There were about half a dozen acts I was looking forward to seeing over the weekend of the Hop Farm festival, which doesn’t sound much, but that was just the known quantities, there were loads of other people playing who could be of interest.
Looking at the running orders of the three stages, there was only one obvious clash, which was that Dylan and Primal Scream were headlining on different stages on the Saturday. So I’d have to miss The Scream Team, which was a shame, because I was looking forward to my display of Bobby Gillespie Dancing for the good people of and visitors to Kent. Bobby Gillespie Dancing probably still carries the death penalty in many Arab states (not even he pulls it off very well,) and I was sad to forego my moment in the sun, but I wasn’t going to miss Dylan.
As promised, it was indeed a twenty minute drive to Paddock Wood and we got parked up in a field, next to another field, which abutted several other fields. I don’t like fields; they’re in the country and I’m from the city. I get antsy when there’s no pavements, buildings, traffic and noise. Weird things happen in the country.
Baffled in a field in Kent. This picture actually appeared on the big screens either side of the stage on several occasions.
A ten minute walk got us to the festival site, we got programmes to clock the running orders we’d been poring over for the last weeks and set forth into a field. By now, the reassuring sound of amplified music was getting through and calming me a bit, as did the burger stall. I reckoned this would be the end of eating opportunities for the day, so got a burger to eat as we approached the main stage.
Hey, this was OK (not the music at that particular time admittedly;) it was not crowded, there were no fights in progress, no signs of carnage. A quick recce showed me that there was no bother getting nice and near to the stage should that be necessary, I could see two big bars…I got the beers in. Ooooh, just over £4 for a pint of lager, I could get to like it here.
One thing which had given me pause about this outing was that kids under twelve get into the festival free, so I had a vision of loads of distracted Chloes and Jacks running about and annoying me. But not so, as the organisers of the festival control the wee darlings with BEER!
Let me expand on that a bit. Although you can buy a souvenir Hop Farm plastic pint beaker, you quickly find you’re spending a lot of time walking about with an empty souvenir plastic beaker, so common sense dictates that you buy your next drink in a paper cup, which paper cups attract a bounty of 10p when returned to the bar. The Chloes and Jacks quickly pick up on this, then spend the whole weekend collecting discarded paper pint pots. This serves the wonderful triple-ripple purposes of keeping the dear souls busy, keeping the place tidy and making the patrons think they are doing some sort of recycling. You can spot the different firms of kids looking for empties over the weekend; Tony Soprano himself wouldn’t muscle in on their patches.
There was still nothing very interesting on-stage, so I went for a wander. I had also been wrong about the food; every sort of grub you can imagine was on offer over the site; there were shops, play areas, busking areas; the other two tented stages were accessible and seemed hospitable.
By this time, Billy Ocean was on stage, in what must be the afternoon “kitsch spot.” I didn’t realise how many hits he’d had until I half-watched his set, but I had always realised how “creative” he had been in his use of “influences”. So “Carribean Queen” is not unlike “Billie Jean;” “Suddenly” is not unlike “Hello;” and for “Red Light” you can perm any number of R. Dean Taylor hits. I can’t quite place “When the Going Gets Tough,” but delight in the how much it sounds like he’s singing “go and get stuffed.” Anyway, Alex Chilton was a fan of “Love Really Hurts Without You,” so that’s good enough for me.
The first top-drawer music happened with Dr John, who seemed to be going through the motions a bit, but he’s probably earned that. The band was hot though.
We got down to the front for George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic (as it was billed,) which was one of the half-dozen acts I was really keen to see and turned out to be the highlight of the day. The band had a very relaxed entrance, ambling onstage apparently to check the equipment and then being announced to the audience, which seemed to cause some upset, as one of the guitar amps wasn’t working and was hauled off and replaced during the first number. No matter, the band slid into an easy p-funk groove and spent the next hour going through the high points of the Clintoparliafunkadelicmentthang catalogue.
George Clinton with nursie at far right.
Not ambling but roller-skating on was a beautiful young backing vocalist in a rubber nurse’s uniform with side vents, straight out of a Pedro Bell album sleeve rather than an NHS ward. I couldn’t see Clinton, then realised that he was the big guy in the blue suit – I was looking for multi-coloured dreadlocks, but that look has gone.
A real live Sir Funk D’Void soon joined the band on stage and did some pretty amazing acrobatic dancing, even hauled a couple of girls out from the audience to dance with him.
The sun was just beginning to go down as the band achieved lift-off…
That was pretty much it for music for the day. We had a wander round the site again, got some food and half-listened to Ray Davies after watching a bit of Field Music and I Am Kloot in the Bread & Roses tent.
Davies, whom I’ve seen before, really does under-sell himself; he can turn some of the loveliest songs written into boozed-up singalongs, which is a shame.
Which left Peter Gabriel to headline, tremendously earnest and boring. I couldn’t feel my fingers any more, which I think was more the early summer chill, but might not have been.
To be continued – thank you, Marie, for the first picture.