Barn On The Farm isn’t like most other festivals.
Nestled in the midst of a working farm in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside, the rural weekender is fast becoming known for achieving the perfect balance of having a genuinely fantastic lineup whilst retaining its signature sense of striking intimacy. This year’s lineup is arguably their best-ever, as headliners James Bay and The Staves are joined by the likes of Prides, Jack Garratt and Rhodes for an epic weekend of new music.
The job of opening the festival’s famed Intimate Friday is left to sensitive singer/songwriter Declan Donovan. His stripped-back set is a fantastic showcase for his powerful voice and impressive songwriting skills, and he definitely manages to make an impression on us here at One on One.
Miniature pianos + Taio Cruz = surprisingly good
An honourable mention must also go to the piano-led pop stylings of Bright Light. They’re catchy and infectious, and standout track In My Bones is a stompingly upbeat track with a cracking chorus – you should definitely check them out. They’re also the first band we’ve ever seen playing a piano-pop and bass drum cover of a Taio Cruz song, which is a nice bonus. A last-minute set from festival favourites Hudson Taylor goes down a storm with the small yet enthusiastic crowd, and Friday night headliner Gabrielle Aplin’s stripped-back set serves as an opportunity for her to perform tracks from her new album Light Up The Dark.
The weekend begins with a band and a bang
Saturday morning belongs to the anthemic Editors-meets-The Wombats indie rock stylings of Irish newcomers The Academic. Set highlight Different is a beautifully catchy little indie-rock track to rival anything you’ll hear on XFM – keep an eye out for them. Elsewhere, the ever-energetic Jake Isaac runs riot over a formidable crowd on the festival’s Main Stage, while mellow synth duo Meadowlark bring their laid-back atmospheric pop to an enthusiastic audience over at the Wooden Barn stage.
It’s worth noting that the atmosphere at Barn On The Farm is unlike that at any other festival we’ve ever been to. It’s not a ‘festival with music’, where the vast majority of the crowd seem intent on doing little more than drinking cups of warm lager and behaving obnoxiously in the campsite. Rather, Barn On The Farm really is a music festival. The 1500-strong crowd are all, without exception, music lovers. They’re there to relax, have a good time, and enjoy their favourite bands. There’s never any pushing, and even the toilets manage to remain in a decent condition throughout the weekend – it really is a festival unlike any other.
Main stage sub-headliners Prides are the stars of the Saturday
If you haven’t heard of Prides, you need to check them out – they’re an urgent Scottish synth-pop trio with catchy hooks and stadium-sized choruses, and they’re absolutely fantastic. Little Danger sparks a mass singalong, while recent single Messiah manages to get itself lodged in our heads for the remainder of the weekend. They’re a genuinely special band, and they were a perfect fit for the intimate settings of Barn On The Farm’s main stage.
Sunday belongs to the newbies
Early highlights of the Sunday include powerful pop from last-minute addition I.AM.L and talented piano-led singer-songwriter Ava Lily. Accompanied by Phil from Chasing Grace on guitar, her new single Sober is a perfect stripped-back pop song – she’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Mancunian newcomers Prose bring their acoustic rap-pop (and the Northern rain) to the New Stage, and they’re one of our highlights of the weekend. Their debut EP What If is going to be released within the next few months, and if it’s anything like their live show then we’re in for a real treat. Nothing But Thieves rock and wail their way through a thirty-minute set on the Main Stage (including a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song), while indie-rock boys Sunset Sons rattle through a fantastic set of tracks from across their back catalogue over on the New Stage. A surprise cover of Jamie T’s Sticks ‘n’ Stones gets everybody dancing, while a mass singalong to new single She Wants provides one of the moments of the festival.
The main stage belongs to Jack and James
Over on the Main Stage, one-man production powerhouse Jack Garratt leaves us all wondering how the heck he can play so many instruments with a breathtaking display of talent and showmanship. The highlight of the set is Garratt picking up on the crowd’s chant of ‘this is mental, do do do do’ and improvising a keyboard, bass and drum beat over the top of it. It’s a true showcase of his versatility by a man who’s going to be making serious waves over the next few months.
The job of closing the festival is left to BRIT Award winner James Bay. His set leans heavily towards tracks from his debut album Chaos & The Calm, with a surprise cover of Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You thrown in for good measure. There’s no doubting Bay’s raw talent – his voice somehow sounds even better live than it does on his recordings, and the musical versatility of Bay and his band means that the 23-year-old singer-songwriter is able to improvise plenty of roaring guitar solos and vocal melodies. The highlight of the set – and, indeed, of the day – is a rousing finale of his hit single Hold Back The River. The sound of an entire festival bellowing the lyrics back to Bay on a warm Sunday evening is something that we’re unlikely to forget in a hurry, and it just goes to show how far he’s come since he played a mid-afternoon slot on the festival’s Second Stage last year.
Barn On The Farm is special
Not only do you have arguably the strongest lineup of emerging bands of any festival in the country, but you get to experience the feel of a true family festival. It’s put together by a small team of passionate and dedicated music lovers, with the end result being that every minor detail is hand-crafted to ensure that each and every festival-goer has an absolutely fantastic weekend. We can’t recommend it enough.