Event: Farr Festival 2018 Review (Part 1 of 2)

The Waveform Transmitter’s Cameron Barnfield headed down to Farr Festival for a weekend of tent-life, electronic music, and poor body-flexibility. Here are his thoughts (and related puns) on the first two days of Farr.

A sleepless, excitable Wednesday night compounded by a hellish travel nightmare on Thursday meant we arrived to Farr just after dusk, with our spirits and patience depleted. Entering the festival grounds along a grass path into the car park, we are guided to our spot. The rescue mission begins; the task of emptying four people’s weekend supplies from the depths of a Fiat 500. All bags did however make it to safety and, with them firmly on our shoulders, we stroll over to the box office adorned by a cheerful lot who quickly get our wristbands on and get us through the gate. So Farr so good.

“How long to the campsite?” I ask, a question jumped on by those quick enough to spot the opportunity. “Farr” is my friends’ expected and well-executed response, which marks the first of many festival-related puns to accompany a weekend of joy, laughter and some spellbinding sets. Some might say we overused the puns, but I think that to be Farrcical (okay I should really stop).

We finally reach the campsite and all shift into action; bags dumped, tents pitched, cans downed. Festival? Tri-Farr-Go. (Last one I promise). We leave and follow the luminous spinning lights of the customary Ferris wheel and the distant rumble of a certain Mr. Stingray, who had just begun his set at the festival’s main stage, The Factory. The parameter of the arena is made up of shipping containers, piled all around the 2,500 capacity venue, enclosing the dancers inside the industrial world of DJ Stingray. Although sadly missing out on hotly tipped DJ Seinfeld, his stage-side approval of Stingray’s racketing electro was all the comfort we needed, as the bally’d up Detroit don took no prisoners. A selection of gritty and pleasantly uncomfortable electro got the swathes of yet to be filthy revellers swaying in the summer dusk, with stomping feet making the dry foundation of dust an unexpected smoke machine and a magical atmosphere ready for Bristol-based DJ, Shanti Celeste.

Meanwhile, Panorama Bar resident Tama Sumo is an hour into her trunk-shaking (the tree type, not the car one) set of raw, jacking beats ranging from old analogue electro jams to funky disco-tinged house. Her captive audience were those at the Adventures in Success stage, a cluster brave enough to enter into the woods which Farr had cleverly limited on the Thursday, adding to an element of surprise when all was revealed the following day. The eclectic Prosumer was to follow Sumo, but by that time our feet were already heading back to The Factory for the Chilean house queen that is Shanti Celeste.

A quick pit-stop to grab a pint of draught Red Stripe (I fucking LOVE boutique festivals) and into the arena we go, where Celeste had just started her flow. Having seen her before, I was once again astonished by her ability to flick between hard-hitting rough cuts of 4/4 house tunes to ethereal melodic moments whilst still keeping to her funky, dubby sound. A special moment was hearing Bell Clap Dance – Radio Slave (TCK Mix) rock the corrugated metal walls of the arena – a welcome reminder that Gerd Janson, one-half of Tough City Kids (TCK) was playing on the Saturday.

As Celeste winds down and the sun disappears from view, the hundreds of early arrivals head to Campfire Headphase where Antepop is on late-night duties. Of course, another pit-stop is due and with a cold pint in hand we follow the masses towards a dimly lit tarpaulin stage surrounded with hay bales and a few defeated souls clustered around the outside. Antepop winds through after-hour specials including arguably the best Sade edit – Florian Kupfer’s remix of Couldn’t Love You More. It’s always nice hearing a tune you bang on the regular… However, the sound in the tent did let the Inverted Audio founder down as he struggled to get his moody deep house cuts over the excitable chatter. But given this was the first day, and the festival’s smallest stage, the sound quality sufficed for the rest of the weekend – especially for Skee Mask’s wonky set on the Saturday. After shaking off our travel aches we head back to the campsite and decide to put our heads down – a feat that would’ve been much easier had I remembered the bung to the airbed and managed to keep hold of the sleeping bag that I had brought. We live and we learn though…

I hoped to stay in my dreams for a little longer than the sun permitted, as by ten I crawl and grasp at the zip of my tent in a futile attempt to escape the scorching heat. Like a drenched Gollum, I scuttle out of my polyester shelter and grab the nearest bottle of hot water. My dehydration and desperation take over as I soak myself in the warm liquid like a character from Mad Max – “Immortan Joe, shower down upon me!” Perhaps I was a tiny bit dramatic, but after a few bottles of water and a can of sun-cooked baked beans (another example of me having the last laugh) we are ready to head back to the arena. On the way we spot a colossal canvas where London-based artist Ant Carver is sketching the outline of a piece of artwork that was to evolve over the weekend, culminating in a breathtakingly detailed street-art portrait of a beautiful Afro-Caribbean woman.

