As important now as ever
Patti Smith - Live At Hop Farm 2012

Returning to the Hop Farm festival for the second consecutive year, Patti Smith is 100% pleased to be here. The high priestess of art punk beams from the stage proclaiming it “a festival for the people!” and she’s not wrong. (No sponsorship, no branding, and what appears to be all independently owned stalls.) The spectrum of music fans runs from seven to seventy and although attendance looks to be a little lower than last year, the amassed throng responds with what can only be described as a warm loving pulse of warmth towards the stage.

And so the band eases on with ‘Dancing Barefoot’ and the familiarity of both our location and the many years this song has been enjoyed, forms an immediate reconnection between her and her congregation. It’s instantaneous and the bond of trust and respect between both the audience and the artist has been developed and worked on from both sides for years and hopefully will continue for years to come. Let there be no mistake, Patti Smith is and always has been one the THE important artists. The round edges and poppy sensibilities of ‘April Fool’ don’t seem to put off the old-school fan base and they’re soon rewarded with the razor sharp ‘Free Money’ – as important now as it ever has been.

Pausing the music for just a moment, the ecstatic crowd hanging on her every word, Patti calls attention to the wonder of mother earth and the importance of love and respect for all things, which drops nicely into an introduction for ‘Fuji-San’, another great cut from her latest album which bonds band and audience even closer. By now, there is a shared mind that all are tapping in to, conscious or not, and it appears to be a very rewarding experience for all concerned. It’s when they start ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’ though, that tears well and hairs raise. Written back in ‘96, after the loss of three central figures in her life, (her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, her life partner Robert Mapplethorpe and her brother Todd), she delivers these words directly from the heart and with emotion almost palpable.

Classic fan favourites brighten the mood and draw the audience back from contemplative awe to humbled joy with ‘Ghost Dance’, ‘Pissing in the River’ and the Springsteen penned ‘Because the Night’ running in quick succession. One last “new one” comes if the form of title track ‘Banga’ before the onset of the familiar finale of recent Patti Smith shows. She lets every single person in attendance feel like they are all equal in all things good and bad, before launching into the life affirming ‘The People Have the Power’, and ‘Horses’ before a rousing version of ‘Gloria’ that leaves artists and audience in no doubt they have shared something wonderful.

Words by Adam Foster
Photo by Andy Sturmey

Follow these links for photo galleries of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Hop Farm 2012.

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