Wednesday, August 22, 2012

V Festival, Weston Park – Saturday 18th/Sunday 19th August 2012

Day One

Old ‘90s indie bands never die...they just end up on the V festival bill. Yes, nestled in amongst the rap chaps and X Factor rejects there was enough to keep the mums and dads happy, with the icing on the beanie hat being the undisputed kings of indie comebacks Stone Roses. Day one kicked off with perennial festival favourites Dodgy and despite suffering from some niggling sound problems (which intermittently plagued the 4Music Stage all weekend) Staying Out For The Summer succeeded in moistening the eyes of many a 40 something bloke reliving their youth (whilst kids, Kylie and Brooklyn were busy necking the red wine box back in the tent no doubt).

She may have avoided getting showered in piss (a fate that befell poor Cher Lloyd) but Tulisa Contostavlos is another of those artists who divides opinion. “This is my favourite part of the set” she shouted halfway through “The end?” screamed back some quick witted individual (Alan Sugar perhaps?) in the crowd. To be fair she took it reasonably well but it was probably the most entertaining bit of a pretty bland show.

Tried to get in to see Rita Ora but the Arena Stage, housed under a huge tent, was full. Whoever decided that sticking stages under huge great tents were a good idea at summer festivals wants shooting. If the sun’s out who the hell wants to be in a dark, sweaty hole eh? If it rains the place becomes a fetid mass of damp humanity slopping about in mud and piss. Yes, piss again. It was pretty much impossible to avoid it at V this year. Everywhere you looked there were men and women gushing like geysers...if that doesn’t top up the old water table I don’t know what will. Unbelievably this even went on IN the tents, right where people chose to sit just moments later. Glastonbury seems to have clamped down on this kind of animalistic behaviour but V almost seems to revel in it...literally. By day two getting to the official men’s outdoor urinals (as opposed to the unofficial other words everywhere) involved slipping and sliding through a thick gloopy mess that you just knew wasn’t caused by the rain. The toilet arrangements for the girls seemed woefully inadequate with the queues leading many to just squat and go, often with friends desperately attempting to form makeshift screens out of coats. Whilst we’re on the subject of piss as if it wasn’t grim enough for people to do it wherever they felt like many seemed inspired to collect it in cardboard pint cups or plastic water bottles and then lob it into the crowd. This isn’t a new thing of course but it seems to be getting worse, particularly at some festivals.  V was the worst I’ve ever seen in 20 odd years. If you stood anywhere near the front for some sets you stood a reasonable chance of copping something, my moment came just as Maverick Sabre finished playing. Nice. There’s no mistaking the warm salty taste and pungent aroma of some bloke’s (I presume it was a bloke) piss on your lips, in your hair, in your eyes, slowly dribbling down the back of your neck. The solution? Immediate removal of the penis for anyone caught doing it. I’m SERIOUS by the way. Cut ‘em off and nail ‘em to a tree as a warning to anyone else who thinks it’s acceptable to piss in a cup and throw it at people. Put it this way...they wouldn’t do it twice.

Anyway, there was actually some music going on too believe it or not. Olly Murs is rapidly staking his claim as an all round family entertainer, just cool enough to appeal to the pop kids but innocuous enough to get the granny vote too. Dance With Me is the kind of tune that could quite happily play in a retirement home, whilst his On My Cloud/I Need A Dollar mash up plays to his lite soul pop strengths. Irresistibly likeable.

Shed Seven may be just a Britpop footnote but they were responsible for some of that era’s best tunes in Getting Better and Going For Gold. The star of the show was the band’s lead singer Rick Witter though, Britpop’s Peter Kay. “We thought t’Olympics would be a cash cow for us with Going For Gold. Didn’t hear it once! Gary Kemp owes us money” he opined before playing it. The band then launched into a rather ace Britpop version of Spandau Ballet’s Gold. “That’ll do Kemp’s bank balance no harm ‘eh?”.  He was on great form, “If you’re here to see that Nicki Minaj she’s cancelled. Ha! Sticky Minge we call up where I’m from...STICKY MINGE. Ha!” The set ended with a surprisingly poignant Chasing Rainbows, sung along with gusto by the 40 something blokes who suddenly seemed to realise that they weren’t 20 anymore.

