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Hop Farm Festival 2011

Venue: Paddock Wood, Kent
Date: 1st - 3rd July 2011

AMP’s coverage of summer festivals continues with Hop Farm festival. This is a relatively new festival with this year being its fourth year. In previous years the festival has attracted artists including, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Paul Weller, and Mumford and Sons. The festival aims to bring legendary acts together with new bands. The festival was founded by Vince Power who owned Mean Fiddler, the group behind Reading and Leeds. In stark contrast to Reading and Leeds, Hop Farm festival is advertised as being no VIP, no sponsorship, slogans or advertising. That statement alone ticks the boxes for me as to what a festival should be about.

On arrival at the site I was instantly impressed. The sun was shinning, sky was blue and the farm is in Kent in a beautiful location surrounded by trees. The staff that greeted us in the car park and at the ticket exchange were very helpful and friendly, something which always goes a long way. There is nothing worse than turning up at festivals to be greeted by grumpy stewards who just don’t want to be there and are more concerned with what you have got in your bags. Yes, they do have a little search in your bag at Hop Farm, but you get the impression they don’t really care what you have in there. With this being a small festival the car park was close to the campsite and the campsite was very close to the arena, you could walk the whole distance of the site in around 15 minutes. The toilets were even clean (well, by festival standards anyway) and I even managed to have a shower on the Saturday morning. The atmosphere around the festival during the weekend was just one of pure joy and happiness; people were there to have a good time, enjoy music and to relax in the sunshine.

The musical highlight of the festival was Morrissey, this is a man who divides opinion amongst music lovers. He even divides the opinion amongst staff at this magazine. He seems to be someone who you either love or hate. I fall into the love category. Morrissey is the greatest lyricist this country has produced. Morrissey is a man who has changed popular culture. His work as a solo artist and with The Smiths has had an influence on so many bands and will continue to do so for generations to come. Morrissey often gets accused of being miserable, but he was far from that at Hop Farm. He looked like a man who was loving every minute of his performance and he even smiled and laughed. He worked his way through a hit filled set from his solo work and 5 Smiths songs. ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ was one of those magical festival moments where you have goose bumps from your head to toe and every hair on your body tingles. Noel Gallagher once said that 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' should be the national anthem of this country and hearing it live you would have to agree. ‘Meat Is Murder’ was very intense and compelling and made you think twice about eating meat. The only negative of this performance was that it had to end. Morrissey finished with ‘Panic’ which sent people back to their tents in a very happy mood.

Quite the opposite of Morrissey was Friday night’s headliners The Eagles. Now I can’t make any claim of being a big Eagles fan, however I do know the hits and that is what I was expecting from a legendary band headlining a festival. Sadly, what we had was a band who just appeared bored and fed up of their own songs and were on stage just going through the motions. They opened with ‘Hotel California’. When a band open with their biggest hit it is not a good sign of things to come. Many of the crowd started to disperse, which on reflection is something I wish I had done. I can’t remember the last time I was so bored watching a performance and willing for it to end. This performance resulted in my wife wanting to go home and boycott her Eagles - Greatest Hits CD in protest.

Other highlights included The Bluetones who are working their way through an emotional farewell tour. Bryan Ferry also performed and wins the prize for having the most people on stage with him; I counted twelve at one point. James Walsh performed acoustically and reminded me how much I love ‘Good Souls’. Stornoway who have a sound that instantly draws comparisons to Mumford and Sons. Brandon Flowers proved that he has what it takes to make the transition from front man of a band to solo star. This is a singer full of confidence and is a modern day pop star. Death Cab For Cutie were completely faultless. When Magazine started their set I was unsure whether I liked them, by the end of their set I was completely captivated and I will be delving into their back catalogue. The Leisure Society and Guillemots worked their way through very enjoyable sets, and I indulged a guilty pleasure by watching 10cc, but it was great fun dancing in the sun to ‘Dreadlock Holiday’.

As far as weekends go Hop Farm was a perfect festival weekend which I did not want to end. The only negative side to this festival is the ticket prices, they are expensive and you have to pay per person for camping. However, if this is the price to pay in order to allow the festival to pay for big acts and have no sponsorship then I will happily pay a little extra. I just hope that as this festival grows and tries to compete with the other UK festivals, it manages to keep its intimate feel and remain independent.

Steve Tay

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