After walking across the grassy festival fields and denying the temptation of the multitude of mouth-watering smells coming from the snack shacks, we enter the woods and attempt to find the stage of Ma Dahu’s where Mr. G has curated his G’s Spot line-up for the day. Starting at two, Mr. G was well into a silky jazz, soul and funk selection which could’ve brought a spot of sunshine to the darkest day. Luckily, it wasn’t needed as Farr was blessed with some blistering temperatures. Those who rose early enough may also have managed to ease their soul with some weird contortionist thing called yoga, with Mr. G’s yoga teacher leading proceedings. I unfortunately can’t touch my toes so I gave that one a miss and instead got my mind and body cleansed by Melodies International honcho Mafalda. In my preview of the festival I hailed the Portuguese crate-digger as “the secret gem” of Farr’s programme – therefore we made our way across a dusty path towards The Shack to see what she was all about.

Like a land lost in time, Farr’s historical stage The Shack is a festival-goers haven. Keeping with the rough and ready aesthetic of The Factory, a wall of patched-up corrugated metal encloses the DJ in a box surrounded by lights and stacks of speakers. Curved around the wall of sound is a small hill, with trees dotted about, giving the beautiful faces of Farr a welcome break from the midday sun. Mafalda opens with some sensual nu-soul and weaves her way slowly into some Latin jazz and funk; the rhythmic clangs of classic Latin percussion a fresh difference from the digital world of after-dark. After a while we are admittedly seeking something with a bit more oomph and all agree to head back to Ma Dahu’s to catch some of Josey Rebelle.

I think Ma Dahu’s was probably my favourite stage as the sound it emitted was absolutely incredible. Fitted with a custom Funktion One sound-system, the small wooden shack pumped out some rumbling lows whilst maintaining crisp and warm high frequencies – the result was wondrous, especially with London-born Rebelle on the mixing duties. With accolades from Mixmag, Time-Out and Crack Magazine, Rebelle proved her worth as she swaggered through stripped-back breakbeats, filtered lo-fi house and techno. A special reaction was earned when Armand Van Helden’s ‘Phreeknik’ thundered the entirety of the audience; its robotic sirens and vocoders balanced the rumbling lows of a distorted 808. Another mentionable tune was the more obscure ‘19FT’ K2 aka Kyle Hall & Kero, an acidic electro stomper which easily ranks in my top tunes of the weekend. To say it simply – Josey Rebelle smashed it.

We have a little well-needed sit-down after an intense hour of non-stop grooving and go on to check out Abandon Silence main-man Andrew Hill, a DJ and promoter who has earnt himself the right of playing alongside some of the best names in the business. With a mix of driving Italo-disco and some more contemporary classics, Hill did not disappoint. Of course, his selection of Alex Virgo’s Ze Dance received an honourable reaction from the crowd. We briefly headed back over to The Factory to catch a bit of Shy FX. However, from where we were standing the sound was disappointing and the DnB hall of famer was simply going through the motions of some classics. Although it was not the best for us, our neighbours absolutely loved it. I believe it was something on the nostalgic side as the lads claimed he played all the tunes they used to go out to. Either way, we realised the jam packed night was creeping upon us and we had to get back to the camp to restock on our alcohol content and give our feet a rest.

Unfortunately, Dekmantel favourite Byron the Aquarius had to go amiss as instead we opted to catch exciting new-comer O’Flynn. Many of those I spoke to at the festival were excited about seeing the London producer, as his luminary status had been cemented over the past year with his anthem ‘Tru Dancing’. O’Flynn shook The Shack with some absolutely ridiculous tunes and in my opinion was one of the best acts of the weekend – his ‘Tru Dancing’ sending the crowd into a frenzy and oiling their joints ready for a loaded Friday night. Following on from O’Flynn was Meine Nacht and Deep Sea Frequencies founder Or:la, a DJ who has gone from strength to strength with high-profile releases and legendary sets. I once again found that for some reason the sound for Or:la was occasionally quiet, which was odd as The Shack boasted one of the best sound-systems of the festival. Yet we couldn’t stay for too long as Mr. G and Mount Kimbie were both due to start, leading to a division in the group and another opportunity to grab an ice-cold pint.

