This year’s widely anticipated V Festival came aggressively straight for us. With her guns blazing, she blew away anyone who was lucky enough to get in to the 60,000 capacity arena. The success of the weekend truly rested on one act and their extraordinary ability to put on the most intense and simply awesome performance you may of ever witnessed.
Arriving on site just as Girls Aloud take to the stage and seeing the entire cast of Hollyoaks embarrassingly demanding their VIP passes I had to take a moment to remind myself why I was here. Kings Of Leon, The Verve, The Chemical Brothers, Jamie T, Tokyo Police Club, The Prodigy and Muse. With these stella acts gracing Weston Park for two packed days I couldn’t help but give in to the commercial machine that is Virgin. And with my industrial ear plugs and sick bag to hand I prepared myself for the very real and terrifying possibility that I may be musically punished by the distinctively formidable *Scouting For Girls.
*Disclaimer: apologies for any offence caused by mention of named band
With five stages appropriately placed around the arena there should have been no lack of talent, disappointingly an early set from alt/indie outfit Animal Kingdom performing on the Sessions Stage gives the hopeful audience a depressing start. Uncertain vocals and weak musicianship fail the four piece tragically and the small crowd is left with the choice of seeing either OneRepublic or The Feeling. Chants of “I want my money back!” resound throughout the site and the extremely disinterested Feeling fans somehow find the strength to refrain from clapping as they desperately stride towards the Virgin Mobile Union tent. Awaiting them are good times with fun loving welsh outfit, Goldie Lookin Chain. The tent is full, and the festival community get their first glimpse of the fun which is to follow.
Almost immediately the arena is spoilt with talent. US rock beast Lenny Kravitz belts out an impressive set with his 2000 hit ‘Fly Away’ finally getting the crowd into the festival spirit. Whilst over on the Channel 4 stage the blatantly mental Reverend and his Makers mix swagger with a glimpse of brilliance to create a tiny bit of anarchy, submissively forcing the hyped crowd into a state of minor diversity.
Amy Winehouse is late. 30 mins after she is due on stage the fragile singer seems unaware of the angst she has caused the crowd. Like a circus performer Amy shuffles her way through the 60 minute set as she is gawped at and coldly discussed from one audience member to the next. The singer’s performance is impressive, eyes are fixed, and even though half the audience may be here for reasons other than her talent there is no denying the connection she is able to shape.
FESTIVAL QUOTE NO 1: “We are like the biggest twats in the whole festival”
It’s 7pm and crowds are in full force as the rain welcomes the remaining entrants to the arena. Hot Chip are able to give crowds a more than welcome break from the weather in the JJB Arena as the electro/pop group churn out an impressive selection of tunes. And as their massive hit ‘Over And Over’ rouses the crowd to a temporary peak of ecstasy some decide they don’t want to peak just yet, and calm down by enjoying a couple of non-offensive pop/rock tunes from The View over on the Channel 4 stage. Cheeky front man Kyle Falconer confidently entertains, and audience members allow themselves to quite happily jump around.
A close contender to the headline act this evening are Kings Of Leon whose cool stature and firm expressions, combined with their gritty and melodic musicianship create a show full of greatness. ‘Four Kicks’ and ‘California Waiting’ give the pleasantly drunk crowd something to chew on, but the low sound levels throughout ‘On Call’ slightly demean the four piece’s performance, as the transition from the opening effects into that beefy bass riff just isn’t intense enough.
FESTIVAL QUOTE NO 2: “It’s not a rock show until someone gets their tits out”
It gets to that time of the evening where the crowd mingle their way into their positions for this evening’s headline act, The Verve. The deservedly anthemic group are able to give a performance of grand stature and seamlessly reel off tune after tune. Ending appropriately with ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ and then leading into current single ‘Love Is Noise’. Ears become numb and the night is brought to a more than fulfilling close.
Sunday at V Festival, and one of the first acts of the day to perform are Australian four piece Sparkadia. Playing an impressive set of songs reminiscent to that of Burt Bacharach and Phil Spector, the band truly succeed in entertaining the copious crowd. Their swirling melodies, honest musicianship and Australian roots seem to bring the sun out over V, and being at the festival never felt so good.
Today is all about one band. But before they can grace the stage we have an impressive second day of artists to see.
Lostprophets are immense as they play a short, but brilliant set. And even though the lead guitarist had been rushed to hospital the night previous the group manage to pull it off completely. Hilarious banter from Ian Watkins and crowds diving into mud pits filled with naked women really give V Fest a kick up the backside and suitably step it up a gear.
If you didn’t fancy getting yourself a little dirty, never fear, Estelle proved a great alternative for R & B fans onsite that day as she played an impressive set of songs to a crowd who, at first, may not of been aware of her extensive back catalogue.
Maximo Park manage to rouse the main stage crowd into a frenzy, as the band’s energetic hits cause frontman Paul Smith to dance about on stage like he’s staring in an uncanny remake of A Clockwork Orange. Over on the Channel 4 stage Newton Faulknerproves to be Mr. Nice guy as he engages intently with his audience allowing his acoustic surf tunes free passage. The Twang don’t let the side down as they manage to quite easily fill the JJB arena, belting out ‘Wide Awake’ like it’s the first time they have ever sung it. Brilliant.
Gigantic satellites surround the main stage moving in eloquent unison, whilst brooding sounds vibrate throughout the surrounding forest. The vibrations are brought to a climax and tonight’s headliners Muse enter the main stage. Opening with ‘Map Of The Problamatique’, Muse nearly shatter the bones of the immense crowd with a completely intense and enormous field of sound. People standing next to each other are genuinely amazed as to what is actually happening. Increasing in strength after each and every song, and with their stage show getting even more ridiculously spectacular, Muse manage to explore a huge spectrum through their endless library of hits. Bellamy is completely unnerved and you begin to realise just how amazingly talented he is.
‘Supermassive Blackhole’ creates magical connotations of outer space as bassist Chris roars out words as if aliens have invaded his mind and heís indefinitely gone insane. And this is exactly what Muse are, insane. Their sound is enormous.
From relatively chilled out tunes such as ‘Starlight’ to deafening anthems like ‘Plug In Baby’ Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard (with extremely impressive backing from their synth player Morgan) etch each and every song into the crowd’s minds, with amazing passion and pure brilliance.
You leave shaken. Unnerved. Ready for more.
Words: Frazer Lawton
Photos – Steve Gerrard