Lounge on the Farm in Kent has big acts for the headliners, and local Kent bands entertain the crowds during the afternoon.
I can only assume that everyone was suffering from massive hangovers and too much partying to Jessie Ware, as on arriving at Lounge on the Farm at noon Sunday, it all seemed suspiciously quiet. This presented us with the perfect opportunity to saunter round the Merton Farm site before the day cranked into action.
The site which has reportedly been through some changes, can be divided into three distinct areas: the first is dominated by the main stage, with bars and food, and a dance tent which looks as if its been banished into a far corner like a naughty child. Leading off down a tree-shaded avenue, you arrive at the Meadows area with stages dotted here and there, a multitude of local food stalls, bars and a Victorian fairground. Slip through a gap in the trees to the Paddock area where there’s a jumble of activity: the Solar Cinema, a host of craft and art tents, vintage clothes and children’s activities.
Our tranquil stroll didn’t last long: within the hour there was music wafting from tents and a mix of teens, families and children were surfacing.
First on our list was the Farm Folk stage where the Van Susans were playing, one of the many talented young folk-influenced bands on the afternoon’s lineup. This Kent-based four piece are gathering much support locally, and some superb violin playing by Holly McLatchie give this band an edge, check out their album called Paused in the Moment.
Mid afternoon, we were entertained by Gentlemen of Few, who played numbers from their new EP. The four-piece played fairly traditional bluegrass folk, but they felt fresh and radiated an unpretentious love for the genre. Admittedly it was their version of the Dylan / Old Crow Medicine Show classic Wagon Wheel that got everyone to their feet, but once roused, the tent was a joyful scene of dancing and singing, especially to their first single This is getting old.
Lounge on the Farm is keen to make the festival into a foodie paradise, and there’s very much a local ‘Made in Kent’ vibe to it all. There were, stereotypically, lots of bare-chested blokes lining up at the organic venison and wild boar sausage stall, while I (and apparently Seasick Steve), opted for the delicious vegetarian dosas.
The sun was beaming down all afternoon, making the blissfully-shaded Tea and Sympathy Moroccan tent a real pleasure. Their double-doorstep sized cherry almond cake gets a well-deserved mention. Later we ventured forth to the very sociable and jolly Farmhouse stage, made of hay bales, where Art Ferguson’s Big Blues Band played an all-out blues set.
Later, Boogie Wonderband touched down, fresh from Secret Garden Party – their disco set was the perfect intro to the evening when the biggest-named bands were to start.
So, to the main stage for Aswad – they’ve been playing and touring since the 70s, admittedly with one or two line-up changes, and proved to be a popular choice for LoTF. They delivered a strong set to a huge crowd, and closed with an inspiring version of Shine. Their horn section were superb.
It’s easy to get carried away at festivals one way or another, and a prolonged food and drink excursion meant I missed half of Dub Pistols – grrr. What I did catch sounded amazing. At least there was no way I would miss headline act Soul II Soul who, opening with Keep on Movin’ were exciting visually, as well as a nostalgic treat for the ears. The three backing singers were mesmerising, as were the two violinists, and Caron Wheeler’s voice remains a powerful and emotive force.
Lounge on the Farm has had one or two ups and downs but it has found its niche: a uniquely relaxed, well-priced and slightly quirky festival for all ages, with a focus on music, local food and ale. There seemed to be just enough portaloos on site, a range of bars ensured no queues built up, and the site was well planned, with the stages adequately spaced to ensure sound didn’t leak to other areas.