The news breezes in - Pete Doherty is stuck in traffic. In the words of Dizzee Rascal: "Fuck that SHIT!" The party's already
He wants to ‘Fix up, look sharp’ because V Fest waits for no man… or does it? While I’m giving
it some serious fly-girl hand action to the Mercury Music Prize favourite, the grapevines rustle again. Babyshambles have been rescheduled to the less-auspicious Virgin Union tent to fill
Bright Eyes' vacant headlining slot at 10pm. So Pete can’t make it for the jelly and ice-cream but he wants his
goody bag at the end. Bloody typical! Ah well, even I can’t be bothered clambering on my soap box about everyone else
managing the commute ya-da-ya… you get the drift.
Truth is I’m having an absolute blast (potentially
fatal case of Wellington chafe aside)! Rude boys Dizzee Rascal
and Kanye West have cranked the amps up to eleven, Spinal
Tap style, signifying the end of the run of singer-song writers that have dominated the day thus far. Sporting a shirt that
appears to have been inspired by a box of McFries (if you can imagine that), Kanye is whipping it up to the max on the main
stage. The bevy of ubiquitous ‘crumpet’ are playing violins, it's pure ghetto pantomime.
a stark contrast to earlier when the crowd were treated to a sneak preview of the Ian Curtis film biopic ‘Control’.
Only kidding! It was Editors, of course, drawing the masses
with their equally hammy offerings. As a massive Squeeze fan, my highlight so far has been Glenn Tilbrook & The
Fluffers’ joyous outing in the rammed JJB tent. With sheets of rain dashing the battlegrounds outside, Glenn’s
‘Peter Pan’ voice is as comforting as my grease-laden fish and chip lunch. It can only be topped by Sinead
O’ Connor’s ‘Nothing Compare’s To You’ which is truly beautiful - transcending her
Urban Outfitters garb of a bloke’s shirt, baggy jeans and a crumpled tee.
Even if I wanted to (not bloomin’
likely), I couldn’t escape after Dizzee as the hoards descend for Ocean Colour Scene. The audience age has got to be 30+ across the whole site, so a trip down
memory lane to 1996 circa Moseley Shoals is irresistible. “Da, da, da, da-da-da…” It’s only
‘The Riverboat Song’ as an opener. We’re mad-fer-it, singing the chorus half-way into the first verse. Calm
down us, but with eleven top 20 singles to draw on, as well as promising new album material, we‘ve caught the train
and stay onboard for the whole ride.
Now I’m comfortably seated in my time machine I see no reason to stick
around for the present and hot-foot it to the Channel Four stage for more class-in-a-glass… The Happy Mondays. Aww man, they’re totally twistin’ my
melon, someone call the cops. This amount of joy cannot be legal! Beer-belly jiggling pleasantly beneath his no-fuss polo
shirt, Shaun Ryder takes to the stage with monkey-boogying Bez in tow. There’s plenty of man-love going on as Shaun
demands: “Come ‘ere Beswick” and envelopes everyone‘s favourite stage-crasher in a genuine
brace of affection. “That’s love for yer!” beams Bez in return, looking like all his Christmasses
have come at once.
All thoughts of Amy Winehouse (who should’ve been playing here) disappear as we
launch into a feel-good set that shines brighter than the sea of glo-sticks lighting up the rain-soaked night sky. “Anything
you want, Bez’ll get yer!” snarls Ryder, playing around with ‘Jellybean’ - the opener on newly
released album ‘Uncle Dysfunktional’. It’s hardly a departure in sound but why mess around with a winning
formula? Ryder asks us to get into it “For Tony” - the one and only mention of the recently departed Tony
Wilson, the seminal music legend. It’s tasteful and more appropriate than any guff or gushing would’ve been.
“Let’s get back to the 80s,” sighs Ryder, dipping into his fag packet and sparking up with
Bez. “Fuck off! Half of you lot was foetuses!” he accurately points out as the hip young things rub their
temples bemusedly. ‘Kinky Afro’ and ‘Hallelujah’ are dusted off and, wait for it, the very irreverent
‘Reverend Black Grape’! Diva Julie Gordon is the vocalist workhorse, doing the bulk of the singing while Ryder
ruminates comfortably on his arse. Her urban take on things prompts Ryder to bark “Remix” at one point
as she comes over all Beyonce on us.
