As planned, I decided to travel eastward from London to the sleepy town of Kent to enjoy some fresh air and some British rock music. I chose wisely.
The 2nd Hop Farm Festival is a more modest-sized festival, compared to the behemoths Glastonbury, Reading or Leeds. The aim for attendance for the two days was 22,000, and I'm not a statistician but I felt that the population on festival grounds was half that. No matter, my big worry was the weather, and it turned out to be as perfect a day as you can ask -- low 70s and clear skies.
I gotta tell you that the whole day was relaxing and stress-free. With other festivals I've been to, you feel like you have to split yourself in two to see all the acts you want. There something wrong with the 200 bands in 3 days on 16 stages mentality. Sometimes, less is more. At Hop Farm, there's main stage for big acts, a circus tent for the small acts and a dance tent to hear 40 different remixes of La Roux's "In For the Kill."
When you book the big festivals, there's only a handful of acts that can draw in 60,000. At Hop Farm, they did well with getting all mid-to-slightly high profile acts with the Fratellis, Paul Weller, Doves, Editors and Echo and the Bunnymen. On Sunday, the day I flew back, Paul Weller was joined by Roger Daltrey. Figures, the freak out factor is 10 out of 10 on that one.
To get there, I took a commuter train that goes through a whole bunch of nothing -- maybe a sheep here and there. Then they had free buses to get to the farm. From the drop off point, I had to walk about a 3/4 of mile to get to the check-in point. In that time, I completely missed Howling Bells, the people who told me about the festival. That sucked.
The whole rest of the day, I got to chill for once on this short trip. I shot some bands, then had plenty of room to lay in the field. They had a lot of great food choices from traditional British foods (fish & chips, bangers, meat pies, pasties), curries, grilled stuff, lots veggies, milkshakes and the like. More importantly, I finally got a proper tea time in at 4pm while watching The View perform.
As compared to the crowd at Blur, the Hop Farm crowd were all mellow and friendly. Even the drunk punters, were nice to me -- "Oye, New Jersey ... BRUUUUUUCCCEEEE". The crowd became the most frenzied for The Pigeon Detectives and Fratellis.
Interesting enough, there were huge amounts of families, since this is a more subdued setting. They got to enjoy the carnival rides. Although, I don't think they took part in the herbal ecstasy and viagra. Good times.
The funniest thing I saw, besides the costumed super heroes, is that one out of every 10 attendees bought the cheap straw hats from the vendors. There were clothing vendors on site that pretty much sell all of the same cheap crap you can get at Portobello Road or Camden Lock. The 5 quid hats were very popular with the fashionable hipsters.
So all positive, peaceful feelings with my day in Kent. I'll do some individual posts on the bands this week including Fratellis, The Pigeon Detective, Florence and the Machine, Noah and the Whale, The Joy Formidable, White Denim, Echo and the Bunnymen and Ash.
Here's some atmosphere from the day.
As a side note...
LOOK AT THESE FUCKING SUPERHEROES
One of the different aspects of this festival was the charity soccer matches between bands. I wasn't sure if the bands actually played or just sponsored the team, but you had the option to take in some footie. I'd like to see that in the U.S. A touch football game between Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors -- the battle of the people who were picked last in gym class.