Going back in time even further Madness have now become a national institution, arguably the one band that sums up what it is to be British more than any other. Ever. As the clouds suddenly broke the band came on, launched into One Step Beyond and produced one of the best sets of the weekend. Embarrassment, House Of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House, It Must Be Love...pure pop gold. Nice to hear Bed and Breakfast Man again and respect due to the band for taking the time to raise the whole Pussy Riot issue...the only artists I heard do this all weekend.

And back further still to Sir Tom Jones. Thankfully freed from the painfully embarrassing spectacle of The Voice Sir Tom is back doing what he does best, belting ‘em out. Great to hear one or two gospel numbers which really suited him but pick of the less well known stuff was Cohen’s Tower Of Song, one man looking back on his life. “I was born with the gift of a golden voice” could’ve been written for Jones. Bringing on the big guns Green Green Grass of Home and Delilah got the crowds singing, with the latter giving us all the chance to provide our own Ha Ha Has. During a sexy Leave Your Hat On the cameras panned across the audience alighting on a bloke on his mate’s shoulders who...yep, you’ve guessed it...was stark bollock naked apart from his hat. Genius. Not sure I’d want a bloke’s sweaty balls slapped around my neck but each to his own. A big, bold, brassy run through Kiss saw the Jones flash his belly to wild whoops from ladies of a certain age and throughout the set the dude just seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. Amazing. The chants of Tom, Tom, Tom as he left the stage went on and on...if only the set had. A true masterclass in showmanship.

Back at the 4Music Stage Frank Turner continued his mission to become a more tuneful Billy Bragg with his own brand of folk punk songs of protest and reflection whilst over in the half full Arena Stage tent The Human League’s Phil Oakey remained one of the coolest pop stars in history. So cool in fact that he wore a suit and overcoat at first, even in the stifling heat. Now that’s cool. Despite many of their big hits being 30 years old this stuff still seems fresh, from Love Action’s sparse synth stylings to the wonky pop of Fascination, and 2010’s single Night People shows that they’re still capable of pulling it out the bag. The League have had several eras, from the experimental  Being Boiled phase, through to global pop stardom, the wilderness years, a comeback with the surprisingly strong Tell Me When and on to their current status as mid afternoon festival crowd pleasers. Phil and the girls seem happy enough with this but given the frankly euphoric reaction that Don’t You Want Me inspired you can’t help feeling that they deserved more than being stuck in a stinky tent at 6.15. The sight and sound of hundreds of people streaming back out into the sun singing the chorus in unison was one of the weekend’s best moments.

For anyone under the age of 20 Tinie Tempah’s the man of the moment though, although clearly Pass Out’s the best thing he’s done by a mile so far. Ho ho ho-ing like it’s Christmas he whipped the huge audience up, getting them to take off their t-shirts and twirl them in the air. It was an impressive visual but nothing else he did seemed to warrant the hype.

Noah and the Whale have seemingly taken a huge steer from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with several tracks bearing that band’s distinctive soul. L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N in particular is a dead ringer for Petty’s Don’t Come Around Here No More. That’s no bad thing and the band’s laid back summer time vibe neatly suited the blazing sun. Yes, sun. It’s a miracle.

With one of LMFAO laid up with a bad back the recently reformed Happy Mondays seemed a better bet and despite Shaun Ryder looking like a man who’s been found under a pile of rubbish at the back of the pub the whole set was a gloriously messy celebration. Vocally Rowetta holds the whole thing together but Shaun’s remarkably lucid, even if he does have an annoying habit of dropping the f word into every track, reinventing 24 Hour Party People as 24 Hour Fucking Party People.  Suggs made a surprise appearance for Step On, doing his best Bez impersonation, not hard to do as it still consists of dancing like a stoned puppet. “We’re good buddies now” drawled Shaun “it’s not just the money!” Bless ‘em. Whilst they’re responsible for pissing their fortunes down the drain (ruining Factory Records in the process) they deserve a happy ending, if only for the epic tunes. Hallelujah indeed.

That just left time for The Killers who’ve been quietly amassing their own set of epics for a decade now. Brandon Flowers was dressed in a leather jacket and sporting the kind of haircut that makes him look like a 50s teenager, which is pretty appropriate given the more straightforward rock n’roll feel of their latest single Runaways, a Springteenian blue collar anthem.  There’s a neat touch of Orbison creeping into Brandon’s vocals too, that slightly operatic, emotionally deep feel that lends every lyric extra weight. New track Atomic Bomb repeats the trick as someone in the crowd lights a flare covering the audience in an atmospherically eerie red glow. Makes a change from piss I suppose.

