Farr Festival returned for their latest instalment this July with their most stacked lineup yet, introducing heavyweight artists such as Move D, Gilles Peterson and of course Joy O, Midland and Ben UFO’s eagerly anticipated 6hr back-to-back session.
Unlike most festivals, Farr only runs from Thursday till Saturday, however the shorter runtime was alleviated by a strong Thursday lineup with Heist Recordings taking over the Adventures in Success stage all day being the standout highlight. Frits Wentink, Nachtbraker and Nebraska’s live set was followed by Detroit Swindle’s stint on the decks making for a great introductory evening, the latter especially proved their maturity as DJs by mixing classics like Moodymann’s ‘Freeki Mothafucker’ with more contemporary fare such as Bell Towers’ ‘I’m Coming Up’.
While Thursday laid nice groundwork for the festival, Friday was when it really got serious. Nine stages were open to the previous day’s five, but there was so much more of the site to explore besides, including a cinema and miniature woodland walk where hammocks, finely curated art installations and secret avenues all added to the festival’s charm.
On at 15:30, Funkineven ignored the conventions of his early scheduling and smashed out the uncompromising acid, electro and techno he is known for, playing his own productions like ‘Dracula’ alongside Jeff Mills’ timeless ‘The Bells’. From 8pm onwards, there was a serious decision to be made: Midland, Joy and Ben UFO‘s back-to-back, the Electric Minds takeover with Move D, Hunee and Jeremy Underground, or an eight hour A Love From Outer Space takeover at the Hidden Palace, or Dance Tunnel host Dorisburg, Evan Baggs and Italojohnson.
In between the heavyweight DJs vying for the attention of the music heads, fun was to be had elsewhere in the festival. This was especially apparent at the Locked Inn where surprisingly well-priced cocktails were coupled with a Jamiroquai hour, hatfuls of 90s R&B sing-a-longs and a runout of T2’s ‘Heartbroken’ that got one punter so ecstatic he launched his drink across the tent in pure cathartic release.
Away from exploring Farr’s nooks and crannies, the hotly anticipated back-to-back was taking place over at The Terrace. The back-to-back had some great moments, like Daniel Maloso’s ‘Ritmo Especial’ and Tirzah’s ‘I’m Not Dancing’, but the chemistry between the three struggled at times, with quick changeovers and that coherent groove we were hoping for never fully materialised. Regardless, a tip of the hat must go to Boddika’s ‘Mercy VIP’ being given a nostalgic runout. Having been out the game for a couple years, after relentless deployment, Farr offered the end to this grace period, as it was met with an overwhelming collective wave of remembrance for the clubs of 2012-13.
To finish the evening, Hunee was the only place to be. It seemed half the festival had the same idea, as the crowd swelled beyond comfort point with the arrival of many extras now the back-to-back had finished. Nevertheless, he cemented his reputation as one of the finest and most versatile DJs currently on the circuit by beginning with an hour warm-up of obscure disco, 90s South African pop and Ghanaian funk cuts before blindsiding the crowd with a selection of Plastikman’s ‘Spastik’ signalling a change in direction for the set. Afterwards, he moved onto some of the heavier fodder, often mixing and looping three tracks at once with precision and unwavering concentration.
Saturday saw another wonderful bill, Job Jobse, Helena Hauff and Young Marco rubbing shoulders with live sets from Auntie Flo, Paranoid London and a Prince tribute. Maurice Fulton’s set switched times with Young Marco’s, and his 18:30 slot worked wonderfully for his astoundingly tight mixing and selection of singalongs like ‘This Must Be The Place’ by Talking Heads and ‘Love Come Down’ by Evelyn Champagne King, creating a feel good factor that blew the cobwebs out after two previous days of partying. Afterwards, Young Marco proved why he is so rated as a selector, switching between disco and new wave inspired house records that hit the sweet spot between being both entirely unidentifiable and sounding like songs you have loved for your entire life.
After Fulton and Marco had alleviated the previous nights’ pains, Paranoid London and Helena Hauff stepped up to throw the crowd right back in the to the deep end, with the seeping acid lines of the former’s live set and the latter’s punky mixture of ruthless techno and electro records. While Helena was great, Job Jobse came calling. The big room style of house he plays is not a particular favourite, but his selection and mixing style is jaw-droppingly well honed. In between playing current tunes like Mim Suleiman’s ‘Mwaitoma’ and Bicep’s ‘Higher Level’, he threw caution to the wind and let his set crescendo with an edit of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’. I’m still debating if it was a morally, ethically or legally acceptable thing to do, but the fact it’s even up for debate is testament to Job’s audacity. Following was John Talabot, who I had the best intentions of leaving for Optimo, but when he opened on his remix of Teengirl Fantasy’s ‘Cheaters’, he demanded my attention. What followed was as close to a perfect festival closing set as can be. Mixing between stirring house his label Hivern Discs is famous for and ostentatious acid tunes, he enraptured the crowd till well after the 4am curfew. In the final half hour as the sun started to rise above the trees, Traumprinz’s ‘All The Things’, Midland’s ‘Final Credits’ and an edit of Chic’s ‘Everybody Dance’ finished Farr Festival in an absurdly adroit fashion.
The general chat in the pilgrimage back to the campsite after this ended to applause was “why can’t we have another day of this?” Farr’s ambitious programming certainly pulled off, and the number of exception quality sets was probably the highest I have ever experienced at a single UK festival. The big question for 2017 is whether they’ll toy with the idea of expanding Farr into a full weekender? From the reaction to Talabot’s closing, people are certainly prepared for more.
Take a listen to 150 tracks heard in the woods. We’ve split them up into two playlist, one a little easier on the ears, and one for in the dance.
Farr by Day:
Farr by Night:
Photo credit: Jake Davis and Michael Njunge for Here & Now. Thanks to John Hardy, Rosie Cain, Tim Lawson, Alistair Tucker, the ITT Group and the IoMG for their help in pulling this list together. And finally, out to Jonathan Graham, for finally coming round to Hunee (and Tottenham being the kings of London).