V festival celebrated its 20th year this year and despite being hailed one of the most commercial festivals (the V standing for Virgin group who sponsor it) it is also one of the safer of the music festivals. Being that it has less of a rough reputation than other festivals, I was quite surprised to see the floor littered with balloons and capsules from ‘laughing gas’ and people openly doing it. I know it is a so called ‘legal high’ and maybe it’s my old age but I was disappointed to see the popularity it has gained in our youth culture when the dangers are still largely unknown. Ok rant over!
The festival is split between two sites over the penultimate weekend in August – Hylands Park Chelmsford and Weston Park Staffordshire with bands playing alternate days at each location. The initial concept of playing two locations in one weekend was the brain child of Jarvis Cocker, lead singer of the band Pulp. As with all music festivals, camping is very much a part of it, however I have never had the full experience of festival life in a tent as I have never wanted to get muddy and be stuck with portaloos and no proper showers! Perhaps I’ve missed out, but the older I get the more I like my creature comforts. It does amaze me how well groomed some girls manage to look despite spending the night in a tent!
This year was the third time I have been to V for the day at Hylands Park. Two of these times including this one, I was motivated to go by my desire to see Stereophonics who have performed at V an impressive 8 times. This time I dragged my husband along with me.
My outfit for the event was a nod to the boho trend of the season combined with a punk/rock edge. I wore studded denim shorts from Oasis; Stereophonics latest band t-shirt and a white crochet waistcoat from Miss Selfridge. Now as you all know by now – the most important part of any outfit for me is the shoes. Rain was forecast for the day so being that it was held in a field; I went for practicality (for a change) and picked some Dr Marten lookalike boots by Joe Browns from Debenhams. These made me feel quite rocky but the flowers gave them a girly edge. The bag I used was from Asos and reminded me of Chanel’s quilted bags. In true boho style, I plaited a small piece at the front of my hair and clipped it back. Then with Fudge Urban hair art in pink ink– I gave it a punk rock edge.
After a lunch eaten whilst the Proclaimers finished their set (you’ve got to love 500 miles) we browsed some of the stalls and I couldn’t resist a pink rose flower garland for my hair which I thought set my outfit off a treat.
It began to rain so we headed for the cocktail tent and then moved on to the only stage that was undercover, the sure arena. I hadn’t heard of the band playing there although they were reasonably good and I’m sure many people including us were just there for the shelter! The rain became more of a drizzle and we headed over to V media stage to see Ella Henderson.
More drinks were consumed whilst catching bits of The Kooks and George Ezra before we made our way further forward to watch Ellie Goulding. Her performance was outstanding, the energy she put into every song was really to be admired and I’d love to go to one of her gigs in the future. After having some dinner, we moved over to the MTV stage to watch firstly Clean Bandit being that one of their songs, ‘Rather Be’ we used in our wedding video as it was so popular last year; then finally it was time for the performance I had been waiting for, the Stereophonics!
As usual the Stereophonics didn’t disappoint with a fantastic set including stuff as far back as ‘A Thousand Trees’ from the Word Gets Around album in 1997, right up to their latest single ‘C’est La Vie’ from Keep the Village Alive album. I was in my element dancing away but sadly we had to leave to catch our last train just as they were playing my favourite song Maybe Tomorrow. That’s the problem with being a headline act – it means they are on last. I will just have to wait until I see them on tour at the O2 in December, or so I thought.
Little did I know I was to get to see them far sooner than that. My friend managed to get us two tickets for their album signing at HMV Oxford Street on 11th September when their 9th studio album, Keep the Village Alive was released. There were probably about 200 people there and we had to queue for over an hour but it was worth it for those few minutes spent stood in front of the band I have admired since I was 16. Other bands have come and gone for me but Stereophonics are the longest enduring band for my favour. My friend and I were like soppy teenagers all over again and it was quite a surreal experience. I got to shake hands with Kelly and Richard – the bands only remaining original members. I asked Kelly what his favourite Stereophonics song was and he said maybe ‘Local Boy in the Photograph’. I once again wore my Keep the Village Alive t-shirt which they all commented on. There was a limited edition CD for sale of them live at the Royal Albert Hall which I bought.
I got the latest album signed by all four members and I got Kelly to sign a publicity photo which I bought of him on line some time back. Over the years I have lost count of the number of times I have seen them perform – the most memorable ones being a gig at the Round House in Camden where I managed to get near enough to the stage to get a good photo of Kelly and when I starred in their ‘My Friends’ video, which was followed by an intimate gig for about 250 fans. On that occasion I got to put my hand on Kelly’s shoulder.
Last week Keep the Village Alive reached number 1 in the Official album charts – their sixth album to make it to the top. Just shows that even 18 years after they first came on the music scene, they still have what it takes.
Music is such an important part of my life and it sees you through the good and the bad times. Here’s hoping Stereophonics carry on for the next twenty years!