V Festival 2005

Hylands Park, Chelmsford
U.G.L.Y, You Ain’t Got No Alibi, You Ugly!

by Isla MC

There are lots of things to like about V. But, there are also lots of things not to like about V. Since I’m a pretty positive, bright-side-of-life kind of person, I’m going to get the bad stuff out of the way asap. Exorcize the demons, if you will, so in the future I will only remember the good stuff. So here goes (and in my traditional style I will employ list format to discuss these, surprise, surprise. Makes it easier to organise my thoughts, I find):

1.The people were ugly. U.G.L.Y. Now, may I point out that I never even noticed this, maybe because I’m used to Britain’s ‘unique’ kind of beauty or maybe because I’m more tolerant of flaws and look for the inner beauty more than our Canadian friend Joanna, who had thought that being V Festival full of indie bands, it’d be full of hot indie boys in the crowd. Instead, she spent the whole weekend going ‘Fuck. This place is full of mingers’. Once I started looking I realised she was right, but fortunately we had backstage access and the people were much better looking in there. Phew. (Most notably, Vernon Kay – Phwoar! Who’d’ve thought!)

2.The security staff were arseholes. COMPLETE arseholes. And they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. I had rather a nasty run-in with two of them, one of whom told me one thing, the other told me another thing. I got confused and asked for clarification and they were seriously fucking shitty and rude. Not impressed. There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. No excuse whatsoever. I’m a lady, and I expect to be treated like one.

3.I LOATHE the way this particular festival is all about the hard sell. Of course, all festivals these days have sponsors and carry a corporate edge, but at V it’s so much more in your face. It really leaves something of a sour taste in ones mouth. On the way to V people were giving away freebie products left and right (ok, we’re a bit hypocritical here cuz we ate every single edible product). On site every stage has a brand name to it. Then there’s the Bacardi tent, the Strongbow tent, the people practically shoving a product down your throat every time you turned around, the fact that you could only get Virgin Cola (which I suppose is fair enough since it is the Virgin festival, but, as Joanna pointed out, it tastes like cream soda not coke. Yuck). What a load of cock. One giant product.

I think that’s it for the bad stuff. Well, I can’t remember anything else negative, so nothing significant anyway. Apart from the toilets being skanky but that’s a given. So now for the good stuff, of which there is lots more.

V had arguably the best line-up of any festival this summer. Really super good. Kaiser Chiefs, The Zutons, Jet, Super Furry Animals, Oasis, The Hives, The Polyphonic Spree, Doves, Ian Brown, Goldfrapp, Dizzee Rascal, The Roots, Robert Plant (woo hoo!), Prodigy, Turin Brakes, The Magic Numbers, Scissor Sisters, Franz Ferdinand… the list is bloody well endless!!

So, our personal favourites. The Polyphonic Spree were energetic, smiley, dancing, lovely, good looking, happy, infecting the audience with their sheer marvelousness and brilliance. They even had matching robes and a dude with a harp who was the spitting image of Jesus. We also learned a random fact that singer-songwriter-actor Johnathan Rice has once donned one of the Pspree robes and joined in on the dancing chorus. Small World.

The Hives were kick arse. They delivered a really tight and rockin’ set, with hilarious between-songs banter and stage persona from frontman Howlin’ Pelle. Very impressive how they declared themselves the new royal family of Britain. But even more impressive how their sense of humour was on par with their energy and raw talent. Towards the end of the set Pelle claimed the band were out of time, but if they played a “mind trick” on the organizers, they could get away with playing one more song. He followed with – in his thick Scandi accent – “Hello. We’re The Prodigy. We’d like to play a song for you. This one’s called Firestarter”. Genius.

Robert Plant obviously is a total legend, and the voice is till there sometimes. It was great when he was doing classic Zeppelin songs, but the new stuff is a bit ordinary. Sorry Rob, but you’re not ordinary, and nor should your material be. Oddly, I had to keep my eyes shut during his set because every time I looked at him I saw Mick Hucknall from Simply Red. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t cricket. Loved The Magic Numbers. Such lovely voices. I was really looking forward to Goldfrapp, but the tent was overflowing and we couldn’t get in. Gutted. They should have swapped with Turin Brakes, who had a bigger stage with seemingly fewer people. The Frames (check out our INTERVIEWS section) were ace, which I was very pleased about since I love them and didn’t want to be disappointed.

Ray Lamontagne however, did disappoint me. He was number one on the list of people I was excited about. His voice is amazing but (and many singer-songwriters are guilty of this when performing live) he slowed the tempo of the songs down to one homogenous speed so that they all sounded the same. To a newcomer Ray must have sounded pretty dull, (Joanna can vouch for this) which is a shame because he’s not at all. And his band were shit. The double bassist kept playing bum notes and grinning about it, which totally made a mockery of the whole thing. And, make your mind up Ray. Either have a full band and do justice to the album, or keep it to just you and the guitar and let your voice do the talking. Either way, get rid of those two half-wits who were on stage with you that night.

What else? Oasis were a bit pants. We only caught the end of the set but the band didn’t seem into it. Liam and Noel kept making snidey comments about one thing or another between songs. It just seemed like they were going through the motions. I was a bit shocked when I saw Turin Brakes. Since the last time I saw them one of them has grown his hair super long, while the other has lost practically all of his. Terrible shame. And there’s obviously some inner-band hostility, since old matey has clearly grown his hair so long and lush just to piss off his baldy bandmate.

The backstage area (not that this will be of much interest to you civilians, except to make you jealous, ha ha), was perhaps the best of all the fests we’ve been to. T4 were there which meant that June Sarpong (Julie Sarong as Jo calls her) and Vernon the Hottie were wandering around talking to bands and stuff. Thus the celeb count was very high. Hurrah!We spotted loads of people including Martin Freeman (Tim from The Office) which was very exciting for us. But not as exciting as it was for Glen from The Frames, who nearly peed his pants when he clocked him.

La la la. Other good things about V are that it’s in pretty countryside, there are lots of yummy food stalls (one of the most important things at any festival) and it’s really easy to get around. The site is pretty small, with only four main stages, so it’s easy to leg it from one end to the other if two of your bands are on the at the same time. So there we go. Dead good line-up, location, celeb spottings and whatnot, but only go to V if you can stomach the hard sell. Feeling like a walking target for advertisers and big business is pretty bloody demoralising and nauseating. No-one wants to feel like a number, like a human bank or another mindlessly greedy consumer and that, I’m afraid, is what V can do to you after a couple of days. In fact, I sometimes wonder how V gets such a good line-up, since most bands shout their liberal politics very loudly and should balk at being used as part of what is so clearly one big marketing strategy. Then again, they’re all signed to major corporate record labels anyways. I guess it just goes to show that everyone is for sale when it comes to the music industry. Anyway, rant over.

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