Barn on the Farm Saturday 7th July, 2018

As the weekend fans filled the campground, fans present for the intimate sessions at Barn on the Farm were emerging from their tents. Weary from a day or two of music, the energy was revived as the newcomers bounded in jovially. As the sun beat down, persistent in its punishment of heat, the stages opened revealing another glorious day of music.

We started our day in the morning catching singer songwriter Plested on the Outdoor stage. With a beautifully textured voice and smooth acoustic guitar rifts Plested opened the day with a relaxing vibe, the perfect introduction to what would be an insane day. Ten Tonnes and Stereo Honey were up next; battling stage times the two acts pumped up the energy with slight rock and blues sounds. Ten Tonnes, brother of Birmingham Live favourite George Ezra, roused fans with his mixture of bluesy singer songwriter songs and sprinklings of rock. Pulling from what seems like another era, Tonnes resounding voice boomed around the main stage, filling the stifling morning air. On the other end of the farm lively Stereo Honey filled fans with liveliness as they bounced around the stage, playing hit after hit.

After a short respite OUTLYA took to the outdoor stage. Last year was the first time I had heard OUTLYA, and well you can say its been a bit of a love affair ever since. Their infectious energy paired with intermixing sound makes OUTLYA a truly spectacular force. At the farm last year the boys tore down the stage, releasing bombastic waves of sound that stunned and entertained, so we had high expectations for this year. Luckily for fans in attendance OUTLYA once again delivered a slew of high-octane songs.

Playing through their impressive discography with songs like ‘Heaven,’ ‘Volcano,’ and recent addition ‘White Light’ the lads absolutely annihilated their set, creating a vortex of liveliness and sound that created a nonstop dance party. Leaving us breathless but wanting more, OUTLYA proved why they are a Barn on the Farm fan favourite.

Needing a bit of a cool down after spending all our energy at the OUTLYA show we headed to the main stage to catch Aquilo. With an indie acoustic vibe the duo, backed by their band, delivered an emotionally raw and heartfelt show that was both parts awe inspiring and compelling. Lewis Watson continued this emotional vibe, pulling fans to the Barn stage. As is typical, Watson paired stripped back guitar tunes with fan immersion, creating a euphoric atmosphere that was simple but stunning.

The powerhouse Toms ended the night. Filling the main stage the first Tom up was Tom Walker. Birmingham Live readers are no stranger to Tom Walker; we first saw him take the Sunset Lounge stage and later Castle and Falcon and O2 Institute, but we had never seen him grace such a large stage with such a massive crowd.

Walker’s gravely voice and uptempo pop acoustic sound however did not disappoint, no matter the size or the crowd Walker always seems to deliver both on the banter and on the music. Playing the hits we all love Walker curated an emotional rollercoaster that was highlighted by singles ‘Leave a Light On’ and ‘Just You and I.’

The second Tom to grace the main stage, and the headliner of Saturday evening, was another fan favorite Tom Grennan. Like Walker, we have in many ways seen Tom Grennan grow from the Sunset Lounge to the Institute and now to his headlining slot at Barn on the Farm. It has been the year of Toms! Backed by a full band including a three-piece brass section Grennan sauntered on to the stage with undeniable swag. Playing hits like ‘Found What Ive Been Looking For’ and ‘Sober’ Grennan wowed fans with his intense sound and style. Along with the singles, Grennan also played a slew of songs from his newly released debut album, a real treat as fans heard the songs live just one day after the album dropped! Of course Tom did not just sing his own tunes, he also sang numerous renditions of the football anthem, a perfect way to celebrate not only the festival evening but also the World Cup win!

Saturday was a perfect balance of heat and relaxation, both with the weather and with the sets. Intermixing acoustic sets with rock sets with blues sets, the Saturday of Barn on the Farm capitalized on what makes the festival such a perfect and brilliant festival.

