[Festival Roundup] V Festival 2008, Chelmsford


19 août 2008, 15h42m

Despite a severe weather warning being forecast for the majority of England and Wales, the torrential rain and muddy conditions which many expected, and which did indeed befall the Staffordshire event, never seemed to materialise in Chelmsford at the V Festival 2008.

Having headed to the V Stage to catch Michael Franti & Spearhead, pretty much on the back of Everyone Deserves Music and a general expectation that they'd be a decent way to kick off the weekend, I found myself unwittingly watching half of The Futureheads (6) set instead! One of the biggest flaws with V, which materialised throughout the weekend, was how lineup changes were communicated to the crowds, and although we had fortunately printed our own timetable before leaving, the majority of those at the event had been effectively forced to buy overpriced programme cards because of the organisers' failure to provide any alternative. I must confess to not being the biggest fan of the Futureheads, (and did spend a fair amount of time wondering why Michael Franti had completely changed his sound and appearence!) but until Hounds Of Love and recent chart hit, The Beginning of the Twist were played, the crowd seemed pretty lethargic and the set had little to really make it stand out. Admittedly a hard slot, but I remain unconvinced that the band are capable of producing much more than the occasional catchy single.

Alanis Morissette (6.5) had undoubted pulling power and seemed to suit the mid-afternoon billing on the main stage, keeping the setlist relatively short and ending with a couple of her biggest hits in Ironic and Thank U. Tagging issues aside, it still baffles me why Thank U is so criminally underrated on here, but needless to say, it was great to see the song performed live.

There's a reason I avoided Lostprophets (3) in the past, and on the basis of what I heard here, I doubt I'll feel particularly compelled to listen to them at any point in the future. Not a shockingly bad live performance, and they at least tried to get the crowd going at times, but from my own point of view, nothing special.

The Hoosiers (7) might not have the largest back catalogue or musical variety, but as a festival set, this was actually surprisingly good. With Irwin Sparkes arrived in a huge cloud of smoke from some kind of teleportation/cyrogenic capsule, a brass section running out of a wardrobe dressed as skeletons, and superhero dancers performing alongside them, the performance was as surreal and entertaining as it sounds. Again, I'm not their biggest fan, but they got the crowd going and didn't take themselves too seriously - in all, definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. Standout tracks were always going to be Worried About Ray and Goodbye Mr A.

The last time I saw The Kooks (5), it was at a particularly tough gig supporting The Rolling Stones at the o2, and I left distinctly unimpressed by their stage presence and performance. I had hoped that this time around they would show some signs of improvement, but this didn't seem to be the case. Lead singer Luke Pritchard seemed to be pretty drunk, forgetting a lot of his lyrics and then bizarrely trying to get the crowd to sit down. The main stage was plagued with sound problems through the whole weekend which meant that it was almost impossible to hear any of the sound unless you were close to the front - one of the side speakers, in particular, seemed to be fading in-and-out repeatedly, which didn't help things. Ray Davies of The Kinks appearing on stage to perform an accellerated version of Victoria was a redeeming moment, along with the crowd pleasing Naive and Ooh La, although these came surprisingly early in the set, leaving the band to finish with songs from Konk, which I feel was a mistake.

Stereophonics (7.5) were always going to be one of the highlights of the weekend - a solid set which suited the later billing and benefited in part from a crowd forming to see Muse, who were scheduled to perform next. Maybe Tomorrow and Have A Nice Day went down well with the crowd, with the band closing brilliantly on Dakota.

Muse (8) were one of the obvious draws for quite a few people in attendance, and it seemed like quite a few of them had plans to see them twice in the same weekend, traveling to Staffordshire the following day. Whilst I was obviously aware of their reputation for fantastic live performances, I've never really progressed beyond listening to their albums a couple of times. Certainly this was the most theatrically impressive of any of the sets on offer over the weekend, with the huge satellite dishes that had been positioned on either side of the stage all day suddenly coming to life and firing lasers and beams of light into the crowd. Apparently the band had even wanted to land a spaceship on the stage as part of the performance, and I've no doubt that this will remain one of the most technically impressive shows I get the chance to see. Closing track Knights of Cydonia got the audience going, thanks to the lyrics being projected onto the satellite dishes on stage.

A solid performance from The Stranglers (6.5) followed, despite not having the largest crowd due to their opening the V stage quite early. Although I didn't catch the set in its entirety, I was impressed and will definitely check out some of their back catalogue in the near future.

