FARR FESTIVAL REVIEW AND TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS
The very same weekend as we explored the land of Beat-Herder, MCR Live also took a trip down to Farr Festival. You may have seen some of our adventure to Hertfordshire on Instagram, but here I present you with a fuller account of it, and my festival highlights. So if you want the lowdown on the Farr Festival experience, then keep reading. I’ve never been to a festival smaller than Farr. Compared to Boomtown, Parklife and even Shambala which is meant to be quite mini, Farr was absolutely tiny. I think that this worked to Farr’s logistical advantage as well as its detriment.
It’s always nice to have a small festival environment, especially in the campsite. It makes it incredibly easy to find friends, fill up with water and most importantly, do that early morning toilet rush. At Farr Festival this is certainly the situation. To get to the main arena there’s just a ten minute track that veers slightly uphill. Once you get to the golden gate, security is reasonable – sometimes friendly, sometimes not, they search bags, but not people, so if you’ve got pockets then you can glide straight through. That is, unless you’re smuggling cans in them – I saw many an optimistic festival-goer caught out on this one. Nice try. Anyhow, at Farr it’s hardly a drag to get to the music, which is great.
Music-wise, there are five notable stages at Farr Festival. There’s The Factory, yurt stage Campfire Headphase, and three stages in the woods: The Shack, Adventures in Success, and The Hidden Palace. There are also a couple of yurts and bars dotted about before you get to the forests. I don’t want to reveal too much about the experience, but I’ve got a couple of insights to make about the stages. I think it’s lovely having three woodland stages, it makes for a wholesome and intimate backdrop for every kind of electronic music, be it world or disco. The trees make you forget about grey skies, they shield you from the rain, and when the sun comes out (which was very occasionally this year), woodland clearings are really quite beautiful as you can see below.
However, I also think that the forest stages are where Farr gets a little bit confusing. The locations of the stages, stage sizes and set-ups are really similar. Furthermore, you can access two stages from one clearing and from the third stage, but you have to enter the third stage clearing from a separate entrance. As a result, it’s a little bit of a struggle to work out which stage is which, who’s on where, and where your friends are. In a way this is nice because all focus comes back to the music at the end of the day. The wow-moments of the festival really do come from the artists. Considering this, I was definitely happy with the forest stages, but I wouldn’t shout down a decision to make a couple of tweaks to ‘em.
The Factory is a brand new addition to Farr. The official Farr Festival website offers the following description:
‘[A] super-size main stage comprised of 52 shipping containers arranged into a rectangle formation that will accommodate 2500 of you beautiful people. The Factory will also shelter a monumental custom-built L-Acoustics sound system, apex stage, pulsating LED lighting rods plus a video mapping system to truly bring the shock and awe to Farr Festival.’
This stage is certainly unique. Not only in its larger size and volume, but also in its decor. The Factory is a likely tribute to the acid house scene via. the pastiche of the Hacienda, its likely namesake, and it works very well. This stage hosted cult favourites such as the incredible Todd Terje and Booka Shade. However, the stage also welcomed some diversity in the form of Mungos Hifi and General Levy, who I’ve heard were received very well. I was impressed by the Factory for sure and it added something great to the festival experience. The only thing that I might add is that, since it lies near the entrance to the arena and hosts acts of equal calibre to the forest stages, it doesn’t feel so much like it’s the main stage. For all its superiorities, The Factory is still somehow on par with the others, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The soundsystem was definitely a big plus point here, although this unfortunately did not allow Farr to escape criticism about the lack of volume at other stages.
This is something that I think it is important to discuss. This year, Farr Festival acquired a new license which allows them to increase sound levels and ‘keep the music pumping much later’. I feel that this went unappreciated by a lot of newcomers to the festival, including myself at the time. For big names on late nights, for example Helena Hauff, the sound was sketchy with periods of low levels of volume. Some were left disgruntled and unable to get into a proper dance. Because this occurred across a range of stages, I think I’d say that the experience of music was erratic as a result. Some acts that people were highly excited for were slightly let down. It’s a shame, because there’s nobody at fault here, but certain sets just seemed to miss something for a lot of people. Luckily, the quality of other performances made up for this setback, and acts such as Omar S and funk and soul legend Sadar Bahar were able to exceed expectations by miles.
That brings me onto the Farr demographic. The people at Farr are mostly in their mid-twenties, although you could also say that there was your fair share of students and elders. Age doesn’t matter so much as personality though, and I’d say that everyone at Farr was sweet, friendly enough and up for a laugh. It was a very confident crowd, and they were justly catered to. Outside of music, Farr can be best described as niche and attractive. It provided a bustling boutique area full of glitter and beautiful wares. Though there’s plenty of clothing is on offer for those interested, the food was even more desirable. Everything comes at a price, but I think it’s pretty well thought through. The food and alcohol on offer is all interesting, high quality, decent stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted better curly fries.
