Afterthoughts: Farr Festival 2016

Farr is small but books big names. It is close to London but acts as a refuge from booth-crowding (and, really, crowding of any sort). Attendees approach the forest past – or, more often than not, through – fields of gently sashaying wheat, but the walk’s calming effect doesn’t preclude dancing. It’s a small festival with a big heart, and it works.

After a relatively calm Thursday, which saw a packed-out Detroit Swindle set before the music trailed off early, Funkineven proved an early highlight on Friday afternoon. His own 303-laced ‘Dracula’ also provided a hint of what was to come over the weekend, as acid – initially somewhat surprisingly, but less so given the noise control later at night – emerged as the key sound. By Friday night, even Hunnee had brought the squelch in an otherwise spooling, relatively low-key headline set.

Farr festival 2016

Moomin was unfortunate to lose almost half of Funkineven’s crowd as he stepped up at secluded new stage the Hidden Palace, which would see talked-about sets from A Love From Outer Space and Gilles Peterson. The Smallville producer provided a glut of subtle, masterfully-mixed house whose depths might have been better appreciated after nightfall. At least Andrew Weatherall looked approving as he slinked past the back of the crowd.

Inevitably though, Friday belonged to the marathon six-hour b2b2b session at the Terrace, hosted by Trouble Vision. Old cohorts Ben UFO, Joy Orbison and Midland brought the party-starters (Tirzah & Micachu’s ‘I’m Not Dancing’), the party-escalators (Boddika’s ever-popular VIP of his and Joy O’s ‘Mercy’) and the party-crowners (Midland’s ‘Final Credits’, the most predictable Song of the Summer since the term was invented) and seemed to have as much fun as the crowd in doing so.

Helena Hauff

On Saturday, Job Jobse lit up the woods with his giddy use of the elegiac section of ‘Born Slippy’, and Denis Sulta’s own ‘It’s Only Real’ got any remaining taps aff during the Glasgow takeover of the main stage. But it was Helena Hauff, sandwiched in between Paranoid London – whose 2012 smash ‘Paris Dub 1’ still did serious damage here – and Optimo on the Saturday night, who was the most intriguing proposition. How would a DJ who had built her reputation largely on darkness and noise fare at a festival that practically radiated good vibes? Quite brilliantly, it turned out.

The heads who might usually spend the length of her set mumbling IDs of Lory D or Umwelt tunes were left pondering slightly more anthemic, open passages – alongside some true techno tools-as-weapons – but the electro squelch and EBM thud that is her core sound remained to the fore. Keen enough to drop Gesloten Cirkel’s rapturously received ‘Submit X’ but brave enough to break everything down and start again halfway through, Hauff emerged from the set of the weekend no longer a rising star, but one fully formed.

farr festival 2016
Optimo are also no strangers to the esoteric or stridently political, but neither their eclecticism nor their idealism ever comes without an invitation to dance. Perhaps the ultimate sign that JD Twitch was in festival fun mode was his deployment of Bleaker’s gleefully obnoxious flip of Antonio’s UKG bomb ‘Hyperfunk’, was as close as any DJ will get to outright demanding you get sweaty.

Over the course of the weekend you didn’t have to look far (sorry) to spot one of the ubiquitous stickers bearing the logo of Warm Up, the London techno and electronica night run by Aidan Doherty. Curators of the Terrace on Saturday night, they succeeded in building a small but loyal following, with a sound slightly different to the rest of the festival: Aidan grinned in agreement when I put it to him that his crowd was comprised largely of people who consider James Holden’s remix of ‘The Sky Was Pink’ to be the greatest track ever made.

Farr festival 2016
By the time John Talabot had let DJ Koze’s remix of Roman Flügel’s ‘9 Years’ run its full ten minutes, the crowd at the main stage – which is to say, seemingly everyone – was in a state of swaying, muted bliss. ‘Final Credits’ got one last spin, and as the sun rose the scene was so laughably idyllic you could scarcely believe you were only half an hour outside London.

Images: Michael Njunge for Here & Now

Words: Gabriel Everington