Festival Frolics: Hopping Down In Kent, Hop Farm.

Last year's Hop Farm Festival saw the thankfully now defunct The Fratellis hop down to Kent for a tad over an hour of Tennents-fuelled booze pomp, whilst Paul Weller churned out a diluted greatest hits show largely devoid of hits, most probably as the Modfather never particularly had any that leeched onto your memory tapes like blown bubblegum. This year's a different kettle of folkified fish, as croaky old Bob Dylan and self-indulgent sax molester Van Morrison head up a bill that largely could have been cobbled together at any point over the past five years. Fortunately for most, it now has been.

Pulling into Paddock Wood as the sun swelters, the discernible backpacks, crates packed with warming cans of bargain booze and dubious headwear stumble from carriage to platform, and then on to double decker buses driven by quintessentially British eccentrics, think the rural England equivalent of Crocodile Dundee or any equivalently tenuous fragment of fiction. Not that veteran blues boy Dr. John appears to have any grasp on his GPS position, nor reality seemingly, stomping through a gristly romp hinging on the unwaveringly independent spirit of Glastonbury's West Holts. Synonymously, enough to get Jools Holland frothing at the mouth for an hour or so. Less infectious are Oxford quartet Stornoway, the much-touted Mumford & Sons mk.II quite perplexedly signed to 4AD contemporarily. Boxes beside charisma, showmanship and songsmithery remain unchecked, although a bustling take on I Saw You Blink is heartwarming, if merely turning blood vessels a little tepid. If last month on the Isle Of Wight Blondie's Debbie Harry looked all but maternal, tonight she resembles Carla Bruni in a sauna as her mascara bleeds down strands of bleach blonde wig. Whilst the aesthetics evaporated a while back and the graffiti backdrop is unfurled bafflingly once again, it's the discography for which they've been trudged out of obscurity and back into the dimming sunset spotlights. The falsetto strains of Maria have proven to be devoid of generational recycling, Hanging On The Telephone is as guttural as a gritty bar burger in CBGB's and that 20-second One Way Or Another grungey guitar solo's still more enveloping than an entire 2 series of Sugar Rush. Van Morrison then swaggers onstage, suited and booted solely in white, East End butcher-like as the soulful twangs of Northern Muse (Solid Ground) bound about deafening, stomach-dislodging rides and python-like bar queues. Throwing away the silky caramel croons of Brown Eyed Girl within 5 minutes, as spotlessly impeccable as it may still be 43 years on, forseeably sends vast chunks of those congregated before Van the Man cordially dissipating towards ethanol, railway lines etc. although it's Have I Told You Lately? that inspires slow, practically stationary dancing and invokes a teary blush or two in its woozy school disco last dance schmaltz. The hotel lobby jazz tinges of Moondance are laced with lethargy and the thought of Van making romance these days is all too vulgar to bear yet in his relentlessly exuberant self-affirmation, Morrison gives you a fair bit more than none.

