After 9 years, in temperatures at least 8 degrees higher than forecast, and some 7 years since The Super Furry Animals headlined in the Cowshed, only 6 minutes from the centre of Canterbury, over 5 performance areas (if you include the Campsite Bar and Little Lounge) in the district of CT4, with 3 bars spread across 2 fields, LOTF 2014 made for 1 glorious day of sun soaked entertainment.
The weather Gods blessed the last Lounge to grace Merton Farm in the most favourable way possible. With torrential rain and thunderstorms the night before and literally every forecast giving a high chance of rain, it was looking less than likely that a day full of uninterrupted sun was possible but, in the end, that's what the last Loungers to cross the cattle grids were treated to.
Having packed a (soon to be redundant) bag for every eventuality we arrived early to ease ourselves in. After a bacon butty courtesy of The Devil's Pantry and some very tasty Italian treats, we had a wander. The girls got their faces painted by the lovely ladies from Canterbury College, we all had an impromptu drum lesson in the Little Lounge and then who should arrive but Ben & Holly! (If you don't have kids under 5 this may not have been your festival highlight, they're not exactly akin to Ben & Tracy.)
Our marvellous musical buffet started in the relaxed environment of the Playhouse where, from the comfort of the sofa, we saw The Mannie Roobs. Whilst the stationary cyclists at the back of the tent generated the energy the female duo (think Rose Elinor Dougall meets Bat For Lashes) delivered a terrific opening set. With guitar and keyboards complimenting some great vocal harmonies, we got a mix of original work as well as a couple of very well worked covers, including an almost unrecognisable (in a very good way) version of 'Who Let The Dogs Out?'
A sharp suited Si Cranstoun and his very dapper band got the Main Stage under way with a very engaging, upbeat, Buble-esque performance that more than set the tone for the day. 'Gigolo' capped off his very well received turn as those that had either camped out or had arrived early doors got their dancing shoes on from the off.
In the Playhouse Tent, the spoken word acts were being given a warm welcome as the judges picked out their favourites and shared their feedback. Jack Taylor, Megan Beech and Dan Simpson among many others treated an appreciative crowd to some great prose and poetry. Emily Bell wore her heart on her sleeve as she shared the torment and torture of a broken relationship. "You can't water the flowers in your stomach with vodka" being one of her most memorable lines.
Our first visit of the day to The Farmhouse Tent was to be extremely well timed. A very early festival highlight was the tight, blistering set of The Doctorates. The three piece band from Canterbury delivered an energised and enthralling treat to those who were lucky enough to witness it. With almost a post-punk hark back to new wave and clearly audible references to band influences such as The Clash and Ramones, as well as newer touchstones such as The Vaccines, it was fantastic to hear such a spirited performance from a band destined for greater things. Like The Jam on speed, they were wired and full of youthful exuberance as they tore through 'Backseat' and 'Ground' among others. (Their new EP is due out soon.)
Keeping our love of local things in mind we quickly headed back to the Playhouse where returning favourites Gentlemen Of Few had packed out the venue with people spilling out as the toe tapping jamboree of clapping and dancing ramped up the excitable crowd in a hoe-down style complete with whirling banjos. Our next choice was to be tough; should we see one of the best bands from last years Lounge and GOF's one time stage partners Coco And The Butterfields, or should we head to the Main Stage for The Subways?
Although I heard the Farmhouse was packed and C&TB were once again fantastic, The Subways won and we were definitely not disappointed. Over at the Main Stage making their Lounge debut with a 3.30pm slot that should have been pushed further back they delivered a sensational, hit strewn set that was an energised joy from start to finish. 'I Want To Hear What You've Got To Say', 'Mary' (a song about Billy's Mum), 'Rock & Roll Queen', 'With You', 'I Won't Let You Down', 'Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang' and many more were delivered at breakneck speed in a tight, taught, ferocious and frantic fever pitch performance. The Subways were on top form, obviously enjoying themselves and that energy and enthusiasm was clearly reflected in the faces of the crowd.
With the adrenalin still pumping we swapped venues and just caught a little of The Coves over at The Farmhouse. The four-piece were harder and heavier than expected and no worse for it. 'Beatings' and 'Wake Up' both sounded superb.
As the day progressed the quality of the entertainment showed no signs of letting up. One time headliners, and stalwarts of LOTF, Dub Pistols once again delighted the amassed throngs before them with old favourites as well as material from their new album 'Return Of The Pistoleros'. The Pyjama Men were providing the laughs in the playhouse pre Poets vs. MC's and Ramona Flowers delivered a fantastic cover of Prince's 'I Would Die 4 U' before the hour late arrival of virtuoso multi-instrumentalist Courtney Pine OBE and, later, DJ Yoda and his Trans Siberian Band performed the biggest Marmite set of the day over on the Main Stage.
We chilled out with the help of a few Lounge libations and a couple of homemade wood-fired speedily cooked pizzas before heading back to the Main Stage for a tremendous performance. Peter Cook And The Light were nothing less than brilliant. The whole experience was enough to make the hairs on your arm stand on end. Not until you hear the depth and quality of all the songs he has been a part of do you appreciate just what a truly stunning back catalogue it is. I had wondered which songs he might play, which he'd leave out and which I might not know, but in the end I was just left in awe as one classic after another was played out. 'Day In, Day Out', 'Isolation', 'Heart And Soul', She's Lost Control', 'Transmission' and 'Temptation' were all sublime but with 'Blue Monday' and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', Hooky raised the roof with a show stealing performance that was truly befitting of the last Lounge at Merton Farm.
It was the job of The Fun Lovin' Criminals to wrap things up on the Main Stage and Huey and his band did not disappoint. With a hard act to follow they stepped up to the plate in style with Mr Morgan sporting a very nice pair of two tone brogues (you get the feeling that cool really does come easily to Huey and, had he been of the era, I'm sure he'd have donned spats). The whole band were engaging from the outset as they gave a performance of greatest hits as well as a wonderful worked and heartfelt Beastie Boys tribute (R.I.P. Adam Yauch). 'The View Belongs To Everyone', 'Back On The Block', 'Scooby Snacks', 'King Of New York' and finally 'The Fun Lovin' Criminal' were just some of the highlights among a stellar set that capped off a wonderful day.
The sun had shone on Merton Farm all day as a very appreciative crowd looked on at some fabulous and sometimes faultless performances. Saturday 2nd August 2014 was a day that marked the end of an era for Lounge On The Farm but it was nonetheless a day that had been a celebration of great entertainment. With Lounge's chilled out sensibility, eclectic musical mix, support of local food and local talent and some more inspired additions to the line-up, LOTF 2014 proved to be another triumph. See you all, including Alan, next year somewhere new.
The Subways live at Lounge On The Farm 2014
Mannie Roobs live at Lounge On The Farm 2014
The Doctorates live at Lounge On The Farm 2014
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