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Issue 1084

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V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire: Sat 20/08/11 Day One

Rihanna: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11
Rihanna: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Rihanna: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Rihanna: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Rihanna: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 D12: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 D12: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Imelda May: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 The Noisettes: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 The Noisettes: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Dionne Bromfield: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Dionne Bromfield: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Fitz and the Tantrums: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Fitz and the Tantrums: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Fitz and the Tantrums: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Fitz and the Tantrums: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Noelle (Fitz and the Tantrums): V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Fitz and the Tantrums: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Mark Ronson: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11 Mark Ronson: V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire 20/08/11

V Festival, Weston Park, Staffordshire. Day One, Sat 20th Aug 2011. There were tears at this yearâs V festival near Stafford. From a group of friends from Birmingham who had unknowingly bought fake tickets from a moody website. They shed many. Some fans of Chipmunk, Jessie J and Rhianna, unable to control their emotions, sobbed like babies when their heroes looked over at them! Even Jessie J herself cried on the day of her performanceâ¦.more about that later.

A young lady called Stacey, sat on the shuttle bus early evening of day two, gently weeping as she had to leave all her Scouse mates behind and head off back to Liverpool, for an early next day audition as a dancer for the musical Wicked. Sheâd had such a great time and was âso depressedâ to be going home early. But dedicated to her career. And from meâ¦â¦I criedâ¦..well, inside anyway. Why?

Street wise, down wiv the kids rapper Eminem, a superstar in his genre of music who connects with the fans with socially aware lyrical content, banned all but five photographers from shooting pix of him during his headline set on Saturday night. But his people did not reveal who the chosen few were (out of dozens of us) until just before his set started. T wo local papers, The Times, NME and a picture agency. That agency snapper had already left the site, but Emâs people would not let another agency take his place.

So only four got to take pix of headliner Eminem. I was gutted, as a music photographer and a fan. It is his loss in the end, as he doesnât get the coverage to sell his product and to keep him at number one. They all want help on the way up and on the way back down, but some turn into giant bolshy Divas when they are up there. He and a few other stars also got us all to sign forms, which basically mean they own our unborn children. The rumour went round that Rhianna would insist on us taking her picture from the mixing desk right out in the crowd, like she does at indoor concerts.

But no, we got to stay in the pit for the first three songs for her set, and boy was I glad we did. What a terrific performer, cracking vocals and great to photograph â as long as you are prepared to cover a few miles chasing her up and down the stage, as she paces like a caged tiger. Climbing onto PA stack and in front of the giant video screens, both sides of the stage. Bet that looked cool from the crowd.
Word of warning to Mr Em. When the shout went out in the media area from a PR person asking us who wanted to go shoot pix of top chart band Scouting for Girls, not one of us said yes. So as far as I am aware, not one snapper covered that band - who have had eight top ten hits. So when you are number one, thereâs only one way from thereâ¦.down. See you in a couple of years Em, perhaps by then doing club gigs and begging for press coverage to sell tickets. I hear he got a whopping £2m fee for his V festival stint, and got five dressing rooms for him and his people. All kitted out with boys toys. But, thereâd have been far more tears of joy over that weekend, than sadness. 85,000 people each day on the 1,000 acre site on the Staffs/Shropshire border having a real parteeeee.. A superb mix of musical styles and artists over four stages. Well run, by good natured low key security and the behind the scenes festival staff.

Lower than last year crime figures â 77 arrests mainly for theft and drugs. I have to give credit where credit is due, the festival PR team were the best I have experienced in three decades of working at these giant musical events. Making sure we all got what we needed, to be able to tell you dear readers what went on and show you some nice piccies. Bravo Cake Group.

So. Eminem hits the stage as headliner. Was he any good amid his Diva-ish tendencies? As much as it pains me to say this; he was mighty. One 23-year-old chap Lee from North London, had stood at the front of the barrier to the stage since 11.30am that day, just to get to see his hero Eminem, not on stage until gone 9.30pm. Was it worth it, I asked him? âHe was f*****g phenomenal,â he said. Actually shaking from the sheer excitement. I think he liked him!

The capacity crowd â not an inch to spare - were treated to all the hits. Dressed in grey hoodie, white tee and black baggy shorts, he came out of the dry ice and got stuck straight in. No puff and fluff schpeel. Em invited a host of special guest stars up in his 90 minute set. The obvious, Rhianna, came on at 10.30pm to join Em on their smash hit âLove The Way You Lie.â LA singer/producer Skylar Grey joined him towards the end, for the Dr Dre track they both sing on; âI Need A Doctor.â Skylar, well, Holly Brook Hafermann to call her by her real name, was a classy match to Em up there on the main stage. She co-wrote âLove The Way You Lieâ, and has a huge future as a songwriter. Look out for her forthcoming 2nd CD, âInvincible,â which she says will feature guest star Marilyn Manson. Skylar played her first ever London show on Monday after V, at Xoyo, to huge acclaim. One to watch.

