THE BEST FESTIVAL LINE-UP OF THE SUMMER
...in Paddock Wood?!
On 6 July The Hop Farm will host A Day At The Hop Farm: a new music festival with a line-up to die for and a refreshing approach to the festival punter. Kudos spoke exclusively to the man behind the operation and two of the biggest bands on the bill: kooky-pop darlings Guillemots and rock warhorses Supergrass.
doing the hop farm a power
ince Power is a focused man. We are sitting in the sun-drenched surroundings of The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, to discuss his new music festival, A Day At The Hop Farm: arguably the most high-proﬁle popular music event ever to take place in the Kent area. In the background, the Garden of England’s brightest young things hurl themselves around the play area, screaming excitedly, as Power – an authoritative man with a measured, resonant Irish accent – ruminates on the beneﬁts of the Hop Farm as a festival venue. “This is a really good site: it has a licence existing and is also a very beautiful site. There’s...good access road-wise, by train it’s 40 minutes from Charing Cross...I think it’ll work, my plan is for the long-term.” Power is a festival organiser of legendary reputation. He is the founder of Mean Fiddler, the North London Irish music venue that grew into a vast outdoor festival specialist; he and his Mean Fiddler Group are generally considered to have
rescued the Reading Festival from obscurity in the late 80s, as well as reigniting the Glastonbury flame in 2002. Having sold his stake in the group in 2005, Power has bided his time carefully in re-entering the British festival scene, and the resulting Hop Farm festival is a unique, financial labour of love. “At this stage I don’t really need to make a fortune...[besides] I think it’ll be very popular, we’ve had a great reaction; this is a pre-cursor to next year, hopefully if everything goes well, we’ll be able to do three days.” Obviously, Power ’s ambition has to be complemented by delivering a memorable roster of acts... and my goodness has he delivered on that promise. Young talent from both sides of the Atlantic is represented by the literate folk-pop of Laura Marling and the atmospheric Californian rock of Everest. My Morning Jacket and Rufus Wainwright will bring, respectively, some much needed bearded mountain rock and orchestral camp flair to Paddock Wood.
Youthful and older rulers of British airwaves – Guillemots, Supergrass & Primal Scream – shore up a bill that proudly mixes emerging talent with steady hands. What completes the Hop Farm festival, and what gives it genuine credence, is the presence of bona fide, cast-iron rock n’ roll legend: Neil Young. 42 years after founding his first major band, Buffalo Springfield, Canada’s hippest hippy has survived punk, new wave, metal, grunge and countless other musical trends which have seemed to threaten his relevance, but have often themselves looked to him for his refusal to compromise his output or fade into meaningless “Greatest Hits” tours. Power is aware of Young’s continued relevance and thinks this is primarily due to his live presence. “[Neil Young]’s like all artists – he doesn’t need the money – but he has a driven, unsatisfied thing in their being. They want to perform, all an artist wants is to perform and I think he’s got this bug about touring. He’s in very good shape, and he’s had amazing reviews for the shows he’s done.” However, even with indisputable headliners and an intelligent, well-planned line-up, a new festival needs somehow to differentiate itself in the booming national market that is the summer festival circuit. A Day At The Hop Farm has this angle sorted and makes it very clear in its motto: “No Registration. No Sponsorship. No Branding”. In short, it is the consumer-orientated festival and Power is bullish about the merits of this attitude. “The emphasis is back on the music and the customer, rather than the corporate sponsorship, branding and VIP areas you can see in lots of different festivals now. It’s easy to get a ticket, unlike some festivals, first come, first served: no registration. You come in, you get a wristband and everyone has the same wristband, you won’t see people with a different wristband for privileged areas.” It is this that both matches and adds to the strength of the line-up, A Day At Hop Farm provides the customer with both respect and choice. As the sun begins to set
organiser in the comfortable greenery of Paddock Wood, Power wryly recounts an experience in which the pairing of branding and festival culture came unstuck. “I did a festival once in New York: an Irish festival and the sponsors insisted on only selling Guinness and we had 35,000 Americans there... they were drunk within half an hour! They’d never drunk Guinness before...but because it was 80 degrees, they had to start drinking it and they were falling all over the place by the afternoon and they still had another 8 hours to go!” He grins contentedly, having recounted the anecdote of a man who knows he’s onto a good thing. Kudos festival coverage continues overleaf as two of the UK’s finest discuss the Hop Farm, Neil Young and their dream festival line ups...