It’s the big singles that really hit the festival spot though with Somebody Told Me, Smile, Mr Brightside and All These Things That I’ve Done (featuring one of the most iconic lyrics of the last decade or so “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” which I even saw tattooed on one lady’s back) all uniting 50 odd thousand people. They’re a class act these days, one of the few genuine rock bands around and a crowd pleasing cover of Don’t Look Back In Anger went down a storm.

Day Two

Here comes the rain, still it wouldn’t be a festival without getting soaked at least once would it eh? Thankfully it didn’t deter a decent number of people from turning up to watch The Proclaimers. “Anyone want some factor 50?” asked Charlie...or was it Craig...I can’t tell. Comedy genius. They may be the geekiest looking popstars since Buddy Holly but there’s a rare kind of blunt romanticism to their songs with I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)managing to survive its recent comedy makeover to remain strangely affecting.
More Britpop flashbacks with Inspiral Carpets’ Farfisa powered hits. Now fronted by original vocalist Stephen Holt, replacing the recently departed Tom Hingley (who sang most of the band’s biggest tunes) they run though anthem to poverty and hopelessness This Is How It Feels, as timely today as it was back in the recession hit early 90s. That distinctive organ sound always marked them out as something a little different and I’d kind of forgotten how great Dragging Me Down and Saturn 5 sounded.  Low vocals spoilt things a bit but a storming version of I Want You redressed the balance. 

Random Impulse is a new name to me but his mix of rap n’rock made him a refreshing change from his more sample heavy beat obsessed peers.  Pick of the set, Best Party Ever, came across like Arctic Monkeys sharing a bottle of Jagermeister with Dizzee Rascal. Deserved to be heard by a lot more people...I’m guessing he soon will be.

After quick snatches of Gabrielle Aplin’s soaring vocals and self penned folky stuff and Childish Gambino’s   tongue in cheek rap (I presume the predictable “nigga” this, “blow job” that schtick is a piss take?) The Charlatans step in for Dappy who’s probably in detention for crimes against fashion, music, name it. Tim Burgess is channelling his inner Kurt Cobain today, sporting a messy bleached haircut and stripy t-shirt but performance wise its business as usual with One To Another launching a thousand pints and The Only One I Know making the 40-somethings all misty eyed.

Maverick Sabre’s a curious proposition. Soul, R&B,’s a confusing mix at times and like Plan B he seems to want to be a jack of all trades...and you know where that leaves you.  The full on dubstep section of the show seemed to get the biggest reaction but that says more about the crowd than the quality of the music to be honest. The more soulful stuff seems better but it’s a little laboured and you can’t help feeling that he’s taken one or two tips from the late, lamented Ms Winehouse.

After wiping the piss from my chops access to the Arena Stage was once again denied. This time the Ting Tings were the big draw. I did manage to hear Shut Up and Let Me Go and My Sharona...whoops...sorry...I mean That’s Not My Name. Did The Knack ever sue them for ripping them off? No? Amazing. What Katie lacks in vocal ability she makes up for in enthusiasm as evidenced by the big bass drum / cowbell beating section of the show. More energy than the Duracell Bunny.

Brit School graduates Rizzle Kicks seem to have come from nowhere to be everywhere, mainly thanks to the insanely catchy Mama Do The Hump. Perhaps it ain’t surprising to learn that Fatboy Slim produced it but he’s only partially responsible for their success. They’re kind of a pair of 21st Century Fresh Princes, just good fun pop with enough of an edge to hook in the cooler kids. An appearance by Ed Sheeran during set closer Dreamers sent the crown into some kind of frenzy. Mental.

Who put on the best show of the weekend? The Gossip’s Beth Ditto. No question. Boy that girl got soul. Dressed in a little black dress (well...maybe not that little) she blew the roof off the Arena Stage, playing all of the band’s more punky hits as well as the poppier recent stuff like the synth driven Move In The Right Direction. Part Janis Joplin, part Mama Cass she owned the crowd like no one else. Someone threw a bottle on stage and she picked it up “Is this a tampon for me?” The crowd cheered. Shoving it...well...where the sun don’t shine she countered with “It’ll be full of faeces and piss by the end of the gig so you’re doing me a favour”. Whether it was by the time she lobbed it back at the culprit I couldn’t quite make out but that’s how you deal with this shit. Beneath the fun though Ditto has one of the best, most powerful voices in pop right now, a fact best demonstrated on Standing In The Way Of Control, an anthem for the disaffected. It was an earshredding performance, sung back by the audience with just as much passion. Best set of the weekend.

