I loved it.
It started pretty late on the Friday night, not managing to leave Birmingham til past 6 in the evening. Got down to Hop Farm in plenty of time and managed to avoid most of the traffic. We got down there and there was no queue, got right into the car park.
Got to the counter to redeem our letters, having bought a splashmac from MandMDirect.com. Unfortunately my name wasn't on the guest list (I registered pretty late) though they still let me in once I'd shown my customer number and ID. Awesome.
We then took a short walk from the car to the campsite (great that it was so close) and set up our little camp on the higgle-dee-piggle-dee setup they had there. I loved it, find a spot and just set up a tent. We set the tents up, and were warmly greeted by both our neighbours and by the security guards - which was a nice touch.
Friday night was a chance to chill out and enjoy each others company. We met a few nice people, got a BBQ going, and just soaked up the atmosphere.
For Saturday, we headed to the main stage in time to see sets from Noah and the Whale which I really enjoyed. They were followed by Florence and the Machine who really had a great stage show.. and an awesome voice. Despite being told to stick around for Echo and the Bunnymen, we headed to the campsite for a little bit of food, and to top up our water supplies.
We got back in time to watch Ash, who were pretty good (though I had to admit I hadn't a clue to many of their songs - don't know how I managed that"!). We then skipped the start of The View to go and watch Bell X1, and ride on a fairground ride which was pretty nice. Generated a nice breeze in the sun.
After topping up with a little more water, we then headed back to the crowd to catch a bit of The Pigeon Detectives before pushing our way to the front read for The Fratellis. Now I don't mind The Fratellis, though I don't know why I loved this gig so much. We were right at the front bouncing around with the best of them, and bumping into all sorts - including a photographer Kerri Burbidge. I don't know if she got many good pics, hopefully they'll appear online at some point. Also found it amusing that she was handing out business cards at the front of the gig. Successful though.
After that we headed to the Dance Tent, where it was pretty much your normal club scene. Quite good fun bopping around in the crowd, though by that point was feeling a bit hungry and tired. After a few more glasses of water and a few burgers on the BBQ with a few people we'd met @ the camp site, it was time to wind our weary way to bed - and get a good nights sleep ready for the next day.
After heading out to get a fry up just down the road in Tunbridge Wells, we headed back to the festival site without any problems with traffic - another bonus. We got there just in time to watch Ladyhawke and The Mystery Jets play two really good sets. Most of the time was spent sprawled out at the back of the crowd enjoying decent conversation in the sun. One of the guys we were chatting to took at group photo of us - though on his camera - and we returned the favour (also on his camera). Unfortunately we've not got any contact details for him - so it's unlikely we'll see how good (or bad) that photo was :)
We then headed to the smaller third stage to catch Fight Like Apes. These guys had so much energy and reputation that the tent was packed out. The only spot I could get was next to a bank of speakers right on the edge of the stage which more or less entirely obscured my view of the band. As it turns out I got an awesome view, as 5 minutes into their set their hairy synth player came running over and started smashing a chair on a barrier, just a few inches in front of me. The sensible thing to do would have been to step back - but I was a little awestruck. Not yet found a photo of this - so if anyone could help it'd be appreciated :) I quite liked their set, simple and energetic, though it was more made by their liveliness on stage, and the atmosphere that created. Good stuff to dance to though.
Next we watched Super Furry Animals who I thought were good, but definitely there for the older guys in the crowd. Having not listened to them that much before, their stage show wasn't that entertaining. So much so, that I decided to head off to have a go on Booster - a 24 meter high ride, which was pretty kewl. The only bad thing was that the two chairs on the other side of the pod to me and the guy that went on it were out of order - which meant that whilst we were hanging at the top whilst the other end was reloaded with people, we were hanging face down, rather than sitting up. I didn't mind it too much, but to have you entire weight resting against a harness when you're static somehow feels scarier than when you're being thrown around.
We then headed back to listen to The Doves - who were awesome. They have presence and enough songs to really get the festival going, and all ages were enjoying and appreciating the music. Their overwhelming message throughout was to boycott Hellmans' though. (Something I was already doing as a result of not being able to find their 'Burger Sauce' at three separate supermarkets in the build up to the festival). Why? Evidently their latest advertising campagin is a rip off of the 'stage curtain' for the band. Ho hum.
We decided that heading to the third stage was probably once again a good idea - as the main stage had filled up quite a bit in anticipation of Paul Weller, and not wanting to see The Editors, we headed to the circus tent to watch The Rumble Strips. They were probably the best band we saw all weekend. The frontman looked like he'd been enjoying the festivities and forgotten that he was due on stage - yet despite both that, and massive interaction from the crowd, he managed to produce an absolutely awesome voice - helped by the factor that it was obvious the whole band were enjoying themselves. They trumpet and sax added an element of virtuosity to the l
ine-up, and the songs were those for a summer's day. I expect they'll be playing much bigger stages next year - and I hope that I get to see them their too!
We headed off to grab some clothes - and having packed the camp up into the car - we moved the car closer to the exit of the site. A shrewd move - we thought.
We got back into the festival more or less as Paul Weller came out. I expected to be heading over that way, but the guys I was with fancied a bit of 2 Many DJs. I have to admit to being initially disappointed by the change of plan - but one of the guys had sat through the indie music all weekend, despite being a dance fanatic. Well, I wasn't disappointed. The atmosphere was immense as the crowd got going purely off the beats being pumped through them by these two guys in Tuxedos on the stage. I'd completely misinterpreted what this music was all about - it wasn't so much a listening experience as a complete stage show. The graphical work on integrating the album covers with the mix was python-esque - and the energy was massive. People were dancing like crazy, and my mate (who's pretty relaxed and laid back most of the time) was moving like an epileptic giraffe. It was awesome to watch and feel the buzz from the crowd.
I headed out to watch a bit of Paul Weller, listening to 'You do something to me' - then deciding to head back to the dance tent when he started playing a generic tango waltz. I'm sure I'll get a chance to see him again, but the opportunity to get with the crowd inside the dance tent was too strong a temptation. We went back in a danced our wellingtons off for the next 45 minutes, as the guys mixed some quality tunes together. The air horn from the crowd just added to the occasion beautifully.
The set finished just before Paul Weller, so we managed to catch the end of 'A Town called Malice' before leaving with the crowd to the car park. And the best bit? We got in the car and literally drove out of the car park, back out on the open road in less than 2 minutes and heading back home. The craziest bit - this was what we'd been dreading the most after the reviews of Hop Farm Festival #1 from last year. However, I hope that the festival can grow and grow. It's all about the music.