Festival season is by far my favourite time of year, no surprises there, so when Stereotribes and AMBY teamed up and invited me to this year’s V Festival at Weston Park I jumped at the chance. With a whole host of my favourite acts playing and the festival celebrating its twentieth anniversary, it was the perfect opportunity for me to pop my V cherry. Whilst it felt rather strange to be at a festival and not in the pit, it’s been a while; it gave me the chance to fully enjoy the bands playing and check out the V experience which thanks to the wonderful folk at Stereotribes we got to do in style, VIP style baby!
We arrived to glorious sunshine at Weston Park on Saturday morning and after meeting up with our lovely contact Claire and exchanging our wristbands we headed off to check out the site, first stop was the VIP arena complete with giant deckchairs, hammocks, tepees, and an exclusive bar with some well needed comfy sofas — it was definitely the perfect place to chill out in the sun between bands. With the VIP arena firmly established as our base for the weekend, we set off to see what else V Weston had to offer. Along with multiple stages across the site Weston Park certainly had lots of entertainment from funfair rides to silent discos all within reach of various food and drink stalls and if you were in need of a bit of pampering you could even pop into one of the Sure tents to touch up your makeup or give you hair a much needed blow-dry!
So with the lay of the land gathered it was time to check out some music, we headed over to a packed main stage to find the majority of the crowd chilling in the sun that was until The Kooks entered the stage. The crowd quickly took to their feet in front of the Virgin Media main stage finding their voices for a mass sing a long which could be heard far and wide as we headed off to catch The Charlatans on the MTV stage, V festival 2015 was definitely in full swing. With the majority of the festival goers fully emerged in The Kooks we did wonder how many would actually turn out to watch The Charlatans, we needn’t have worried as the band took to the stage it became apparent they were definitely one of the highlights of the weekend as the crowd quickly grew to capacity. Tim Burgess appeared on stage in fine form interacting with the crowd from the off to which they quickly reciprocated there was definitely a lot of the love for The Charlatans at V Festival particularly during favourites such as North Country Boy and The Only One I Know. Despite the heavens opening dramatically during the latter half of their set and the crowd becoming increasingly drenched spirits remained high with everyone firmly embracing the festival vibe and enjoying the band’s brilliant performance. Our decision to head over and catch The Charlatans was definitely a wise one and without a doubt one of the highlights of the festival.
Next up on the MTV Stage were personal favourites Kodaline, whose set was lucky not to be pulled due to the extent of the weather at this point, thankfully they took to the stage and despite the rain pouring down Kodaline made it feel like a summer festival again. Having watched Kodaline from early on in their career, I was extremely excited to see them perform on the big stage I’ve been lucky enough to catch them in various settings from intimate venues to huge arenas, but never before on this scale and they didn’t disappoint. Performing an outstanding set comprised of songs from both their debut In A Perfect World and more recent second album Coming Up For Air, an impressive crowd gathered for the Swords lad’s performance at Weston Park all singing back word for word throughout the entire set. Kodaline definitely lived up to my high hopes at V Festival with the only criticism being the absence of track Play The Game, I guess I’ll just have to wait until the next tour to catch that one live again that’s if Mark’s guitars continue to survive being flung off stage at the end of every set!
As the festivities continued throughout the night, unfortunately so did the rain completely drenched like most at this point we weren’t deterred even when the thunder and lightning hit it simply added to the growing atmosphere of the festival so off we headed to catch Stereophonics on the MTV stage. The Welsh rockers are one of the few bands I like, but have never watched live so they were a must see on the V Festival agenda. As we stood reminiscing favourites from the first two albums Kelly Jones began to belt out the start of my absolute favourite A Thousand Trees quite simply a moment I’ll never forget utterly outstanding. The set continued with more favourites such as Mr Writer with the crowd in unison Stereophonics demonstrated exactly why they were Saturday night V Festival headliners bringing the evening to a magnificent end.
As day one at V Festival drew to a close and we arrived home cold, wet, tired, and very thankful we weren’t camping onsite overnight it was almost impossible to get some sleep as the excitement for day two grew with plenty of our favourite acts still to come. Sunday morning quickly arrived and as we headed back down to Weston Park it appeared the summer weather was back out in force with the glorious sun once again making a welcomed appearance. This was however short lived and no sooner had we set foot back on site and the downpour began again, there was only one thing to do… grab the waterproofs and get stuck in!
