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V Festival 2006 - JJB/Puma Arena

20 August 2006

A giant, dancing, birthday celebrating dog handing out balloons is surely one of the greatest sights that can greet you at the start of a festival...

Weston Park, Staffs. Saturday, 19 August

And it’s typical of The Boy Least Likely To to lay on something so off-the-wall but still completely childlike and unthreatening. Their laid-back sugary pop is recreated live with five extra musicians and it’s all brilliantly realised. Juxtaposing their lyrics of mundanity and isolation with such carefree music, surely makes them the soundtrack to optimism. Fun, but you can’t help feeling the two main band members are trapped in some perpetual purgatory between boyhood dreaming and midlife crisis.

After such originality Mute Math are left looking rather unremarkable. Their half-hearted stabs at variety make them seem unsure whether to shack up with the synth-rock crowd for another 80’s throwback or to cosy up with the bespectacled indie kids to churn out more of what we’re already hearing. Having said that, their rhythm section is simply astonishing and they’re worth checking out for that alone. As for vocalist Paul Meany, no grown man should get so much enjoyment from prancing around stage with a ‘keytar’ for fifteen minutes. Slightly worrying.

Lily Allen comes across like Pat Butcher taking her ‘jollies’ in the body of a teenage misfit, in your face and full of attitude. Despite her tales of cocaine binges and a stage presence which amounts more to ‘scowl’ than ‘smile’ the crowd still eat from the palm of her hand, particularly when they succumb to the summery goodness of that chart topping nursery rhyme. Ultimately, despite the rebel pretence, Allen is just as plastic as the usual pop and roll liggers and staggering around backstage with the Hollyoaks crowd seems a much more suitable place for her to spend her afternoon.

Festival line-ups are often packed full of juxtaposition and placing Bic Runga next in the running order is certainly no exception. She doesn’t deliver the most action packed of performances, spending the whole set stood centre stage with her acoustic guitar, but with such compelling music any visual offerings would have been surplus to requirements anyway. Unfortunately, drunken chatter proves to be the winning runner on this occasion and the crowd is only hushed completely when she plays the fantastic ‘Sway’. But by then it’s too late and she trudges offstage looking slightly dejected.

Offering a country-tinged stroll through an alternate Yorkshire, Richard Hawley is typically blunt with his anecdotes about telling traffic wardens to fuck off and sharing dirty jokes. He comes across like a grumpy old man, pining for the good old days and intent on using his laid back retro-rock to bring them back.

Hell bent on pushing music forwards rather than dragging it back, Imogen Heap (and her spectacular barnet) offers up a guided tour of her stage set-up to show us all that it’s “not a trick” before launching into her unique brand of harmonies, synths and heartbreaking melodies. Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, it’s impossible to witness her modern day one-(wo)man-band and deny her immense talent.

She may be drunk already, but that just adds to the intrigue of Nerina Pallot as she offers her observations on how much she’d like to have a penis and the fact that she went number 2 on the tour bus. Her between-song banter may be untypical of the demeanour she presents through her sedate protest strums, but it’s certainly interesting to see a different, albeit inebriated, side of her.

We know what to expect from Gomez by now, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable for the rapturous crowd when it comes. Dancing like it’s the late 90’s again is the order of the day as they play all the hits and pull all the right strings, for a crowd who prove that, for many, they are still as relevant as always.

Not enough bands utilise the full potential of having both a male and female vocalist, but The Beautiful South have been doing it for years to fantastic effect. Fair enough they’re not seen as a particularly ‘cool’ band to like anymore, but you have to admit that at a festival like this they work perfectly. ‘Rotterdam’ inspires the biggest sing-along of the weekend so far. Aside from the weaker new material everything they play is a classic and the crowd, both young and old, lap it up.

It’s slightly disappointing that despite being the primary purveyor of overblown piano-led balladry, with flamboyance by the bucketload, Rufus Wainwright never really manages to build up a head of steam this evening. Perhaps it’s the absence of his band or his inexplicably high placing on the bill, but whatever it is the whole performance feels like it’s heading somewhere that it never quite reaches. Inviting his sister onstage for a few numbers (not Martha, a different one) is the pinnacle of excitement in this subdued affair. It doesn’t hamper his talent, but it somewhat dampens the enthusiasm of those gathered to watch.

After trooping over from Faithless on the main stage, the ‘V Dance Massive’ are ready to ‘av it, in the sweaty JJB-endorsed sauna, donning glow sticks, a variety of flashy things and an overwhelming Groove Armada adulation. The headliners respond in kind, looking visibly chuffed at the response they receive as they take the stage. The genre-bending stalwarts go on to serve up hit after beat-encrusted hit, Offering even the most fair-weather fan a track they’ve once become overly familiar with, much to the annoyance of their neighbours. But there’s no threat of similar ‘noise pollution’ police visits tonight, and the crowd make the most of it, wailing along, clapping and stamping their feet. It’s like ‘music time’ in a nursery school. Powered by juice squeezed from clubbers of every type, Groove Armada deliver a non-stop dance riot and the brief seconds when the beat is lost only serve to make it all the more stomach-churning when it returns. While everybody else drowns their rain soaked sorrows with Morrissey, everyone here has completely let go and immersed themselves in the writhing mass of bodies. They’ve braved the rain all day, drank the over-priced beer and probably dabbled in other areas, and as everybody reaches boiling point, the set comes to it’s crushing climax. Here’s to the aftermath…



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Article by: Jamie Barker, Chris Reynolds

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