Like a Rolling Stone, Hop Farm festival gathers momentum each year and as far as we can see, still no moss in sight! Promoted and pushed on the fact of having no corporate sponsors and no VIP’s helps attract a more dedicated music fan to the 3 day festival in Paddock Wood. Last year we crowned this as the “Best Upcoming Festival” in The Giggies, so we were keen to see how it was progressing.
Just a quick look at the line-up and the mix of old and new artists on the bill does confirm, it’s all about the music! You can, however, see how there may not be enough to satisfy the more youthful and hedonistic of festival goers and a quick scan of the punters that have turned out this weekend kind of proves it.
Hop Farm never claims to be that trendy young festival anyway, and it’s serving its purpose as a weekend out for the family. Dad can sup up the ale on offer and cut up some air guitar moves to Ray Davies and Bob Dylan, Mum can get some much needed relaxation to the soulful sounds of Randy Crawford and Damien Rice whilst teenagers can ‘rock out’ in the Big Tent to the likes of Maximo Park and Primal Scream. This festival has it all.
Sir Bruce Forsyth, the most unlikely of artists to be gracing a festival main stage, keeps the crowd entertained *even if* it’s more to do with his catchphrases and bad comedy than the music. Little Barrie impress in the Big Tent as the 3 peice put in an exciting and guitar-rift-ripping rock display. The Datsuns, also keep that theme going and “Harmonic Generator” is the highlight.
The main stage has been saved for the legends and the soul soothing sounds of Randy Crawford’s “Street Life” is just the relaxing tonic needed when it arrives late afternoon. Patti Smith attracts a crowd and American singer songwriter Ben Kweller holds a captive audience in the Bread & Roses tent. Kweller displays shades of a certain 70+ legend set to headline the night, which maybe why many have decided to see what’s on offer. He’s much more than a warm up act however and interacts nicely with the crowd.
Performance of the day must go to the energetic Maximo Park. The band still proving that despite a few years away from the scene, they haven’t forgotten how to work a festival crowd. Paul Smith’s north eastern tones and poetic lyrical waxing keep the audience gripped as they plough through hits like ‘Velocity‘ & ‘By The Monument‘ from “Our Earthly Pleasures” to the earlier material like ‘Gone missing’ and ‘Apply some pressure’. That deathly silence falls over the tent when the band exit stage, as if a steam train has been and gone taking with it all festival fatigue and boredom.
By the time the headliners come, it’s safe to say, there is definitely and old young divide. Primal Scream, fresh from supporting The Stone Roses at Heaton Park the night before, carry on the good work of Maximo Park in the Big Tent. It’s the biggest crowd of the day here and Primal Scream are more than appreciative. Dylan on main stage puts in a great performance and pandering, as he should, to the crowd eventually with hits ‘Like a rolling stone‘ and “All along the watchtower“. An expected duet also with Patti Smith adds a nice dimension. Bob looks happy on stage and therefore so are the crowd, even if it’s somewhat dwindling as it seems people are desperate to beat the traffic on the way out.
This festival continues to grow and improve each year. You can tell that hard work and effort is put into making this festival about the music and it pays off. Vince Power is willing to pay big money to keep the lineup exciting and as long as they continue this and can maintain the exclusion of corporate sponsors, the real music fans will keep coming!