Regular readers of this blog and anyone that knows me will know that I adore V Festival at Weston Park, Stafford and have attended the festival religiously over the best part of a decade. It is true that in the last few years to attend the festival I have swapped camping in a muddy crowded field on site with a comfortable 2 night stay in a local hotel but after turning 30 and attending the festival heavily pregnant (as I did a couple of years ago) I think some home comforts are allowable!
As an Event Manager myself I have an understanding of the magic of unique live experiences – nothing can quite beat that festival vibe and the experience of sharing great music with 100k like-minded individuals under a (hopefully) sunny or starry sky! V Festival has always delivered faithfully year on year and justified the cost of attending.
The 2014 took place last weekend and I attended with great friend and all round lovely lady Andrea from And All Things Nice, as well as meeting up briefly with other friends and V regulars on site. A great time was had by all (click link for G+ Story) but this was mainly due to the good company rather than the Festival itself if I am completely honest. When the pre-festival line up announced it was far from inspiring however I had faith that the festival would pull through (as outlined in this blog post: V Festival 2014 Must See Acts). I think that they must have blown their budget on Kings of Leon and Beyonce last year perhaps (fantastic unrivalled headliners of 2013!) because this year it definitely was not anywhere near previous standards. Instead of rushing between stages excited about different performances this year there were certain times on both days when we weren’t actually bothered about watching any of the acts, which is as surprising to me as it is to you to hear with my voracious appetite for music and eclectic music at that! Rumours abounded that 40k tickets hadn’t been sold for the festival this year, which is normally a sell out. If this is the case they are likely to have a huge financial headache on their hands.
Some artists were simply programmed wrongly in my opinion e.g. a stripped back set on the main stage from Newton Faulkner (or what would have been if not for technical difficulties in parts) And Nina Nesbitt mid afternoon on Saturday at the Arena Stage above Ella Eyre, Jess Glynne and Neon Jungle (no offence Nina – you are obviously very talented but who decided your one song that reached number 20 in the charts is more deserving than Ellas top 10 hits at being given a decent slot?!). Plus V organisers you are missing a trick – Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott went down a storm in the Arena tent with a mix of a few new songs, plus classic hits from the Beautiful South and the Housemartins. Showing my age perhaps but in my mind this would have been a great opening/early afternoon set on the main or MTV stage (formally the 4 music stage)!
And I can’t just blame the line up either to be fair. Even some of the acts that I was looking forward to seeing and have seen live plenty of times disappointed at V this year! Paolo Nutini take note – even true fans of yours would have preferred to hear some of your classics belted out in their true original form rather than reworked as you performed them.
It was also a huge shame that one of the main food areas had been lost this year (n.b. the food area situated by the MTV/4 Music Stage). Bizarrely this had been filled with extra fair ground rides as a space filler it seems? A lot of the individual food stalls were also lacking, replaced by more corporate but less inspiring food vendors repeated across the site. I wondered if the individual food stalls were priced out this year? Or were they not interested in attending due to reduced audience numbers?
On a more positive note these were my musical highlights from V Festival 2014:
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott
I have always been a huge fan but they delivered a storming set and it was great to see them performing together again!
The Kaiser Chiefs
Ricky never fails to deliver. He must have been exhausted after his set running from one end of the stage to the other countless times and I particularly loved him singing at the crowd barrier with the Showsec steward holding onto his belt and virtually pulling his trousers down in the process! Ricky seemed oblivious to this and smashed it.
The Killers delivered another storming performance and a great set packed full of crowd pleasers! We also loved the drummers interpretive dance to Fancy by Iggy Azalea.
Playing to a packed tent their set went down a storm, complimented by their bling outfits and choreographed moves.
Live Nation acquired the major stake in V Festival in December 2013. As the worlds biggest concert promoter this should have been a match made in heaven surely but I can’t help but wonder if commercial greed has sacrificed the heart of the event? This is particularly worrying when you realize that they now own many of the UKs music festivals such as Creamfields, T in the Park, Wireless, and Download and have a controlling stake in Festival Republic (formally Mean Fiddler) who are involved in Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds Festival and Latitude. Suddenly the concerns I have heard from other sources about music festivals becoming indistinguishable from other large festivals start to ring alarm bells for me. Was this just a bad year for V Festival this year or is something more sinister to blame where profits come above all else?
(Related article Live Nation Acquires a Stake in V Festival)
It isn’t like me to be so negative but I definitely feel this is justified in this case. I am sad to say that this may actually have been my last ever V Festival and the end of an era unless a hell of a lot of effort is put in to persuade me to go along next year. Andrea and I are going to look into alternative perhaps small/medium sized festivals and compare line ups/ticket price/value and experience before committing for next year. This feeling seems to be shared by a fair few people that were there at V Festival this year and I think there will be a lower than average take up of 2015 pre-allocation tickets which are on sale now. I am sure most people will be keen to verify the line up next year (released in early March) before parting with their well earned cash and committing to attending, leaving the organisers in a precarious position perhaps? I will look forward to finding out how they will address these concerns and put forward a killer festival line up for 2015.
Did you attend V Festival this year? What did you think? Is my feedback justified? If you didn’t attend was it the line up that put you off? Have you bought tickets for next year? What are your top tips for alternative festivals to attend instead?