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Hop Farm Festival 2009: Rated!


United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Daniel Fahey | 07 July 2009

Overall – 6/10

Vince Power, the festival mastermind behind the rejuvenation of Reading Festival in the late 90’s, marked his return to the industry after a contracted three-year hiatus with Hop Farm Festival in 2008. Now in it’s second year, the event, which promises no VIP area or sponsorship offers very little thrills as well. This year’s event is much like the ‘celebrity’ five-a-side matches taking place over by the third stage: a festival of two halves. Following an under-attended opening day that lacks an act of any real headline calibre and far too many middle bill bands, a Sunday with weather suited for the beach provides more musical oomph and around double the audience.

A laidback and family orientated crowd spend much of the weekend like human Guess Who, standing for the bands they want to see before collapsing back down into their picnic blankets and fold-up chairs when they finish. The festival could be ideal for families – small, flat site with good access – and there are a large number of them about, it’s just a shame that there is very little for the children to do.

The site – 6/10

Hop Farm’s modest site boasts one outdoor stage, which lacks punch sonically when the breeze picks up, a large dance tent that often lacks an audience but is brilliant when full and tiny third stage that allows the crowd to watch from the side as well as in front of it. There are two five-a-side football pitches tucked to one side with Big Brother-type celebrities working up as sweat and a small number of eateries that are interrupted by dodgems and other fairground rides. As it says on the tin, there are no VIP areas and no sponsorship, but there is plenty of room for relaxing and spreading out those picnic blankets.

Getting there and back – 8/10

Just an hour from London by car, the festival is in easy reach for those coming from the capital with the farm clearly signposted from nearby Paddock Wood. There are shuttle buses from Paddock Wood train station direct to the festival site, but the last train from the station on Sunday is around 9pm, which leaves those who choose not to camp with a predicament: miss the final acts or miss the train.

Atmosphere – 7/10

With so many families in attendance and some glorious weather over the weekend, there is a wonderful relaxing atmosphere during the festival. Those moshing are at the third tent or right at the front of the main stage and when the party goes off in the dance tent, it really does.

Music

Uppers

Doves – 8/10

Despite being a pre-occupied with Hellman’s Mayonnaise’s recent adverts looking similar to their backdrop, Doves are on sublime form on the main stage, drawing the biggest crowd of the weekend. ‘Black And White Town’ plods along joyfully, recent single ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ sits triumphantly in the middle of the set, while a samba ending to show close ‘There Goes The Fear’ shows the band’s fun side. Glorious.

2 Many DJs – 7/10
Dressed in dinner suits and bow ties, the Belgian duo are obviously expecting a party and despite not being the hosts, that’s exactly what they deliver. A hit-heavy set of drilling vocals and building snares are punctuated with remixes of Dizzee Rascals’ ‘Bonkers’ and The Gossip’s ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ are the type of tracks that keep the packed tent here until the end. Heavy hangovers expected in the morning.

Kissy Sell Out – 7/10

Much like a five-year old that’s scoffed too many Smarties (no, that’s not a ecstasy euphemism) Kissy Sell Out fidgeted, bounced and sweated his way through a high-energy DJ set that left a swelling crowd panting for breath. Jack Penate’s ‘Today’s Tonight’, ‘Where’s My Money’ by TC and Kidda ‘Under The Sun’ all get sped up, distorting the voices, but when Super Furry Animals are doing their best to bore the crowd to death, it’s a welcome remedy.

Fight Like Apes – 7/10
One of the most frenetic sets of the weekend, an explosive Fight Like Apes shared their angst punk with a small crowd ripping through ‘Tie Me Up With Jackets’ before pulling out an anthemic ‘Lend Me Your Face’, which harks back to ‘Cheated Hearts’ days of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Paul Weller – 6/10
Weller’s continuation from national treasure to dad rock favourite took a step in the right direction again during his Sunday night headline set. Smooth and clear, Weller just sounds like he is on record these days as he runs through a stylish ‘From The Floorboards Up’ and gleaming ‘Changing Man’. Newer material like ’22 Dreams’ and ‘Carry Me Home’, however, sit slightly uneasy against classics like pre-solo work ‘Shout To The Top’ in a very inoffensive set.

Downers

Burn the Negative – 4/10

One of the only live acts in the dance tent Burn the Negative can also expect to be one of the last. Producing the cheesy electro numbers that might feature on the Mighty Boosh, the skinny-jeans clad lads are sickly at best. ‘Camden’ may poke fun at trendy London kids, but their Human League kickbacks are hardly fall far from the same nest.

Random events

Coors, good God, what is it good for?

It’s a situation most of us have experienced - some parents that want to stay out a bit later and the children become tired and irritable. Cue a war between a crew of five year olds that escalates from cardboard pint glasses being thrown at one another to one boy getting hit in the face with a lager can. Just to make sure he’s got his parent’s attention he bashes himself in the face with it a couple of times for good measure.

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