Ruari Frew heads down to an abandoned forest outside London to get stuck into Farr Festival.
Date published: 7th Aug 2013
The resilience of the British festival-goer is a characteristic unmatched by any other country. Living on an island with weather that can be complained about all year round builds a communal strength and acceptance in the face of waterlogged campsites and rivers of mud between stages. Fortunately, Farr 2013 offered up neither of these and the crowds were never tested by the weather despite the lingering presence of ominous clouds in the middle of the first reputable heat wave in years.
Arriving on the blistering Friday afternoon, we were approached by a reveller going by the name 'Junglist Movement', who told us how much he hated 'house music an' all that', while slating his mates for dragging him along. After showing him the lineup and pointing out that there might still be something for him in one of Farr's woodland stages, he left a happier camper than when he first arrived. The festival had got off to a hilarious start in the sunshine and the campsite was brimming with disparate styles from the optimists in mimicked festival menswear hoping that the weather holds out to the fancy-free in fancy dress.
As the sun began to set and the campsite emptied, people made the short walk through a barley field and hassle-free security to the main stage and forest arena where dBridge kicked off the first night for us. The Foxhole, one of the smaller and deepest lying tents in the forest, hosted the likes of Alix Perez and Spectrasoul later on but Brighton's Maxxi Soundsystem was busy drawing any passers-by into an already packed out tent called the Badgerhole - a short walk away through an enchantingly lit woodland canopy.
Waifs and Strays stepped up immediately to match one of the weekends outstanding sets while the main stage headliners, Oneman playing back to back with Jackmaster, struggled to pull numbers out of the more intimate forest tents. The stark change in atmosphere between the two areas meant that despite running out the usual eclectic mix of party tunes - More Fire Crew shifting dreamily into Cyndi Lauper was one highlight - even these two couldn’t overcome the main stage’s role as a timeout zone from the hazy energy of the woods.
The tempo of the party continued well into the start of a gloomy Saturday and the crowd was more than happy to see out the final sets of the morning in what felt like an attempt to keep the music going until the sun decided to show. Sadly it didn’t but Friday had dealt up an all-nighter to contend with and the crowds drifted back in high spirits with the excitement of Saturday still to come.
After stealing a couple of hours rest in a tent - the lack of heat turned out to be a blessing in this respect - day two was up and running. Tudor Lion was the pied piper of a dub movement on Saturday as The Shack played host to an afternoon party that cured the hangover and built the anticipation amid rumours of swelling crowd numbers for the second night.
Yet again it was the smaller tents with all the atmosphere and despite the wealth of talent on show around the festival it was hard to pull ourselves away from Ejeca’s assault on a crowd in the Foxhole. The Irishman was followed by Waze & Odyssey who stubbornly kept the tent rammed with a crowd who probably would have stayed all morning if their set had carried on.
Joy Orbison's 'BRTHDTT!’ (below) was a defining moment of this session but I can’t remember where it fell in. Andrew Weatherall was breaking out a technical set just around the corner and then the finale had crept up out of nowhere. One half of Bicep closing the weekend to a crowd begging it not to end.
Farr claims to be a ‘boutique festival’ on it’s website which basically means it offers a customized service for those in search of a well-priced, woodland weekend tear-up. By avoiding gimmicky frills and unnecessary additions that ramp up the cost Farr focuses on the things that people are really there for. Tailored to near perfection in terms of music and unmatched for atmosphere, this festival has huge amounts to offer as one of the better small, british festivals and looks as if it will continue to improve every year. Soon to be a major player every summer, get in there next year!