V Festival 2006 - Weston Park, Staffordshire, Sunday
Being woken by a tenting neighbour's radio blaring out Sandi Thom is a sure sign you're at V and not any other festival. However, despite my contempt for she who wishes to be a punk rocker, I was soon wide awake and eager for noon so as to enter the arena and see yet more bands.
Ironically, for a day that turned out to be just as top-notch as Saturday, the first live performance I caught was Daniel Powter's lacklustre Bad Day on the main V Stage. When he attempted in vain to get the crowd to sing along and it was blatant that nobody really cared, I almost felt bad for him. However, he sang the chorus once again and I realised I have no time for twerps who make music as bland as he does. The only reason I was even there was to catch The Dead 60's and, although these were a hell of a lot better than Powter, they didn't really rise above what can only be termed 'average'. True, they were putting a lot of effort in and their Specials-esque ska punk was enough to jolt anyone from the depths of their hangover headache. I can't escape the feeling though that the majority of audience members were there solely for Riot Radio - I know I was.
Thankfully, the mediocre start to the day didn't extend to the third act. Biffy Clyro well and truly shook me from the sluggishness that was a consequence of sleep deprivation, bringing their 'we're Scottish but sound American' rock riffs to the Channel 4 Stage. To be honest, I was quite ignorant about their work before seeing them here, only knowing a couple of songs, my choice to see them based on curiosity and the fact that no-one else on the bill at that time in the day was attractive to me. I'm glad I tagged along with my friend, a moderate Biffy fan, because their melodic rock, occasionally upturned by monstrously heavy riffage, blew away the cobwebs and provided something different from Saturday's acts for my ear to chew on.
As the sun struggled to break through the clouds, we strolled lazily towards the main stage, making sure to stock up on cocktails from the jam-packed Bacardi B-Live dance tent. Although it took about fifteen minutes to get served, we managed to catch a couple of tracks from The Divine Comedy although we sadly missed Neil Hammond's take on Nelly Furtado's Maneater, a talking point around the tent later that day. By the time following act The Magic Numbers hit the stage, the drinks had been consumed and we were mashed enough to sing along like fools. However, having seen the four-piece once before, I know that I would have been all happy-clappy if I'd been completely sober. Their genteel and harmonic songs still manage to rock, and keyboardist Angela Gannon is a hidden weapon they're yet to unleash upon the masses; on the album duet I See You, You See Me, her gorgeous vocals work wonderfully with bearded main man Romeo's voice to create the highlight of the set. The Numbers also previewed new material including Take a Chance, the lead single from album number two. The new songs didn't sound miles away from what they've given us already but it didn't stop the crowd from applausing wildly in appreciation when the band bid farewell.
When Bloc Party took the Numbers' place on the main stage, the day was well and truly on its way to being as remarkable as the previous day's experience. This was my third time seeing the Bloc Party boys and, only having one album to their name, there weren't many surprises in store. However, seeing as that album was one of my favourites of last year, I was happy to hear all the hits and those album songs that would have been hits had they been released - in particular, She's Hearing Voices sounded as vibrant as ever. Familiarity (and cider consumption) may mean my opinion is somewhat biased but I have it on good faith from friends were virgins to the live Bloc experience that their spiky indie noise was impressive.
When the Party ended, dusk was rapidly approaching and it was time to hit the Virgin Mobile Union to take in two wildly different singer/songwriters. Hyped-up Jamie T impressed with the barbed poetry of Sheila and Salvador but Regina Spektor and her piano wiped the floor with his efforts. In a set that lasted a mere thirty minutes, she not only performed a number of ballads that were by turns lovely and downright weird but also impressed with an acapella performance, a guitar-led song, and a performance of Poor Little Rich Boy where a chair and a stick came in ever so handy. Work that out for yourselves.
On the way to the JJB/Puma Arena, I remained in a sort of drug-addled (don't worry, I was clean!) mesmerised state that was a consequence of witnessing Ms Spektor's talent live. In the distance, however, Beck was performing E-Pro on the main stage with not only his band but PUPPETS (yes, that's right - PUPPETS!) of his band accompanying. This oddball sight was enough to pull me from my reverie and so, when we reached our goal and The Go! Team were already blaring out Huddle Formation, I was awake and ready to jive. I'd already seen the Mercury-nominated band earlier in the year (read the review here) and I can't really add anything to my already existing opinions. To be blunt and not overly articulate, they are ace. The music was a sonic assault dripping with verve, guided by the energy of MC Ninja who made sure the audience were singing along and moving their feet.
Feelgood party music, eh? Something The Go! Team certainly have in common with the night's headliners, and the big draw of the whole festival, Radiohead - or, erm, perhaps not. I'll admit now that, despite all the critical acclaim and grabbing the top spot in countless '100 Best Albums... Ever!' list shows, I only really started listening to Radiohead last year. I immediately fell in love or, at the very least, something akin to love; I'm still yet to buy anything post-OK Computer, due to insufficient funds more so than a lack of want. That means I've never listened to Kid A and their more experimental - and, from what I hear, strange - electro moments. Yes, I'm a fool, I know. However, I was determined to see the band even when the company I was keeping all weekend opted for the less 'dreary' and 'dull' likes of Kasabian and Fatboy Slim. 'Dull' my arse. Opening with a stellar rendition of Airbag, Thom Yorke and his sidekicks proved they can do big and loud without ripping off Primal Scream, Oasis, everyone ever, etc. (hello Kasabian) and that they sound bloody great doing it. I was a little worried that the band would neglect material from their earlier work and focus on the half of their back catalogue that I've yet to hear. Luckily, most of the rabbits they pulled out of their collective hat were classics from both The Bends and OK Computer. Highlights from the former included spine-tingling versions of Street Spirit (Fade Out) and Fake Plastic Trees, while rip-roaring performances of My Iron Lung and Just predictably caused the audience to go nuts. Meanwhile, fans of OK Computer (so, pretty much everyone watching) were treated to a beautiful Karma Police, the Bohemian Rhapsody extravagance of Paranoid Android, and my personal favourite of the night Lucky, which transcended the shackles of this big ol' corporate festival to soundtrack (for four minutes, at least) the crazy world we're living in right now in 2006. As for the later stuff, I managed to recognise the likes of National Anthem, Idioteque, and Pyramid Song, a song which managed to be both majestic and creepy at the same time. Throughout the set, Yorke sounded great to this audience member although I doubt those who weren't fans of his voice prior to the set would have been swayed. Overall, the band proved they were easily worthy of the headliner slot and even awe-inspiring enough to make the label of 'best band in the world' that gets thrown at them all the time quite laudible. The big finish came with the opening chords of Creep and I don't think any act on the bill could have ended the weekend with a song as highly anticipated.
Heading back to the tent after the final band is always something of a come-down, and so it was with V2006. However, I've taken away a lot from the two days and I hope other revellers have done too, proving that the cynics who claim V is a waste of space are well and truly wrong. Yeah, you're bombarded with sponsorship logos, might run into some loser from Big Brother, and you have to pay ludicrous prices for burgers and beer (although that last one can apply to any festival) but you can also watch a band as revered and worldwide as Radiohead less than 48 hours after enjoying the guilty pleasures of Sugababes or raving in the Strongbow Ciderhouse. I think three years in a row may mean I'll take next year off in favour of Glasto but I would certainly advise any music fan looking to go to an eclectic and, most importantly, fun festival to head to V2007.