First stop of the day was a tough call with two of our favourite acts clashing — Marina and the Diamonds on the Virgin Media stage and Reverend and the Makers on the MTV stage reluctant to choose between the two we opted for the latter, a choice I would have never made a few years ago. I’ll be honest, despite seeing the Rev live previously I was never a massive fan, whilst I liked a few tracks I was never wowed until I caught them live again last year that is and I’ve been hooked ever since. With tracks such as Bassline, Heavyweight Champion, and Shine The Light, Weston Park was well and truly bouncing. The Rev certainly knows how to work a crowd, but in the words of Jon McClure “a band isn’t just for V Festival” so don’t just take my word for it get out and catch Reverend and Makers on their next tour (you won’t regret it, I guarantee).
Following Rev’s lively performance, we headed over to the main stage to catch James Bay who really could have done with holding back the river at this point, yesterday’s rain had nothing on Sunday’s. A massive crowd had already gathered by the time we arrived with some half an hour until stage time still to go. To see such vast crowds all eagerly waiting to watch James Bay perform was truly amazing, particularly because as little over a year ago I watched him perform to only a handful of people. As the James Bay up next signs disappeared and the hat wearing maestro took to the stage I stood in awe a couple of songs in and this was already the best performance we’d seen during the whole festival. Not only does he have an amazing voice and wicked guitar skills, but the energy he displays on stage is remarkable particularly during tracks such as Best Fake Smile, he really has crafted his performance since the days of playing as a solo artist. I doubt it will be long until James Bay is back at V Festival as a headliner, watch this space.
Before catching our most anticipated act of the day, Kasabian, we had time to check out a few more artists including Chvrches, Example, and Tom Jones. I can’t say I’m a fan of Chvrches, well I couldn’t beforehand, purely because I’ve never listened to the electric pop trio. However after watching them this weekend I’ll definitely have to give them a serious listen as I was more than impressed with what I heard. That’s one of the greatest thing about festivals; discovering new bands you otherwise wouldn’t listen to.
After a bit of Chvrches we headed over to catch Example in the Sure Arena, although as we approached I wasn’t sure we’d actually make it inside as the tent appeared to be bursting at the seams. Thankfully we squeezed in just in time to see the entire crowd well and truly losing their minds to Example — what a performance! Sunday was just getting better and better. After some well needed refuelling and a quick chill back in the VIP garden, we headed out to catch Tom Jones, I mean when the legend that is Tom Jones plays a festival you’re at you can’t not! So as the 48:13 countdown to Kasabian begun over on the main stage we participated in probably the biggest sing along of the festival as Sir Tom belted out hit favourites such as Delilah and You Can Leave Your Hat On before trekking back over to the main stage for one last time.
Last, but by no means least, Kasabian were our final act of the festival and unsurprisingly it seems we had saved the best until last with a jam packed set full of classics from all five albums. Kasabian delivered a near perfect set, even the rain held off. No stranger to the barrier at a Kasabian gig, we decided to hang back for this one and enjoy the spectacular Kasabian lightshow in all its glory and what a treat it was. Anthem after anthem, Kasabian closed V Festival with a bang, with hoards of people on shoulders, flags in the air, and flares lighting up the night sky it was everything you’d expect and want from a headline festival performance. Whilst personally I’d love to see Stuntman back in action with tracks such as Stevie, Re-Wired, and Bow alongside a reworked Clubfoot and Empire in the set you won’t see me complaining. Despite seeing Kasabian live a million or so times live over the past ten years, they remain one of the best and most entertaining bands out there. Continuing to change up their set with added intros such as Word Up and Fugees cover Ready Or Not before Bow, not only keeps their performance fresh and exciting, but setting them apart from other bands who continue to perform their greatest hits time after time. The interaction within the band on stage and between the crowd also sets them apart as the set draws to a close Serge challenges the Weston Park crowd to up their game claiming sister site Hylands Park is on the phone declaring they were the better crowd of the two! The response is a full on Weston Park mosh pit frenzy as they get loose with Vlad The Impaler before closing on LSF. And just as you think it’s all over and head in to the distance, Tom Meighan returns for one last word of the night with a rendition of Beatles classic of She Loves You.
All in all we had an amazing weekend, whilst in previous years we’ve avoided V Festival due to the commerciality of the acts playing, the much more diverse line up over the past two years has made the festival far more appealing and after experiencing the event this year I’d definitely check it out again. Thanks to A Music Blog, Yea? And Stereotribes our first V Festival experience was a pretty impressive one and hopefully not the last we might well be seeing you next year V Fest for the big twenty-first birthday celebrations.
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Photos by Fi Carroll | @dirtyroknroller