Festivals · Gigs · Music

Hop Farm Festival – Part Three, Day Two

Oast houses Hop Farm Festival 2012
The festival site, showing oast houses. Hence, Hop Farm

On day two, at least I knew the ropes of how to do this festival thing…but there had to be a bit of variation. So after a day of lager on day one, the changes were rung and the soup du jour was Spitfire bitter. Any incipient guilt at having a beer at 1pm, or at least the first of a day’s worth of beer, was left at the gate.

It was another main stage day, from Bellowhead as second act onward. For the sort of people who like that sort of thing, Bellowhead is what they like. And that’s OK.

In the afternoon kitsch spot was Sir Bruce Forsyth, who did the old-school entertainer thing to a T; he played the piano, sung, told a few jokes, danced. I especially enjoyed the blond willow-creatures behind us (with small children) who would frequently implore the kids to “watch grandad playing the piano” or “watch grandad tap dancing…” Got it.

Joan Armatrading was worthy and professional. By this time, we were at the edge of the stage again, as we’d got a space for a couple of friends who had come over for the day and who like…Joan Armatrading. At least gave us a good vantage point for a blissed-out Randy Crawford with the Joe Sample Trio, who made it all look so easy.

Patti Smith and her Band (i.e. not the Patti Smith Group) were definitely the highlight of the weekend. Apart from the headliners of each day, all the acts have to perform a truncated set to fit in with the schedule and this can work to great advantage if material is thin; if material is profuse, as is the case with this band, the shortness of the set makes the cream rise to the top.

There’s a tremendous grace and ease with this band; Patti, Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty have been playing together for upward of thirty years and still give the impression that every night they are going out to play the band’s best set ever; even the newer members of the group have been there about ten years and between the five of them, the band play lithe, lissome rock and roll music which is probably not vastly different in tone and temperament to what they did in the seventies; as they approach their seventies, it’s only getting better.

Patti Smith at Hop Farm
My photograph of photographers waiting for a particularly impressive ball of phlegm coming out of Patti – Bobcat from Leicester on the left..

And Patti is a world class gob-hawker; at least three massive, blissful, balls of phlegm emanated from her throughout the set. It’s not just about the music with this woman…

When Patti had finished, we vacated our place at the front of the stage to picnic, have ostrich burgers (yes, the food was as eclectic as that) and more beer. We left the two young guys we had met at the front who had come from Leicester for their premiere Bob experience. They weren’t too talkative, but I admired the dedication of standing in the same spot for hours to be as close to Bob as possible.

The sun was going down when Damien Rice came on stage. Clearly, there was no way that Dylan would have followed Patti Smith and her Band, so some poor bugger had to fill in the gap in the middle.

Now I like some of the first Damien Rice album very much; it’s a quiet, intimate wee lo-fi thing (apart from the strings recorded at Abbey Road right enough…) and has three great songs on it. It was very popular in its time. But when an artist’s third album, following his not very good second one, is a live rendition of the first album, that’s not so much a career arc as a downward spiral. It’s such a shame people don’t get the chance to develop at a reasonable pace any more…still, he played a pleasant enough hour or so opening for Bob.

The only remarkable thing about Dylan’s set on this night was that he was playing the grand piano (which was audible, unlike the usual electric piano he has favoured since about 2000;) I like to think he saw Sir Bruce Forsyth playing it and asked for a shot.

Bob does rather tend to trot out bluesy r&b by the yard at his shows these days; I wish he’d give the audience credit for maybe wanting something a little beyond superior pub-rock (OK, it’s very, very, superior pub-rock…) Shame that the cantankerous old boy is still so camera shy that he wouldn’t allow any worthwhile images on the big screens at either side of the stage, just a sweep of the stage from a camera which must have been at about the mixing desk, so the images were no bigger than the actual size of the band.

But still, it was Bob, and you know what you,ve signed up for when you go. Every time I see him I think it will be the last time, because he does tend to play in the sort of dreadful arenas which I’ve stopped going to, but I somehow seem to have lucked out enough to have seen him in a few times in theatres in the last years.

Hand were frozen again. Must remember to take gloves if attending in future.

To be continued; thanks to Marie, again, for the first picture.

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