Hop Farm Festival
Hop Farm, Kent
July 1 – July 3, 2011

In the history of modern music festivals, few line-ups could compare with the distinctly 70’s flavoured action offered at the Hop Farm Festival last weekend. While The Eagles were wheeled out of retirement as headliners on the first night, the purportedly Morrissey-curated second day included such rock pantheon artists as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Patti Smith. All in all, it’s a jaw-dropping stroke of genius, with Morrissey having the hardest of acts to follow the swathe that these three so cleanly cut through the Kent countryside. Oh, and did we forget to mention Prince was there too?

What was a first class trouble-free festival it was, where the sun shined and the simple train ride from London to Kent and back again was painless and preferable (campers we are not). With a line-up leaning toward some of the most iconic groups and artists of the 70/80’s, the audience was considerably on the mature side, as witnessed by the amount of folding chairs that arced their way around the main stage, watching Australian pub rock legend Jimmy Barnes shake a little life into the midday crowd with “No Second Prize” and “Good Times” to the satisfaction of flag-waving expatriates, god love him. If anything displayed the sheer uniqueness of Hop, Barnesy was simply a warm-up.

Destiny’s Child and cricket lovers worldwide know how great 10cc are, and as such was the anticipation as they worked their up to the joyfully absurd “Dreadlock Holiday” and the ultimate cheesy kiss-off love song “I’m Not In Love”. Even though the sound system was not on their side (they blew the power twice with their sheer awesomeness), how could anyone go through their life without saying they saw 10cc? Honestly. Much like Bryan Ferry, fresh from singing at Kate Moss’s wedding, who’s “Let’s Stick Together” seemed all the more apropos on the day. Having never seen eye to eye with 70’s soft-rock desperados The Eagles, Glenn Frey and Co. did the mildly curious a solid by playing “Hotel California” first, thus allowing us to wander over to watch Sheffield synth-pop royalty, The Human League, who with a healthy airing of Dare and an audience sing-along to “Don’t You Want Me” and “Together In Electric Dreams” finale failed to put a foot wrong.

After decades of hearing band after band cover Velvet Underground songs, it was a delight to watch Lou Reed remind everybody that it all started with him and such unforgettable songs like “Sunday Morning” and “Femme Fatale” (What no “Walk On The Wild Side”?). Earlier in the day, Patti Smith with Lenny Kaye and Patrick Wolf on violin and harp played a short acoustic set that was no less rock n’ roll than when she is electric, certainly if their finale of “Gloria” was anything to go by. The Stooges once again showed themselves as being the originators of primal rock n’ roll, slamming through “Search And Destroy” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” while Iggy Pop played the inveterate troublemaker, inviting the crowd to climb over the barriers to join him on stage to the utter horror of the festival security.

Headliner Morrissey had his work cut out but rose to the occasion, throwing out a nod to Lou Reed with his cover of “Satellite Of Love” and balancing the set with past solo glories (“Every Day Is Like Sunday” and “Irish Blood, English Heart”) and The Smiths dalliances (“This Charming Man” and “Panic”). While he may have managed to outshine his idols via the support of his travelling fanbase, it was the artist currently known as Prince who claimed victory at Hop Farm. Despite coming on stage 45 minutes late in what was to be a mammoth 2 hour plus show, the all-in-white purple one worked the crowd through medleys of past hits (“Let’s Go Crazy”, “Little Red Corvette and “1999”), a cover of a “song by Sinead O’Connor”, before turning Hop Farm into a one long funkadelic dance party via re-workings of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and “I Want To Take You Higher”. Prince, you made it look so easier. Hop Farm, let’s do this again soon.