It's Just Nice

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Farm Festival Somerset: Cows, hats, dub, wrestling and rope burns

Guest blog post from Matt Henkes! Follow him on Twitter @MattHenkes

If there’s one thing we love in the south west it’s the combination of grass, cowpats, cider, camping and loads of live music. Farm Festival in Somerset last month managed to mix all these ingredients into a distilled mashup that falls somewhere between Glastonbury and a family picnic.

Ravers, rockers, farmers, families, country bumpkins, cows and clowns; all coming together for a compact, field-based party. It shouldn’t work, but somehow this does.

With a line-up spreading 50 acts across five well monikered stages, The Battlegroud, The Den, Civilisation of the Rough Disco Soiree and the High Grade Rockers dub stage, the bash covered everything from acoustic to metal, classical to dub, reggae, blues, country, rap and virtually everything in between. And at £40 a ticket, it almost seemed rude not to.

This event is punching above its weight in an increasingly crowded festival circuit. And the standard of musicians performing is testament to the growing stature of this little festival.

Remembering a linear sequence of events from any festival weekend is always a tricky job; highlights return in their own garbled order, leaving a general impression of a good time had, with some bad dancing and much bollox-talking thrown in.

Thankfully in this case, a few stand-out acts left an impression that managed to cut through the inevitable days of despairing introspection and bad karma that always follow such a huge withdrawal from the happy bank.

One of the featured attractions of the weekend was Man Like Me. Two guys fresh from international touring, well rehearsed and already sporting a modest amount of success, they distilled a whole boat-load of disparate ingredients into a tasty Nu Rave pie that included pumping samples, blasting brass and impressive party vocals that tended to inspire wild arm movements in the audience.

“Sum these guys up in one word,” I say to the girl next to me. “Like Madness on drugs,” she replies, deadpan. That was four words actually luv, but fair enough.

The festival was buzzing for Submotion Orchestra, a Leeds seven piece, billed as dub, but which flirted with elements of heavily reverbed old school reggae, funk and drum n’ bass, sewn up by haunting cliff-hanger synth sections and a female lead vocalist that stood-up the hairs on the back of your neck.

Taking up a lot of room on stage and performing a tightrope walk between acoustic and electronic, their set constituted a lesson in atmosphere and musicianship.

UK Beatbox champion Reeps One turned out to be a massive draw in the bar tent. A diminutive young chap practicing what he calls, “organic electronics”, or to the lay-man, making awesome electro-sounds come out of his face and into a massive PA-system.

Looking like one of those dudes who’re impossible to beat at Gran Turismo, Reeps walks on stage and, for almost 45 minutes, holds an entire crowd captivated as he spits his mind-boggling techno and chest pounding dub bass directly into a microphone. Mouths hang open in awe. “This is just me,” he suddenly says, stopping mid-beat. “Just me,” the place erupts…

We’ve all seen beat boxing before, but I doubt you’ve ever seen anything like this; watching Reeps One do his thing, you start to realise why Prodigy decided to take him on tour with them. “I always get more into it when I know the crowd are enjoying it,” he says afterwards. “It was brilliant in there, a great crowd.”

More happy memories of bumbling around the festival return like lost packets of rolling tobacco; a guy with a frozen chicken for a head walks past, there’s a competition for the craziest hat of the weekend. You get inadvertently involved in a giant tug of war, rope burns all round. Somehow, you find yourself running a giant inflatable assault course, getting your ass kicked by nimble eleven year olds as you crawl, wheezing to the finish.

Eventually you come across a full-size wrestling ring, complete with full-size leotard-wearing guys pretending to tomb-stone each other to raucous applause from a highly appreciative crowd. Whatever a festival needs to be successful, Farm Festival crams a lot of it onto the festival equivalent of a pin-head. Did I mention tickets were only £40?

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One comment on “Farm Festival Somerset: Cows, hats, dub, wrestling and rope burns

  1. Frankie
    August 21, 2012

    This festival sounds AMAZING! I’m all over that shit next year.

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