Were you to transpose the potato headed couple in Toy Story onto current British music you'd possibly wind up with Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling. Obviously Marling's spoken for and with Son of Mumford Marcus in attendance, possibilities of twee as folk tabloid shenanigans unfolding are slim but both returning right about now with beef-bloated sophomore efforts, the pair are still as bright as Marling's once again blonde bob gleaming in rays frazzling enough to scorch the chicken limbs trapped in the onsite rotisserie. Hell, they even collaborated on Flynn's latest LP Been Listening. Not that there's much collaborative force batted about this afternoon. Drawing extensively from said long player, Johnny Flynn's still the undoubted Transgressive Records pinup as he coos and fiddles through the baroque disconsolation of Lost And Found, the restrained euphoria of Kentucky Pill. Just as The Wrote & The Writ is woefully absent from Flynn's 45 minutes, Marling elects to abhor from airing her finest, most fragile three minutes to date, New Romantic as she too relies heavily on recent record, I Speak Because I Can. Glaring out from behind black Wayfarers, despite her gentle disposition, she emanates a concealed turmoil, almost as if glaring out on the blaring sun. Paler than a comatosed Snow White, she's evidently no firm believer in the solarium and the Gallic rattles of Devil's Spoke are hardly geared towards such a setting although Blackberry Stone is the sonic embodiment of delicacy. Omitting the hit brigade is quite evidently not an ethos to which Peter Doherty, with his new-found sophistication in the form of an 'r' subscribes. Such sophistication's further heightened by the his sober state, as jaws clatter into the dust underfoot in disbelief and aghastness, as Doherty drools a set to reaffirm quite why two thirds of our fair isles fell head over heels for a wayward rogue. Strapping on a Gibson acoustic almost as battered and bruised as Doherty himself and interjecting any drab intermission with renditions of Chas & Dave's Hopping Down In Kent as ballet dancers and Union Jacks twirl around his gaunt figure, the likes of Albion, Music When The Lights Go Out and Can't Stand Me Now are delivered with a gusto he's not seen to have mustered since the tail end of 2003, with bum notes kept to an absolute minimum. Fuck Forever rouses the gathering rabble, whilst For Lovers is quite possibly the weekend's most beautifully heartfelt few moments. And almost all's forgiven. Now to that Libertines reformation... Over in the shade of stretched tarpaulin, a rather special little chap mumbles, muttering his lines of distrust over a single acoustic. Villagers today is Dublin troubadour Conor J. O'Brien and Conor today is breathtakingly astounding. If you say Conor's name speedily enough there's a chance O'Brien could become Oberst, squint and you see Bright Eyes, yet with the whimsically reedy Becoming A Jackal, the dolorous slow burning serenade The Meaning Of The Ritual and jaunty excellence of Home in tow, Villagers house themselves quite aptly amidst today's bill of folk idols past, present and maybe, just maybe in the case of O'Brien, future.

Six days ago Ray Davies attracted those Glastonbury revelers that didn't swarm to experience England's rather turgid World Cup exit, backed by countless choir members. Choir or no choir (today unfortunately it's no choir) Davies' Kinks repertoire is flawless, without a blemish in earshot. Dedicated Follower Of Fashion couldn't be more British were Davies dolled up as a beefeater in a novelty Union Jack foam hat, whilst I Need You, I'm Not Like Anybody Else and a cherry-cola sweetened rendition of Lola are as nostalgically charged an Only Fools And Horses 24-hour omnibus. From under the brow of his gleaming fedora, Bob Dylan grumbles and rasps his way through 90 minutes of scarcely discernible dustbowl ballads that's met with confused disaffection as Dylan tonks away at a Hammond during Just Like A Woman, one of few recognisable pages from his folk rock back catalogue of biblical proportions. Often sounding akin to a parody of his timeless drawl, Like A Rolling Stone rumbles along like ramshackle carts looping about Big Thunder Mountain and a rough'n'ready take on set closer Forever Young rights many a wrong, yet there's only so many stadium shows Dylan can choke with rambling oddities and half hours devoid of hits. Unless you haven't a bona fide hit to spew from your hair-splattered face, in which case you can get away with unleashing a camp-as-Chris Lowe tackling of Taylor Dayne's disco destroyer Tell It To My Heart, as Devendra Banhart does with gay abandon. So symbiotic is Banhart, one year dating Natalie Portman looking like a Jim Henson creation in a pair of Raybans, the next stripping down, lopping off his locks and swigging from a litre bottle of Morgan Spiced fronting The Groggs that it's verging on implausible to attempt to speculate as to which one will roll into a venue/ field/ bar near you. Tonight he bears his tats, swigs endlessly and jerks out lengthy wig-outs Sea Horse and Rats as if to make up for his new short back and sides demeanour. 16th & Valencia Roxy Music, about a band most "may know", is as close as Banhart's yet to drift towards mainstream acclaim, lifted from the desert booted incoherence of latest record What Will We Be. Spanish infiltration seeps in through a raucous Carmensita, whilst the BPM reader escalates to the sixties swagger of Lover and Banhart's puerility erupts in I Feel Just Like A Child, a track that condenses his endearing naivety and thriving lunacy into a tribal, almost ritualistic full stop. "From being my daddy's sperm to being packed in an urn", he'll be (INSERT ACTUAL AGE) going on seven. Hop Farm, confirming there's more to folk than Mumford & Sons since 2008.