the opening day of V Festival proves an unfulfilling one

V Festival (Chelmsford) 2010 review

published: Wed 25th Aug 2010

Kings Of Leon

Saturday 21st to Sunday 22nd August 2010
Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8WQ, England MAP
£165 w/e with camping, £140 for a weekend pass - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 90000
last updated: Wed 18th Aug 2010

As you flick through past line-ups of the relatively young V Festival you realise just how much more interesting it must have been when it was still gallivanting in a romper suit, putting on artists like Elastica as a headliner. V's line-ups have slowly deteriorated with each year, and this year is certainly no exception.

After a lengthy, but relatively smooth wristband exchange I was already feeling the sun, a certain ratio of optimism returned. Typical was the only word that really came to mind in these early impressions; the skirts and wellies (where would a festival be without them?), the trundling crates of beer and a distinct smell of something mind-altering floating through the air. Whether it was these fumes that calmed my initial expectations or it was simply the whole package, V was now looking a whole lot more endearing. It was with a cautious smile when I walked nonchalantly towards the 4 Music stage to catch Paloma Faith.

Paloma Faith
This was to become one of my better choices of the festival, being the first act I saw. Expecting this to be a festival of guitar-band procrastinating and barely exciting 'tip-of-the-iceberg' dubstep (as this is what seems to be lapped up in Britain momentarily), Faith burst onstage with true guile, presence and passion. Her music was devoid of gimmick, bursting with soul and an adrenaline shot right to everyone's dance-gland. I was smiling before, but now I was beaming. Like a patronising teacher giving a pat on the back to a usually worthless student, I begged only for V to keep it up.

Alas, this was too much to ask, as is usually the case whenever I allow myself a thin shred of positive expectations. I have The Courteeners to blame for this. Walking towards the main V Stage to catch this vacuous slice of indy-boy time-wasting you would see my smile slowly fade. I was threatened on two occasions by shaved headed chart boys for 'thinking I'm Jesus' (due to my questionable choice of hairstyle and face-fuzz). I'm reminded of just what a prejudiced country we live in, and I always considered festivals to be a perfect combatant to this unfortunate trait. However, V has a distinct shadow of aggression hiding, not too convincingly, behind the beer swigs. The Courteeners attract this particular form of twat it seems, and their music isn't exactly a mindfield that can help you look past it. Sure, they're doing their job as entertainers but being so vehemently opposed to their ethics and almost total lack of musicianship I was left with the bad taste in my mouth I had expected all along. At that moment, Paloma Faith seemed like a lucky momentary diversion on a road filled with banality.

Sticking around for the Editors, the latest in a string of Joy Division cocksuckers, they at least take the time to open more contemplatively. While they do begin to drag it's the balls to do something a little more ambient initially that makes the eventual beat drop all the more special. Something The Courteeners clearly never thought to consider. Having said that, it's amazing to see a large amount of the louts' eyes surrounding me suddenly becoming all piggy and confused, as they're not given a contrived refrain to sing along to. I may seem unfair, V festival was packed with a large amount of interesting and ultimately good people, but at this particular point in time I seemed to be surrounded by the kind of people who will put 'Champagne Supernova' on the pub jukebox five times in a row.

Paul Weller
I have no idea why I felt compelled to see Paul Weller, but I'm glad I did for its comedy factor. Richard Branson, the toothy attention-seeking schoolboy that he is came on stage with a strange sense of self-satisfaction. He goes on with his plastic smile about how Weller's not headlining for some reason, throughout V's history he's only ever tickled the tit of main stage domination, coming closest behind Pulp at the very first event. You kind of see why when he finally kicks off the limelight stealing monkey-boy we all know as the face behind Virgin. Weller is a boring knob, referred to as the Modfather he seems to have let that go to his head and has stuck in that beige vein for far too long. People are after 'That's Entertainment', a large amount completely ignoring his solo stuff (and frankly, who can blame them?). True, Weller was the first I'd seen today who had managed to get the stragglers on the outer epochs of the crowd actually into some form of movement, but then many of these people were also several more beers deep than they were initially so it's hard to tell just how much of this had to do with Weller himself.

Next up were White Lies back over at the 4 Music stage. My journalistic integrity niggles at me here as I type, hoping to have something either incredibly insightful or even simply funny to say about their performance. But really, I'm finding it hard to not just want to copy and paste everything I said about Courteeners and just re-dress it with a different name. I won't insult you the reader by going ahead with that, I will just simply beg of you to avoid this band in the hope that they might finally leave music to someone who can actually compose with an ounce of integrity. It's the oft-mentioned commercialism of V that really shone through on this sunny Saturday but the weather remained in stride and it was hard to be completely miserable, as is often my tendency.

So, I took a pew in front of the main stage again to catch the arse end of Stereophonics before the obligatory Kings of Leon set. Stereophonics have never been lauded for their compositional integrity but all around me shiny happies contort around their friends, grinning and wailing; loving every second. For once, and something that happens rarely I dropped my musical integrity and joined them, quickly realising that this would be the peak of Saturday night, and I honestly never expected to get this from a band like Stereophonics who I have to admit I have always considered a bane. Wherever the aggressive hoards had gone they weren't here now, and all that mattered was the beat, the memorable melody and the smiles and affection of your friends.

I was considering it a given that I go see Kings of Leon considering their status right now, but they were akin to (if you will forgive my lack of all class for one sentence) someone refusing to finish you off just as you're about to come. The atmosphere was just rising, my faith in humanity being restored. But please, can someone explain the fuss to me? Kings of Leon, who in their early days wrote some quite fantastic music, have gone on to paint by numbers songwriting and studio pressure composition. Cleverly leaving the big, drunken sing-alongs for later in the set knowing that it's likely a large chunk of the crowd would leave, they kept us hooked with little bites from the past. Be it 'Molly's Chambers', 'The Bucket' or 'Four Kicks' it was enough to keep people interested. I however, saw Kings of Leon as a perfect summing up of V's commercial nature, and despite their professionalism I couldn't help looking right back to the beginning of the day, memories of Paloma Faith giving me a longing smile. I walked back to the camper van unfulfilled, but with a whole day yet to come.

Kings Of Leon
review by: Lee Tyrrell

photos by: Gary Stafford

Saturday 21st to Sunday 22nd August 2010
Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8WQ, England MAP
£165 w/e with camping, £140 for a weekend pass - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 90000
last updated: Wed 18th Aug 2010


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