V is a victory

V Festival (Staffordshire) 2011 review

By Tom Eaton | Published: Tue 23rd Aug 2011

V Festival (Staffordshire) 2011 - around the festival site
Photo credit: Rob Koster

V Festival (Staffordshire) 2011

Saturday 20th to Sunday 21st August 2011
Weston Park, Staffordshire, TF11 8LE, England MAP
£149 weekend pass without camping

15 years on, V festival has grown bigger than its original organisers could have imagined and is now one of the commercial festivals of the summer.

around the festival site
The organisation is smooth and the facilities are extensive and well run; sets were more or less on time, there was a minimum amount of trouble, the choice of food stalls was huge and the toilets were numerous. As you may expect from a festival that has Virgin Media as its main sponsor there is no issue with phone signal or WiFi and there are even free phone charging points so there are no issues with keeping up with friends. V festival is spread over two sites; Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Weston Park, Staffordshire. The site at Weston is large but not too big and the onsite venues are well spread out but easy to navigate between.

The number of quality acts over the two days was phenomenal, catering for all possible tastes from Rock, Pop, Folk, Hip Hop, Rap, Dub Step, Drum and Bass, IndieĀ… I could go on. The artist line up is the same for both locations but play on the opposite days, i.e. those playing Hylands Park on Saturday played Weston Park on the Sunday (and vice versa). This makes for a fairly eclectic line up, which is a good thing.

around the festival site
However, if I have one criticism of the weekend's organisation it would be that there was a lot of jumping around between genres in the running order of the various onsite venues. The most obvious example being the two outdoor venues on Sunday night at Hylands Park (Saturday at Chelmsford) where on the V stage, Kaiser Chiefs were followed by Plan B, who was then followed by headliners Arctic Monkeys. Meanwhile on the 4 Music stage, Tinie Tempah gave way to Razorlight, who was then followed by Dizzee Rascal. This meant that a massive surge of people headed in opposite directions to catch acts that more suited their tastes at more or less the same time. Whereas, if the Razorlight and Plan B performances had been swapped there would have been a great deal less movement between stages.

Manic Street Preachers
At Weston Park's V stage on the Saturday things kicked off with Imelda May before Squeeze drew on their 35 years of experience playing together to give some stellar performances of their classic songs. Ellie Goulding then took up the mantle and got the crowd singing along to her catalogue of hits and Eliza Doolittle showed off her talent on the piano as well as vocally in the Arena tent. The Manic Street Preachers played from their sizeable back catalogue on the V stage, unfortunately this was the point when that festival classic started to rear its ugly head, urine tossing. If anything personifies the selfish, callous nature of the sort of people who rioted and looted across the country a few weeks ago then this is it in festival form.

The Pierces
The Undercover Tent, the smallest live music venue at the festival, had a great line up on the Saturday and provided some of the best performances of the day. Fenech-Soler played an amazing set before making way for The Pierces. The American sisters' ethereal harmonies driven by a superb rhythm section were reminiscent of 60's groups like the Mama's and Papa's twinned with 80's soft rock and worked to stunning effect, resulting in something entirely fresh and up to date. Bellowhead came next; very active and popular on this year's festival scene, and for good reason. If you have any interest in Folk music, or even if you don't, you should see this band live. Energy pulsed from the stage as the audience, driven by the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the musicians led by front man John Boden, jumped, danced and sang along to a stunning performance.

Mark Ronson and The Business Intl
One of the best performances of the weekend was by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. They rocked the Arena Tent with an incredibly tight performance and some absolutely fierce basslines courtesy of ex Jamiroquai bass man Stuart Zender. There was also a tribute from Mark Ronson to the memory of Amy Winehouse with a magnificently performed and equally well received version of Valerie. Back over in the Undercover Tent, the contrasting running order was showing itself again with perhaps the biggest musical jump of the weekend. The chilled, Mancunian, guitar driven sound of I Am Kloot was followed by the Tent's headliner of the evening and biggest party of the weekend with the sublime mixing of Jaguar Skills. He got everyone in the tent jumping and absolutely ripped up the dance floor with an eclectic mix of samples and tracks, ranging from Nirvana to Tetris.

Ziggy Marley
Sunday started in great style on the V stage with the Fun Lovin' Criminals easing us perfectly into a gloriously sunny day, with Hughey Morgan and the boys giving a silky smooth performance. This was followed with another fantastic set for a summer's day as the electric Ziggy Marley got the crowd dancing and singing along. One of the most memorable performances of the weekend was from Beardyman who, with a little help from a couple of sampled tracks, performed the improvised set using nothing but his virtuoso vocal and beatboxing talents, in his own words, "This is coming to you live from my face." The crowd went wild. The popularity of The Enemy was greatly underestimated and the first 'lock out' of the weekend was put in place at the Undercover tent.

Arctic Monkeys
Later on Kaiser Chiefsrocked the crowd at the V Stage and Ricky Wilson, working hard, put in the weekend's best performance by a front man. Tinie Tempah, as ever, made up for what he lacks in physical stature with talent and energy, pulling one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Then it was Razorlight up next on the 4 Music stage with a compelling performance from front man Johnny Borrell. Headliners on the V stage Arctic Monkeys finished off on the main stage in style while, in the packed Arena Tent, headliners Chase & Status were possibly the most eagerly awaited act of the weekend with the tent full from about 50 minutes before the performance time. The crowd was in a party mood, dancing and cheering even for the music played whilst the stage was being prepared. When Chase & Status finally arrived the crowd erupted and didn't stop bouncing for the entire 75 minute set. A great end to the festival.

V is the consummate modern festival and if you want the big festival experience with a great mix of music then this is the place to be. V has been running for long enough now to have the formula well worked out and has the sponsorship and backing to carry on meeting these standards for many years to come.

Quiet and reserved it ain't, but if you want to party this is probably the place to be.

review by: Tom Eaton

photos by: Rob Koster

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