Hop Farm Festival 2009 – Saturday Review and Photos

July 9, 2009

Imagine a music festival in the year 2009 that wasn’t sponsored by energy drinks companies and clothing brands. Actually, go the whole mile and imagine a music festival without any sponsors at all. This is the wistful concept behind Hop Farm Festival, taking place in the English countryside of Kent with a gaggle of good bands and 20,000 keen festival goers. Lauren was there to experience the festival’s inaugural year, and what was also her first time at a music festival – check out her full 2-part story, with coverage and photos from Saturday below and Sunday here.

Gig/Concert: Hop Farm Festival
Venue: The Hop Farm, Kent, England
Date: 4-5 July 2009
Headiners: The Fratellis and Paul Weller
In One Word: Positive

Day One; Saturday (click here for Sunday)

I have never been this excited about visiting The Hop Farm since I was seven. Set in the heart of the Kent countryside, The Hop Farm is usually a day out for the family to look at Shire horses and other hop field activities but today was different; my first music festival! Before arriving at the festival, I was worried about my photography equipment not being ‘long’ enough. Generally for festivals, a big, heavy 70-200mm lens is a prescribed necessity, but fortunately this stage isn’t Glastonbury – though being 5’2″ I did feel like I needed a stepladder if I was going to shoot the drummer.

Florence and The Machine at Hop Farm Festival - photo by Lauren Towner, MusicVice.com

Firstly, I decided to venture off into the festival grounds to find the elusive press tent. Now, where could this press tent be? Would it be by the funfair? Is it by the other stages? Nope! It’s behind the big green gates with ‘Backstage/Press’ written on with big white letters obviously! I had also realised that there was a large blue tent that hid behind the main stage. I was told by another member of the press that this tent was ‘for bands and their family and friends only’. No VIP areas? I don’t think so! They were true to their word in one sense that the festival was not commecialised or sponsored in any way. I quickly settled down in the press tent with the other photographers that were there and introduced myself to everyone who asked ‘where I was from’, I said Tunbridge Wells but was asked again ‘What magazine are you from?’.

The first taster of my festival experience was Florence and The Machine, consisting of front-woman Florence Welch and her backing band, The Machine. I had never heard any of Florence’s music until now so I was very surprised at how good it was and how fantastic she was live. [Click here for a link to a recent MV review of FaTM]

Legendary Liverpool band Echo and The Bunnymen played the main stage mid-afternoon which questions whether the running order was based on record sales alone. Ian McCulloch took to the stage donning his trademark coat and sunglasses, the highlight of the set was their 1997 comeback single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ which led into a cover of ‘Walk on The Wild Side’ which was then followed by classic Bunnymen songs ‘Breaking The Back of Love’ and ‘Killing Moon’. Ardent Liverpool FC fan McCulloch didn’t interact much with the crowd after not dedicating ‘The Cutter’ to “Michael ‘f******’ Owen”!!

Echo And The Bunnymen at Hop Farm Festival - photo by Lauren Towner, MusicVice.com

Irish band Ash are next. The band launch straight into ‘Girl From Mars’ which gets an immense reaction from the crowd, frontman Tim Wheeler continually threw gestures into the crowd who were already pumped for a very energetic performance. All the usual suspects returned to Ash’s live set such as ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Shining Light’ providing the audience with mass sing-a-longs before Dundee band The View carry on the party atmosphere with classics such as ‘Wasted Little DJs’, ‘One Off Pretender’, ‘Superstar Tradesman’ and ‘Covers’ which featured keyboard player Reni on Paolo Nutini’s vocals. To my complete surprise the band played ‘Double Yellow Lines’ which had only been played the weekend before at Glastonbury and it is a song that I had been ever-so desperate to hear live ever since the band released their second album.

My first interview… I have never been so nervous… My nerves were softened when View frontman Kyle Falconer came up with a remarkable idea – you need a cider!

After The View’s set, I rushed back to our ‘base camp’ to grab my bag and then speedily ran to the press tent to arrange an interview with the band. After ten minutes waiting I was escorted through the ‘bands and friends and family only tent’ to their dressing room. I have never been so nervous; I had never done anything like this before so it was real challenge. I was the bands last interview, so I waited outside preoccupying myself with a game on my iPod and I’d say it went well for my first time. My nerves were softened when View frontman Kyle Falconer come up with a remarkable idea.

“You need a cider.”

I continued to swig my cider during the entire interview, before spilling a vast majority of the contents of the bottle on The View’s dressing room floor. Smooth move. [Click here to check-out Lauren’s interview with The View.]

The Fratellis at Hop Farm Festival - photo by Lauren Towner, MusicVice.com

The Pigeon Detectives? Not my cup of tea I’m afraid. I enjoyed the bands first album and was looking forward to their second. I read an interview in a magazine with drummer Jimi Naylor about their second record ‘not being difficult’ but to my disappointment this album was not difficult because it is the same record as their first!

Headliners The Fratellis closed the first day of the festival with blistering anthem filled set. The Glasgow band mainly concentrated on material from debut album ‘Costello Music’ with obvious highlights being festival favourite ‘Chelsea Dagger’ which sent the crowd wild! Acoustic ‘Whistle for The Choir’ provoked mass sing-a-longs along with ‘Baby Fratelli’ and ‘Henrietta’.

The Fratellis left the stage, the lights went down, and the strains of their usual finale of ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond filled the air. This ensured the audience carried on dancing into the night.

© Lauren Towner, Music Vice

Part two; review and pictures from Sunday at Hop Farm Festival

More photos from Saturday

The View at Hop Farm Festival - photo by Lauren Towner, MusicVice.com

Ash at Hop Farm Festival - photo by Lauren Towner, MusicVice.com

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