A lot can happen in ten years. People change, trends come and go, and a small gathering of music fans in a wooden barn in Gloucester can become the best festival in the world. After building up a reputation over the past decade for championing new music, breaking down barriers, and being the most warm and welcoming festival family around, Over Farm found itself at the centre of a very special birthday. With Barn on the Farm celebrating it’s tenth anniversary (and Belwood returning for a fifth year), expectations were high that they would pull something special out of the bag. And, in spite of a few big names pulling out last minute, they did all that and more.
Getting an early start for the special Intimate Thursday, Over Farm was looking particularly lush this year. From the giant wooden sign, the colourful hammocks and the cosy shaded hideaway, to the sprawling line-up posters from years prior and a giant birthday card waiting to be signed, the festival welcomed you with open arms. So too did the music. The superb pop singer/songwriter SHE, with her sparkly dress afire in the summer sun, was possibly the best start to a festival yet. Hull’s Charlotte paid tribute to absent headliner Sam Fender with a soulful and stripped back rendition of ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, while Prose proved themselves to be masters of addictive hooks. The ever brilliant Orla Gartland powered through tuner troubles to deliver one of the most fun sets of the weekend and Clean Cut Kid rocked the barn to it’s foundations. Secret headliner Gavin James rounded the night off in style. Though I know him better for his more stripped back acoustic numbers, he was equally suited to being a charismatic frontman, offering up big singalong choruses and delving into the very centre of the crowd.
The sun was beating down for Behind Barn Doors Friday, giving me flashbacks to last year’s heatwave. Thankfully there was plenty of great music worth risking the heat for. Molly Payton opened the wooden barn with dreamy vibes reminiscent of Isaac Gracie, followed by our recent spotlight star Winnie Raeder who had the crowd spellbound with her stunning vocals. Mosa Wild were a melting pot of styles over on the outdoor stage, with hints of The National and 80s pop. The fantastic voice of James Smith lured me away from my shaded hideaway (no mean feat on such a scorcher!) and performed great covers of Billy Joel and Amy Winehouse. Outlya played a blinder with a special expanded line-up, offering up lush synths and superb bass lines, and singer/songwriter Margo Raats shared songs so moving you felt almost compelled to tears even at the happiest place on Earth. I caught farm favourite Ady Suleiman for the first time over at the tin barn for his headline slot. Clearly I was in the minority in being new to his music, as everyone else there was belting out every single word back to him. And finally, in the first big surprise of the weekend, The Vaccines made their BotF debut as the night’s secret headliner.
What better way to start the weekend off, and open up the main stage, than with a killer set from Belwood favourites The Howl & The Hum. Sharing new tracks alongside old favourites, I’m certain they made more than a few new fans. The Marsicans were the very quintessence of feel-good summer-ready indie. The delightful Delilah Montagu shared some wonderfully elegant piano balladry, which with the addition of a rhythm section transformed into into lush California-esque pop. Gabrielle Aplin was an absolute angel in her all too brief set on the main stage, while Nina Nesbitt delivered some slick break-up anthems on the outdoor stage and still found time to say hi to absent fans via facetime. Zak Abel was pure funk incarnate and had everyone up and dancing before Dermot Kennedy swept in to headline in Sam Fender’s stead. His powerful lyrics and emotional delivery made him one of the most moving headliners to date and proved that he was worthy of the top spot.
While Sunday mornings are generally reserved for nursing hangovers, young singer/songwriter Holly Humberstone roused a packed out crowd in the wooden barn first thing. Garage rock trio The Pale White certainly woke everyone up with their tremendous energy, thanks in no small part to their brilliant drummer. Only The Poets had more folks dancing than perhaps any other set of the weekend, Maisie Peters shared sheer pop perfection in the barn, and Samm Henshaw made his triumphant return to the farm to share some new material. The big talking point of the weekend though was the surprise set by George Ezra, hidden in plain sight on the programme in anagram form as “Reggae Zero”, who fired out hit after hit in his short set. Lewis Capaldi, as adept at stand-up between songs as he is at belting them out, played to what will likely be the biggest crowd the outdoor stage will ever see. I nabbed a spot at the front for headliner Maggie Rogers, and even going in not knowing any songs I was just in absolute awe of this one woman hurricane. Twirling between twin confetti cannons she gave not only the best BotF set I’ve ever seen, but one of the best sets I’ve seen anywhere.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was the best year yet. I didn’t think anything could ever compare to stepping onto the farm for the first time and becoming part of the family, but even in the face of high expectations and last minute drop-outs, Barn on the Farm knocked it out of the park for their tenth anniversary. It was a celebration of everything the festival is, and a glimpse of what it could be further down the line. There was something extra special in the air this year, and it’ s gonna keep me buzzing for a while to come yet. As much as I wish I could go back and live it all again, this festival has always been about looking forward, so instead I’ll be counting down the days til next year.