V Festival 2006 - Chelmsford
First written on Monday 21st August 2006 and revised subsequently
The aches and the pains will fade with time and the music and my appreciation of it will only grow.
My overall feeling at the minute, having just returned from the festival, is one of fatigue: tiredness bordering on exhaustion. Part of the festival experience I did not anticipate was the way it doubles as an endurance test. You want to do as much as possible but you need to stay cogent enough to enjoy it and make the most - it’s a tricky balancing act - one that Joe and I managed perfectly.
Saturday 19th August 2006
It was all about Saturday. Saturday was when all the main acts where on. We got into the arena at about 1 o’clock, had something to eat, got some drinks, then headed to the front of the main stage where we stayed all day. “Want to be at the front for Radiohead, Beck, and Bloc Party?” “Hell yeah! I’d even suffer through The Magic Numbers!”
First up were The Dead 60, an entertaining warm-up. The best bit: when one of the band started playing their guitar with a drumstick. Tap-tastic!
The Divine Comedy were a welcome addition to the list of bands I knew I wanted to see. Neil Hannon played his role perfectly, fronting a musical mixture of mythology and the mundane while exuding a quiet Irish charisma that made the whole crowd smile.
Next up were The Magic Numbers, who are pushed as champions of the kind of sunny, warm vibe The Divine Comedy ease. Not even in the same league. They played a limp and lifeless set and lacked any kind of stage presence doing it. How does a band this bad get so big? Also, I know this is supposed to be a ROCK festival, but given the mild mannered image they try to permeate the front guy’s frequent swearing grated.
Silent Alarm was one of my favourite albums of last year. Bloc Party were without a doubt, the most interesting band to emerge from the glut of indie rockers who came of age in 2005. Their live performance didn’t disappoint.
The band’s main source of energy stems from their drummer and his peerless 1000BPM style: as expected, his was an exceptional performance.
What I didn’t know about was their impassioned, energetic front man, Kele, who worked an already enthusiastic crowd into a frenzy. I shouted myself horse singing along and cheering, and was close enough to see the massive smile on his face, loving every single second, totally in tune with what his people wanted.
“Where the guitars at?” A crowd favourite, no doubt. Not my cup of tea but as far as doing what they do their performance was faultless, and being involved in a crowd clearly enjoying it all - seemingly every person there knew all the words to their songs - made the performance much more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
Fantastic! I love Beck. This really was a show. Fun, fun, fun. I smiled all the way through this.
Listening to Beck live for the first time I was reminded of listening to Beck on CD for the first time. There is an experimental, genre-blending playfulness at work, something he carried even further on stage – who else would think of turning Sexx Laws into a slow soulful jam – it takes some getting used to, but by the end of his set he’d won the whole crowd over.
The performance didn’t begin with the band playing their instruments and Beck singing live – no, that would be far too obvious – it started with a set of puppets, made to look like Beck and his band, ‘miming’ to a playback of Beck’s breakthrough single, Loser. Then the band took to the stage and took up the song - the puppets remained, continuing to mimic the band.
What followed was a carnival of music, touching on more musical genres than I care to name. His band, dressed in all manner of retro-hipster clothing, provided the perfect backdrop and backing for the Hip-Hop-Jazz-Folk-Electro-Pop-Prince of weird do what he does best.
They started by playing the high-octane, up-tempo chart-hits, the sun almost departed, this was the moment that felt most like being at a ROCK show, largely due to the HUGE bass on most of the tracks. Crazy dancing guy provided a focus and seemingly boundless energy.
Then Beck strapped on a harmonica, grabbed his acoustic guitar and slowed everything down, playing a few highlights from his album, Sea Change.
A playful dinner table romp through Clap Hands followed, then Beck and the band left the stage.
At this point Beck had the crowd watching a recorded video of his puppets, pretending to be the band, acting all manner of infantile, it was enjoyed by all: Baudrillard would have been proud.
They came back on then went off again, twice more before the end of their set, changing guises each time they did. But Beck saved his best for last. A CLASSIC rendition of a classic track from Odelay - I was stunned at how well the band performed this track live, different parts to it, and drum breaks, and everyone totally in sync throughout… even with the crowd participation.
“C’mon, say it with me now… WHERE IT’S AT!!!”
The best band on the planet. Magic from start to finish. I’m going though the light gate – “I said more power dammit!” Their set took me someplace else for the duration. I’m not sure where it was but I know I can’t wait to visit again.
I have relatively little to say about Radiohead without resorting to over-abundant hyperbole, and I think I just pulled that card for Beck, anyway. Their performance was fantastic! I suppose the highest compliment I can pay is to say that I don’t have words enough to even begin to attempt to describe it. It was all about the performance and the experience of seeing and hearing the music in that moment from as close to the main stage as it was possible to get. Amazing!
Sunday 20th August 2006
Faced by a choice of bands neither of us had heard of we went for a band called Dogs. When in doubt go for the band with the best name. Choice made. Black suits, black ties, white shirts: an indie-punk band in the same vein as The Libertines, but lacking some of their sophistication. They ran through a loud, repetitive set. It was pretty good.
Lilly Allen drew a BIG crowd, or so it seemed, in the confines of a tent. We were stuck at the back. She played some enjoyable pop music. She was followed by Bic Runga, who was mostly enjoyable. No doubt she has a strong voice, but the songs were all a bit too similar, and the compositions a bit too ‘thin’ for my tastes.
Showed the young wiper-snappers exactly how it’s done. Energetic and powerful, driving the crowd in a way no man his age has any right to. A Town Called Malice was the only The Jam song he played and it got the response you would expect. His set started well and got better and better and better. Seemed like a top geezer as well putting the decidedly weak Hard-Fi, who preceded him on stage, to shame. “C’mon, lets have it then!”
Then, back to the tent to see Rufus Wainwright. Very powerful voice. Good acoustic guitar and piano playing. Excellent version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in duet with his sister.
Groove Armada where the final headliner. The crowd was crazy for this. Loads of energy. Good visualisations The kind of music that prompts lots of movement. I sweated my ass off. “Make some noise!” Believe me, everyone did. A great way to end my first festival experience.