Review: A rainy but incredible Farmfest 2017

Find Me in the Field’s Farmfest began by driving up to a damp Gilcombe farm waiting in line for our wristbands and listening with envy at the muffled festival noises emanating from within. Nestled deep within Somerset, Farmfest is a great little DIY festival. On it’s 12th year, Farmfest has earned a reputation for its individuality and knack for bringing together talented South West artists with artists usually occupying a larger stage.

Farmfest 2017

With a 5,000-strong crowd coming from all around England (though Bristolians were the blatant majority), it’s clear to see that Farmfest has been built on some solid foundations for a great party. 2004 saw the first Farmfest with just 400 mates in a field – now 12 years later and more than 12 x the revellers, the festival has developed into an annual South West staple, providing family vibes and serious party antics.

Farmfest has been built on some solid foundations for a great party

The weekend’s unforgiving rain and the wind that came with it brought an extra challenge for those at the festival and the crew behind it all – but a challenge that was overcome magnificently. Nothing could stall the party spirit and the festival site held up incredibly well throughout the weekend.

Nothing could stall the party spirit

The festival’s main area is spread across one field, gifting attendees with easy access to everything on offer at the festival and less than five minutes needed to walk from one end of the festival to the other. No late-night friend-hunting or search parties required.

Farmfest 2017

Jumping straight in, with no regards to finding our bearings, we found ourselves at The Soul Express to Discoland. A stage hosted by Vintage Mobile Disco where the rules include vinyl only and no tracks less than 30 years old.

Farmfest 2017

It was on to The Den next to catch Bristol legend, Pinch. Without left hand man Sherwood at his side, Pinch was left to his own devices behind the decks, and it was exactly what we needed to get us into the party vibes spreading like wildfire through the Farmfest field.

party vibes spreading like wildfire through the Farmfest field

What really piqued our interest on Friday night was DJ Yoda’s classic hip hop set. Playing some absolute tunes, it was hard not to wish he would play tracks for more than 30 seconds – but of course that’s not the point of DJ Yoda, whose live shows err on the side of a mini mix. With that said, the tent was completely rammed and for good reason, too.

Reluctantly leaving DJ Yoda, we ventured over to catch the end of The Greasy Slicks. The three-piece absolutely smashed it with their grungy blues rock and were a welcome change to the primarily DJ based music we had been listening to all night.

Farmfest 2017

As well as attracting the more typical festival goer, Farmfest also offers some great family vibes during the day. Whole families set up camp at their favourite stages and areas to soak up the improvised comedy, poetry and various other workshops on display over the weekend. While the mention of family-centric fun at a festival can send shivers down many a festival goer’s spine, Farmfest loses none of its potential for fuzzy 5am memories. And that’s exactly how Find Me in the Field’s Friday night ended; stumbling back to the campsite at god-knows-AM after spending a solid number of hours with Bristol’s Shapes crew.

Farmfest loses none of its potential for fuzzy 5am memories

The weather was even worse on Saturday, and after traipsing around Farmfest catching glimpses of Bodywork DJs, the High Grade Rockers Dub Sound System and Rhythm Sister, we found ourselves in front of the main stage taking on the torrential rain for Afrobeat Orchestra. Making the best of a bad situation, the crowd threw themselves into some serious shape throwing in the mud.

Farmfest 2017

Next, it was time to seek shelter at Broken Brass Ensemble. An eight-piece brass band, injecting hip hop, funk and soul into the vibrant New Orleans sound we’ve all heard before, creating something new and original. Ending the set by walking through the crowd – tuba, trombone and trumpets in tow – the band proved a highlight of the weekend.

Farmfest 2017

The main stage was finally made full use of for Roots Manuva’s headline set – perhaps the only time that the stage was at full capacity over the weekend. Putting on a much better set than Roots’ Outlook Orchestra appearance in Bristol a week previous, Manuva played many a fan favourite, with Witness and Let The Spirit getting the biggest crowd reaction.

Farmfest 2017

Farmfest has proven once again that they know how to throw a great party. Inviting diverse acts coming from far and wide, while also making sure that local talent is not ignored, the music on offer was impressive.

Farmfest has proven once again that they know how to throw a great party

And while the rain tried, and failed, to put a dampener on the party, Farmfest held its own. The security were great and the crew dedicated. We’re absolutely gutted that 2018 won’t see Farmfest take over Gilcombe farm as they take a well-earned break after 12 continuous years, but they will no doubt be back bigger than ever in 2019.

Farmfest 2017
All photography by Khris Cowley and Sin Mei Lam for Here & Now.