Mount Kimbie were billed as one of the headliners of the festival and took to The Factory just after ten. A flickering LED screen behind them displayed a spectrum of colour whilst the London group began to play some of their trademark soundscapes. Playing a mixture of songs old and new, Mount Kimbie proved to be an impressive live outfit with an outstanding ability to capture the audience with rising synths and cleverly added textures. The introductory sounds of Marilyn paired with the unique female vocalist was one worth waiting for, but we began feeling something a bit more upbeat and headed back into the woods halfway through their set.

After venturing into the woods we met up with the rest of the group, who were buzzing after their Mr. G spot had been tickled; his live set something of legend. Meeting near the woodland entrance worked out perfectly as Minimal Wave founder Veronica Vasicka was pumping a brand of techno I’d never heard before. Based at Adventures In Success, a long stage hidden in the midst of trees and fences, Vasicka pumped out some heavy tunes tinged with synth-pop and electronica elements. Her set culminated at midnight, a time which Farr had dedicated to the heavyweights; Daphni, Optimo b2b Young Marco and DVS1 were all yet to come. Faced with the hard task of choosing just one artist, we thought we’d split our time effectively starting with Daphni.

Daphni aka Caribou is a man with a ridiculous talent for producing music, but this is something I have yet to see transcribed into his sets. It may have been the surroundings – the main stage of The Factory – yet it felt like he was going through the motions, playing feel-good disco and house tunes without anything surprising or fresh. A special mention does have to go to his selection of Dance Mania classic, Ambulance by Robert Armani; an absolutely thumping tune. After being left slightly disappointed by Daphni, we headed back to the Adventures In Success stage where Optimo and Young Marco were bouncing off one another for a special 4 hour back-to-back. Playing a mixture of classics and more obscure takes on electro and disco, this set was one of pure delight and rendered us ready for what was about to entail. A two-and-a-half hour DVS1 set.

Deep in the forest, illuminated by a kaleidoscope of lights, Zak Khutoretsky aka DVS1 hunched over the Ma Dahu decks like a man possessed. When reading about Khutoretsky, I came across a Ben Klock interview, where the distinguished DJ spoke about the pure energy emitted from DVS1 selection. This was something I really felt, as the Hush founder chose a minimal, bass heavy take on the 4/4 genre. I think you know when a set is amazing because the tracks are distinctly different yet fit into a shoehorn of ‘this is definitely x DJ’. DVS1’s extended set definitely abided to this, as his thundering kicks and trickling percussion were pumped from my favourite stage and the custom Funktion One rig. Starting with stripped back percussive tunes, Khutoretsky intertwined his high-octane techno style with some eerie electro beats; the whole crowd was gripped by his flawless mixing and elegant selection. Legowelt’s Deutsches PKW is exemplary of the sound of DVS1 and also ranks in one of my favourite tracks played at the festival. This set was definitely one of those mixes hard to put a finger on and impossible to replicate; a truly special festival moment.

Unfortunately we had been gripped a little too intensely and before you know it we are being chucked out of the arena and back into the wilderness of the campsite. Farr’s first two days had been an absolute treat – yet we felt that the most ‘popular’ artists had been jammed into the first day leading to inevitable clashes. We were admittedly a little early to judge as by the Sunday we had completely understood Farr’s programming. Upon putting our head down, sweet dreams of what Saturday has to hold entered our thoughts. Gerd Janson… Paranoid London… Dixon… William Djoko… Willow… Job Jobzzzz… Time to get a few hours kip until the sun comes and burns a hole in my non-existent sleeping bag at 10am.

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of Cameron‘s Farr Festival epic.

(Image credit: Tina Kondouli)

Author: Ste Knight

Editor at The Waveform Transmitter. Lover of acid basslines, cavernous kick drums, and dark rooms. Cut his teeth to Surgeon's blistering techno assault at T-Funkshun in Liverpool and hasn't stopped for breath since.

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