Sunday, August 21, 2005

V OKAY

There's a surprising degree of excitement about the V festival turning ten years old this year - we guess it's not so much that nobody ever expected it to last that long as, really, nobody had really much noticed that it hadn't folded.

The Guardian's take on the decade mark was Pop festival once dismissed as spiritless becomes sell-out event - as if being soulless and empty has ever presented a problem selling stuff in a country where James Blunt has been number one for sixteen years. Although the existence of a major English festival that's not owned by Clear Channel is something we should celebrate, there's no avoiding the obvious fact that V has managed to carve out a niche because it's so innoffensive:

"It's become synonymous with mainstream rock and pop music lovers who perceive it as the most audience-friendly festival," said David Andrews, marketing director at Virgin Radio which, while no longer part of Richard Branson's stable, remains the key broadcasting partner for the event and makes its own marketing and PR mileage out of it.

Mmm. It gets even more exciting when David Kydd, from main sponsor Virgin Mobile, steps up to talk about the event:

"We've been very careful to only use our brand where it adds value. One year it ended up looking like Bluewater. You need to be clever about how you communicate."

The festival that adds value to a mobile telephone brand, eh? We're almost regretting our decision not to be part of that.

The NME is tied in with the event too, this year, and so it's giving rather excellent coverage over at NME.com: for example, the report on Oasis' set which focuses on the most interesting aspect - that Liam Gallagher saw a large, blow up penis and pretended he thought he was looking at Pete Doherty. Do you get it?

”It’s good to see Pete Doherty turned up,” he said, “one big cock.”

We can understand why the NME were more interested in this lame gag than the music itself - we caught the highlights on Channel 4 last night, and to say it was half-arsed would lay us open to letters of complaint from the monobuttocked of the UK. Wisely, the band avoided doing too much of the new stuff, and stuck for the most part to the bits from when they popular beyond their core fanbase:

* ’Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ (intro)
* ’Turn Up The Sun’
* ’Lyla’
* ’Bring It On Down’
* ’Morning Glory’
* ’Cigarettes And Alcohol’
* ’The Importance Of Being Idle’
* ’A Bell Will Ring’
* ’Live Forever’
* ’The Meaning Of Soul’
* ’Mucky Fingers’
* ’Champagne Supernova’
* ’Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’
And then they did an encore:
* ’Wonderwall’
* ’Don’t Look Back In Anger’
* ’My Generation’

- but the effect was more of a karaoke set than a rabble-rousing festival highlight stomp. The only people throwing themselves into things with any gusto were the crowd, who bellowed along with glee and enthusiasm while the band did the bare minimum to ensure they got their share of the cash.

Actually, viewed on E4 and Channel 4, V does look like it owes less to Virgin Radio, and more to the Century Radio stable's hairbrush diva low-concept. Maroon 5 doing that tick tick tock song? It's the crowd doing all the singing. In fact, next year V could save themselves loads of money by dispensing with the lead singers services altogether, and just go for the full karaoke effect. We don't think the people in the field would mind; it's possible they might not even notice.

The other thing that marks out this festival is the number of "unlikely" surprise guest appearances: Magic Numbers squeezing onstage with the Chemical Brothers; Goldie Lookin' Chain hooking up with Super Furry Animals; the rumour that Scissor Sisters and Franz Ferdinand would work together (although last night that didn't happen) and, erm, The Kaiser Chiefs getting reunited with the Kaisersaurus.

And top marks to Mr. Red Penguin - astonishingly quick off the mark with the Magic Numbers downloads from the festival.


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