By Jimmy Blake
June 30, 2012
Due to technical problems we’re unable to bring you photos from Jimmy’s second day at Hop Farm – these will be up on the site during the following week.
Hop Farm witnessed the first glimpse of bad weather in the morning of the festival’s most anticipated day. An air of suspense made the rain almost poignant as the masses started to speculate as to whether the legendary act on site ‘still had it’ – Bruce Forsyth is 84, after all! Seriously though, before the music had even kicked in, nerves encapsulated the early morning grey skies on the day Bob Dylan topped the bill. Younger fans hoped the folk legend could make a lasting impression while their elders looked to him (as one put it) to “relive the might of ’69.”
As the arena gates re-opened the appearance of a chair hire stand indicated the mass pilgrimage prepared to pitch up at the main stage for the next ten hours. Given the daunting task of welcoming the weekend’s biggest crowd (and soothing some hangovers) were Treetop Flyers. After stumbling through the first few tracks they eased into the charismatic folk that won them a slot at last year’s Glastonb… oh, we don’t mention that one. Unsurprisingly, storytellers continued to be the order of the day as Flight Brigade opened the Big Tent and Adam Barnes opened up for a new wave of talented singer-songwriters on the Bread and Roses stage, proving that today’s bill is not just a Google search of up and coming folk acts. Bellowhead kept to the theme on the main stage, inviting the crowd to a mass hoedown for those daring enough to negotiate the labyrinth of chairs flocked around the main stage. Helen Boulding, on the other hand, was punished for recruiting a backing track and synth that made an unwelcome appearance during her set in the Big Tent.
– Treetop Flyers
All was not lost as the sun arrived on cue to welcome Sir Bruce Forsyth. Ever the showman, old Brucey bought some novelty break to proceedings. Backed by a big band he tapped, tickled and toyed with the crowd through an array of jazz classics. At times during his festival debut he seemed a little lost without the bright lights of a television set and floor crew to guide his every move, and struggled with hecklers wielding oversized playing cards. That said, once in his stride the godfather of entertainment had all ages on his side to deliver a bizarre, but well-needed rest from acoustic guitars that suited the crowd more than expected.
Joan Armatrading and Randy Crawford & The Joe Sample Trio resumed service for the night’s headliner pilgrims offering a more refined, but largely overlooked jazz and bluegrass outlook on the story telling theme on the main stage, while the other arenas took the chance to change the scenery slightly for those willing to risk the death trap of lounge furniture. Hotly tipped Race Horses introduced a Morrissey-fueled teenage angst with slightly pretentious swagger to the Bread and Roses stage while Sheffield four-piece Slow Club attracted the skinniest jeans of the day to the Big Tent. Having sniggered off the compère introducing ‘The Slow Club’ a sea of trendy haircuts self consciously mingled to the day’s first glimpse of syncopation during a charismatic we’re-not-taking-ourselves-too-seriously set. Before losing itself, the Bread and Roses stage resumed the role of ‘Dylan Day’ ambassador by unleashing rising poster girl of folk Lucy Rose who humbly greeted a sizable crowd that lived up to her recent mainstream attention, and was followed by heavily headliner-influenced Ben Kweller.
The Big Tent, meanwhile, continued in its electronic stride as Gary Numan took a step closer to psychedelic headliners Primal Scream. A dedicated fan-base stood through a hit-ridden set of questionable sound quality as the ‘Cars’ singer reeled off an energetic performance that confirmed his place in electronic punk royalty. He was followed by the welcome return of Maximo Park to UK festivals, who gave younger fans their first chance to reminisce with singles like ‘Graffitii’ and ‘Books From Boxes’. Frontman Paul Smith, donning his trademark bowler hat, led a set that spanned across the band’s four albums including recent release The National Health. Their new work embodies a band still focused on impressing with the culmination of previous records while adding a maturity that seemed lacking in the past.
– Maximo Park
In the meantime, the main stage become a virtually impenetrable fortress of camping equipment as Patti Smith produced one the performances of the day, preaching a powerful and fully entertaining hour-and-a-half, giving well worn songs an outing while showing that new ones can still hold their own, as she urged fans to hold onto what she called the only festival ‘left for the people.’ Damien Rice’s passion for his acoustic ramblings lulled the crowd into one of the most reclined sing-a-longs of all time, with more recognizable tracks rooting many who had considered the Big Tent before leaving the stage to take a minimalistic makeover.
Then it was time: time for all those who had gone before to witness the man that many reference as the reason behind their work. The army of camping chairs vanished as if their owners were embarrassed to admit to Bob Dylan that they’d waited all day. Okay, so Forsyth won’t be looking over his shoulder in the crowd participation department but Dylan’s typical disownment of the masses had them jubilant at any sign of acceptance. Vocally, the 76 year-old’s once delicate lilt has now (not all too gracefully) matured into the textured growl of a man who has told his tales a thousand times, only showing its former youthful wisps during ‘Living The Blues’. At times, his vocals were incomprehensible, but when vital points of ‘Love Sick’ broke through they acted as a reminder of a master of his art and proved the influence of a poetic genius with an impeccable songwriting career. Despite having to negotiate certain vocal lines his musicianship is possibly the greatest display of remaining talent. At the guitar and piano he appears effortless, but he is most as ease when raising his harmonica to his mouth, executing the blues like it were an extra limb and making his clearly experienced band look like beginners. His well honed support carry the set as Dylan takes well known melodies for a stroll down the unbeaten track and alters song structure at will, which lost many non die-hards throughout and squashed any attempted sing-along.
– Bob Dylan
This aspect of set made for the biggest divide, as those who ‘were there’ felt cheated during some of the classics while first timers struggled to make a connection with the legend. Their persistence was rewarded as a rare glance out during closer ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ catches him off guard and almost evokes a smirk, suggesting he could well have enjoyed his second visit to the festival. ‘All Along the Watchtower’ played the role of mandatory encore before a controlled stare unto to masses made for their only acknowledgement. His resistance of cries for more allowed Peter Hook & The Light to revel in saving ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ until last and left Dylan almost as illusive as before he had graced his disciples.
Oh, and all reports suggest festival staple Primal Scream nailed a headline set in The Big Tent.