25th-27th July | Bruton
It had been two years since I attended a weekend festival, so hitting up a couple of stages, cider in one hand and boyfriend in the other, was long overdue. Not forgetting the perfect location in the heart of Somerset, FarmFest seemed like my ideal stepping stone back into festival life.
For such a small festival, it was a hugely eclectic mix of genres: full of jazz, indie, world, folk and a plethora of DJs spinning techno to disco. Latching onto the soaring trend of UK jazz fusion, bands such as Waldo’s Gift, Snazzback, Cykada and Ishmael Ensemble took a hefty chunk of the two larger stages’ line-ups.
Morcheeba, Friday’s headliner, attracted the biggest crowd and provided an unsurprisingly classy show. This set, however, did emphasise how small the crowd had been for the rest of the acts at the Main Stage. People mostly opted to sit sparsely when watching bands, avoiding dancing and perhaps avoiding each other. I felt a loss for the magic of festivals and the freedom of dancing like no one is watching amongst a bunch of strangers who become your best mates for 48 hours, never to be seen again.
The festival’s layout was simple. It’s hard not to be at a small size, but sadly they were missing two of the seven promised stages, leading the reggae tent to become a small, neglected marquee with no DJ slots until midnight. I’m sure Bruton Dub Club deserves more air time, plus I’m a soundsystem girl at heart, and I didn’t get my fix.
Regardless of the fewer stages, there were several musical highlights. You too can be wowed by their live brilliance. Bath’s Gully was joined by his band including a nifty little horn section (what soul-inspired band doesn’t have horns anyway?). His innocent openness made him hard to dislike. Bristol band, Wasabi put out the craziest cover of Sean Paul’s ‘Get Busy’, proving that there’s no funk like Wasabi funk.
Waldo’s Gift, the trio of drums, bass and guitar, reworked Aphex Twin. As my first eye-closing moment of the festival, I was immersed by their mad, badass soundscape. While female acts and musicians were incredibly thin on the ground, Chroma made sure she was loud enough to make up for the lacking numbers and screamed down feminist garage and math rock, including some tunes in Welsh. It was a 10 out of 10 on the goosebump scale.
I’ve been listening to Backbeat Soundsystem for years and now, finally seeing them on stage, they did not disappoint, they even managed to get everyone on their feet. Two Day Coma came just at the right moment. With their tune ‘Shudder’ making me cry, their gradual builds into fresh indie peaks were refreshingly comforting. Super Parisian and oh-so-cool Juniore dished up the best rolling drums and cowbells I could have asked for, perfectly fitting for car adverts and the Killing Eve soundtrack.
The rain was falling but Portico Quartet still carried me away to my happy place on clouds of electronic, atmospheric goodness. And what a lovely bunch they seem. New York’s Moon Hooch were insane. I implore you, listen to them. My most disappointing musical moment was discovering Nubiya Brandon no longer leads Nubiyan Twist. She was the soul and core of the band. So please, NB, hurry up with your solo career. I need your feisty energy back in my life.
For seasoned festival goers perhaps it’s not quite the calibre of entertainment you expect, but you can keep your spirits up learning diablo at the circus workshop. FarmFest may have been a little rough round the edges, but it provided a kids’ haven where they could roam free amongst the sparse crowds and explore a world of exciting new sounds.
See the video for ‘Lapwing’ by Ishmael Ensemble here: