All festivals should be judged on their own merits but Slow Club’s Rebecca Taylor summed up Lounge on the Farm beautifully with a comparison to its biggest rival in Kent.
“We played at Hop Farm the other day and it was so polite it was freaking me out," she told the crowd at the Main Stage on Friday, July 6.
Lounge on the Farm may have formed first but the Hop Farm Music Festival has certainly grabbed more headlines during its five years. Lounge’s 2012 headliners Emeli Sande (pictured top), the Wombats and the Charlatans are more Championship level when compared to the Hop Farm’s Champions League standard Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan and Suede.
Yet Sheffield duo Slow Club, pictured, hinted that Lounge is the festival most bands want to play when they venture out to the Garden of England, even if attendances were a bit on the low side at the event on Merton Farm, near Canterbury.
That is not to say it was enjoyed any less by festival-goers who had come out to see the likes of Jake Bugg, Summer Camp, Netsky and Soko on Friday.
Yes Slow Club’s gig was attended by a small crowd but with the sun beaming down – after what had threatened to be a wet and miserable opening day – their show seemed all the more special to the five or six rows of fans.
What Lounge on the Farm does well is keep things under the appearance of being small-scale and, thus, more unique. It has grown leaps and bounds since its first festival in 2006 but keeps the local-feel by selling Merton burgers, holding a Kentish market and hosting acts like the Private Widdle Social Club on the Playhouse Stage.
Finding myself with 45 minutes to kill before Emeli Sande, my wanderings brought me to this little tent, hosting the Deal-based variety show at the time.
Eclectic does not cover the madcap band of performers who appeared – a cabaret, a stripping 1920s flapper and a tennis-hating German poet were some, err, highlights.
It all became too weird after a while. The stage soon resembled a tragic series of Britain’s Got Talent auditions. Even Simon Cowell would have been lost for words to judge what was going on. Yet the audience seemed to laugh at the show’s good-spirited craziness.
Back on planet Earth, there was one small matter of the headline set from woman-of-the-moment Emeli Sande. The Scottish singer-songwriter emerged to the sound of her breakthrough hit Heaven, before launching into Tiger and a cover of Coldplay’s Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, a nod to the band she has supported on UK and US tours over the last year.
An expressive performer, she had not stopped moving around the stage for a moment by the time she sang My Kinda Love. Performing to all corners of the crowd gave her a big connection with easily the biggest audience of the day (although many people at the back still could not believe how close they were.)
The reasons for winning her Critic’s Choice Brit Award became all the more apparent with the quality of album tracks Suitcase, Breaking the Law, Daddy and Maybe, all of which were introduced with a little story about why she wrote each one.
Why she didn’t concentrate on her own career sooner, rather than writing tracks for the Tinie Tempahs and Alesha Dixons of this world, is a mystery. She earned the festival’s first hands in the air moment with Read All About It. The crowd sang every word back at her after she announced it was the first time she had ever sung it at a festival.
There was even time to drop in a new song, Wonder, with a simple chorus which showed off how effortlessly Emeli can capture a feeling in a few words and turn it into a commercially viable entity.
Mountains was followed by a reggae version of Where I Sleep, complete with a diversion into Bob Marley’s One Love.
Closing the set more or less on the hour with Next To Me, there was slight disappointment that Emeli did not return for an encore.
However, it did offer the chance to race around to the other end of the U-shaped arena to catch the final few songs of Mystery Jets on the Meadows Stage, their first show at the festival since 2008.
There is something inside me which says watching a headliner should be the last major thing you do each day at a festival. Then again, it was awesome to carry on watching bands on the high we were feeling after Emeli’s show, rather than heading to some repetitive dance tent or silent disco.
I guess her set was much like Lounge on the Farm’s opening day – small but beautifully formed.