Aristazabal (Arista, for short) Hawkes is the striking Canadian double-bass player in Birmingham’s sensational indie-pop masters Guillemots. Hot on the heels of 2006’s Through the Windowpane, new record Red has hit the top 10 and left the band raring to go for the summer festival circuit...
K: How do you think the new songs on Red will go over live? Kudos: Do you treat a festival set differently from a normal gig? What are the differences? Arista Hawkes: That’s a good question! We’re still learning about that to be honest. It is very different; it depends on the festival and where you’re playing, whether it’s outside or inside. The main difference is picking songs that travel well through the air because playing outside is such a different sound people hear. People wanna have a good time...we’ve learnt it’s best not to play ballads at a festival. It seems quite obvious but until you do it and people start walking away, you don’t really know! [laughs] We haven’t decided on our summer festival set yet but hopefully this tour will make that clear.
AH: We’ve only just last week figured out how to play them, because we went into the studio and wrote them as we recorded them. I’m not sure, but some of the more simple ones like Last Kiss and the more dancey ones might go down quite well. Things like Last Trains To Brazil, Made Up Love Song and Sao Paolo from the first record, we’ll still play them. K: Do you treat a festival slot as an opportunity to please your existing fans or win new ones? AH: It’s always both, no matter what we’re doing. That makes it quite complicated sometimes; because we’re all such different people and we all have such different ideas of what will please our fans and what will bring new people...there’s always a lot of debate! K: What do you think people like about the Guillemots? AH: I think the main thing is that it’s four random people and you can hear that! From the first album people like the sonic landscape, ornate ballad, orchestral thing, but also the fact that we do a lot of different stuff.
K: Have you decided that mixing things up is your sound now? AH: Not intentionally, that’s just how it happens, because we are so different. Trying to do one thing just won’t work: Fyfe [Dangerfield, lead singer of the band] will think one thing and I’ll just get pissed off and be like “no! not that at all!” We all have completely different opinions, so for us to be happy and get along as a band, we have to all have our say, so that’s what ends up happening. K: Are you the kind of band that sticks around to check out the other bands during a festival or is your schedule too tight? AH: Generally it’s too tight, we have to do as much as we can in as little time as possible to save as much money as possible...last year it was play one festival, get on the bus, leave and do the next one, which is a shame because festivals are so much fun. But you can’t see anything or spend anytime hanging out or even just meet other people from bands, it’s a bit annoying.
K: Neil Young’s not a regular on the festival circuit: are you looking forward to playing on the same bill? AH: Neil Young, obviously we’re all huge fans. It is like a dream come true for Fyfe...he’s one of Fyfe’s favourite song-writers: it’s amazing! As well as playing A Day At The Hop Farm, Guillemots play The Forum, London on 6 June and new single Falling Out Of Reach is out now
festival my dream
K: Do you miss that as a music fan? AH: Yeah, being on the other side of the fence, you want to check out the competition and see what other people are doing...what amps they use, dorky stuff like that and you can’t. K: So, do you find yourself less aware of music around you when you’re in a band? AH: I personally do, because a lot of the time you just really tired. You’d love to see that band, but you’re just knackered. It’s not impossible but also we’re not the most rock n roll band around! It’s not like we go on stage drunk or have a party afterwards...we’re quite serious-minded I guess, we all worry too much about it going wrong!
“This question’s been coming up a lot lately and I’ve been really nervous about it, because the guys’ll be like oh my God! Can’t believe you said that!... I’m into completely different music: hip-hop and jazz stuff; maybe the Fugees and a few old jazz people: Charlie Mingus, John Coltrane... if I could meet them, I’d be happy...Roberta Flack! All old people!”
