v fest what was hot (and what sucked)...
Let's talk about the second time.
It's usually less awkward; tends to last longer, is less messier, packs a bigger punch and generally feels better (for all parties).
The V Festival is a virgin no more, and this year's event ended Sydney 08's festival season in incredible fashion. Organisers brought out the big guns for the festival, but also infused Virgin's quirky stamp all over the event, giving it a unique festival identity.
Generation-defining artists such as Duran Duran, Air, Queens of the Stone Age and the newly reformed Smashing Pumpkins played their hearts out over 4 stages, alongside Indie favourites and newcomers including Modest Mouse, the Presets, CSS and many more.
Modest Mouse started the day right. The indie band played to a large crowd early in the day. The highlight of the set was without a doubt when they played their biggest hit "Float On". The song garnered a massive reaction from the crowd and rightfully so - it's a bloody amazing song. The band opened with "Bury Me With It" and closed with "Spitting Venom".
Roisin Murphy seemed to suffer a case of ADD, with the lead singer changing outfits for nearly every song. For me, her most memorable outfit looked like a mixture of Parisian style with a "Clockwork Orange" twist, matching perfectly with her quirky electronic sound and sexy vocals. Her backup dancers in mismatching tights also helped sex up the already hot stage.
CSS, otherwise known as "Cansei De Ser Sexy" (which means "Tired Of Being Sexy" in their native Portuguese) brought the Brazilian party vibe to Centennial Park. Armed with balloons, which decked out the stage, the band projected sassy attitude and confidence that exuded hotness. The lead singer Love Foxxx wore what looked like togs with a big fat smiley face printed on the stomach.
All five girls (plus token male drummer) brought sexy back as they played their mix of loud, upbeat electro rock songs, introducing new fans to the exuberant and raucous live spectacle for which they are known worldwide. The band played songs such as "Off The Hook" and - their most recognizable - "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex", reminding punters that "music is our girlfriend" (now imagine a crowd of thousands doing dancing gyrations!)
French electronic group Air next invoked some moody chilltime, as they played the sunset slot on "That stage", proving 80s music pioneers still have what it takes to engage a diverse audience.
Queens of the Stone Age then cemented their reputation as a solid live act, bringing the audience to its feet in arguably the day's most energetic set. The alternative metal masters didn't rely solely on their more recognizable songs such as "No One Knows" to ensure that the pit would go manic. They started the set with "Regular John" and maintained the momentum until playing their very last song "Song For The Dead". To quote the excited fan standing behind me: "YEEEA BOY!!!"
Smashing Pumpkins was for me, the unequivocal highlight of the event. After they disbanded in 2000, I had come to accept the fact that I would never get to see this band play. In fact, until I saw them perform live, I had pretty much forgotten how much their music had defined my 90s experience. The show reminded me of how grateful I am that they have reformed.
The first words out of lead singer Billy Corgan's mouth undoubtedly defined the feelings of many at that precise moment, saying: "today is the greatest day I've ever known". Despite the lyrics of Today's underlining story of desperation the upbeat tempo and ironic lyrics got everyone into a Pumpkins frenzy.
Billy rocked the same androgynous outfit (including that silver dress) he sported at MTV's the Lair the night before. The new incarnation of the Pumpkins: Billy, Jeff Schroeder (guitar/vocals), Ginger Reyes (bass/vocals), Lisa Harriton (keyboard/vocals) and drum master Jimmy Chamberlain played songs from the latest album, as well as the hits that made them alternative darlings in the 90s.
The Pumpkins, for me, proved that real musicians can play in a festival environment and still produce impeccable sound, despite the acoustic problems that are sometimes associated with festival main stages.
Halfway through the set the band disappeared; Billy re-emerged with his acoustic guitar. The people (myself included) cheered with delight as he started to play an acoustic version of "1979". He followed this song with an acoustic version of "That's The Way" (he also performed this at the Lair). The melodic vocals sent chills down my spine.
Despite recent reports of the bands obsession with new material (from the album Zeitgeist) and a corresponding lack of enthusiasm for their back catalogue, the band seemed to play fan favourites like Tonight, Tonight, Today, 1979 and Bullet With Butterfly Wings (among others) with conviction and passion. It was no surprise that the crowd responded accordingly.
Mother nature also responded to the resounding beats, strums and vocals by providing an electric light show in the sky behind the stage (perhaps Richard Branson's connections extend to God?) The lightning worked particularly with Billy's slightly self indulgent jamming.
Billy ended the set by doing riffs from the American anthem (fittingly, after he played the song "United States") and tributed Australian band The Church by playing a cover of that band's song "Reptile". After ending the show with "Cherub Rock" the band thanked the audience; Billy graciously walked to both ends of the stage to acknowledge the engaged punters and seemed genuinely appreciative of his large crowd of admirers.
In the distance you could hear the Presets pumping hits like "Are You The One" from the other stage, stroking the dance-happy audience.
V Fest attracted an eclectic crowd of both young and old - this was a largely bogan and seemingly trouble-free event that had a very relaxed vibe for a massive festival. The event was low on munters and binge drinkers yet still high on energy. The website wrote that the Virgin staff suffered sleepless nights planning the set times, so that the audience would be able to see as many of the bands was possible. It seems their efforts had paid off. The bar, food and toilet lines moved quickly and efficiently allowing punters to experience almost instant satisfaction. It may have also helped that the crowd was evenly dispersed, which meant getting from stage to stage was as easy as Paris Hilton picking up on vacation.
That said, many may have missed CSS and other bands like The Rakes at the "Other Stage" due to a last minute schedule change, but this was probably the one of the few glitches noticeable in an otherwise smoothly run event.
The naming of the stages ("This Stage", "That Stage" and "Other Stage"), while cute, was also confusing. Many phone conversations that involved choosing a meeting point with friends went like this:
"I'm at This stage"
"Oh, That stage"
As you can imagine it didn't work too well, especially after a few beers.
V Fest also introduced the Festival Buddy, a little application for your mobile that helped punters plan their day so they wouldn't miss their favourite acts (well, unless they wanted to see the Rakes or CSS)This was another seemingly noble attempt by Virgin to think outside the "festival" box.
While the V Fest is still relatively new, it can teach a thing or two to the more experienced festivals. Although the event held a crowd of around 33,000, the effective use of the large space meant that it didn't feel overcrowded (it's not the size, after all it's what you do with it that matters.)
If you live in Melbourne and Perth you still have a chance to catch this majestic musical event, so grab some mates, get a ticket and your festival buddy and give it a good go. You wont regret it the morning, because V Fest shows that more than ever, music can be your "Hot Hot Sex", group-style.