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DJ Mag goes into the woods…

Farr Festival returned for its seventh edition in the Hertfordshire countryside this year, with a line-up that boasts a sublime selection of underground artists for discerning music lovers that still want to be on the dancefloor; with appearances from Jeremy Underground, Move D, Hunee, Palms Trax, Job Jobse, Moomin, Terry Farley & Pete Heller, a b2b2b from Midland, Ben UFO and Joy Orbison and more.

Started by a group of house music loving friends, the immediately apparent thing about Farr is the festival’s size, hosting a total capacity of just 5,000 people. But the event’s compact space serves as a blessing at an event where the programming is so on point, as the entire site can be traversed with ease in a matter of minutes, meaning there’s never an excuse to miss a beat.

Mostly set amongst the woods, each stage has its own distinct feel. Highlights include The Shack, which serves as the main stage, and is set at the far end from the entrance of Farr’s woodland setting. Lined with corrugated iron and washing lines draped with clothes, it sits in the middle of a natural amphitheatre and possesses the same impeccable sound found across the rest of the festival.

The all new Hidden Palace sits in a clearing deeper into the woods, and is regularly packed from front to back with a small but up for it crowd. It’s here that a three hour 30 years of Boys Own set from Terry Farley & Pete Heller and a masterclass of soulful deep house from Berlin producer Moomin both get two of the weekend’s biggest crowd reactions.

Adventures In Success hosts some far bigger names than its intimate setting would suggest, with the likes of Optimo, Helena Hauff and Italojohnson all gracing its decks, whilst The Terrace, which sees the packed out six hour b2b2b from Midland, Ben UFO and Joy Orbison, holds the atmosphere in like a pressure cooker under its low slung tree branches.

In the daytime each looks an unassuming setting for its busy schedule, but focusing on the music alone is to miss the real magic of Farr, as those behind the event have taken extra care to ensure there’s a place for every mood. During the day punters can laze around in hammocks set amongst the network of pathways between each stage, in wooden huts decked out in sofas, or on overturned crates that bask in the sunshine. 

But it’s when the sun goes down through the tree lining and night-time descends that Farr really comes to life. The intimate setting gives the festival a back-to-basics rave feel, more akin to your mates throwing a really good party in the woods than the organised fun of many festivals. Signposts that direct to artist names rather than stages add to the event’s feeling of endless discovery, and the fact the music only runs for two and a half days means that the crowd energy never drops below the peak it reaches early in the weekend.

So here’s 5 tracks that show why getting lost in the woods with Farr Festival’s colourful characters is one of the standout weekends on the UK festival circuit…

Nosegrab ‘We Are’

Moomin’s album ‘A Minor Thought’ feels like it should have won more plaudits than it did when it landed in February, as one of the standout LPs of the year so far. And at the festival he proved himself an impeccable selector too, working his way through deep and groovy house sounds summed up perfectly by Nosegrab’s ‘We Are’.

Jeremy Underground
Liem ‘If Only’

Jeremy Underground built a two-hour masterclass on The Shack on Farr’s Friday night, blending a set that worked from the classic US deep house sounds of his My Love Is Underground imprint, through disco tinged tracks like Kenix feat. Bobby Youngblood’s ‘There’s Never Been (No One Like You)’, to the acid soaked Justin Cudmore cut ‘Crystal (Servito’s 730 Reshape)’. But it was the glorious sound of Liem’s Fusion Groove Orchestra sampling ‘If Only’ that saw smiles beam across every face on the dancefloor.

Palms Trax
Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better With You’

Palms Trax has quickly established his releases of Chicago tinged house as a go to for sure fire quality in the last three years, but for his set at Farr he rolled out a few surprises, including Josh Wink’s ‘Higher State Of Consciousness’, and a perfectly worked execution of this all-time Thomas Bangalter classic.

Mike Dunn pres. Mr. 69
‘Phreaky MF (Original Phreak mix)’

Chicago-based producer Mike Dunn has been producing house music for over 20 years, but none of his tracks come as big as ‘Phreaky MF’, which thanks to a Robsoul edit by French house maestro D’Julz earlier this year has seen a new lease of life this summer. So there couldn’t have been a more fitting end to the Hidden Palace’s intimate space than its delirious groove and downright filthy vocal line.

Chic ‘Everybody Dance’

Optimo played a set that ranged as wide an expanse of genre as it did timespan of electronic music, whilst somehow remaining cohesive and keeping the festival’s last men standing going for an hour over their scheduled slot until 5am. The eclectic nature of it could clear the dancefloor with less accomplished selectors on deck, but peaked with the perfectly chosen Chic ‘Everybody Dance’ as the last track of the festival. Sublime.

(Photo: Jake Davis and Michael Njunge for Here & Now)

Rob McCallum is DJ Mag’s digital news writer. Follow him on Twitter here.