“It’s really playing this gig: it’s probably the festival we’re most excited about this summer” To round off our festival preview section, Kudos chatted to drummer Danny Goffey of Britain’s best-loved and longest-lasting rock band, Supergrass. Still reliably producing quality music with new record Diamond Hoo Ha, cheeky chappy Goffey is keen the fun of playing festivals, sharing the bill with a legend and the Kent Chapter of the Hell’s Angels... Kudos: I notice you’re playing some of the smaller festivals this year like Summer Sundae and Beautiful Days – and The Hop Farm – are you bored of playing the big festivals? Danny Goffey: No, not at all. I think at this point we didn’t really wanna do big festivals: we were waiting for our album and singles to come out and hopefully play some bigger ones
festival my dream
next year: that was the idea. Also, we have more fun at smaller festivals; a lot of it is about how much fun you have at festivals rather than making the right moves. Sometimes it’s a more enjoyable day. K: Does playing festivals have the same kick as it always used to? DG: Yeah, it’s brilliant meeting new people...hanging out, meeting some bands that you’ve respected or been into. As long as the weather’s good, it’s like a little weekend holiday... going to some weird place with loads of naked people! K: Have festivals changed much for you since you started playing them? DG: They’ve got more commercial and there’s loads more of them. I can remember doing Glastonbury in ’95, then there was just T In The Park, Glastonbury and Reading...a few big ones. Now there’s hundreds, I suppose that’s a good thing.
“I’d say Supergrass, Primal Scream and Neil Young! I’m looking forward to seeing Primal Scream as well; they’re a great band... oh and throw in Ian Dury if he was around...”
They haven’t changed much as an event to play: it’s always a gamble whether you get good sound when you get on stage and that’s half the fun of it. No sound-check, just get on and do it.
K: What’s your view on the Jay-Z/hip-hop at Glastonbury debate? DG: You have to wait and see what he does there: he’s a pretty talented bloke. I’m sure he’ll doing something interesting: he’ll probably sculpt his set around some of the backlash he’s had. Festivals are supposed to be really diverse...it shouldn’t just be the newest rock bands headlining. People can just wander to other stages if they don’t like it. I think lay off him. That’s what Glastonbury was about: a massive diversity of acts. If Jay-Z was playing in the dance tent, there wouldn’t be this reaction. It would probably be amazing. People should stop freaking out and get on with their lives... K: You’ve become renowned as a great festival band, do you try to pull out all the stops for these sets or do you treat them like any other show? DG: We always play short sets, because we’ve always been third from the top or something like that. We usually get about 50 minutes, this set we’ll probably be playing a lot of our new album because the tour we’ve just done has gone down so well. The new songs sound just as good as our hits, so we’ll probably play half the new album, then some old hits. K: Do you feel aggrieved with that third place slot you tend to occupy? DG: We’re slightly disappointed with the English public [laughs]! We don’t really mind...I think we’re a great live band; we get people going and create some interesting music. So it would be nice to be able to get a proper show with some of our own amazing lights...we’re deﬁnitely a band that can do that, that can headline festivals. I suppose we are a bit aggrieved. K: With regards to the Hop Farm date, are you looking forward to playing on the same bill as Neil Young? DG: Yes! Deﬁnitely! It’s almost a lifetime’s ambition: we’ve been into Neil Young since we were kids, starting a band up. He was quite a prevalent soundtrack to teenage life, when we toured around America we played all the Neil Young albums... good chill-out, day after albums to listen to on the bus! Especially for Gaz: he’s a bit of a Neil Young buff...he went to see him the other day at Hammersmith
Apollo and said it was great. So we’re really, really looking forward to it: hopefully we’ll get to meet him and dribble on him!
K: What would you ask him? DG: Oooo god knows...I’d ask him how his ranch is going...no, actually I’d probably say did you see us? But if I got any words out of him, he’d probably say no! Hopefully, he’s heard of us... K: Apparently Neil Young did have a hand in picking the line-up according to [organiser] Vince Power... DG: Yeah! I went out for lunch with Vince a few months ago, when he was putting the bill together for the Hop Farm. I know Vince quite well: we had a long drunken lunch! It’s really amazing playing this gig: it’s probably the festival we’re most excited about this summer. A few days after we’re going to America and touring with the Foo Fighters so it’s gonna be a great period. K: Is the fact that the festival isn’t branded or sponsored appealing to you guys? DG: Yes, deﬁnitely...we’ve never been sponsored on tours: it’s important. But with this one...[trails off and laughs]... Vince is quite a funny chap, I’ll be surprised if there’s any kind of backstage area...hopefully it won’t turn into Altamont: or hopefully it will! K: We’ll try to keep the Hell’s Angels out: there’s not too many in provincial Kent... DG: Yeah! The Kent Chapter! Catch Supergrass third on the bill at A Day At The Hop Farm, and check out their new single Rebel In You, which is out now.
Published on May 31, 2008