Hop Farm Festival 2011 Review

Hop Farm Festival is an annual festival with a specific aim of a return to ‘back to basics’ organisation with no sponsorship, branding or VIP attitudes.  There is a mix of new and old in their line ups with a focus around folk and independent music. Normally there is only Friday and Saturday but this year a Sunday slot was opened suddenly due to the headlining of Prince.  For such a small festival the line up was impressive.  On the Friday the Eagles headlined and their most well known song ‘Hotel California’ was brilliant.  Brandon Flowers, more well known as a band member of The Killers performed a good solo set while also including the classics from The Killers such as ‘Mr Brightside’ which brought back memories for the majority of the audience.  The Human League played the Big Tent and the mix of strobe lighting and projections added to their electronic music with hits such as ‘Don’t you want me’. Death Cab for a Cutie played the main stage to many fans and ended on their song for the Twilight: New Moon movie which got a few teenage cheers.

Hop Farm is a good first time festival, there aren’t a huge amount of numbers, it’s fairly family friendly and the most extreme you will encounter is excited hippies, the food is good, and for a festival the toilets aren’t too shabby.   Another plus of Hop Farm is the price, now I am by no means saying these prices are cheap, but in the world of festivals with similar line ups they are.  A day ticket is £70 and a weekend is £125 with additional cost of camping.

Saturday was the big day for many festival goers who bought their tickets before the announcement of the ‘Prince day’ and headliners included Morrissey, Lou Reed, Iggy and the Stooges and Patti Smith.  Other great acts of the day included Newton Faulkner who played an acoustic set which showed off his amazing voice and guitar skills, he played many songs from his well-known album ‘Handmade By Robots’.  Little known band called ‘The Leisure Society’ played in the Bread and Roses stage and proved themselves well.  They are a folk band with some resemblance to Mumford and Sons, a key difference is the inclusion of a fiddle and a flute.  I believe we will hear more from them soon, the crowd at the stage were very enthusiastic and they seem to already have many fans.  The first of the headliners to perform was Patti Smith with a half-hour acoustic set.  She lived up to her name and reputation with her songs and I personally found her as one of the most enjoyable acts.  She sang her most well known song ‘Because the Night’ which was a great opportunity for a sing along and also sang a song called ‘Gloria’ which I thought was just a really good song. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO9eUDOlyeU )

Patti Smith was followed by Iggy Pop and The Stooges which was one of the most enthusiastic, mad, audience involving sets I’ve ever seen.  Iggy’s presence, attitude (and half-nakedness) made the set and in one of his songs he brought a small group of the audience onto the stage (rebelling against health and safety like a true rock and roll legend) and for another song the camera moved across the audience onto the big screen and one girl, seeing herself up on the big screen decided to flash the rest of us.  All of this atmosphere made it one of the most epic and exciting sets.  Iggy Pop said ‘now its time for you guys out there to watch some real music’ at the beginning of the set which sums up his attitude and to be honest cockiness.  Iggy and the Stooges may not be the best singers or musicans but they know how to entertain an audience and make a memorable show.

Lou Reed followed and though he had been highly anticipated his set seemed to lack and many thought it went on too long, this meant many people migrated to the Bread and Roses stage to watch The Leisure Society.  The final act of the Saturday was Morrissey.  In a style typical of his character he kept us waiting, his set was meant to begin at 9 but instead of playing to his fans Morrissey began the set with a 16 minute long montage of old videos which appeared to have no relevance.  This received some negative response from the audience but the majority of fans were patient.  He sang his own solo songs mainly such as ‘You’re the one for me, Fatty’, ‘Everyday is like Sunday’, ‘First of the Gang to die’ and many more.  One of the more controversial songs ‘Meat is Murder’ was made visual with red flood and moving images on a large sheet of material.

Morrissey also performed some Smiths classics which had a very warm reception from fans.  The highlights were ‘This Charming Man’, ‘There is a light that never goes out’ and ‘I want the one I can’t have’.

As well as the billed live acts there were many other types of music there.  Live music ends at 11pm on the main stage and from then on there are ‘indie raves’ in the Big Tent, many smaller acoustic music acts on the acoustic stage and comedians.  Even during the day you can get little surprises.  While I was at Hop Farm I encountered many small live bands who bought their own instruments to play independently in the camping village and provide entertainment.  It is this value for entertainment,  appreciation and support for small bands that sets Hop Farm out as a great festival.

Overall Hop Farm Festival is a amazing festival which has an interest in all the right things.  It creates an atmosphere of festivals from the 60’s and 70’s with its interest in letting people lose themselves in the musics.  Hop Farm is suited to anyone who wants to go for a festival for a good time.  While there I saw older people who had come for music they had loved in the 70’s, children who had come for the atmosphere with their families, it has something for every age group.  However I do think the fact there were more teenage boys wearing trackies was down to the addition of Tinie Tempah to the line up on the Sunday. And how many other festivals have shuttle buses that are buses from the 50’s and 60’s…

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