Kent’s Hop Farm was the setting for the 3-day affair that was Alfresco Festival, which could boast highlights like a 5 hour set from DJ Harvey, Chicago’s own house music hero Derrick Carter, London’s finest Horse Meat Disco-ers James Hillard and Luke Howard, NYC’s Tim Sweeney back-to-back with Man Power and a live show from electro clashers Chicks On Speed, amongst others. So certainly programmed for those with more mature tastes, which is pretty much how we’d describe the crowd we saw as we arrived on the Friday afternoon – relatively few in number, mainly people who’d been through acid house the first time round, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in good spirits.
Even security seemed on good form all weekend, which must be a first. But as Andy Taylor – whose We Are The Sunset Balearic crew bossed the main stage all Friday - warmed up that afternoon it was a pretty chilled affair all round. This changed when Crazy P took charge early evening and Danielle Moore singing over their own bouncy disco/house numbers really got things going. Moore is always an enthusiastic performer and Jim Baron (aka house producer Rob Basejam) kept her supplied with grooves to funk all over, especially the Hot Toddy remix of ‘In My Hands’, a Classic Records jam that landed very nicely indeed.
The other jam of the set for us had to be ‘She’s A Rainbow’ (Red Axes Remix of the Rolling Stones original) which popped up a few times over the weekend. These early sets at festivals can be hard going to be honest, but Crazy P were inspired here, a smart bit of programming indeed.
Our next Friday highlight has to be Andy Yam Who? over in the Frontier Big Top. His Midnight Riot label were in charge of this venue all day and while the big tops were quiet in the daytime (which remained the case all weekend) he still played a muscular set of disco, with Fonzi Thornton and Chic’s ‘I’ll Change’ proving its worth at getting everybody going as more people were finding the tent and things were beginning to bump along in more of a ravey fashion. Just in time for Horse Meat Disco’s James and Luke to turn up and turn it out, like they always do. They’re so reliably awesome, in fact, that Spencer Parker was to be found checking out their set before his own, which always speaks volumes for who’s got the goods, tune-wise. Gizzelle Smith’s ‘Dust’ (the Dimitri from Paris vs Cotonete remix) got things hyped in a wonderfully vocal way, setting us up for a midnight throw-down, Spencer Parker style.
Over on the Cowbell Radio stage there was some confusion as the bar was only taking cash, but once they started up with the cards it all came good in the end as the first day ended as Parker bought some serious uptempo vibes to a swelling audience.
Saturday was definitely busier in general and saw UK house hero Terry Farley hitting the main stage around 4pm with some of his first musical love, reggae. While we absorbed some roots goodness and regrouped from last night’s antics we decided to brave the woods again (having retreated yesterday from the Nein Records showcase due to rabidly hungry mosquitos). And it’s good we did or we’d have mixed Justin Robertson vibing the place out to a crowd of about a 100, all really into it.
‘Voodoo Your Ex’ by Simple Symmetry gave the woods just that slightly evil, techy heads-down vibe they needed , in what was the first time we saw this ace little outdoor space used properly. Bwana’s ‘Generation Nostalgia’ was also used by Robertson to more ethereal effect, as the pace levelled off and we wondered off in search of a Skiddle favourite, Derrick Carter.
Luck got us over to the Sounds Of Silver stage just as Mr Carter arrived. He was a little weary from a weekend of gigs that had taken him from Buenos Aires to Paris and now to, er, Kent, but he still greeted a few friends and then proceeded to get his head down, his hood up and mix like there was no tomorrow.
A crowd of maybe a hundred was three hundred strong no time at all and Rob Swinga’s ‘Uptown Hoedown’ let us know DC was in a twisted mood and the funk was to be forthcoming. He’d just mixed out of Sandy’s Main Mix of Alison Crockett’s ‘Loneliness’, so clearly anything could happen, but ‘Love Will Save The Day’ and ‘The Blues’, a spoken word jam by DJ Spen on the roots of dance music reminded the by now four hundred-ish crowd that DC will always get it popping. And that raving in the woods is undeniably ace, especially when the midges have gone to bed.
Sunday saw Alfresco busier still, which was good as Harvey was playing a five-hour-set and the sun was drying out the previous night’s electrical storm, which had stopped Andy Butler of Hercules & Love Affair from performing (Skiddle hitched a lift off-site with him and to be honest we’re still grateful as it was biblical out there). Acid House OG Nancy Noise showed her skills with lovely Latin funk like the Gibson Brothers ‘Cuba’ to pick up the main stage tempo from 4pm.
Harvey got going around 6pm with some psyche rock tunes, which with the sun and the kids running around really gave off a lovely vibe. But just an hour later we saw him get a bit tougher and chugging – all tribal bass kicks and dubbed out vocals. It took even him a while, but eventually he got the crowd up and dancing and by 10pm Ray Mang’s Flying Dub of ‘Glad To Know You’ from Los Amigos Invisible and Dimitri From Paris had everyone smiling, while a rework of vintage disco classic ‘Hold Tight’ was a real gem: “Hold tight, if you wanna make this feeling stay”.
Storms notwithstanding, we’re very glad we did. See you next year Alfresco, with some fine tuning (like a general shop on-site and some more day time activities), you could be a real gem.