We wake up to the blessed sound of silence. No burning portaloos.No idiots with bongos. And, most importantly, no rain. While day 2 ofV Festival at Weston Park doesn’t exactly dawn brightly, it’scertainly not as apocalypticas the first day. And, in keeping with the festival’s reputation for’niceness,’ punters took to their sleeping bags at a reasonable hour,leaving us with the most uninterrupted sleep these festival old handshave ever had.
Down at the festival site, bleary eyed campers struggle throughmounds of mud towards the main stage, probably the only summery placein all ofStaffordshire now the Magic Numbers have turned up. Accusationsof tweeness and frivolity failed to dampen the Numbers, who put in an absolutely stonking set, beefing up their album’ssickly harmonies and actually sounding… rock. Mornings Eleven, TheMule and glorious set closer Love Me Like You all added up to a veryunexpected festival highlight.
Dublin’s answer to Franz Ferdinand, Director are on next.And they’re reallyrather good – lead single Come With a Friend is a corker, like JoyDivision‘s poppiest moments, and set closer Reconnect sounds like… alright,they sound just like Franz Ferdinand. The singer evens looks like AlexKapranos. They’re still cracking, but do we really need another bunch ofskinny-trousered art punkers? According to the inkies, yes, we probably do.
After Director, Seth Lakeman, the fiddling minstrel fromDartmoor, grins hisway onto the stage with a ragtag band of musicians who will spend muchof their time onstage banging boxes. Despite being one ofthe most musically interesting at the festival, there’s an edge to this performance. Lakeman grins.He actively encourages the audience to do a hoedown. He sings whenplaying a violin. Is it just me, or is this all a bit… odd? Apparentlyit is just me – with just oneblast of Kitty Jay, from the Mercury-nominated album of the same name, the entire tent is performingan impromptu jig.
The lead singer of Keane, Tom Chaplin, has just announcedhe’s battling adrink and drugs addiction. Now, we don’t endorse schadenfreude, but isn’tthat just the goddamn funniest thing you ever heard? Keane? Drugs?!Drugs are bad. They destroy lives. And make yourband sound pants at open-air festivals. Tom and theother two must know they are performinga lumpen second album, so why play so much of it?Keane give the distinct impression, even before the rehab revelations,of being a band coming apart at the seams. Despite competently bangingout The Last Time and Is It Any Wonder, the stress fractures arebeginning to show – the band look tired and lethargic and we sneakaway to find another.
Over at the Channel 4 stage, indie band du jour We AreScientists arrive on stage on mini bikes, wearing matching helmetsand jumpsuits. WAS have always had a reputation of being fun-lovingscamps (they’re even friends with the sulky Arctic Monkeys, which mustbe a measure of their chipper attitude, if not just plain tenacity)and they blast through a set peppered with jokes, usually directed atthe mustachioed bassist. Despite being the band you’d most like tohave a pint with at V (fancy a G&T, Thom? No?) We Are Scientists still have some wayto go to delivering a festival pleasing set, too many songs areunknown to many of the muddy minions’ ears, and before the closingbars of The Great Escape shudder to a halt, many have left to findsongs they can sing along to. Shame though, when We Are Scientists are good, they’rereally good.
Perhaps it’s the air of festivity surrounding the inclusion of a proper popgroup on the bill, or perhaps it’s because we’re high on cheap vodka wesneaked into the site (c’mon V – 3 a drink?!!) but Girls Aloudin the JJBArena suddenly seems like the best idea in the world. How will they bereceived? Bemused indifference? Ironic glee? Bottles of piss? However,nothing, nothing could prepare us for what we saw.
The cavernous tent ispacked. To the rafters. We have to fight our way in to see the emaciatedwenches, and are almost killed in the crush to get out. And was it worth it?Well, from behind the pillar we were pushed against, the singular Girl Aloud(Sarah, we think, although it could have been the ginger one) they looked tobe having a great deal of fun, and sounded great. And how many timescan you get to say you honestly cheered heartily when Sound of theUnderground was played? Ace.
After an enormous crowd gave five faux-popsters from a TV show a hugewelcome, the least you could do is expect them to stick around for thewonderful Go! Team, a day-glo, frantic bunch from Brighton whothrow almost every kind of musical genre into a huge melting pot, andsee what happens. Alas, no – they all fuck off to watch Editors. Wehowever, stick it out, and are delighted by what we see. Punk rock, tvtheme tunes and rap are thrown out by the miscreant bunch, usually atthe same time. Huddle Formation, Ladyflash and Bottle Rocket are asgood as ever, and while its nigh-on impossible to recreate theirriotous debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike live, they give anenergetic performance, though you get the feeling they’re a little outof their depth this high on the bill.
Radiohead have always frustrated and delighted in equalmeasure. Live, as onrecord they’re a unpredictable act for non-devotees, sometimes they’ll pull amelody out of the bag that’ll take your breath away, sometimes they’llbecome so bogged down in reinventing their own wheel. Live, you never knowwho’ll turn up – bleepy Head or play the classic Head. And tonight, whilethe expectation levels have run to the almost hysterical, there’s the threatof “terrifying new material.”
But we needn’t have been worried. For tonight,Radiohead are astonishing. Shrugging off their reputation of bloodymindedness, they open with Airbag, and the crowd realise that the band areactually here to have fun. Fake Plastic Trees. Just. Street Spirit. ParanoidAndroid. Every time you think the magic will end and they’ll withdraw into ascrawl of impenetrable electronica another hit starts up. Lucky.
KarmaPolice. Even the three new songs (Nude, Videotape and All I Need) sound likeworthy inclusions into the back catalogue. As Thom and co leave the stage tothe feverously received Creep, they have already written a new chapter in VFestival’s history – a moment that will be talked about in hushed tones foryears to come. It even makes up for the mud.