Marshall M had other treats in store at V. US rappers D12, who stormed it earlier in the day on the 4 Music Stage, came on early into his set, to sing on their joint track; âQuitter.â The crowd went bonkers. Dressed all in red, rapper Roice Da 59 came on to loud applause.
Eminem gave us his biggest hits, âStan,â âMy Name Is,â âNot Afraid.â I have to be honest and say, it might be a while before he ends up in smaller venues begging for media coverage, on this showing. Stroppy git, but clever bugger. I forgive him.

Rockabilly Queen Imelda May opened proceedings on Saturday lunchtime on the main stage, with one of her biggest hits âJohnny Got A Boom Boom.â Referencing sore heads of the crowd from the night before. She gave a fine performance, and her rasping voice just gets better. I was with her at a small blues festival on a south coast cider farm a few years ago, before she hit the big-time. She knocked back a fair few pints of scrumpy before her set then. I asked her how she still gave a great show despite all that booze. She laughed and said: âIâm Irish. We can drink.â Fans at V got to hear tracks from her hit CDs âLove Tattooâ and âMayhemâ and her superb band, featuring husband and co-writer Darryl Higham on guitar. A cracking up tempo version of âTainted Loveâ 20 mins in, with a rousing trumpet solo. She earned a better slot for next year, surely?

Detroitâs D12 tore Staffordshire a brand new arsehole on the 4music stage on Saturday. They came, they rapped, they conquered. Enough said. Well, not quiteâ¦..A huge crowd turned out to see them, a lot maybe hoping former D12 member Eminem would show up. But he didnât. Didnât matterâ¦..Second act of the day and only 12.30pm, but they ripped it like it was 3am in a sweaty Harlem club. âCome on you mother hubbards (well, you know what they really said) make some noise.â Well, thousands of âem did. I am still deaf. But D12 were worth the ear drops. Mega.

The Noisettes were on next on the same stage and between D12 and them, like comparing Peter Andre to King Herrod. Singer Shingai Shoniwa, dressed in bizarre red panto style costume may have required an osteopath after her acrobatics on stage. She covered all that stage for the whole set and twisted her self into strange shapes, chucking off her shoes from the off and high step kicks thatâd make a Tiller girl proud. The crowd loved the big hit âDonât Upset The Rhythm,âthat opened their set. A party fave from January 2009. But when Shingai asked: âDo you wanna hear some new shit,â I wanted to scream âYes please. About time.â They are a great band, great fun, she is worthy of a solo career, but they badly need some new shit and more hits. Bring it on.

Dionne Bromfield told the audience that some of them would not know who she was. They will after her cracking performance on the Arena stage. That little girl at 15, has a stunning voice that seems unlikely for someone of her age and inexperience. I can see her making it bigtime in the US. I was knocked out by her talent, but she still has the innocence and immaturity of a teenager, which is good. Taking every opportunity to excitedly plug her second album and ask the fans to go buy it. Rather that than come across as a pretentious Diva.

She was supported by some young male and female dancers, that to me seemed to get in the way rather than add value to her performance. OK for TV, but just clutter for a smaller stage at a festival. She doesnât need distractions and gimmicks. She doesnât even need to ride on the crest of her famous late Godmotherâs name any more. Her powerful, soulful voice and sweet personality will sustain her. She is a beautiful young lady and has a spirit and sparkle that radiates from her soul. At times, she did have that Amy raunch to her vocal, and fittingly dedicated her fourth song - The Shirelles cracker, âMama Saidâ - to her late Godmother. âI did this on Strictly Come Dancing with someone very special to me. I donât need to say who. This is for her.â On her first gig since Amy died, the recent Big Chill festival, Dionne broke down in tears at the mention of Amy. I was ready with mental hugs, but this time she was composed, and carried on with a fitting tribute to her late and great mate. One of her dancers had her album title, âGood For The Soulâ written on his tee shirt. She sure is. Dionne is a little superstar in the making. Go see her before the yanks snap her up. They surely willâ¦.

