28th – 29th July | Gilcombe Farm
Photos: Mustafa Mirreh
Farmfest, the festival where the majority of the Bristol music scene packs up and sets up camp in a muddy fields of Gilcombe Farm. What’s not to love?! Truthfully, it attracts international acts just as well, but with seven stages forming a hug of creative energy, and a family focus attracting a sprinkling of tiny hippy monsters on the scene, it feels pretty homely. With a culmination of acts from rock, folk and hip-hop colliding with late night house and techno, it’s impossible not to find something you like.
Friday afternoon on the mainstage, psychedelic, Northern Wales rockers CaStLeS set a high premise for the day. Morracas, pacing rhythm and soft vocals, canterer over a 60’s groove. Their melodic, tribal folk creating impressive build and breaks across a festival getting into stride. Moving into one of the tents, The Big Blue quickly shows its worth with Port Erin delivering a mature and sophisticated set; their lyrics smart, grooves thick, and riffs quick firing. The jazz elements of their music create an alluring, atmospheric undertone, with enough rock and riff to propel rhythmic catchy tunes beneath lead singer, Reuben Myles Tyghe’s bluesy yowls.
Main stage favourites, Febeuder completely won me over as a brilliant new discovery. Lead singer, Kieran Godfrey’s brooding vocals are a mahoganied Alt-J, a honeyed Yannis Copella. They pour over Toby Ingram’s commanding, burring base, a deep groove tightly underpinning the frantic, frenetic drum beats of Samuel Keysell. At one point Godfrey and Keysell launch into a standoff of kinetic energy. Like a praying mantises they jault and quiver in a vibrational back and forth of drum and rhythm, Keysell’s full body twitching in connection with his kit.
Elder Island marks a turn in the evening, the popularity of this Bristol electronic pop trio ballooning The Big Blue out with dancing, lyric spouting, fans. Their reputation and beauty of their recorded tracks is nothing to prepare you for the live experience. The base heavier, the layers clearer, the tracks feeling alive and evolving in a real party of escapism. As lead singer Katy breaks into an honest, joyful dance to a cheering crowd, there is just no doubt this trio are about to explode.
This was so much the spirit at the festival, with the emerging underdogs far outplaying the headliners – Roots Manuva, and Tom Jenkinson of Squarepushers’s live band Shobaleader One. The latter saw incredibly proficient musicians, in light-display headgear, plough through a soulless jam of jazz fusion. Self indulgent showcasing wearing a bit thin whilst standing in a wet field, and a quick scan around the crowd confirming I wasn’t alone in feeling I’d missed something. Similarly, I was happy to leave Roots Manuva to himself, choosing to explore the wonders of the smaller intimate tents.
Crushed to have missed Drenge flavoured rockers, Stone Cold Fiction, The Greasy Slicks offer a replacement of hefty, blues infused rock ‘n roll. ‘Eyes Wide Black’ slams into you with whirring base and thunderous drumming, Jack Kendrew’s vocals having both the comfort and strain of a boyfriend whose crept into your bed dirty and hungry in the middle of the night. These guys are rearing guitars, funky danceable rhythms and frenzied weaving guitar lines. Adrenaline fuelled and genuinely exciting. Good luck not falling for them.
Neatly, the heart of the weekend was encapsulated in This is The Kit’s Saturday set. Raining it may have been, but macs were on and umbrellas were lifted to hear Kate Stable’s raw, honest songwriting. Elighted within the full trumpeting power of the band, her voice and Banjo can still follow an outburst of sound and captivate a main stage crowd in crystalised quiet. As the night rolls on, the Soul Train cheerily runs alongside the always impressive Nightmares on Wax, inducing hapless grins on its loved-up followers. Its continual pump of feel good soul and disco classics has shoeless mates squelch in the chocolate mousse of a dancefloor, the rain continuing to spit and Nina Simone’s words braying out: “I’ve got my freedom, I got life”.
Check out ‘Hotter Colder’ by This Is The Kit below: