Now in my thirties, I was less inclined to camp in a muddy field for 4 days and ready for a more ‘up market’, ‘safe’ and ‘middle class’ festival – I know, how about ‘V’? (I later heard it described as ‘the festival for people that don’t like festivals’). Just an hour out of Liverpool St, in Chingford, Essex, is Hylands Park, a lovely green, collection of tree-lined meadows. The beautiful weather helped, but it was a great place just to sit, drink lager, and listen to great music. There were two main stages, but there was nothing really on the smaller stage to tickle my fancy early on. The bar was clearer there, so we sat and endured Damien Rice droning on for half an hour. Dull, dull, dull. I hate that sort of stuff, it’s just barbeque music isn’t it?
First up on the main stage were The Hives. I knew ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ from XFM, but not a lot else. They were immensely entertaining, delivering their buzz-saw garage punk riffs with menace and vitriol. The lead singer was possibly the most arrogant individual I’ve ever seen, but it was almost cartoon arrogance, self-aware and self-effacing, so it was very entertaining. The band has a great look too, clad all in black and white, like a demented Swedish punk 2-Tone act. Next, Ash. Brilliant on record, and I’d heard good things about their live act too. Much better impression of a punk band than Green Day or any of that bullshit, and they don’t even try. They occasionally harshed my buzz with ‘Candy’ and other pointlessly slow ones, but on the whole they were superbly energetic, really tight and very very enjoyable.
The top of my list of ‘must sees’ at V 03 was the Foo Fighters. They had been improving steadily since ‘The Colour And The Shape’ (and the last time I saw them, 5 years before) and the 5 tracks they had recently played on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ had me really excited to see them again. Disaster struck though. Dave Grohl had evidently turned into a major bell-end since last I saw them. Not one track was played from start to finish without a break in the middle and some fucking about. Not one. That sort of thing is fine for a bit, but every single song? Come on man, just fucking play the song and shut the fucking fuck up. Very fucking disappointing. Then the headliners, Coldplay. I was initially very skeptical of Coldplay, in fact ‘Parachutes’ made my teeth curl with its blandness. Then I heard ‘Rush Of Blood To The Head’ one night when in a particularly ‘receptive’ mood, and realized its well, its, er, magnificence. Just like a Pink Floyd for the 20th century. Live though? Might as well just play the CD. No emotion, no energy, no soul. Perfect, but dull as ditch water. So we wandered over to the other stage to see what Feeder were like. Good sound, but the three piece struggled to fill the stage, and the lightshow was so pathetic looked as if it were a couple of roadies waving torches about. Cue an early exit, get to the coaches before the crush. The Curate’s egg, I would say.