Lounge on the Farm '09

Speeding through leafy trees and Paddock Woods to the far end of the sprawling Kentish countryside, the light at the end of the seemingly infinite tunnel is old Geoffrey Chaucer’s prime dormitory hangout, Canterbury. Promenading through tunnels and rolling fields of barley, the setting’s quintessentially British, the weather atypically sweltering. This year’s LOTF keeps it within the family, the line up composed almost universally of home-grown innovative indie, from Southend garage punksters-turned-shoegazers The Horrors, off-kilter Foals-approved groove mongers The Invisible and Archbishop of UK Hip-Hop Roots Manuva. That said, bar Sunday night home runner Edwyn Collins, it’s incontestable that Stevens and Lamacq would be a tad more acquainted with the goings on of The Sheep Dip and The Hoedown than Bowman and Whiley and so despite all that heritage, Lounge serves as something of a gaze into the crystal balls that may hold the future of our teeny iPods in its more than capable grasp.

The campsite’s crawling with prepubescent post-GCSE pandemonium and carpeted with empty Stella cans and discarded laughing gas pellets. Not quite the stuff of Chaucer’s tales then. In amongst towering crops only witnessed in Mel Gibson Hollywood flops set against a vacated cow shed (or the main stage for the weekend) labelling it surreal would be something of an understatement. Maintaining the bizarre tinge are bass-heavy trio The Invisible who secrete hallucinatory dream-pop last emitted from a downtown Brooklyn warehouse, OK and Passion could seamlessly squeeze onto any Sitek concoction, yet baritone vocal lines and unnervingly hollow reverberating guitars elevate these bearded laptop wizards beyond the realms of quirky for quirk’s sake pedantic pedal-board snobbery. Whilst Yannis may spew a load of misguided music-based bile from those pretentious lips of his, this endorsement seems about as calculated as a solar-powered Casio in the Sahara. Elsewhere, Brighton’s Ghost of a Thousand tear and shred their way through their brand of flattened fringes and two-thousand-and-late lightweight thrash in The Sheep Dip as if dying season commences imminently. Faves of Felix Maccabees, perhaps those NME-goaded guitar slingers aren’t always on the pulse... Far more exhilarating are reinvigorated (fairly) local band of gloomy glory-forgers, The Horrors. Following The King Blues’ recession-busting boredom, the teen waves have ebbed away in their wake, leaving a modest bunch lurking in the shadows, awaiting the essential technicolour rebirth of the new Millennium. An hour or two ago Faris strolled arm-in-arm with a kid in a cheap boiler suit. Had the star of sneery punk snobbery lost that razor-sharp edge?Of course, as soon as the opening synth swathes of Mirror’s Image seep into the cavernous Cow Shed, all is forgotten. Where once Faris & co tore through dirty garage arthouse punk, these days they cruise calmly through the likes of agro bass-heavy break-up belter Who Can Say and epic-as-ever set-closer Sea Within A Sea. Badwan lurches deviously over the monitors whilst his comrades in kaleidoscopic doom stare penetrably out from the instruments behind which they lurk and cower. In Primary Colours, they’ve become the band nobody ever expected them to be and away from the gimmickry of blacked out acrylic faces and strict dress codes (tonight preppy blazers are the order of the day), they’re as formidable a live force as any.However, if The Horrors cement worth in reinvention, Ed Larrikin of (very little) Larrikin Love fame has reversed back up the street down which the Southend scenesters crashed into colour and reincarnation, turning from torn jeans and trilbies to terrifying gothic orchestration amidst the raucous that is Pan I Am. Monochrome dominates, as regimental black boiler suits contrast starkly with pasty white faces in perhaps the most shocking set of the weekend, with Ed’s shock of red hair injecting a slight sense of hope into proceedings, if only on the aesthetic front. More successful are London trio Ipso Facto. Having traded in keyboardist Cherish Kaya for a MacBook and stalled on what was one of the most anticipated records in the pipeline this time last year, an evening billing above some stars of the near future seems ever so slightly odd. Often branded somewhere between a female Horrors, these feisty females owe more to Western soundtracks (Balderdash) and The Shangri-Las (Smoke and Mirrors), perhaps were they in mourning. Further darkly infused intervention is growled out from within storms of fog by hotly-tipped S.C.U.M yet trading in respectable repertoires for half-mast Victorian pressed trousers and strobes grabs about as much attention as a Hollyoaks video signing.

Far more inspiring are one-part musical, three-parts comic band of extremely merry gentlemen, The Wave Pictures. They’ve headed Kentwards without a single cymbal so their shambolic set is conducted by ramshackle drums and flat guitar tones. Not that it matters when I Love You Like A Madman, Kiss Me and Friday Night In Loughborough all from last year’s Instant Coffee Baby are reeled off at will. And if it all goes pear-shaped, frontman David Tattersall can always return to the stage in a dingy comedy club in Leicester Square. Ordained this weekend as the Archbishop of Banterbury. Highlights then glimmer thick and fast as the sun sets and the rain lashes. Ahead of headlining this year’s NME Radar Tour kicking off in September, tripped-out twee throw-backs Golden Silvers cause a greater storm inside the shed than the swirling summer monsoon that’s hit Merton Farm. Drawing heavily from debut barking barbershop beast True Romance, Gwilym Gold and his rhythm enhancers call at balladry (The Seed), lyrically impeccable soul show-stopper True Romance and chart-destroying polished pop (Arrows of Eros, Another Universe) before disappearing into the smoke, presumably back to 1972. Although maybe one day on the horizon every band will be as accomplished and enthralling as Golden Silvers. Amidst a thunder storm, drenched on a bandstand whilst swaying swiggers stumble on hay stacks may not be the ideal scenario for a Saturday night show yet fiddle maestro Fidgital copes sublimely. Backed solely by a DJ and a stack of CDs, he plucks and struts his way through inspired covers, from The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back to a Nirvana/ Calvin Harris mash-up, before trading in Ronson’s tired trumpets for sterling strings on Ooh Wee and rounding it all off with a take on Fools’ Gold orchestra fanatic Mr. Brown would go ape for. Majestic. On an entirely different note, awk-folk hero Jay Jay Pistolet is utterly enchanting before an adoring gathering of seated thirty-somethings. Justin Hayward-Young laments love lost and not having enough songs to play beyond what feels like three minutes but leave prejudices against whiney London folksters Noah & the Whale, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons at the door, as Happy Birthday You is as heartfelt as a Hovis ad. Singling out a single star amongst the stellar sky that is this year’s line up is about as taxing as picking out the most tolerable Oasis song although despite the Brit invasion, it seems somewhat fitting what with cricket currently clogging up the airwaves that the stereotypical Australian pomp prevails, as The Temper Trap really are something spectacular. Acquiring a veritable arsenal of sure-fire hits all under the roof of imminent album Conditions released next month, everything from the melodramatic epic blasts of Science of Fear to the achingly subdued melancholy of Love Lost just works on every level. Down River shrieks with adrenaline-fuelled desperation, the crescendos of Rest clash harder than Glastonbury lightning and Fader may just be the biggest anthem in their waiting room. Lord Lounge on the Farm, don’t change a thing.