To conclude, Farr Festival 2017 was a lovely time and although it’s not massively escapist, everything, everywhere is high quality. Overall, Farr is a wonderful way to spend a summer weekend.
TOP 5 HIGHLIGHTS
Ironically, I’m going to kick off this review with the close of the festival because, for me, it was truly unbeatable. Most of the set was light and engaging, never boring. There was no two ways about it, this was a remarkably decent mix. Everyone was happy, and that’s all you can ask for. Little did we know that it would be brought to a memorable end. Maybe it was something in the air that night, but when he dropped ABBA, the crowd reacted incredibly. And I know you’re desperate to know what song he pulled out of the bag, so I’m telling you straight up, it was ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)’. As the sky got light the forest remained full. So did the spirit of the crowd- it was lovely to be a part of. Things took a turn for the silly, but arguably silly good, when Young Marco followed this 80s hit up with not one, but two Christmas miracles. When WHAM’s ‘Last Christmas’ dropped I couldn’t quite place whether he was taking the Michael, but at the time I didn’t care. What was going to come next? It was Paul Mccartney’s ‘Wonderful Christmastime’. You can see it all on Youtube. It was ridiculous but amazing. The tech-house crowd gets a bad rap about image and looking cool, but it doesn’t always adhere to it. And I don’t know whether this is about to damage my personal street cred, but I thought that Young Marco dealt with the Christmas hits very pleasantly. You just can’t argue with a well timed bass drop.
CHAOS IN THE CBD
I have heard Chaos in the CBD’s performance called ‘the best set all weekend’, and I don’t disagree. The sibling-duo were the first act that I wanted to see on the Friday, and they did not disappoint. For the duration of their two and a half hour set, Chaos in the CBD had Hidden Palace absolutely packed. Everyone was grooving away to what they were given, which included house from all over the board like Fast Eddie’s ‘Git on Up’, and a mix of the instrumental from Janet Rushmore’s ‘Try My Love’. Since I put Chaos in our Farr Festival Top Picks article, I’m just going to say ‘I told you so!’ because they brought the deep house and they were brilliant at it- lively and exciting all the way until the end.
WOLF MULLER & CASS
Closing yurt stage Campfire Headphase at 5am on Sunday morning, Wolf Muller took to a unique, ambient set. Most survivors were splayed out (or at least chilled) on the floor, but the resounding vibe was gentle and DMC suitable, making for a memorable and meaningful experience.
This might not be a shocker to any of you, but Floating Points really did his reputation justice at Farr this year. It doesn’t come as a surprise that he has a PHD in Neuroscience, because he’s great at creating a mood. At times ambient, buildups were subtle and when things sped up, the crowd was wowed. Mesmerising lights were joined by a mesmerising set. I think just about everyone who was in can agree it was amazing, even those who can’t quite remember it. Dark, spacey and fantastic, this Manchester man never fails to induce awe.
RUNNING THROUGH THE FIELD OF SUGAR BEETS
From day one, the air of the walk up to the festival arena was hot with discussion. The ten minute trek was rife with intense debate about the large field that accompanied it. Just what lay under its leafy bundles? What was it that grew beneath it’s earthy midst? I heard a multitude of responses, people’s cries through the air, ‘Turnips!’ ‘Cabbages!’ ‘Parsnips.’ Naturally, we took on the case of investigation. Mere hours after our arrival at Farr Festival, my photographer sampled a bite of the suspicious produce. Now, Simon, aka Softeyes, is a man who knows his vegetables. (He’s from Sheffield, for one). Although he was half on board with the turnip train, he was stumped. ‘It’s sweet’, he commented, frowning forlornly. Friday was a day of rest for our investigation, we had no new leads. We never gave up, however. Keeping our peepers open, we finally saw, or heard the light on Saturday, around 4pm. A middle aged man, grizzly, brown haired, around 5ft 8 walked ahead of us, twenty metres up the muddy track. ‘Have a guess what these are!’ he roared. Ashamed, we reported our invalid findings. As we neared the subject, it became clear that he was mid-munch. ‘Sugar beets’. Thankful though we were, we remained wary. It was just that so many theories had been proffered, and who was to say that this was not another shot in the dark? Hours of turmoil continued until we were able to Google the sugar beet. (Internet access at Farr was but a rare occurrence). Of course. It all made sense. Sweet beats, the native fruit of Farr. It only made sense to run through them. with the wind in my hair and the hissing of hi-hats somewhere in the distance, I must admit that I’ve never felt naughtier.
And let me tell you, at Farr, there are sweet beats aplenty. Sometimes pumping, sometimes soothing, Farr is full of diversity if you know where to look for it. There are a fair number of special sets at this festival. It’s a pleasure to see them, and it’s almost as nice to reflect on them as you quietly sit in the curious, dry, sky-facing fields.
For more on the latest gigs, events, club nights, interviews and more, check out The Rundown with Skiddle every week.
Photo Credits to Here and Now, Sophie Billington and Josh Smallwood.