Gig of the Day: Sunset Sons

Saturday had a slew of insanely amazing sets, and yet one stood out from the rest making it an easy choice for Gig of the Day. A handful of years ago an album by Sunset Sons crossed my desk and after playing it once I was automatically hooked. The songs immediately brought me back to early morning surf sessions, a mixture of rock and elongated ambience the sound that was seeping through was the perfect anytime sort of sound that you automatically reach for. A bit story telling, a bit anarchical rock, a bit chill indie vibes, it is a concoction of sound that matches each mood and every style. With much anticipation we sauntered to the main stage at Barn on the Farm to experience what would become an insane stand out show.

In cinematic quality Sunset Sons creates massive tunes that are charged with sweeping sound and licking lyrics. After the release of their first album the guys had an insane touring schedule that basically had them on the road non stop for a handful of years. After that they said they needed a break, after taking a little time off they found themselves back in the studio once again creating new music.

As we chatted before their Barn on the Farm set Rory, Jed and Pete described their process of curating new tunes. Pete relates that “after the madness of touring we chilled out for a few months, Rory got a home studio set up and we started writing a song every two or three days.” Huddled in a small studio in France during the winter the three wrote together, Jed remembering how they wrote about 40 songs, taking their time to really hone in the sound they wanted for the next few releases.  While it may seem like they wrote in abundance, Rory said that the process for this new body of work was more focused than previous session, “we knew what we wanted to do. On the first record even though we were writing songs we were learning our craft. This year it was just us three and we knew that we wanted it to be a certain way.”

What has come out of that small French studio is a bombastic sound, meaty and massive.

With “six people playing” the new stuff went in a “much bigger direction.” It is this growing in sound that is supremely visible in their live show. On the main stage Sunset Sons absolutely smashed it. Each song climbing in sonic brilliance and intensity the guys delivered hit after hit, a clear blaze of energy that the guys hinted at during our chat. Intermixing past favourites with new singles, the more frivolous jovial tunes joining with a darker more emphatic rock sound, it is clear that while the authenticity and ingenuity of the band is still present they have evolved in massive steps, curating a set that was mind boggling.

So what is next for the band? Luckily for fans it seems like some new music will be joining forthcoming EP ‘The River’ with Jed giving us some details about heading back into the studio in August. Along with that the guys also hinted at some possible tour dates, heading out in the new year. There is a clear hunger amidst the band, the hiatus that birthed a brilliant new sound has left them famished, an appetite that will only be filled on the road. With new sounds that continue the good energy and with a live show that is insanely brilliant Sunset Sons will no doubt have a smashing year ahead of them.

Ones to Watch: Kara Marni 

It is safe to say that the music market is saturated with pop artists. Blasting through the radio and filling the internet pop songs come to typify the sound that many listen to. It is then not only a difficult field to break into, but it is also a field that many approach with caution. Do we really need another pop singer? For many the answer may be ‘No,’ that is until they hear Kara Marni.

Kara Marni is an artist that mixes pop with soul and R+B, a truly honest and authentic voice in the midst of overproduction and opaqueness. Marni grew up singing, telling us that “I’ve always been singing, it was a natural progression for me from singing at family events to singing and writing for more.” Her years of experience and the intensity in which she approaches her craft have allowed her to hone her sound, ultimately funneling her years of practice into recently released EP ‘Love Just Aint Enough.”

Unlike many in her field, Marni is not only the voice you hear but she is also the voice that drives her lyrics. For this EP Marni went “into the studio with concepts and ideas to write about and saw where it went from there. It is a journey, writing, baring your soul. It is a vulnerable thing to do and it is cathartic at the same time.” Revealing her journey through love and loss Marni crafts songs that are transparent and moving, finding that fans easily connect and relate to every word she utters.

This ability to connect is something she appreciates, “when it comes to writing you have to be vulnerable otherwise people wont be able to feel or relate.” Clearly fans are hearing and relating, during her set at Barn on the Farm the new artist drew a crowd that did not merely sing along with her but was so invested in each lyric that they became the background sound.

It is this vulnerability mixed with Marni’s genuinely uptempo mixing of sound that makes her one to watch. While she may find herself in a genre that some deem inartistic, Marni crafts authentically real songs and places them within a framework that pushes out enjoyable tunes, making her an artist that should be listened to.

With a day this good what would Sunday bring? Our coverage continues tomorrow.

Reviewer and Photographer: Kylie McCormick


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