One of the only bummers of my weekend was not the weather, but the small audience who turned up to see a band that soon everyone will be raving about. Fitz And The Tantrums. From LA, this six piece quirky outfit are just wonderful. A maximum of 200 caught their act on the Undercover Stage on Saturday afternoon. Lucky things. 25 minutes of pure, unadulterated heaven. If you like Motown and you liked the 80s new wave stuff, youâll love these guys. And gal. But that small crowd reacted like it was a full house at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

They knew what they were getting was special. Fitz, Michael Fitzpatrick the front man, at six feet and five inches tall, could be mistaken for the lanky, separated-at-birth twin of Talking Heads legend David Byrne. He has similar awkward mannerisms. A very distinctive voice and a great presence. Ably supported on co-lead vocals by the bloody gorgeous Noelle Scaggs, ex Black Eyed Peas singer, who showed me the blisters on her hands after the gig. From excessive tambourine banging. The two of them have perfect chemistry, their voices blend like Irish whisky and cream.

Drummer John Wicks has the Funk Brothers/Wrecking Crew groove down like youâd never believe - ex Ce Lo Greenâs skins man. Some tasteful and retro brush strokes on keys from ex Macy Gray keyboard player Jeremy Ruzumna. Joseph Karnes on bass provides some fine bottom end. Ultra talented James King on sax, a one man horn section. The band kick off with the addictive âBreaking The Chains Of Loveâ from their debut CD âPickin Up The Piecesâ - due out in the UK two days later. Some 8,000 people loved them at a festival in Holland the night before. (The UK always late discovering hot new acts.) Soon thatâll be a small gig for them. Trust me, Iâm a journalistâ¦.

* Blues & Soul will soon feature Fitz & The Tantrums with an interview and backstage photo shoot from the V festival. Their single which has been Radio 2 playlisted, âMoney Grabberâ is to die for. Bet you a tenner youâll be singing it after one listen!*

Surrey rockers You Me At Six, gave a cocky, aggressive, loud and powerful 4 Music stage performance. Despite the daylight, they rocked the joint and my gut was telling me these boys have a much, much bigger future for sure. They attracted a capacity crowd for their midday set, with swagger and style and a masterclass in how to make use of the entire stage and work that crowd. A bit of incitement from lead singer Josh Franceschi caused near mayhem when the banned activity of crowd surfing suddenly became a good idea. It got a bit hairy in that pit as bodies were pulled out by the concerned security guys, and all of us snappers got booted out for safety reasons during only their second song, in the process. A band Iâd like to see again. They should do a DVD for wanna-be bands about how to play a big festival stage and win new fans. Iâm one for a start. Sinners Never Sleep, their third CD is out in October. Get it.

I felt Mark Ronson and Business Internationalâs set was somewhat lacklustre. The three quarters full huge Arena Stage marquee audience would disagree. He spent all night at the back of the stage behind his gear, playing guitar and synth drums, letting his band and singers take the spotlight. His stuff did not grab me, and I felt his male singer was out of place on that material, better suited to more rockier/indie stuff perhaps. The female vocalist had a cracking voice but again, the material felt flat to my ears. It seemed it didnât quite know what it wanted to be. But his fans lapped it up, and they paid to get in, unlike me. So they get the vote!

RnB superstar Rhianna had tight security around her, and rumoured to have snagged 10 dressing rooms for her 100 strong team. She had her own chef cooking chicken and rice backstage. Wearing tight denim shorts, fishnet stockings and a cut off union jack top, under a flash leather jacket, she looked stunning and got down and dirty with sexual gestures galore up close to her guitarist. Even rubbing her crotch at times on a few songs.

Phew it was hot in that pit taking her picture just a few yards away from her, for us 55 snappers!!! With a squad of crack dancers and hot band, she ran through the hits one by one with a slick, performance befitting a huge festival stage. Like a trainee Beyonce! Watched by a gaggle of stars side stage, including Ellie Goulding, who seemed in awe.

âRude Boy,â âOnly Girl,â and towards the end of her set, âUmbrella,â when a lot of the crowd opened up their redundant umbrellas in tribute. She did a lovely stripped down version of Marleyâs âRedemption Song.â Health and Safety folk would have had a fit if they saw her lobbing out a drum stick to the crowd, and it hitting a chap on the head! âI am so sorry,â she shouted to the beaming guy, who now has a tale to bore his pals with until next year.

She could easily have held her own as headliner that night, but as an opener for Eminem, this was a bonus for the punters. And for me with my hot pix! Hot it was all weekend. The weather was just glorious. A sea of Wellington boots, but dry as a bone underfoot. No rain apart from five minutes of spitting on Saturday afternoon.

The heat rising off that main stage on Saturday night from that double delight - Rear-Anna, sorry Rhianna (itâs those tight shorts and fish nets!) and old grumpy socks, Eminem â was lucky not to have set fire to the dry grass. But for most, it went a long way to justify the circa £200 tickets, £2 a bottle of water and £6 a burger.

As a V festival virgin, I am so glad I popped my cherry with 23-year-old Rhianna. I wishâ¦â¦â¦â¦..

All pictures: Simon Redley
Words SIMON REDLEY

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