Other than hearing their name banded about around the music press and the internet, I hadn't looked into The Rifles (7) in any real detail, and their set on the V Stage offered an ideal opportunity to hear what all the fuss was about. Again, a solid set, and I'll definitely look out for them again in the future. Thanks to the organisers making a complete mess of the scheduling in the JJB Arena, I only caught the last couple of minutes of Captain's set, and didn't gain enough of an impression to be able to pass much judgement on it.

Noah and the Whale (7) packed out the Union tent and again, were entertaining viewing. 5 Years Time was a standout, and it was nice to see a little variety and humour to the performance, especially when compared to some of the music on offer which tended to be solely guitar-led indie fare.

The Courteneers (6) were fairly average - thanks to a friend's insistence that we would be going to see OneRepublic, who were due to follow them on the 4Music stage, we ended up watching their entire set. Again, I wasn't hugely familiar with the material, and there was nothing especially bad about the set, but but I saw little which really stood out for me. OneRepublic (5) were as I had expected - having attempted to listen to their album (Dreaming In Colour) and not getting particularly far with it. Although, Americanised spelling aside, Apologize is admittedly catchy, and Ryan Tedder was entertaining in between songs, I found the rest of the set turgid and uninspiring.

Lenny Kravitz (7.5) was next up, and suited the venue perfectly - with the sun shining pretty brightly by this point, this was a really enjoyable set from the veteran rocker which included Fly Away and Are You Gonna Go My Way which injected a bit of class into proceedings. At this stage the lineup for the second day was already shaping up to be far better than Saturday.

A quick dash across the site, we managed to catch Travis (8) running through a surprisingly energetic set at the JJB Arena. The entire band was on great form, leaping around on the stage, and at one point trying to climb up the lighting rig to the side. Gathering the rest of the band around a single microphone, Fran Healy led an acoustic version of Flowers in the Window, halted only when he managed to lose his ring halfway through, and then suddenly resuming where they had left off a few seconds later when the crisis was averted! For me, this was one of the surprise hits of the festival, and closing tracks Turn and Why Does It Always Rain on Me? generated a huge response from the crowd.

Unfortunately a scheduling clash with Amy Winehouse (6) meant that I wasn't able to see Amy Winehouse Hot Chip, and Winehouse was, to say the least, disappointing, though I can't say I expected much else. Again, speaker malfunctions made it hard for people to hear her voice, but she really struggled to get the crowd going and to me, seemed dazed and slightly confused. By her standards, this was a fairly good performance, especially when compared to her showing in Staffordshire the previous day, but her performance left a lot to be desired, and she seemed to rely heavily on her talented backing band to carry her through. There was unfortunately a morbid fascination from a fair few members of the crowd, and whilst I'm pleased I have had the opportunity to see an artist who will undoubtedly achieve legendary status (if she hasn't already), it's a shame she currently seems incapable of reaching the heights set on her recorded material.

The Kings of Leon (8) provided the ideal remedy for Winehouse's lackluter performance, belting out a succession of past hits, alongside new tracks including Crawl. It's saying something when every song hits the mark perfectly, and whilst I was a fan before, I don't think I really appreciated how brilliant they were until this point. Other than cups of piss flying through the air, there was very little to fault in the set and I think they justify the hype as one of the biggest bands in the world at the moment. The Bucket, On Call and Knocked Up were fantastic.

However, the best was saved until last as The Verve (9) took to the main stage to close the weekend. One of the best live performances I've experienced, and with 'Forth' due to be released next week, I really hope I'll have the opportunity to see them again, but amid rumours of a split and huge tension between the band, there was an ominous feel about the whole event and sadly, I don't know if it will be replicated in the future. Needless to say, Ashcroft was immaculate, even dedicating The Rolling People to the recently deceased Isaac Hayes. The majority of the material was drawn from 1995's Urban Hymns, with appearances the from newer material of Sit And Wonder, Rather Be and closer Love Is Noise, which is already becoming anthemic in their live sets. Whilst Muse the previous night had more spectacular visuals, the driving rain that started to fall as the band took to the stage, and the sheer energy in the performance was in many ways more impressive. I have no idea how I missed last year's tour, but will not make the same mistake if the opportunity to see them again presents itself.

Although V has a reputation for being one of the more commercial summer festivals, the bands on offer this year did just about enough to redeem the event. Despite issues with wristbands which led to us spending at least an hour trying to exchange our tickets and gain entry into the site due to some terrible organisation, horrendous queues for toilets (although this was to be expected), the attitude of certain festivalgoers, and significant litter problems, the weekend on the whole was a success.


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