Hop Farm Festival 1-3 July 2011
July 6, 2011, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Festival Reviews

I have never been lucky enough to attend Glastonbury, but the experience of the Saturday and Sunday headliners at the Hop Farm had the calibre I would expect of Glasto and blew me away.  I attended Hop Farm last year to see Bob Dylan and also thoroughly enjoyed Ray Davies, Mumford and Sons and Seasick Steve to name a few.  This Festival is unique in offering a  cosy vibe juxtaposed with massive artists and it won’t stay that way for long, especially after Prince put Paddock Wood on the map with his epic Sunday evening performance.

My Saturday began mid afternoon against the backdrop of Howard Devoto’s late 70s band Magazine setting the punktastic vibe for the afternoon/evening.  Patti Smith followed with a stunning set that was as fresh and raw as she always had been; somehow combining  openness and vulnerability with effortless sex-appeal.  The energy around the stage and beyond was electrifying and euphoria was evident particularly as the crowd sang along to hits such as ‘Because the Night’ and ‘Gloria.’  Being near to the stage and surrounded by new friends made this performance of the day for me, (well except Morrissey!!!)

I was eagerly anticipating Lou Reed and hoping for a good ol’ singalong to ‘Perfect Day’ (any excuse to sing to the boyfriend…) or even to take a ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ but just like Dylan last year; Reed was not going to play ball and sing the songs everybody knows!  A shaky and at times bewildered looking Lou Reed gave Hop Farm moments of beauty and energy with sprinklings of stumbling over the words.  But hey, it was during his Velvet Underground covers so we all know the words anyway, and the Festival atmosphere plus the fact we were accompanying the one and only Lou Reed made it a compliment to the evening bill.

As soon as The Stooges frontman’s leathery torso crossed the border of the wings, the crowd at Hop Farm surged violently towards the stage, encouraged by Iggy himself, who invited several Festival-goers onstage.  I was about 4 rows from the front and at one moment determined to dive in myself, but after seeing some of the battle wounds I am glad I didn’t!  However, being caught in the energetic mosh pit for a while was really fun and apt for the high-octane performance.  Iggy is the best frontman I have seen live, well as I say that, I forget I have Prince as a contender but at this point in my life he was and even if you couldn’t hear the music, his moves are really something else!

I didn’t even consider my sins as I called myself an avid Smith’s fan and tucked into an £8.50 steak sandwich before Morrissey.  Of course it slightly repeated on me during ‘Meat is Murder.’  The crowd got a bit sour at the front of the crowd which was a shame so I enjoyed the majority of the gig from a bit further afield.  Morrissey had clearly changed his tune a bit since Glastonbury and was very interactive with the crowd and hailed Hop Farm as ‘the best Festival left in the UK.’   He performed a good mix of solo stuff and a few Smith’s choons, which is to be expected, but I would have liked more Smith’s.  Saying that his performance was solid and I enjoyed ‘You’re the one for me Fatty’ and ‘Irish Blood, English Heart.’  Most memorable moment was the spine-tingling rendition of ‘There is a light that never goes out.’

For the encore, he popped back for ‘This Charming Man’ which was super.

Saturday was rounded off with a bit of comedy, notably Stewart Lee who had a giggle about Lou Reed’s performance.  Shame he was only on for 20 mins.

Saturday night reminded me why not to use a pop-up tent that says it’s for 2 but means perhaps a small child and a puppy, especially when your boyfriend is 6″4′!

However, I was also reminded of how fickle I can be as I moved from hating the cold condensation dripping inside the tent to finding it a relief on the hot Sunday morning.

Sunday’s line up looked like someone had used Burrough’s cut-up technique on a range of acts as shockingly Tinie Tempah proceeded Prince.  Converting this into a positive factor, we used the time to move the car and put down the tent (as well as you can put down a pop-up tent – do NOT buy one!)  Before Prince, I enjoyed Big Deal earlier in the day (for a full review of them – check out my Great Escape blog here.)  They were followed by Tall Ships, a 4-piece energetic electro band, layering catchy and irresistibly danceable loops with sharp vocals.  Check out Books.

I lounged on the grass to the backdrop of Eliza Doolittle during the day and enjoyed Larry Graham with his passionate session musicians and iconic white suit.

However it was clear by the abundance of purple; ribbons, balloons, catsuits, you name it that everyone was there for Prince.

I was gutted I forgot my raspberry beret.  I’ve never worn it and I think I missed my opportunity to rock it.

Fashionably late onto the stage, but worth the wait, Prince and his highly talented female band managed to pull off precarious outfits, comments digging at the day’s bill ‘This is real music’, audience interaction, pouting into the camera, around 4 octaves and approximately 5 encores.  The incredible set was daring, it was camp, it was fun, it was iconic and it will be forever imprinted in my mind as one of the most epic and thrilling performances I have experienced.

He combined medleys of his hits alongside ones where he asked the audience ‘Can we take a little more time on this one?’

‘Purple Rain’ was incredible with an explosion of shiny purple paper over the crowd, so light that it floated over for the duration of the song.

Prince’s performance was enhanced by his connection with his audience and was a brilliant end to an amazing line-up, carried by such iconic musicians of our time.  It was an honour to experience them.

What a shame about the 2 hour queue to get out of the car park!


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Legendary post Barnaby!

Comment by Ali

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