A weekend of 30 degree heat, ostriches, and enough acoustic guitars to shake a stick at; every year Barn On The Farm promises to bring you the best new music, and every year they do exactly that. 2018 had headline acts from Tom Grennan, Tom Misch, Nina Nesbitt, Fickle Friends, and Pale Waves.
An intimate Thursday promised to be a special affair, with only 250 festival goers onsite and a super secret headliner keeping the early birds on edge.
Edinburgh’s Vistas brought their bright and bouncy rock tunes to the quiet Gloucestershire fields. Despite their early slot, Vistas’ fantastic stage presence and upbeat tracks oozed a bunch of energy to a day that was already brimming with excitement. Playing through their set with ease, the crowd settled into festival life and needed no encouragement to sing-along during ‘Retrospect’.
Next in the wooden Barn, Dan Owen regaled the tale of losing his harmonica at Barn On The Farm in 2014. With barely a moment’s hesitation, one kind gent seemed to bound back to the campsite, returning with said lost harmonica in hand. Re-united with his tool, Dan Owen launched into ‘Little Red Rooster’ – a western styled song that fitted perfectly with his emotion swaying set.
Yorkshire lass Billie Marten brought ethereal ballads to Barn and left the audience speechless. Her angelic vocals bounced around the barn along with her intricate guitar riffs. She was joined on stage by her pianist, and even though they only had three hours worth of rehearsal they still sounded spectacular.
While her songs are all very similar, Marten still managed to bring variety to the festival, being one of the youngest playing and the type of acoustic music she makes. Her song ‘Milk and Honey’ is full to the brim with synths, delicate guitar, and of course her beautiful vocals – choosing to wind down her set in sea of calm and relaxation.
Secret headliner Zak Abel (who would also play on Saturday), ensured Barn On The Farm 2018 kicked off with a bang. “Oi, can I be your backing dance?” shouts a voice from the crowd. “Yes” comes Abel’s reply. With a knack for bringing energy to his performance, tonight seemed to be a two in one deal during ‘Love Song’: Zak Abel belting his heart out, and a person dancing up on stage. There was no better way to end the first day of Barn On The Farm, leaving everyone to trude back to a whole campsite buzzing into the night.
Friday was another scorcher weather wise and a belter music wise, with acts such as OUTLYA, Lauren Aquilina, and Hudson Taylor on the line-up. Being the first full day on Over Farm, festival goers were excited to spend the day taking yoga classes, meeting the ostriches, dogs, and horses — and most importantly having the best time seeing new music.
The first act of behind barn doors Friday was Sam Johnson. Producing singer-songwriter ballads about love and relationships, his performance was a very chill way to start the Friday, with most people opting to sit on floor listening intently to songs about his imagination and loneliness as a child in ‘Perfect Circle’.
OUTLYA soon graced the barn with their strong vocals and choruses that anyone can sing-a-long to. Consisting of the ex-frontman of Port Isla – a band which has played Barn on the Farm countless times – and a two of his friends, they launched into ‘Volcano’ which saw everyone knowing every lyric and beat. Having only formed two years ago, towards the end of the set OUTLYA came into the middle of the crowd and sang a new song, which slowly descended into ‘It’s Coming Home’.
Next up was Lauren Aquilina, a 23 year old songwriter who retired from being an artist at the age of 21, in a bid to help her mental health. Now out of retirement to play her first festival in three years, Lauren played a couple of unreleased songs, which consist of myriad beats intermingled with synths and Lauren’s heavenly vocals layered on top. She also performed a song which she wrote with the artist Baby Ariel called ‘Gucci On My Body’ this track is something else, very much a pop song with hooks that stay in your head for days and an overall amalgamation that will send you dancing.
‘Hurt Any Less’, ‘Kicks’ and ‘Fools’ received the biggest reaction from the crowd and every word was sung back to Lauren on stage, who seemed shocked in return. The progression from the Lauren who wouldn’t sing without her piano in-front of her to someone who dances around the stage like it’s something she has been doing her whole life shows her growth in confidence.
On Friday Orla Gartland opened the Tin Barn stage. The Irish singer-songwriter worked her way through old and new material, sending the barn in chaos before dropping a cover of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ alongside Lauren Aquilina. She played her newest release ‘I Go Crazy’ and it really did send people crazy, her excellent stage presence and beautiful personality shone through in her performance and resonated across the farm and made her set even better.
Last on the Tin Barn stage was brothers Hudson Taylor, who’ve played the festival numerous times in the past. With a few technical issues — only a single microphone was used between the whole band making it tricky to hear their set. “As you have gathered this is a quiet set so if you really want to chat, please move to a different field” piped up Harry half way through the set, and was greeted with cheers all around.. When it came to singing ‘Feel It Again’ – which is the lead single of their new EP – the volume in the barn rose with cheers, while closing their set with their barbershop quartet style song ‘Dinner for one’ left the crowd in fits of laughter.
Saturday saw around 2000 more people arrive on Over Farm and as the campsites started filling up, so did the stages. With ‘Three Lions’ echoing around the festival site continuously throughout the day (it was quarter final day), the crowds got bigger and bigger and the atmosphere felt better ten fold.
