Let me introduce you to our new friend Barn on the Farm
Barn on the Farm…where do I begin!? Located in Over Farm, Gloucester, just over an hour away from Bath, simply walking onto the site instantly shows you what sort of weekend you’re in for. With actual stages in barns (naturally), décor made from crates, farm animals nearby including ostriches(!), and even curry served on an old school bus, it’s definitely a festival that stands out from the get go. With 2000 attendees, it makes for an intimate festival, so you can focus on the music and less about queuing hours for the loo. Many of the crowd have been before in its 6 year history, and just keep coming back. 2016 is my first year, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back in 2017!
The line-up is impressive, with returning artists who have performed in previous years as well as promising up-and-coming singers and bands. With previous years boasting the likes of James Bay, Hozier, Bastille, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard, it’s no wonder everyone’s excited. Saturday night finished with a set from Oh Wonder, while BOTF veteran Jack Garratt headlined Sunday. But more on those later…
The festival started on Friday, with an even more intimate, exclusive setting and featuring Bear’s Den as the top secret headliner. We arrived on Saturday, where freak 5 minute rain showers would not deter from a day of quality music. The Wooden Barn was one of the most magical music venues I’ve ever been in, with a pretty elevated stage inside (you guessed it) a wooden barn. It was the temporary home to stunning artists like James TW (lovely and acoustic) Isaac Gracie (a must-see live performer), Ryan Keen (with a soft but goosebump-inducing voice), and Skinny Living (a band with a whole lot of soul), often with the audience overflowing all the way out of the barn. One of my favourite performances was from Gavin James, who’d made a surprise earlier cameo with his mate Ryan Keen, and then later smashed his set. I swear you could hear a pin drop as he played hits like The Book of Love, Nervous and Bitter Pill. He spoke to URB earlier in the day, and is the loveliest guy ever! On Sunday, the barn started with energetic performances, including Jessarae, and later Martin Luke Brown who we had the pleasure of hosting a session with in the studio last year. Dan Owen was also a highlight, an extremely talented musician who at one point sang, played guitar with an additional harmonica. RY X, who’d flown in the previous day and played at BST Summer Time in the morning, brought absolute zen to his closing set.
The outdoor stage was also very chilled out, with the audience sitting peacefully for some performances, and rocking out in a mini mosh pit in others! Well-known names like Clean Cut Kid, The Hunna and Dan Croll brought the house down, whilst there was also noteworthy singer-songwriter raw talent from the likes of Tom Walker (who spoke about falling asleep on a bus and instantly became the guy everyone wants to be mates with), and raw soul energy from Zak Abel. He even dropped a bit of Daniel Bedingfield and Drake – you can’t really go wrong with that! Ady Suleiman, who we met when he toured with Coffee House Sessions, performed with so much energy too, in spite of said rain showers.
The Main Stage, a new construction for this year, saw J.P Cooper, VANT, Honne and many more take to the stage. We had a chat with Honne (in the farm’s spooky haunted house!) right before their set, and were blown away by tracks from their album which is released later this month. Eliza and the Bear, who we’ve been playing on air since 2013, brought the stage to life in a set that also included an impromptu water fight with a fan who’s (vodka) loaded with a water gun every year! One of the unanimous stand out performances of the entire festival belonged to Farm Band. Composed of Hudson Taylor, Gabrielle Aplin, Hannah Grace, Joe Keogh (Amber Run) for one festival only, they took to the stage sharing songs from their individual collections, as well as some beautifully harmonious covers including Bob Dylan’s Dancing in the Dark. Not only were the vocals powerful and on point, but they seemed to be having so much fun. And so were we! In fact, the line-up’s surprise act on the Sunday turned out to be BOTF legends Hudson Taylor – with a twist. Sadly, Harry Hudson-Taylor had broken his leg not long before, so he watched the gig from hospital on FaceTime (modern day technology eh!?) and luckily Hudson Taylor friends such as Hannah Grace and Gabrielle Aplin were on hand to fill in. It was basically Farm Band 2.0 so there was zero disappointment; hopefully Harry has a speedy recovery!
Other Main Stage performers included Frances, who URB met in Bristol earlier this summer, playing one of her first shows with a band. With crisp, clear vocals and Frances on the piano, it was simple but beautiful; every song oozes a pure elegance, and part of Don’t Worry About Me was sung in perfect acapella. Then came the headliners. Saturday night was brought to a close by Oh Wonder, who have had a brilliant year and were genuinely so ecstatic to be headlining one of their first British festivals. Their laidback electro sound and catchy hits like Lose It, Drive, and All We Do went down a storm with the crowd. It was a perfect end to the day, setting up the Sunday, which was headlined by Jack Garratt.
Jack Garratt’s got quite the CV – the BBC Sound of 2016, Brit’s Critics Choice, and now this. It simply was a one man show epitomised, something that needs to be witnessed live. As a man who has played BOTF three times, this was his first time as the main bill. “Ask me who’s performing after. Go on,” he said with a grin, replying “No one cos I’m f-ing headlining it!” Surrounded by a slick instrumental set up, he played drums with so much passion he nearly fell over. And that’s just the drums; the guitar, the keys, the loop pedal – everything was handled with so much sheer skill and class. It was a musical masterclass, and it was clear why the audience was so looking forward to it. At one point, he asked for on-the-spot cover requests, to which there was a really loud “Spice Girls” response. To which he responded with an S Club song. Hilariously, he realised and corrected this towards the end of the set. It’s times like these where you realise what a special place live music in general has in our lives – you just can’t replicate this effect on an album.
As the final set – and festival – came to a close, “1 more song” became the crowd battle cry. So Jack played one extra song. Then immediately, the chant for “12 more songs” echoed in the Main Stage (sadly, this one didn’t quite happen). But it also echoed the universal sentiment of not wanting the festival to end. Ultimately, the weekend of BOTF is like a dream. It’s cosy, in the best way, it’s friendly, and each musician ticks every box. You’re bound to discover new talented additions to your playlist, and have a LOT of fun on the farm along the way.