Hop Farm Music Festival, 2014

Hop farm is close to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, England. The festival comes one week after Glastonbury, but its scale is modest in comparison. What a festival it was this year. Normally when I am at festivals, I stand there just a shade underwhelmed. That said, Kraftwerk 3D last year at Latitude (see post July 24, 2013) were extraordinary. And not underwhelming. Quite the contrary. Now, since last year’s Latitude Festival, either I have changed, or this festival was particularly good. Maybe a bit of both.

2014-07-06 00.38.49I anticipated Brian Wilson (left) to be alone at his piano for an hour or so. Indeed he was, but not only did he have some friends (including Al Jardine) with him, but those friends were handpicked to recreate that 60s Beach Boys sound. It was pure sublime celebration. And an object lesson for younger musicians.

Brian Wilson was not quite my generation, but Squeeze – or at least Difford and Tilbrook – were (right). 2014-07-05 18.02.50The sense of rapprochement after years of estrangement between the two was palpable.

I did not expect to get too much from 10cc. But Graham Gouldman assembled a band capable of doing justice to a repertoire that owes much to the original band members not there.

2014-07-04 19.48.23Marc Almond was a crowd pleaser. Paul Heaton – my one time next door neighbour in Hull – has the best banter of any musician. Always has. With Jacqui Abbot, he served up some of pop’s most feel-good songs, many tinged with melancholy. If one digs deep enough.

The Lightening Seeds, ‘Pure and Simple’. So much for dangerous nostalgia.

Maximo Park – never heard any of their stuff previously, despite being around for 10 years. They were spellbinding (right). They2014-07-06 00.39.05 made a link for me to the Damned, without the Gothness. And serendipity always has a function at these events. Three of the most wonderful discoveries were made. First, Jukebox the Ghost – a three piece from New York (below left). The keyboardist, Ben Thornewill, has a bit bit of Billy Joel about him. Their set was intelligent.

Then Baba Jack, a four piece blues/rock outfit from somewhere in the midlands. The ‘powerhouse’ of the band, Trevor Steger, makes his own guitars out of wooden wine boxes (below right). They are square, but the noise he generates from them is delightful. And loud. The lead singer, Becky Tate, writes love songs. But not as we know them.

2014-07-06 20.05.07The standout performance, however, goes to the Daptone Soul Revue (an indie record label out of New York). I’ve never seen so many musicians not in an orchestra making so much music. And utterly enjoying it. Charles Bradley’s tortured vocals envelope anyone who cares to be so enveloped (and maybe this time I did). Sharon Jones, who gave the finale (the set was over 2 hours), was just sensational. One just wanted either to take her home or bottle her.DSCF0531

Headline Sunday night was Grace Jones. I would have really liked to enjoy her set, but the bass was too high. Shame really. Not needed.

2014-07-05 19.31.27

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