Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lounge on the Farm

Lounge on the Farm, in its second year is "Kent's bestest music festival", apparently. Whoever's booking the music has exercised real quality control, in my opinion. I didn't necessarily like everything I heard, but I respected it all - everything seemed to have an integrity - very little posturing or showbiz vibes, just a lot of talented people really into their music (and a lot of appreciative people facing in the other direction, equally into it).

Not wanting to get too distracted from my current writing project, I decided to forsake the full weekend experience, and just cycle out for the Saturday. It was on Merton Farm, which hosted the Canterbury Summer Festival in 1990 (The Levellers played that, as well as a reformed Caravan). UK festival culture's moved in a really good, organic direction since then, and it showed. Rather than the usual one big stage with a succession of bands (and maybe a marquee for lesser bands), the site was subdivided into a load of little autonomous zones, with loads of different things going on - all vibes represented. A hip-hop/grafitti area, a kids area, real ale garden, DJ tent, several smaller marquees and stages, a bigger one (inside the farm's main cowshed).

LOTF flyer

The Furthur Collective's zone had a lovely feel to it. According to a small 'manifesto' I noticed pinned to a marquee pole, their main inspiration is the old 60's-70's Canterbury Sound. They're promoting Canterbury's current underground music scene, which draws on an even wider range of influences than the old one, trying to cultivate a kind of "New Canterbury Sound", I suppose. Zoo For You featured a horn section, kind of abstract funk that made me think of A Certain Ratio. Mr. Lovebucket had an amazing horn section, a superb bass player and keyboard player - in fact, just a brilliant band, playing exactly what the occasion required - some classic Skatalites and Fela Kuti material, mellow jazzy dubby sounds that had everyone dancing. JaberWok were my favourite, and probably the closest thing to a genuine 2007 Canterbury Sound (although I've since discovered that they're from Oxford!) - could hear elements of Gong, Hawkwind, Cardiacs-style ridiculousness...prog without pomposity, worth checking them out just for the keyboard/electronics player's facial expressions! He's the frontman, triggering all kinds of analogue electronic squelchiness by physically manipulating knobs and faders - none of that ploddiness you get with live bands where the rhythm's tied down to sequencers. They seem to have a dedicated following, which now includes me, I think. The Furthur tent was headlined by Syd Arthur (a band with an unfortunately daft name, not an individual) who seem to be the main crew behind the Furthur Collective. It was dark enough for the (properly psychedelic) lightshow to be fully visible, and they came on after an excellent bit of instrumental Caravan played over the PA - quite a self-conscious attempt at "New Canterbury"(?) - they, too, have a very enthusiastic local following, and I can't fault them - excellent musicianship, creative songwriting, quirky Englishness, some nice jazzy and dubby influences, but somehow the whole thing failed to really lift me.

Elsewhere on site...

Having the mainstage enclosed in a cowshed is a bit unfortunate, but with the recent weather, it could have been a saving grace. I only bother to see Billy Childish (and His Musicians of the British Empire!). Rock 'n' Roll! In silly costumes! Haven't seen Billy since a Thee Headcoats (and Thee Headcoatees!) gig at Democrazy in Ghent in the mid-90's. Good to see he's still rocking as hard as ever. His bass player is his current wife (from Seattle, I'm told). Just a trio on this occasion.

In the Arabesque tent, I caught half the set of a weirdly captivating band from Oxford called The Epstein. I'm guessing they're from Oxford, as the singer said something about the ground being drier in Canterbury than in Oxford. Kind of a dreamy countryish kind of band, but with interesting noisy guitar elements and an Eno-ish kind of orchestration in places. The singer had one of those rare, entirely uncheesy country voices (Thad Cockrell is another example...the sort of beautiful Gram Parsons-style country that even people who generally don't like any country music can appreciate). He also had a real passion in his voice and a general intensity to what he was doing. I kept thinking 'this is quite good, but it's not really my thing' and then the songs would unfold in these unexpected ways, and I'd get totally drawn in and my heart would be noticeably stirred and I couldn't leave. I can still hear one of their songs in my head as I type this.

The tiny "Festival Folly" stage hosted a few interesting things I caught bits of (but none of the names of) as well as the utterly hilarious North of Ping Pong, a kind of comic hiphop crew of sorts (with quite a serious looking and skillful DJ), the MC having the twin genii of Ian Dury and Marshall Mathers perched on either shoulder. Can't begin to describe beyond that...

Best of all, though, were the cloud formations! The weather forecaster on Radio 4 that morning had told us to "look out for architectural skies". I'd never heard that expression before, but liked the sound of it. And we got them...not just a proper summer day (after the most meteorologically miserable English summer anyone can remember), but a continually shifting hemispherical performance from the most diverse set of cloud formations I can remember witnessing in a single day. 'Architectural' is just the word. Before nightfall, whenever I was standing inside one of the marquees, I felt like I was missing something, had to keep stepping outside to see what the sky was doing.


Blogger M said...

Hi Matthew, just a note to say thanks for making your musical excursions publically available, stumbled upon them in best interweb style and there's some lovely mood-enhancing, mood-altering stuff. Are you doing the big green gathering this year?


5:39 PM  

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