Between you and me, I have a sneaking suspicion that festivals with a ‘twist’ are all the rage right now. It seems to be a common theme that music festivals don’t want to be seen as just an extended gig with a sleepover tacked on the end; and that’s it. There’s no denying that there’s new festivals popping up all over the place, and many of them claim to be more than just a music festival, allowing theatre, spoken word and even film to sneak their way onto the line up. Often a theme is thrown in there too, just for good measure. And don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up at a festival, drenching myself in glitter and dabbling in a bit of Kate Tempest. But is there anything wrong with a festival that eats, sleeps, breathes music?
The perfect environment to enjoy music
For me, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about a festival works tirelessly all year to create a setting which is the perfect environment to enjoy live music in. A festival whose line up so carefully curated that absolutely nothing clashes with the headliners so everyone can check out who the organisers have tipped for hitting the big time (Ed Sheeran headlined his first festival here). This is a festival where the punters carry around their own beaten up guitars just in case the opportunity pops up to just play a few chords over a beer or two, and a place where artists arrive days before their set and stick around hours after to support the rest of the talent. Barn on the Farm is a place to celebrate music, get a real chance to know the personalities who are responsible for your summer acoustic playlist. This summer they put the spotlight back on the music and let it speak for itself; not a single gimmick or half-dressed backup dancer in sight.
From the moment you arrive on Over Farm, volunteers welcome you with open arms and point you in the right direction of the perfect parking spot, and the best place lay your head for the weekend. There’s nothing but smiles all round, even the security got involved. Within about half an hour, I had the tent up and had cracked open a can of cider, nothing about this festival is a chore. Sipping on my slightly warm cider, it was a dream to have eyes on the two largest stages from where I was sitting. This made my plan of action for the whole weekend pan out beautifully- no need to worry about rushing between stages to catch my favourites, just a casual stroll, and even enough time to pick up a drink on the way over.
After washing down my first drink of the weekend, it was time to explore the site. There is no other festival that I feel more at home. Nothing on site is more than a 7 minute walk away (Yes I timed it!), the three stages each conveniently positioned right next to a beautifully constructed wooden bar, with the festival’s exclusive cocktail on offer too. Every detail of the festival was carefully thought out, hand painted and carved signs really add to the charm and remind you how much thought really goes into every single element of Barn on the Farm. There was even artist Jon MacKay based on site all weekend running screen printing workshops and selling his limited edition screen prints of 2017’s line up. He had an impressive selection of gig posters on display, a gentle reminder of the previous talent who have graced this special place.
My Saturday begun with watching Ten Tonnes on the Outdoor Stage, lounging on the grass along with a few hundred other sun kissed people. Not a cloud in the sky, and enough Pimms and lemonade in the vicinity to outdo a boozy one at Wimbledon. Only later did I find out this husky singer songwriter is no other than George Ezra’s younger brother. Barn on the Farm have a great knack for making new music feel familiar and comforting. My day went on to include incredible performances from Outlya, Lany, the Big Moon, each act genuinely so happy to be invited to play and be part of the ‘festival family’. Having seen a few of these artists perform live before, there was something really special about seeing them share their music with such an intimate and appreciative audience. As live music is what it’s all about here, there are no other distractions for revellers to turn to, and there were definitely no complaints about that. People have come to discover new indie music, and that is exactly what they were treated to. The weekend continued in this way, other names to play include Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Clean Cut Kid and Amber Run. One thing that was undeniable, this festival attracts real music fans, I couldn’t tell you the amount of people I overheard talking about specifics of a certain set and really breaking down the craft.
My personal favourite moment of the weekend was running to the bar in between songs at the Saturday night headliner slot and being greeted to a secret set just around the corner of the main stage. Nestled between the billowing sheets of the chill out area of the site, complete with proper squishy sofas, arm chairs and coffee tables were the Outlya boys performing no more than 30 people. Armed with a guitar, the lead singer Will Bloomfield had the crowd in the palm of his hand, no one uttering a world while listening to each stunningly delivered harmony from the band. This is what Barn on the Farm was all weekend, just a collection of really genuine performances and each one truly unique from how the crowd had interacted with these artists before. I mean how often do you get to see your favourite band play a converted barn?
With quite a reputation for choosing fast-rising UK talent, the BOTF organisers this year had their work cut out for them. I mean how could they top Jack Garratt and Oh Wonder’s stunning sets from last year? They two acts have gone from strength to strength from then on. There is always a pressure on these guys to deliver, I mean they only have the almighty Mr. Sheeran himself to contend with. With the majority of the line up at Barn on the Farm consisting of new artists who are just getting their first major radio plays and are still at the ‘pre album’ stage, the headliners add some diversity to the line up. The more well known acts on the bill being Saturday’s headliner James Vincent McMorrow and Sunday’s headline Tom Odell. The latter a British household name in many respects, and Odell definitely brought the roof down. Greeted to a wall of hysterical fans it seemed that a large chunk of the BOTF guests were here to specially to see Tom. I was personally taken aback with how good Odell is live. So much energy through out his whole set, a stage presence that you would never believe is indie the pianist that you hear on his records.
All in all, Barn on the Farm 2017 was one for the books. Not a drop of rain, and sun in attendance to see almost every band. From the moment I arrived on site on Saturday to the moment I packed up to leave on Monday morning, I felt relaxed and inspired to expand my music horizons.