Outside Noel was busy proving who was the more talented of the Gallagher brothers, as if this was in any doubt. His solo stuff is head and (standing on the) shoulders (of giants) above most of Oasis’ latter material and it can only be a matter of time before Liam does the sensible thing. Noel’s not averse to playing Oasis tracks now either – Half The World Away was a particular crowd pleaser – so he’d better hurry up. I’ve never been a huge fan (yep, I’m a Blur boy) so Friendly Fires seemed a better draw. Incredibly the 4Music Stage field was half empty, a real shame as their 80s tinged pop should be perfect festival fodder.  If they were pissed off with the relatively poor turnout they didn’t show it. They’re one of those bands where you know quite a few of the tunes but weren’t sure who did them. The ones that are new to you seem like old friends and there’s a pleasing variety of influences in there – from the tribalistic Yeasayer-ish Kiss of Life through to the disco samba of Paris - that keeps the set fresher than a wet wipe. Recent single Hurting is a glorious 80s style funk soul workout with a touch of Daft Punk in the mix and Hawaiian Air is every bit as blissful as it sounds. Lead singer Ed dances like a man possessed (maybe he’s just trying to avoid the pools of piss?) and the whole show was a grin inducing, butt shaking treat.

Right, finally on to the third of the most eagerly anticipated reunions of the last 20 years...on wanders Ian Brown with these poetic words...”Hello, we’re Stone Roses”.  They are too. This is the original line up, not the ’96 version that rapidly dissolved in a hail of critical disdain. This is the band that recorded one of the most definitive indie albums of all time, a record that still seems magical over two decades later. There’s a huge crowd, although a reasonable number of people seem to have plumped for a DJ called David Guetta over on the 4Music Stage. Their loss. This incarnation of the Roses is the widescreen, HD version in full surround sound. Whilst Ian Brown’s vocals may occasionally be a little off (although much improved and nowhere near as dodgy as some reviewers have made out) the real heart and soul of the band are the duo of guitarist John Squire and drummer Alan ‘Reni’ Wren. In fact at times this evening it was almost the John and Al show, with Squire spinning off into guitar string melting solos before giving way to Reni’s loose limbed but precision groove drumming. Opening with I Wanna Be Adored the band played pretty much all of the first classic album and a few tracks from the perhaps unfairly maligned follow up. Predictably the crowd loved it, hell some of them had waited their whole lives for this moment. I’m not sure whether everyone appreciated the solos but the musos would’ve lapped ‘em up. Freed from its vinyl shackles Fools Gold threatened to go on forever, with Squire weaving in a brief snatch of The Beatles’ We Can Work It Out into one of his solos...a good omen for the future perhaps? Can they...dare they...record anything new? If the Roses are to continue they’ll have to. Squire’s on fire right now, arguably one of the best guitarists in the world and judging by his wild solos he ain’t going to be content to just roll out the hits forever. No matter how lucrative it might be. Waste this talent and he’d be the biggest fool of all.

So that was V 2012 then, an odd festival in many ways, more notable for piss than anything else judging by the popularity of an internet video showing some fat bloke sliding through the mud and straight into the path of a ‘lady’ urinating in full view of the crowd (255,000 views and counting).

It lacks the history and vibe of Glastonbury, the coolness of Reading/Leeds and the uniqueness of the more boutique style events like the glorious Wilderness Festival. Violence broke out in my campsite on Sunday night...incredibly it was piss related again (someone threw a pint of piss at a group who were partying ‘enthusiastically’) but it was quickly quashed. You can’t blame the festival for morons. On the plus side the ‘arena’ area’s pretty compact so you can move between stages relatively quickly (crowds permitting) but on the minus side it...well...just lacks soul. If all you’re looking for is a basic festival experience ‘urine’ luck. 


Anonymous said...

Fantastic piece, I am new to reading your articles and this had me in stiches. If I ever go to V will be sure to wear a full body condom to save me from the wee throwing. Twilks

The Baron said...

Cheers Tracey! Yes, I can recommend a wetsuit for V...and plenty of wet wipes...urgghhhh!!! The things I saw...oh the horror...the horror!