. Our driver tried to offer the reassurance that the site boasted “excellent drainage” due to being located on top of the chalky North Downs but even while uttering these words, with the rain beating down on the windscreen, there was a distinct uncertainty in his voice.
However, our fears about the weather were unwarranted and as the sun beamed down on the farm, we even decided to leave our wellies in the car. After soaking up the atmosphere at the campsite and comprehensively sampling the selection of the local ales and ciders, it was time to see some of the artists on display. Friday night saw the vocal talents of Emeli Sandé take to the Main Stage to perform songs from her debut album. The large crowd that had gathered took huge enjoyment from singing with her, the list of soulful hits that have brought her so much recognition.
Then, we were off to the dance tent. Here, Netsky and Fake Blood had us immediately rushing to the front to dance by the speakers of the Funktion-One sound system. A thrilling end to the first night of the festival.
Saturday began in a much more tranquil manner. As we wandered past the numerous independent food stalls tasting the local delights, the familiar melodic harmonies and warm alt-country sounds of The Jacobs enticed us in to the Farm Folk Stage. Like Brighton’s Holy Vessels (who, we had, coincidently seen them support at The Hope earlier this year) The Jacobs’ songs are instantly memorable and have a nostalgic, timeless air that left the receptive Lounge On The Farm crowd wanting more.
Next up was Beans On Toast. No longer just a one man show, Jay’s new band is a welcome addition, giving his set of amusing but heartfelt songs a fresh injection of rhythm.
Saturday night, as one of our fellow campers enthusiastically informed us, “is all about the Meadows Stage” and with a triple bill of The Dub Pistols followed by Ghost Poet and culminating in Roots Manuva, it was difficult to disagree.
The Dub Pistols, fresh from their Friday night performance at Concorde2, were on brilliant form and were undoubtedly one of the weekend’s highlights. Performing a set from their new album ‘Worshipping The Dollar’, The Dub Pistol’s infectious bass-lines and a killer brass section got the crowd moving and grooving. If you get the chance to see them this summer: do it. It’s a high-energy experience not to be missed.
After enjoying Saturday night at the Meadows Stage so much, it was great to see the stage’s Sunday line-up including a number of Canterbury’s best local bands. Kicking things off were progressive instrumentalists Boot Lagoon, their exciting set left us in a psychedelic trance-like state as they skilfully built up textured soundscapes.
Next we saw Zoo For You, and if you’ve not seen or heard of them before, we’d seriously recommend getting involved. This eight-piece Canterbury band sounds like Talking Heads jamming with Ian Dury after a cocktail of mind-altering chemicals (or maybe that was just us). Their debut album, released earlier this year, incorporates jazzy Afrobeat sounds with impressive instrumental sections and rhythmical meanderings. Zoo For You look to be ones to watch.
The final act in this fascinating trio of Canterbury based musical purveyors was Syd Arthur. Having built up a large local following and a regular billing at the festival, Syd Arthur appear to be back on form. Their violin-driven single ‘Edge Of The Earth’ was one the highlights of a set from a band that have not only matured but honed their sound into something very special indeed.
After seeing the very best of what Canterbury had to offer, we ambled back to the Main Stage only stopping on route to listen to reggae royalty Sir David Rodigan bust out a history of dub and ska in the dance tent.
Anyone who’s been to Lounge On The Farm will know that Sunday night traditionally showcases a legendary act from yesteryear. This year saw a double blast from the past with a finale of Chic (featuring Nile Rodgers) and The Charlatans. The 80s disco-party stylings of Chic were a real treat – we challenge anyone not to start throwing shapes to bass-lines as delightful as ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’.
The Charlatans were then left to finish off what was a hugely enjoyable weekend of music. Performing a ‘best of’ set including ‘North Country Boy’, ‘Telling Stories’ and ‘One To Another’, the band reminded us why they’d been so special back in the 90s. And as the sun set, the only thing left to do was to grab another beer and to dance to the Comfyporn DJs in the Lounge Originals Bar reflecting on what had been an excellent weekend. Oh, and although at times, grey clouds loomed over head, it hardly even rained!
Merton Farm, Canterbury, Fri 6th – Sun 8th July 2012
Words by Tom Wood
Photos by Dylan Woolf and Pete Fry