Punters looking for a festival in Britain are spoilt for choice these days: alongside the bastions of Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds, an army of medium sized events has sprung up over the last few years offering similar peace, love and overpriced food experiences, with the added draw of big headline acts. Hop Farm Festival in Kent, celebrating its fourth anniversary, boasts its lack of sponsorship and branding in an effort to adhere to the hippie, ethical ideal that always draws the florally bedecked teenage brigade, yet Saturday’s line-up also attracted an older crowd, deckchairs filling the main field to honour such golden oldies as Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed and Morrissey.
Newton Faulkner made the most of his early slot, encouraging audience members to pretend they were ‘pirates with rabies facing barbarian hordes’, and rousing the crowd by shouting, ‘Just because I’m one man with a guitar doesn’t mean I’m not allowed…jumping!’ Over in the next field, Graham Coxon of Blur fame entertained with music from his seven solo albums.
Back on the main stage Patti Smith, accompanied by Patrick Wolf on violin and harp, performed many of her old classics interspersed with strongly voiced political messages, finishing on a lively Gloria. Despite some technical problems, Guillemots, led by the flamboyant Fyfe Dangerfield, got the crowd going with an excellent set, including old favourites from their first album such as Made Up Love Song #43, introduced as ‘a song that’s vaguely about love’, and Through the Windowpane, alongside more recent hits.
Lou Reed is not someone you’d expect to please a crowd at a big festival, but few fans expected a set as self-indulgent as the one he provided. Barely acknowledging his audience, Reed led a large band through an odd selection of songs, shunning major hits such as Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day, and omitting tracks from seminal album Berlin altogether. Clearly reading his lyrics from screens at the bottom of the stage, each song was filled out with hefty introductory and concluding jamming, which grew tedious after the first few pieces. Towards the end of his hour he softened to include a stunning Sunday Morning and an uplifting Sweet Jane, but the inclusion of such songs as the obscure Temporary Thing from such a wide and acclaimed back catalogue at a festival sent a clear message of Reed’s lack of need or desire to win fans over.
As the sun finally went down, we were treated to a strange video on the side of the main stage, before Morrissey appeared to thunderous applause. With endearing humbleness (‘How do I follow Iggy?’) he launched into the first of many Smiths songs, I Want The One I Can’t Have. Over his long set we witnessed two shirt changes as well as a popular cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love, making up for this song’s earlier no-show (speculation as to whether Reed himself would appear was disappointed). There is a Light that Never Goes Out got the whole field singing along, and This Charming Man and even controversial Meat is Murder, which apparently bombed at Glastonbury, were received rapturously. ‘It’s the most civil, most sensible, the best music festival in the country!’ cried Morrissey. His more recent solo work also went down well, with hits such as First of the Gang to Die and Irish Blood, English Heart performed to perfection.
Leaving the main stage we stumbled across the end of Carl Barat’s set and were enticed into the Bread and Roses tent by the chords of Libertines classic Don’t Look Back Into The Sun. Halfway through, this song turned into Time For Heroes, before Barat gave up on this and announced his last song, So Long My Lover, which he began to bawl out without his microphone, teetering on the edge of the stage. Civil and sensible it may usually be, but Hop Farm Festival can always surprise.