12 July 2011

Lounge on the Farm Festival 2011 - July 8th – 10th - Merton Farm, Canterbury, Kent

 “Don’t like that one”, she says. “Another.”

Seems like this year’s LOTF was a festival of contrasts; between the young and older festival goers experience; between those who love the new expanded more professionally organised Lounge and those who mourn the passing of the more hippy, folksy orientated approach and attitude of older Lounges back in the day.

LOTF became a celebration of new music to admire at its progression and shininess and old music to nostalgically reminisce at how portly the musicians are becoming. Mike Skinner falling into the latter category ;-)

No one can deny though that this year’s festival was showing vast improvement in both organisation, content and crowd size. In endeavouring to cater for all fans, young and old - for those who love their spanking new guitar bands, electronic bands and DJ’s and those who still hamper with nostalgic yearning for the days when Canterbury was the centre of the musical universe around 1974 – everyone was well looked after. Yeah, the Further Stage was moved, er, further away from where it used to be but when I popped up there to see Caravan all the guys with long, grey haired pony tails where out in force, and that was just the audience. To see musicians in their 60’s with their paunches and bald spots and bad clothes singing about how they wish they were stoned was priceless and legendary.

Dreamed I saw a man walked upon the sea
Dreamed it once again and saw that he was me
Looking close at me I looked a lot like you
Knowing where to go but not quite what to do
Why why why?
I wish I were stoned on my mind.

Caravan - “And I Wish I Were Stoned” Lyrics.

It’s got to be said as well that the system was not just sounding great up at the ‘Meadows Stage’ but at every stage on site. Top marks.

Up on the main stage on Sunday ‘The Joy Formidable’, who Mark Goldsworthy described as “the band ‘The Human League’ should have been”, toyed with the choral and the symphonic, mixing with dirty, loud, rhythmic guitars and thick bass-lines. Or so wikipedia says about them. I found them to be not unreasonably pleasant on a Sunday afternoon and make no mistake. Not an extended fringe or synthesizer in site (sic). (It was actually Everything Everything he was talking about; sorry Mark).

Singing along to spare us “The Cutter” and “The Killing Moon” as ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ performed reminded me of how great their 12” mixes sounded back in the day when I used to DJ then at indy clubs in Newcastle. Having a conversation earlier with my chum Emma she said she didn’t think she liked ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ but wasn’t too sure. “Sing me some of their songs” she said. So there I was by ‘The Meadows Bar’ trying to sing old ‘Echo and the Bunnymen’ songs above the din of the cheese-a-thon, sorry, excellent mix of popular favourites I meant to say, that is Barry Ashworth’s DJ set. I sing:

Who's on the seventh floor
Brewing alternatives
What's in the bottom drawer
Waiting for things to give

Spare us the cutter
Spare us the cutter
Couldn't cut the mustard

“Don’t like that one”, she says. “Another.”

Under blue moon I saw you
So sooo-oo-oon you'll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
(I do that guitar slice that Will Sergeant does to emphasise my point)

“Don’t like that one either” she says.

The old Cow Shed's appearence was much improved from previous years; with a nice Function One system in there and a Fac51 feel to it; well the tape by the entrance anyway reminded me of Hacienda and the fact that Canterbury Steve had told me that's what they were doing with the space. Very good vibe too. There have been complaints about, yawn, the young people on the LOTF Facebook page.  Are they really that bad? "I saw two fights" says one contributor. What I saw defied that attitude; fun, smiling, happy faces all round. Pissed, wide-eyed and staggering might also apply there mind you and that was Sunday night. A friend told me that a few of the clean up crew walked away from the cow shed detritus as there was condoms all over the floor. Whether that is true or not depends on if you believe the anti-teen lobby.

I could actually, no, really, stop it now, feel the sub bass vibrating in my diaphragm during the Hospital Records 'Hospitality' hosted Sunday night in there. You know? Like a real club sound system should sound like. Cracking. Top marks.

Unfortunately had to miss most of the comedy shows as I had to see a few bands but I did catch a bit early evening. Some Australian comedian was on telling us how ‘dangerous’ he was. He wasn’t. I left. The sofas up there were nice though.

Best music of the weekend, for me, was ‘The Meadow Bar’ and all the local DJ talent. Sidelined, as per, to the daytime slots. ‘Smashing it’ was the Sideways Records boys, Derrick Patterson, Iain Dunn and Simon Bent for the house music lovers. Could have done with some of this chilled house late on Sunday evening when the whole site was just a wee bit mental for me.

Other highlights, which I have been told about by my friends but missed myself, include ‘The Streets’ –only their old stuff and not the ballads–, ‘Example’ –wicked-, ‘Netsky’ –but not if you were under 18; WTF was that about when 90% of his fans are the ‘young uns’?-, ‘Ellie Goulding –fit, but not much back catalogue-, ‘Plump DJ’s’ and ‘Big Hair’ –comedy house at its best.

The whinges are same for any festival these days; £5 a pint? Robbery! Toilet queues and toilets, food queues, beer queues, Right Guard Security provoked some complaints - especially from the younger loungers- queues getting in, queues getting out. So no different from any festival then? (Although read this review of the Larmer Tree Festival from my old mate Grant Plant to compare. Do we really want our lovely Lounge to be like, as Grant says, "a church fete"?)

I deliberately hid my armband under my shirt cuff every time I went through a gate or entered an arena and never got asked to show it once. Although I was drunk and ugly at the time they probably thought better of it but security did seem slack at times.

Highlights? All my mates say; Al's Hog Roast. Great to see the eclectic mix of quite older and quite younger festival goers. Not mixing together too well but, you know, giving it a go and being cool about it most of the time. In the same space some of the time, most of the time; rubbing each other up; partying together, having fun together - nobody was not having fun; provoking fear and distrust amongst each other sometimes; cooperating well and having fun most of the time. Something uniquely LOTF that.

Nurture it.

I went to my first festival after sitting GCSE’s when I was 16 with a massive bunch of mates and we had the best fun ever. Yeah, we got drunk and did other stuff including my mate Mrk getting arrested for smoking a spliff. Yeah, we behaved outrageously, but so did everyone else, and made loads of noise; it’s a festival innit and if you can’t legitimately and safely let your hair down at one then where can you?

It’s our job as adults to help support and guide our young people through their adolescence with the minimum amount of imposed trauma and the maximum amount of tolerance.

So when I see the ‘kids’ ‘doing it’ and ‘going for it’ at the Lounge I thought “yeah, look at you fucking young bastards enjoying yourself ey? Shouting and screaming into the night, drinking too much, rolling around the grass in a stupor sucking each other’s faces off? Good on you for studying and sitting your exams just like society asks you to do. Now it’s your turn to be getting on with it in the good old British tradition of working hard and playing hard.”

Support our young people don’t demonize them!

Yay! We love festivals.