Welcome to Hop Farm 2011, Vince Power’s independent anti-corporate family festival. The sun is shining, The Man is sitting outside in his flashy suit after being well and truly stuck to and the impressive line-up sticks to head honcho Vince Power’s promise to mix “legends with contemporary acts.”
It’s like being at Glastonbury but without the dodgy drop toilets and mud-covered wellies. In fact, you could walk from one end of the festival to the other in fifteen minutes and still have time to put your feet up on the way.
Just take a stroll through the campsite: the young (kids under 12 go free) and the old, the rich and the poor and even City and United fans come together like the biggest family holiday imaginable, and it’s all for the music.
And if that’s not your bottle of water (it’s hot, you’ll need a lot of it), just check out what’s on offer.
Dallas Green’s City and Colour (5/10) are the first ‘real’ band of the festival, but despite the raw sex appeal of the tattooed frontman the performance is nothing special and the crowd seems more excited by the sunshine than by the music.
10cc do the ‘Wall Street Shuffle’ and sing, “I don’t like Hop Farm, I love it” but are sadly stopped short during their finale thanks to a power cut, only to return ten minutes later. Death Cub For Cutie (5/10) start strong but drift into self-indulgent jams and by the end it’s only the elite fans paying attention.
The Killers’ singer Brandon Flowers (7/10) owns the stage like Robbie Williams (back when he was good), but the highlight of the set is when, between performing tracks from debut album ‘Flamingo’, he invites bandmate Mark Stoermer to john him on bass for ‘Can You Read My Mind?’ Predictably, he does ‘Mr. Brightside’ too sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry (8/10) proves he’s earned his CBE last month with a hit-filled set including covers of ‘All Along the Watchtower’, Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ and John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’.
The first night is capped by The Eagles (7/10) who open with greatest hit ‘Hotel California’ saving ‘Desperado’ for their finale. Their performance is satisfying, but not sublime. In the words of Eagles fan Chuck Mayo: “there’s just something missing”.
Saturday starts strongly, with Slough lads Viva Brother (8/10), fresh from a name change, proving that they really could be “the future of music”. They take the stage like it’s a country to be conquered and by the end it’s occupied territory, but not for long. Newton Faulkner (10/10) delivers a flawless performance, accompanying himself with a high-tech pedal that lets him play drums and strings with his feet and sing along with a cassette tape (remember those?). Singalong renditions of ‘Dream Catch Me’ and Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ plus a cover of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’ give him a genuine reason for his contagious smile.
Punk songstress Patti Smith (6/10) follows Faulkner’s example with an acoustic set including harp and violin saluting, “the great voices that we have lost.” Despite urging the audience to take a stand for themselves and embodying the festival’s anti-corporate ethos, the artist, poet and performer is almost over-shadowed by the talent that follows.
No, not by Lou Reed (4/10), though – the Velvet Underground frontman doesn’t seem to care much, ignoring shouts from fans to “play something we know”. Even his version of John Lennon’s ‘Mother’ fails to wow the masses, who can’t believe he didn’t take advantage of the sunshine to play ‘Perfect Day’.
Luckily, Iggy and the Stooges (8/10) are on hand to save the day. Wearing the shirt that he was born in (i.e. none) and a pair of tight leather jeans, his on-stage insanity spreads to the crowd and causes a crush at the front. By now, the security team is handing out cups of water to the sweltering crowd as ‘Wanna Be Your Dog’ sparks crowd surfers and threatens to cause a riot. But next time, Iggy, play ‘Lust For Life’ as well.
And as if there weren’t enough big names on the Saturday billing, Morrissey (9/10) is a Light That Never Goes Out, performing an anthemic set including ‘This Charming Man’, ‘Meat Is Murder’ and ‘First Of The Gang To Die’ to a packed farm, a fitting end to the legends day of the festival.
Aloe Blacc (7/10) kicks off Sunday proceedings with a hefty dose of soul. He spreads the love by encouraging the audience to hug, shake hands and call their mother to tell her they love her. It doesn’t last long, though – Eliza Doolittle‘s (5/10) music struggles to get across in a live setting and a dry cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade’ almost drives everybody away.
But they’re back in droves for Tinie Tempah (6/10), who comes on 20 minutes late and performs a hit-filled set to a lethargic audience, though ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ and encore ‘Pass Out’ are enough to inject some life back in to the sweaty masses.
And that’s it for Hop Farm 2011, we’ll see you next year. Oh wait, almost forgot for the reason most people are here: Prince (8/10). The star turns up for his first ever UK festival appearance, with all other entertainment drawing to a close to make it as massive as humanly possible. Joined by Larry Graham and performing hits like ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘To Make You Feel My Love’, the singer-songwriter filled the holes that Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix left behind, though three encores is excessive even for the Prince.
The fourth Hop Farm Festival draws to a close on a (comparatively) cold night, leaving festival-goers wondering who’s next? Few festivals attract acts like Neil Young, Van Morrisson, Bob Dylan, Prince and Morrissey in their first five years – the future’s bright for Hop Farm.