Plested opened the day with a message of heartfelt thanks: “I’ve been playing this festival for a number of years and this is the biggest crowd I have got, thank you.” His laid-back set was perfect for a relaxing Saturday morning, his spine-tingling vocals built up songs to create complex choruses and bridges. His song ‘Worthy of You’ is a great example of his writing ability, capturing the tumultuous emotional journey in relationships and causing the crowd to sit back and listen in awe.
As 3pm approached the courtyard filled up with people gathered round an iPad watching the football, but the boys in Aquilo had a different way of watching. During their set they kept asking what the score was and when the score changed, the main stage went berserk with beer flying left, right and centre, chants, and a general feeling of national pride. Lacking in intimacy and variety, Aquilo’s heavily synth based music blended with soft vocals still manage to make something quite beautiful, with the chanting of a football match carrying on behind them.
With only himself and his guitar, BOTF veteran Lewis Watson played through an acoustic version of his usual set with drums and electric guitar. Nevertheless, Watson still manages to pull off an astounding set playing a mixture of songs from his debut album ‘The Morning’ and songs from his second album ‘Midnight’. At the end of the set he came into the crowd and sang his cover of Guillimots’ ‘Made-Up Love Song #43’, once again bringing that close feel to Barn on the Farm. This cover slowly descended into him splitting the crowd into two halves with the right hand side singing ‘It’s Coming Home’ and the left hand side singing ‘Three Lions’.
Headlining the Wooden Barn stage on Saturday was Scottish singer Nina Nesbitt, she created a party with her sassy pop-break-up songs. Opening her set with ‘Somebody Special’ the slow build up of guitar, synths, backing vocals, and Nina’s soprano vocals has the audience gripped on the sheer beauty of the whole thing. Half way through she did a mash-up of three of her older songs from her debut album ‘Peroxide’ – ‘The Apple Tree’, ‘Stay Out’ and ‘Mr C’. Now back on our shores from an extensive run in the USA, during that time she covered Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’, and her vocals beautifully complemented the song and as much as Nina was scared she would ruin the song, she did not at all.
11:25 on a Sunday morning does not sound like the best time for an energy filled set, but Marsicans proved that wrong. The band from Leeds woke up Over farm with a bang and brought their feel-good indie tunes to the festival. With the whole band jumping around on stage and just having a ball their energy resonated across the audience and soon enough everyone had shaken off the cobwebs and were dancing along.
Up next on the Wooden Barn stage was Matt Maltese, who recently released his debut album ‘Bad Contestant’ which begins as a composition to forlorn love and ends as a shout towards caring for the world. His quirky set brought quirky stories relating to songs: “One night I got with this guys girlfriend at a party, which is what this song is about. But the next morning I went ice skating with my mum, and my dad took a picture of us two, after a sleepless night I looked soulless in the picture. Then my Mum put the picture in a calendar she made for my Grandma, so for the whole of June my Grandma had to look at said picture,” he says of track ‘Guilty’.
Eliza and the Bear have played Barn for the last five years straight, so they know the festival inside and out. And for the last five years the same group of lads have been in the audience with a water gun filled with vodka which gets sprayed at the band, however as Eliza and the Bear knew this was going to happen they came prepared. They called out the guy with the water gun and told him to come to the front, then guitarist Martin Dukelow went backstage and brought out a water gun filled with vodka, and a water gun fight occurred midset. Eliza and the Bear’s summery songs are perfect for the summery feel of Barn on the Farm, hence why they get invited back every year. Half way through their set they started playing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana, and I don’t think they were prepared for the reaction it would get, mosh pits opening as soon as they hit the chorus and cheers erupting all around. When it came to playing their last song of the set they asked the audience whether they would want to hear ‘Friends’ or ‘It Gets Cold’, and ‘Friends’ won by a mile, two chords into the song and the Outdoor stage was bouncing and screaming along. Eliza and the Bear are definitely one of the best bands to play Barn on the Farm.
Headlining an acoustic set on the Wooden Barn stage on Sunday was Fickle Friends and has the whole crowd dancing and singing along – even though they only had ⅗ of their members present. Covering The 1975’s ‘Give Yourself A Try’, a slowed down version of the synth-pop sensation was very refreshing, especially with Natti’s heavenly vocals mixing with the soft guitar really gave a different feel to the track and of course closed the set with their very own rendition of ‘Three Lions’.
Tom Misch set about closing the weekend on a high — his dreamy synth tracks brought the festival to a relaxed end. Bringing out a number of different special guests such as Zak Abel and Barney Artist, adding new layers to tracks taken from his second album ‘Geography’. With a glitter ball appearing in the middle of the crowd (where were they keeping it?), Tom Misch’s disco-esq music sent everyone dancing and made everyone leave on a high, a perfect way to end a perfect weekend.
Nearly every artist over the weekend mentioned how much they love this little festival, feeling like a little family on a working farm surrounded by ostriches, dogs, horses, and sheep. The sheer love and joy for music can be felt all over the farm across the weekend, and with music blaring from every corner of the festival, it guaranteed you’ll come away from Barn On The Farm having discovered your favourite new artist you never even knew you loved. Same time next year?