Farm Fest IX at Lawns Farm

We have had a really busy summer. It seems like nearly every weekend we’ve been booked to play a birthday party, a wedding reception or a garden party. Back in July we played the Hathersage Gala for the first time. Then there was the Glastonbury themed garden party, followed by a string of 50th birthday parties. Yes, we’ve been busy boys.

It is so very different to last year. We emerged in spring from lock down with an all but empty calendar and no lead singer. Our former frontman, James, had a personal recalibration during the pandemic and found that juggling work, panto and band duties was just too much. It was an amicable split, and in many ways it was a good time to make the break, but it did leave us with a quandary – Do we chuck it in the bin or scrap off the burnt bits and see if Toast can be saved?

Some of us felt it had run its course but he was ridiculed, derided and silenced. So it was that we put out the word that Sheffield’s second best bread based 90s and 00s cover band (Rage Against the Muffin are killing it at the moment), were in the market for a new frontman. And low it came to pass that we did organise three auditions at Attic Studios and saw a total of nine talented singers.

Andy assured us that the right person for the job would leap out at us when we found them. How right he was. Ben had missed his original audition slot due to traffic but he sent us a video of him performing with his former band Greta Nova. It was the captivating, energetic performance in this video that meant that we had to give him a second chance. Following that final session on the 17th of July 2021 the decision was unanimous – Ben was the frontman we’d been looking for.

It was shortly after our frontman hunt had concluded that I received a phone call from Farm Fest VIII organiser Katy. She invited us to perform at their festival at Lawns Farm in the Yorkshire countryside, just outside Rotherham on the 29th of August. We had thought that our next gig was a wedding in October so up until this point we’d all felt like there was plenty of time for Ben to learn the 24 songs that typically make up two 50 minutes sets. None of us had anticipated that Ben’s first gig with us would be a 90 minute set with no break, at a festival in front of 2500 people. Talk about a baptism of fire.

Nelly's 30th Birthday

Nelly’s 30th Birthday

What we really needed was a smaller, low pressure gig so that Ben could find his feet and we could gel as a band. On the 29th of July our prayers were answered when Nelly asked us to perform at her 30th birthday party at the Cutlery Works in Sheffield. Nelly, a guitarist, was hoping to have her friend’s band play but that fell through. She asked if she could perform a couple of numbers with us and we couldn’t say no to the birthday girl. The gig went perfectly and suddenly Farm Fest didn’t seem like quite such a daunting task.

That said, it was still daunting. A solid 90 minutes of back to back songs is no small feat. It would be the longest set any of us had done as a band. To compound the issue, with a week to go, another band on the bill told us 5 of the songs on our set list clashed with theirs. This left us with 25 minutes to fill with new material. Too much pressure can crush a person, but just enough can focus the mind and lead to great results. In this instance the latter was true and the gig went swimmingly. There were a few bumps but that hour and a half few by. In fact we had to miss a couple of numbers out because we ran out of time. We left the stage with the audience dancing and a quiet sense that we’d not just got away with it, but crushed it.

Toast at Farm Fest VIII at Lawns Farm

Farm Fest VIII

The proof that we’d done a good job in 2021 came when we received a message from Katy in July inviting us to perform at Farm Fest IX. With 12 months of gigs with Ben under our belts and a polished setlist the trepidation that plagued our waking lives in the run up to Farm Fest last year was significantly attenuated. Being familiar with the layout and the general protocol of the event made for a far more relaxed affair and although there were still some nerves, we knew beyond doubt that we could deliver the goods.

The stage was much larger this year and topped with a bulls head that occasionally snorted dry ice from its nostrils. As ever the sound team were very efficient and professional and did a great job of making sure that the music from the stage carried across the field to the 2500 festival goers.

I arrived halfway through a great set from Doppleganger, a local three piece rock band. Their set included What’s Going On by Four Non Blondes, Zombie by the Cranberries, Run by Pink and Summer of ’69 amongst many other guitar classics. Following them were The Mavericks who pumped out a relentless stream of back to back classics from the 50s right through to the present day.

At 15:45 it was our turn to take to this new, larger stage. The extra room was much appreciated and Ben made sure he did it justice with much strutting, striding and prancing about. There were also a couple of heroic leaps over the haybales fronting the stage into the crowd during opportune moments in the set. I almost wish something had gone wrong, dear reader, so I could regale you with a tale of bitter misfortune and herculean triumph over ill fate and foul luck but alas… the 90 minute set flew by without a gremlin in sight.

We already have Farm Fest X pencilled in on the last weekend in August 2023, let’s hope they ask us back.