Hop Farm 2012
Bill Williams (words) and Sophie Barnett (pictures) headed down to Hop Farm, Vince Power's no-corporate weekender...
In its fifth year Hop Farm is still maintaining its principles and sticking to its guns. No branding, no sponsorship and none of those darn extra fees! Oh, and a pretty awesome line-up as well as all those itty bitty things that can make a festival the most magical of places to spend your extended weekend!
On the Friday the Big Tent was the place to be with Indie gloom rockers Howling Bells treating us to a last hurrah before their temporary hiatus (congratulations Juanita Stein) and they did not disappoint with ‘Cities Burning Down,’ ‘The Wilderness,’ and of course the excellent ‘Low Happening’ drawing in any stragglers by the scruff of the neck. The Futureheads also pulled out the greatest hits as well as some very interesting a capello tracks off of their recently released album ‘Rant.’ But moving into the night, it was quickly realised that the day belonged to The Stranglers, pulling out all the stocks with the usual suspects as well as a cover of all ‘All Day and all of the Night’ that Ray Davies must have heard from the main stage...awkward! Peter Gabriel had tough acts to follow and name alone was never going to save the day, the New Blood Orchestra and the light show were excellent but the performance could only be considered any good if you are a Peter Gabriel fan, an hour in I realised I wasn’t, an ideal cue for Ostrich Burgers and rollercoasters!
Saturday presented us with the best day of bands but also the hardest decision with Bob Dylan, Primal Scream and Peter Hook & The Lights all performing at the same time…what a dilemma! A surprising highlight of the day was Sir Bruce Forsyth who whilst being anything but cool played an excellent array of covers including ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and entertained the crowd as expected. The weekends best find belonged to ‘The Datsuns’ a band who have evaded me despite being around since 2000 and releasing 4 records. They are a modern day hard rock band with a widely touted live show and it certainly shows with an energetic performance and the band themselves being as tight as a camels arse in a sandstorm. Artrocker favourite Gary Numan wowed the big tent with a great lights show and a hypnotic lesson in all things electro-Industrial with crowd pleaser ‘Cars’ and finisher ‘Are Friends Electric’ really setting the mark high for Maximo Park.
Bob Dylan headlined the main stage and as a massive Dylan fan I knew what to expect unlike the majority which made the experience occasionally frustrating. There would be no ‘Blowing in the Wind’ or ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and there wouldn’t be the young Dylan with the Nasally protest songs. He has been replaced by a wily old fox who looks and sounds as mad as a hatter. With the short sharp expressive way he sings and the gesturing throughout songs as well as that crazed smile this reinvention of Bob Dylan is undoubtedly the most entertaining. With the constant progression and unpredictability of the man who can truly doubt the rumours of a Latin American sound on the impending new record?
Sunday brought lazing in the sun…and the odd shower with Athlete playing a charming enough set albeit a little mundane. King Charles brought extravagance and a real quirkiness and is certainly one to watch for in future. Richard Ashcroft was a real surprise winner of the day though with a Verve hits heavy set including ‘Sonnet’ ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ but also his own big hit ‘Break the Night With Colour.’ He also provided excellent observation commenting on the vegan stall next to a steak stall and a rant about the spelling and pronunciation of the word ‘Fucking’ (Fookin’) and when he uses it in interviews. It’s okay Richard – we fucking loved you! Suede of course closed the festival trawling through their expansive back catalogue to wow the crowd with hits like ‘Trash’ ‘Saturday Night’ and ‘Animal Nitrate.’ Brett Anderson was at his lively entertaining best and the time away from Suede has clearly done the whole band a lot of good. They also performed new song ‘Sabotage’ which was classic Suede and bodes well for the new record.
The overall experience of Hop Farm was an extremely positive one, not just due to the performance of the bands but also the excellent comedy tent which featured an amazing mix of high and low profile names including the in form Miles Kane, Andy Zaltzman, Simon Evans and the hilarious pirate antics of Jollyboat. Of course the main event is the line-up but the rollercoasters, quirky food, cider in the morning, Poo FM in Pootopia (giving a shit since 2002) and overall friendly organic local vibe of the festival made the line up all the more sweeter.