Vince Power in conversation - Vince Power Interview
Having attended this years Hop Festival with much enjoyment, when the opportunity to have a little chit chat with its founder, promoter-in-chief, Vince Power (the driving force of such musical ventures as the Mean Fiddler and the Reading & Leeds , as well as Benicassim), came my way, I took it prompto. Together we discussed the implications in putting up such large scale events and the dilemmas that go with the job of first-class music promoter.
Q: What is the concept behind the Hop Farm festival?
When I sold the Mean Fiddler, Leeds and Reading (festivals) to Live Nation, I had to take a break. And I had noticed an overkill of branding, sponsorship and VIP areas, so I decided that when Id come back, I was going to try a no branding, no sponsorship, with one single entrance gate for everyone so that no one would feel more important than their fellow customer Anyway, with the economy going down, sponsorship is not so popular at the moment: it was about trying to bring it back to the people and coincidentally the current economic climate makes people more focused and humble out things after being into a greedy period in the last 10 years.
Q: Who do you expect the people who attend the Hop Farm to be? Is there a particular profile for this festival?
Well, generally the bands sort of dictate the pro file but at the moment theres a mixture of young bands and established bands, mingling the likes of Paul Weller, The Super Furry Animals and The Doves, who have around for many years . So, generally, were having music people aged 18 to 40/45, and a lot of families- there are a lot of young families on the campsite.
Q: Indeed, so do you feel that the Hop Farm Festival cater for these kids?
I think it does through their parents. I think its great to have children on festival sites. All my kids are festival kids, practically born at festivals. I think its good to have them there: it gives them an early sense of community and belonging. If you keep them away from festivals until they become teenagers, then they go berserk and do all the wrong things.
Q: You were saying that the line-up generally dictates the attendance but who do you personally want at your festival?
Normal people like you and me, really. Well, maybe not as old as me, as generally past 30, people tend to resent camping. Most of people in the campsite will generally be in their 20s. But technically, you dictate the profile by not booking just one certain type of bands, for example, if I were to book only 80s bands, chances are that the audience would be in their 40s.
Q: On the subject of line-ups, who decides on the bill?
I do with my bookers in the office. They consult with me on the overall bill but I certainly dictate who the headliners would be for this and Benicassim, because youve got to have the top ones right. And you need to keep the integrity of the bill altogether so it flows: I mean, theres no point in putting completely different genres of music.
Q: Oh,really? Attending this years Hop Farm, I was a bit surprised about how all the genres were somehow segregated into different stagesWhy not have 2ManyDjs on the main stage, for example?
We could have done, but we were restricted by uncompromising licensing laws, where five in the area can dictate the 15,000 people [this years attendance] who come: generally, an act like 2ManyDJs should be starting at 11pm but that is actually our curfew.
This said, we do in Benicassim, Spain, where licensing is less strict, so we can book main DJs on the main stage.
Q: Coming back to the line-up, the big polemic was why The Fratellis did headline over such acts as Ash, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Editors or even The View What was the reason for that?
Well, after the success of last years inauguration of the Hop Farm (headlined by Neil Young and The Mighty Boosh), I went for a license earlier in the year, just before Christmas, asking for an increased capacity, because I had bigger intentions like putting bands like The Prodigy and Oasis, but because the license got turned down, I had to appeal, which took so long I practically had no time to properly sit down and put a bill together. But to answer your question, these are the bands who were around at the time: The Fratellis are between albums and are probably not as popular as they were but theyre still a very good live band. As for Ash, who headlined Reading in the past, theyre great but not as big as they used to be. I had to weigh in the sell-ability of these bands, and The Fratellis can still sell out two Brixton Academies against Echo & The Bunnymen who can probably sell out one, you know
It all comes down to timing.
Q: OK, well take that as an answer Now, how many festivals do you put on?
At the moment, Im no longer involved in Reading and Leeds, which I sold to Live Nation, so really its the Hop Farm and Benicassim.
But I also own a couple of music venues and bars like The Pigalle Club and The Bloomsbury Ballroom in London.
Q: So, which of the Hop Farm and Benicassim is the favourite venture?
Theyre both quite different really, but Benicassim is arguably more challenging in that I have to adapt to the Spanish way of functioning, and establish a relation of trust with the people out there, all this without speaking the language myself.
Q: One last thing: looking back on the Fast Track to Benicassim competition, the five shortlisted bands [see review of Fast Track to Benicassim] which took place last month at the Pigalle Club, can I just ask what the criteria were for them to qualify for a slot at this years Benicassim (July 16th-19th)?
They were judged on the night on the way they performed, their potential to succeed as well as their songs. This year we went for two bands, The Paris Riots and Polly Mackey and The Pleasure Principle. But this is no exact science, we may have missed the one band that would actually make it and become stars.
Q: I couldnt agree more: while The Paris Riots were great, I still dont get how Polly Mackey won over The Lost Knives!
Well, indeed, if you asked me if you had to make a living out of these three, which one would you do?, I would go for The Lost Knives, I suppose, but I dont manage bands, you see. The main mistake we made was to have six judges instead of five or seven, so we could have had a majority.
But, I do agree with you, but I also believe that great talent always make their way through- a bit like with acting, if you know youve got it, it will come through.
May these (last) wise words from a masterclass talent himself sink in, and those not yet experienced with either The Hop Farm or Benicassim put one or both on their next year to-do list.