“This next one is Bez’s all time favourite tuuuunnnnee,”
smirks Ryder, his Simon Cowell snashers glinting wickedly. “He practises his moves and everything.” ‘Step
On’ pumps out and hands spontaneously rise in gratitude. The headliners are going to have to dig deep into their boxes
of tricks to beat this.
I’m in a quandary. Foo Fighters,
The Kooks or Primal Scream? Oh and then there’s the Pete factor.
I trudge back to the main stage, battling against the tide of departing delirious Snow Patrol fans. Introducing ‘Spitting
Games’, Gary Lightbody points out that it’s pissed down at every one of the 25 festivals they’ve played
this year. “It’s our fault!” he jokes but don’t worry Gary, they still love you. After emotionally
dedicating ‘Chasing Cars’ to Dave Grohl, I’m told ‘the nice man of rock’ himself bounded on
stage to give him a Dave Guest/Liza Minnelli proportioned hug. The love truly is all around!
I dejectedly decide
to catch the first half hour of the Foo Fighters as a
precursor to my whistle-stop tour of the headliners. It’s my third time of seeing them live and to be honest, they’re
the crab paste of the sandwich world. Safer than your nan in a care home, Foo
Fighters can scream all they like. They’re as predictable as the weather. Curling his silken, tangle-free tresses
behind his ear, Grohl asks if “We’re all having fun?” before telling us that his day started at
1pm when… Oh I’m sorry, did I nod off? Get on with it Dave!! The love-in continues as Grohl dedicates ’Best
of You’ to Lightbody before annoyingly butchering his own classic by insisting on playing solo. After a few tedious
"I scream Ahhh, you scream Ahh" style crowd games, we finally get ’Monkey Wrench’ and ’Breakout’
before he dips into new tracks from ’Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ which is Foo Fighters-by-numbers.
I stay long enough to finish dabbing my bored-to-tears chops
before heading over for my rescheduled appointment with Dough-ball. I’m furious with myself for dying with curiosity.
The bloke deserves an empty tent but it’s predictably rammed with everyone asking the same question: ‘Is he here?’
Apparently so, as bang on queue at 10pm Doherty stalks on stage. Bloated and pasty-faced as he is, I’m rocked to the
core to discover I can’t take my eyes off him. What’s he gonna do? Dodge bottles for a start! A barrage of projectiles
clatters the stage as Doherty deftly avoids them Matrix-style. “I remember the days when people used to throw nice
things like crucifixes,” he mutters. “All you get is bottles of piss now.”
tying his desert scarf to the mic stand, he playfully picks up a baker-boy hat that’s landed at his feet and prises
his greasy pork-pie job off to mug around. I watch his every move like Richard Attenborough stalking a primate. If he scratched
his arse I think I’d die of excitement. What’s wrong with me? I’ve literally never seen such a magnetic
performer. He may be a smackhead, but he’s a talented one and Babyshambles
seem as cohesive a unit as I've ever seen them. The lyrics are blisteringly fresh, insightful and inspired. The music
chipper, edgy and catchy. The new tracks are like lost classics and go down a storm with the audience, so many of whom are
simply there to witness a car crash that never happens - me being one!
I have to leave for my fleeting trip to
Primal Scream but its torture. The rubber-necker in me
frets, what if he carks it and I wasn’t there? The music fan hates to walk out on the most nerve-jangling encounter
of the weekend. But the journo has to check out Bobby Gillespie. “Pete trashed the drums and lobbed his mic stand
in the crowd,” my mate gleefully tells me afterwards. Damn you Gillespie! Just as well that the Scream are
on top form, even if I have left one ear at the Virgin Union tent. ‘Moving On Up’ makes for a fitting closer to
a festival which has been an absolute joy from start to finish, in spite of the rain. V stands for victory on all fronts as
we wade our way back reluctantly to humdrum lives and never-ending car park queues.