The past four years has seen Paddock Wood play host to Hop Farm; an alternative to the more commercial summer festivals. Brainchild of Vince Powers, this event prides itself on its non-corporate attitude- no sponsorship, no branding and no VIP, it’s about bringing the ownership of the festival back to the music, our very own modern day Woodstock reincarnate.
It is this stance which has attracted a consecutive line up of iconic headliners such as Dylan, Blondie, Van Morrison and Neil Young but it was this year’s event that included the ultimate of household names, the god fathers of music, the makers of Rock’n’Roll, Funk and Pop, The Eagles, Bryan Ferry, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Morrissey, Larry Graham and the one and only Prince, who all took to the main stage over the course of the weekend.
In between the legends were emerging talents such as Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, The Secret Sisters, Imelda May and Sound of Rum, established acts such as Brandon Flowers, Graham Coxon, Newton Faulkner, Aloe Blacc, Carl Barat and chart raiders Eliza Doolittle and Tinie Tempah.
Friday night saw golden oldies Bryan Ferry and The Eagles warm up the crowd with hits such as ‘Slave to Love’ and ‘Hotel California’ yet it was not until Saturday that the atmosphere became truly electric – the expectations of the nights line up aiding the festival spirit. Patti Smith brought the 70s back to life, interspersing her acoustic set with flower-child speeches willing the audience to ‘be proud, be free, be clean’.
She was a fantastic precursor for Lou Reed who did what he does best – gravelly ramblings upon erratic, unpredictable compositions; his renditions of ‘Femme Fatale’ and ‘Sweet Jane’ brought the audience to a standstill. The tempo and energy was then raised drastically by the bare chested sexagenarian that is Iggy Pop, who covered every inch of the stage like a man possessed, inviting fans up to join him during ‘Shake Appeal’; although his appearance is uncannily like his rubbery alter ego he still had enough appeal to cause a barrage of girls to shed their bras and dance topless.
After Pop’s wild performance Morrissey appeared on stage, questioning whether he could follow such an act, maybe worrying his morose musings would ruin the frenzied atmosphere. However he sweated through a passionate set which included ‘Meat is Murder’, a tremendous cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite’ and classics such as ‘Charming Man’.
But it was Prince that stole the show on Sunday night, audience numbers doubled in size and purple balloons and ribbons could be seen in the arms of most fans. Sauntering onto the stage 45 minutes later than scheduled, dressed head to toe in white he was accompanied by a band of beautiful female virtuosos. His performance was utter perfection, otherworldly, and one of the greatest shows to grace a stage. With so many songs to get through in 2 hours he played medleys of his classics exclaiming “Do you know how many hits we’ve got? We’ll be here ’til this time next year”. However the audience were privileged to witness full versions of ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Kiss’ and ‘1999’ as well as covers such as ‘Play that Funky Music’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough’.
Throughout the set Prince cried ‘this is real music and these are real musicians’ but it was so much more than that. He’s still got the looks, the moves, the funk, the talent and the best band around, and on top of that he was grateful to have such an adoring audience at his feet. For anyone that missed his set, commiserations.
How Hop Farm will top this year’s show is already being anticipated, I myself am hoping Fleetwood Mac, Bowie and The Rolling Stones will be on 2012’s bill….guess we will just have to wait and see!
Read our review of last year’s festival here.