Hop Farm Festival 2014 Review
In its first outing under new management the Hop Farm Festival returned with a bang after last year’s cancellation with an eclectic mix of music and some big-name draws to its rural venue in Kent.
Amid the traditional Kentish oast houses that can be found scattered throughout this part of the Southeast, the site – some 45 minutes away from London by train – boasted free parking and regular shuttle buses to the local railway station in Paddock Wood to allow easy access for revellers.
The festival site itself had a vintage fairground feel complete with a helter-skelter, coconut shy and Ferris wheel, along with plenty of food outlets, bars, face-painting stalls and more. Three of the four stages lay beneath circus-style big top tents. Walking amongst the crowd were a host of performers, including women on stilts and a man creating bubbles with what appeared to be a fishing net.
Looking around the crowd there was a mix of the generations, from aging hippies to children with their parents picnicking in front of the main stage, all enjoying the sunshine. With each stage on site in easy walking distance from the others there was sure to be something for everyone on the bill.
Among one of Friday’s early acts was singer-songwriter Eliza Doolittle, wearing a particularly summery shorts-and-crop top combo. Taking to the stage the 26-year-old ‘Big When I Was Little’ star whose real name is Eliza Caird, treated the crowd to a selection of her hits, before making way for London band Scouting For Girls.
Other acts to strut their stuff on the Main Stage included the ‘90s alt-rockers The Lightning Seeds, and the current line-up of legendary 70s band 10CC, as well as the Swedish lead singer of The Cardigans, Nina Persson, who has recently released her first solo album, ‘Animal Heart’ all of whom had the audience up on their feet. As the evening drew on former Beautiful Southers Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot, fresh from appearing at Glastonbury took to the stage and ramped up the ‘90s nostalgia-fest, before indie icons Echo & the Bunnymen took us further back in time to their ‘80s heyday.
The big-name act to headline the first day’s action was former Kinks frontman Ray Davis. Considered to be one of the leaders of the British Invasion, the 70-year-old rocker, who was awarded a CBE in 2004 for services to music, was joined in chorus by the swaying crowd in renditions of classic Kinks’ tracks, such as ‘Sunday Afternoon’.
For those who managed to crawl out of their tents before lunch the action continued on Saturday with Moya who rocked the stage with her soaring vocals on ‘Making Me Fall’. Back for a flying visit between gigs on the Continent and having recently supported Rod Stewart on tour, she is certainly an artist to keep an eye on. Catch our interview with her backstage here.
In On the Comedy stage, TV regular Jo Brand was among the acts to entertain an overflowing tent.
The Noisettes upped the tempo, with singer Shingai Shoniwa dressed in an impressive gold outfit and belting out among other songs the band’s memorable 2009 hit ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)’ to cheers from the crowd. The Feeling took to the Main Stage next, guiding the audience in a sing along. Dan Gillespie Sells proved his front man credentials proving that he certainly knows how to work a crowd!
Dutch act Caro Emerald was another name to impress on the day, her sultry jazzy vocals suited live performance as she belted out her retro-influenced set to a captivated audience.
James Blunt, a figure that tends to divide opinions also got into the festival spirit. Wearing a jump suit themed as part of his current Moon Landing tour, he drew a massive crowd and even found time for a spot of crowd surfing. Rock ‘n’ roll!
It was however, headliner Brian Wilson who was the biggest draw of the night. Original Beach Boy member Al Jardine joined Wilson and really gave the performance a boost as he genuinely looked as though he was loving every minute of it. Although Wilson was looking a little frail at the start of his, the crowd didn’t care as the Beach Boy sound carried into the evening sky.
Sunday featured several changes to the line-up, as neither Dr John, or Deacon Blue were able to make it, though Chas and Dave, who had been expected to play on Saturday slotted seamlessly into the schedule.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose husband had played on Saturday as a member of The Feeling, treated the audience to a mixture of old and new tracks. Her new album ‘Wanderlust’ marks a new direction for the singer with a more folky-orchestral vibe. After a quick costume change she then wowed the crowd with a selection of her old tracks including the Number One Spiller hit ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’.
It was however British R&B sensation Billy Ocean who had the festival-goers in the palm of his hand. Cutting a dapper figure the Grammy-Award winner had the crowd dancing and singing along as encouraged them to join in the lyrics to a selection of his impressive catalogue of hits.
Grace Jones was the headline act for Sunday night, and as ever put on a memorable performance. Initially concealed by a large black curtain draped across the front of the stage, expectations for something pretty special were high, especially after *that* performance at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert. She didn’t disappoint: with multiple costume changes, the 66-year-old Jones pole danced and hula-hooped her way through her catalogue of songs. And, to end the set, confetti canons went off as she brought the proverbial house down on the Hop Farm Festival 2014.
Writer Credit: Claire Lucas