Monday, August 20, 2007

v festival 07: saturday

Mr David Grohl rocks my fifteen-year-old world all over again

I don’t think I have ever been less excited about going to a festival. We’ve been going to the V festival for ten years and despite its near total lack of atmosphere, it’s always been well-organised and close to home, and therefore easy. By now, you could say it was a habit of mine. After this year I think it’s a habit I’m going to break. Easily. Any festival that drives me to drink lager at 11 in the morning simply because there is nothing better to do should be consigned to live music hell. ‘God, I feel like I’m in prison,’ whines my little sister. The bands haven’t even started yet.

Once inside we grab plates of nasty junk food whilst some policemen dance to Just Jack. We mill around in front of The Proclaimers all vaguely disturbed that we knew most of the songs. The crowd drink smuggled alcohol and pick their noses while waiting not-so-patiently for 500 miles. There’s nothing to do and the boys want a drink. I want to see Martha Wainwright. The bar and Juliette and The Licks are en route, so off we troop.

Although it isn’t even two o’clock yet, the site is swarming with people. Noticeably more people than usual. In fact, too many people. And whaddaya know – those crazy tykes at Virgin have sold more tickets for the same number of facilities. Great.

Every queue we pass for every bar is about four people thick and at least a hundred people long. With nothing else to do, we join one and watch Juliette Lewis gyrate and squeal across the stage in tight white leather. I adore Juliette Lewis; she’s a thoughtful, provocative actress and one of the most attractive people to ever walk the earth, but even a long-term fan like me thought she was trying too hard. As I watch their set, it occurs to me that we have been waiting in the queue for the bar tokens (yes, tokens, not even actual alcohol, despite the fact there is no queue at the bar) and barely moved. Itching to see Martha Wainwright, my lovely festival companions grant me special dispensation to leave the queue and go watch the lovely husky one. We arrange a place to meet during her set, and off I amble.

Inside the tent (I am not referring to any of these venues by their sponsors) there cannot be more than a couple of hundred people, despite the fact it holds a couple of thousand. Dressed in black with kinky lace-up sandals which she stoops to fasten, extending one long Wainwright calf to her adoring fans, Martha delivers a passionate, but brief performance of, she giggles, ‘incredibly depressing songs’. Bathed in nightclub light at two in the afternoon, she begins Factory with the apt lines These are not my people, I should never have come here. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but rather lovely all the same.

Only problem is, my festival friends are still yet to join me. I rather optimistically try calling them, and then send a flurry of text messages with precise details to meet near The Arcade Fire photo cut-out, anxious that Kanye West is due on soon. I then settle back against the barrier with my book in case they turn up in the next half an hour. They don’t, but I do see Sinead O’Connor walking casually through the arena, apparently unrecognised by anybody. It’s one of the defining things about a typical V festival crowd member. They’ll be able to spot some random off Shipwrecked at fifty paces, but stick a legend in front of them and they’ll ask them for a light. *Sigh*.

With still no sign of my sister or the boys, I begin to wander over to watch Kanye West, when it dawns on me that, an hour and a half later, they may still be queuing for bar tokens. Returning to the spot where I left everybody, I find them several metres along in the queue. Naively, I amble over to minifig, thinking I may be able to have a chat with my boyfriend across the queue barrier, seeing as he’s been waiting for over two hours. I am grabbed by two security guards yelling at me to ‘get back’ for no other reason than it makes them look busy while fights break out further up the queue. Happily, minifig informs me that security soon started fighting amongst themselves, spitting and shouting at one another with the usual refrain of ‘You disrespectin’ me?’ I wait with my sister for another hour before the boys emerge, royally pissed off and thirsty.

Luckily Kanye West is excellent and the beer is cold. I’m not particularly familiar with his music, but I prefer it to most mainstream hip-hop. Backed by a glamorous all-female string section and his DJs, Kanye gives us a breathtakingly energetic show. Standing towards the back of the hill, the crowd below is a blur of wildly waving arms. Such excitement proves extremely infectious. At one point, still rapping sixteen to the dozen, Kanye sprints to the far side of the stage, sparking a hysterical mexican wave in the crowd. Racing across to our side of the stage, I feel my arms miraculously lift, as if puppeted by Kanye West himself, and find myself screaming like a child. This is superstar showmanship of the highest order and probably worth the cost of a day ticket alone.

Dizzee Rascal’s set is one great heaving mass of east London brilliance as the rather ineffectual security are now ambushed by mighty hordes of tracksuits leaping the bizarre, one-way-system barriers into the tent. I cheer inwardly for each and every one of them as they slip out of the grasp of the wheezing security guards. At least it’s not Reading I think to myself – someone would have set fire to an ice-cream van by now.

When we regroup later, just after Ocean Colour Scene (which we make a point of missing) my sister’s boyfriend, Pixelboy, emerges from the crowd, sweaty and elated, singing that annoying refrain from The Day We Caught The Train. My sister berates him. The other punters around us appear to be attending an Ian Brown look-a-like convention.

Jarvis Cocker is a lanky dream. Arms languidly waving like a magician, hips shaking, fingers dancing, Jarvis balances on amps and dances with his microphone, cracking dry jokes in between songs. He finishes with a gloriously camp rendition of Paranoid, which, unfortunately, inspires a revolution in minifig who leaves the tent calling Jarvis a bastard for not playing Running the World. I make sure to walk several paces behind him.

Watching The Foo Fighters is one long nostalgia trip. They occupy a very special place in my music collection, and another beer on, I begin to regress into adolescence. Opening with an intense semi-acoustic version of Everlong, followed by a blistering Monkey Wrench, the crowd are assaulted with hit after pogo-inducing hit. Pixelboy looks about ready to combust with joy. Dave gives us Up in Arms, My Hero, This is a Call, Breakout, Learn to Fly and Times Like These. The crowd is as loud and lively at the back as in the pit. As they play Stacked Actors I am queuing for the loo, whereupon, we all start moshing as the chorus hits. I feel about fifteen – it’s brilliant. Finishing with old-time fan pleaser, Enough Space and a raucous version of All My Life that brings out the little hooligan in me, we spend the next hour screaming about how AMAZING Dave Grohl is.

Done, done and I’m onto the next one, done and done and I’m on to the neeeeexxxxxtttttt!


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