However, first to step into the glorious July sunshine is the very lovely Mary Coughlan, who eases the steadily growing crowd into the afternoon with a set of low key jazz and blues numbers. She introduces one song as a personal favourite though cautions that "It’s really fucking miserable" before gently edging into an impossibly beautiful version of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ which is the first of many highlights of the day. Following the well-received Mary Coughlan is Irish six-footer Damien Dempsey and his band who woos the crowd with his home spun wisdom and uplifting tunes and the crowd responds favourably with enthusiastic applause.
By the time third band Brother hit the stage the mercury is raising high into the seventies and the sun is beating down hard. Many people have brought deck chairs so they can sit comfortably while they listen to the bands. Hop Farm really has a chilled vibe that permeates the whole of the festival, which is a perfect way to listen to dreadlocked Newton Faulkner. Faulkner’s songs swirl through the crowd like a cool summer breeze, in particular his distinctive version of Massive Attacks ‘Teardrop’ which elicits whoops of recognition and gets more than a foot or two tapping to its mellow rhythm .
Up to this point in the day the music has been gently smouldering, but that changed when Manchester’s Magazine take to the stage and launch into a hot-blooded ‘Motorcade’ followed by a thumping ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ When Magazine first appeared thirty years ago many saw them as too clever and different, but now, after the passing of three decades, their slippery genius makes perfect sense.
While it’s wonderful watching the invigorated Howard Devoto stalking the stage while the rest of Magazine machine gun the crowd with dark sound, Patti Smith takes a different path entirely for her set and eschews the abrasiveness of electric guitars for a less complicated approach. She begins by announcing that the people taking to streets throughout the world today is a good thing because we need to make our dissatisfaction known. It’s this deftly poised equilibrium between rock and insurrection that makes Patti Smith and her band such an exciting proposition, and for me it’s fantastic to see someone who still believes that music has power to help change things for the better. She concludes this criminally short set with ‘Gloria’ from her masterpiece album ‘Horses’ which was nothing less than life-affirming.
It’s beyond dispute that Lou Reed is a legend. The one time lead singer with the iconic Velvet Underground, Reed has rarely pandered to expectation and continues to follow wherever his intuition takes him. If the mood takes him a Lou Reed concert can sometimes be a difficult experience, even though his cannon of work contains some of the most dazzling songs in rock history. Today, Lou Reed decides to mix it up and uses his hour on stage to play a carefully chosen selection of songs from all points of his career. Starting appropriately with Velvet favourite ‘Who Loves The Sun, Reed slinks through his songs, though does waste time with a pointless cover of John Lennon’s ‘Mother’ which hinders the flow of the music though it’s salvaged by two Velvet Underground classics – ‘Femme Fatale’ and ‘Sweet Jane’ – which manages to retrieve the momentum and lets the performance finish on a high.
Iggy Pop & The Stooges. Iggy oozes rock n’ roll from every pore of his semi-naked body. Although Iggy Pop has released some twenty LPs, anyone who’s seen play these last few years will know that you can only expect to hear tracks from the three flawless albums he recorded with the Stooges. What songs they are though; hard drugs, hot blood and pure rock fury race through the veins of this music, music a crazed Iggy Pop seems permanently intent of ramming down the crowds throat. Going straight for the jugular from the opening chords of ‘Raw Power’ which ring from James Williamsons Les Paul, the tension is kept taut until closer ‘Open Up And Bleed’. But it’s the audacious inviting up to the stage during a blistering version ‘Shake Appeal’ that always thrills. It’s difficult to think of any other artist that gets away with initiating a stage invasion but Pop manages to pull it off time after time. To the spectator it’s a vision of unity between a much revered rock star and his fans, and it’s easy to see that Iggy has come to genuinely love his fans, and they in turn, adore him. It’s a stunning high-octane show that’s probably the pinnacle of not only the day but the entire festival.
This leaves militant Mancunian vegetarian Morrissey, who’s first words to the crowd is the desperate question “How do you follow Iggy and the Stooges?” to bring this wonderful day to its conclusion. Morrissey has over the years perfected his stage act so that he can now go toe to toe with anyone, and the massive army of fans watching him are treated to a set laden heavy with hits. Strangely, Morrissey is the first to benefit from stage lighting because all the preceding artists played in bright sunshine, and it makes his performance more spectacular and dramatic. Of course there’s a sprinkling of Smiths songs in there which delights everyone, and a spiffing version of Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite of Love’ which manages to make the warm summer evening that little bit warmer. Morrissey finishes with a raucous rendition of ‘Panic’ which sends everyone to their tents with a huge smile on their sunburned faces.
On this showing Hop Farm is a roaring success, and its organisers continue to pull together line-ups of this calibre, it will be a permanent fixture for years to come.
Review & photos by Phil King - [more photos here: www.flickr.com/photos/24365773@N03/sets/72157627113565882]
A big thank you to Hop Farm Organisers for the press accreditation