Having emerged from the Farm, picking straw out of my hair and ears still ringing, my first thought was – well, to have a bath – and then, to tell everyone I know how amazing Lounge was this year, and how I wish I was still sat beneath the stars, listening to Gong with my cup of tea.
There was absolutely no faulting the music choice this year. Every band I aimed to see or stumbled upon were interesting, unique…and often in costume. The Ukelele Gangstas pimped it out, while Hotrods and Dragsters upped the ante with hula girls. Billy Childish had a WWI nurse play bass and Daevid Allen, well, I’m not sure if a wizard’s accoutrements count as a costume for him…Oh, the music? There also some normal looking bands who stood out solely according to their instrumental talent, yes. Jouis kicked off at the Furthur Tent with groovy sixties stylings and dapper suits. They switched singers until ‘the hippy’ as I’d dubbed him, previously only wandering around the stage with a tambourine and earning some slight mockery, took to the microphone and belted out an earthy, guttural, powerful sound – to my shame. We chatted to the sax player afterwards, and he pointed us in the direction of Jonquil – two lads, a keyboard and trumpet – whose music reminded us of Patrick Wolf, but less whiny. They generate a mellow, organic ambience wherein you can almost see the layers of sound filling the tent (or equivalent!).
After the laid-back, self-deprecating, bands of the afternoon, we were somewhat unprepared for Gong. Not that I’m sure anything could prepare you for the rambling, overwhelming psychedelia that the progenitors of the Canterbury Sound produce; maybe a cup of mushy tea? We sat watching the stars go by as light, sound and pixies in their teapot taxies flowed around us. Definitely the perfect way to listen to music which often seems to lose its train of thought and ends up at quite a different station to the one you bought a ticket for…
Boxing Octopus woke us up at the Furthur Tent on Saturday morning with their Pocket Full of Smiles and cheery funk. The ideal breakfast band, attested to not only by the number of people who emerged before noon to see them, but also the amount who then got up to dance. Later in the day, Syd Arthur were, as always, brilliant, packing out the Furthur field and pouring out their soul-filling psychedelia. Current torch-holders for the Canterbury Sound, they’ve moved on from Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine (well, it’s been forty years) but no without using their influence for good and emerging with mellow yet powerful tunes to sway to, dance to or completely lose yourself in. These guys are also part responsible for the Furthur Tent and creating the atmosphere which makes the Furthur field so unique.
Light and sound at the Furthur Tent
The Aliens who, it was painstakingly explained to me, are comprised of the members of the Beta Band (to which I replied ‘Who?’) put on a good show in the Cowshed (‘The Aliens are in the Cowshed!) and I would not hesitate to see their brand of psychedelia again. (Honestly, I do listen to more than prog and psychedelia. Um…Roots Manuva! He was good for some mad, crazy dancing. Erm…Wolf People? No, that’s psychedelia again. Dammit.) Ah, the Burlesque. I could only stay for a brief moment at the Bandstand as I hurried towards the Golden Silvers but, gosh, there isn’t enough burlesque in the world. The audience stood transfixed as the Oh La La girls oh-so-tantalisingly-slowly sat astride their chairs with their legs in the air. Good clean family fun, oh yes.
An acoustic set from Syd Arthur was the laid-back alarm for Sunday, good for lying on the grass while wondering how to claw one’s sanity back after all that psychedelia…or just have a cup of a tea and a biscuit during. Your call. Mr. Scruff rocked the Hoedown for six hours in the afternoon, starting off with some chilled out vibes and heading towards grimier beats in the evening, perfect for dipping in and out of, like a hobnob in earl grey. However, the absolute total and complete stand-out acts of Sunday, if not the weekend, were Mr. Wolf, and Alessi’s Ark. Mr. Wolf is a sixteen year old beatoxing genius from Canterbury who filled the bar tent for his performance, and looked slightly shaken at all the attention. Only an ‘interlude’ on the programme this year, fingers crossed he’ll have a full set of his own next time. (Oh, and maybe some success and acknowledgement outside of Lounge too.)
Alessi’s Ark is one girl, her guitar, an incredible voice, and the Ark. Her melody-led lyrical stylings are whimsical and sweet, but never sugary, and she was hardly phased when someone with trousers on their head and shoes on their hands wandered in, telling them the next song Dancing Feet was perfect for them. I spent my last pennies on her album, which came in a cd sized knitted bag!, and only just had enough left for dinner.
Talking of food, we ate well that weekend. All the food at Lounge on the Farm is locally sourced by local people. The Village Green, once again, did not disappoint. Everyday we stopped at Al’s Hogroast for a white bap filled with freshly roasted pork, crackling, a smearing of apple sauce and a dollop of stuffing…Sorry, went somewhere else for a minute there. Ahem.
The Village Green
Merton Farm itself had a barbecue stall of very local meat – ‘Less than a mile from gate to plate!’ – and I decided to try rabbit pie, which was delicious. Vegetarians were equally well catered for with the Good Food Café on hand providing soups, sandwiches and beetroot brownies. I had a very filling couscous salad with chickpeas and pitta from some lovely ladies who admitted to never having done anything like it before, but very well they did do it. Desert-lovers were not forgotten; Ana’s Sweets provided Portuguese style pastries, and out-of-this world cheesecake. Caffeine addicts could get their fix at Volks Coffee or the Eco Coffee stall, and Strumpets with Crumpets sorted us out with tea and breakfast. The Tea Temple gave good brew, but unfortunately no home-made flapjacks this year (I spent my last pennies on one of them last year). Luckily, the Mole Hole Café had biscuits for ten pece, as well as messy strawberry cheesecake, chocolate brownies and infinite amounts of tea. And, as always, the Groovy Movie Picture Tent was completely reliable for chocolate fudge cake, yet more tea, and wonderfully strange films.
More of the Village Green
This year’s top GMPT picks have to be Nina Paley’s Sita sings the Blues, which switches between a heartbroken New Yorker, gossiping Hindu gods, and Sita, singing the blues. The film is available for free at Ninapaley.com and is well worth the perusal. After Gong, the GMPT held an exclusive airing the BBC South East documentary about the Canterbury Sound; featuring interviews with Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers and Steve Hillage as well as Joel and Liam Magill or Syd Arthur. Highly informative and worth a watch, especially if you have no idea about the Sound to which I keep referring!
This year’s Lounge was definitely the best so far, and between running around between bands and food and burlesque and fire shows and portaloos, we also managed a lot of lounging, although I never did find the petting zoo. Still, Lounge on the Farm is only getting better and if I could get a lifetime ticket, I would. In the meantime, The Farmhouse, a Canterbury music venue run by the same people, will just have to tide us over until next year.