All words and pictures by Jimmy Blake
June 29, 2012
“Get your back in to it! It’s going to be a long weekend!” exclaimed Gomez’s Tom Gray, as the weekend’s second main stage act coaxed the masses to take a break from their couscous. The opening day of Hop Farm 2012 saw the festival’s eclectic blend of new and old working in perfect harmony, allowing punters to do the same as the generations took spells of hugging the security barrier, taking turns to reminisce and revitalize their iPods… sorry, record collections.
Manchester’s Various Cruelties were the first chance to hunt out some fresh meat as the Big Tent kicked into action. The four piece charmed their way through the set whilst seemingly humbled to be on the bill, while Steve Smyth bellowed the Bread and Roses stage into life, providing the first stunned silence with his raw, untamed vocals and overwhelming facial hair.
– Steve Smyth
Back on the main stage, José González delivered, closing on ‘Teardrop’ – but as his delicate finger picking faded out so to did the crowd’s age gap to welcome a greatest hits set from the first legend of the weekend, 80s heartbreaker Billy Ocean. On fine from, Ocean proved he’s more than just a novelty booking, provoking the first mass sing-along with ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ before unleashing his ‘Love Train’ to devastating affect.
– José González
– Billy Ocean
– The Love Train
It was again the turn of the new comers to shine as BBC Sound of 2012 shortlisted Lianne La Havas effortlessly swooned the Big Tent in one of the standout performances of the day. Lilting melodies and a soaring vocal fittingly showcased debut album Is Your Love Big Enough just in time for its July 9th release. The old school replied in the form of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic who fulfilled all preconceptions and created an equal share of new ones. A assembled entourage bizarre enough to make Tyler the Creator look like billy no mates, the highlight was undoubtedly a hype man resembling the child-catcher, high on slap bass, and it left newbies Dog is Dead and even festival veterans The Futureheads’ rampant harmonies struggling to stop an embarrassing ‘We Got the Funk’ Dad dance from making its way across the site. Field Music had just enough time to make a good impression before Ray Davies delivered a predictably satisfying-amount-of-Kinks set with many crowd pleasers feeling safe and auto-piloted. Another quick hop (Jesus! Sorry, it’s been a long one, wont happen again) over to the Big Tent gave time to see The Stranglers rewarding the crowd’s patience with a rendition of ‘Golden Brown’.
– Lianne La Havas
– George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
Indie fans emerged from the woodwork to consume a tastefully selected set list from I Am Kloot, before Bread and Roses stage headliners British Sea Power compiled their own best of, cherry picking from five albums whilst surrounded by tastefully placed shrubbery. A steamrolled set almost got rowdy as lead singer Yan ushered ‘easy, easy’ at the start of ‘No Lucifer’ to incite a reaction that nearly had the security on their toes, as their brand of Arcade Fire-esque indie rock bought the stage to an emphatic close before it turned into a late-night comedy club. Patrick Monahan’s impromptu crowd surf that resulted in the performer walking back to the stage highlights the correlation between the audience’s demographic and the time, it was past 1am after all. That said, Vikki Stone’s finely tuned works, including Disney parody ‘Beauty and Her Yeast’ (I’ll let you fill in the gaps) injected some life back into the tent, allowing headliner Russel Kane to take advantage of his late billing. With the crowd past their best Kane claimed to have not planned his set, working off late comers and heckles to produce an entertaining (if not a little clumsy in places) routine.
– British Sea Power
British Sea Power’s intimate forestry was put to shame by the setting for the night’s headliner. The main stage saw its longest break of the day to prepare for Peter Gabriel & The New Blood Orchestra, and based on the opening few songs the wait seemed justified. Gabriel’s dramatic delivery combined with the powerful intensity of the orchestra to create an almost moving spectacle. However, as the ex-Genisis man eased into his set, the music became second best to an air of self indulgence and the evident man hours that had gone into the production. There is no doubting his talent and the orchestra was incredibly polished but it felt that had they played earlier in the day there wouldn’t have been such a crowd. An infinitely more understated, but possibly more impressive, headline slot in the Big Tent saw creative all rounder Nitin Sawnhey take a worryingly relaxed back seat to lead a delicately balanced blend of film score and a spread of contrasting ethnicities. Who would have thought one of the brains behind Goodness Gracious Me could bridge the gap to festival (second stage) headliner in such a cultured manner?
– Nitin Sawnhey
Based on the day’s milage, Gomez’s warning was spot on, but in comparing notes during the trundle back to the campsite, revellers had little time moan about any blisters. The nerves had already started to set in for what is being billed as Dylan day. Surely, age is just a number.