V Festival @ Avica Resort, Gold Coast (30/3/2008)


We’ve all heard the saying, “Do the best with what you’ve got.” This was truly the maxim yesterday at the V Festival on the Gold Coast when hundreds of revelers turned up at the main entry only to be told the grounds were opening almost two hours late due to bad weather. The change in start time was advised on the V Festival website, but obviously not everyone got the memo. Nonetheless, everyone good-naturedly copped a squat in the shade and tried to casually hide their pre-festival drinks from the not-too-heavy security/police in attendance while they waited the time away.

The gates finally opened a little before 2:30pm, and the punter-lemmings began to make their way to the ticket-wristband exchange. As they all came out the other end and started to head towards the bars and toilets cries of “Oh shit!”, and “This is f&%king disgusting!” echoed around the grounds. Unfortunately, the previous day’s rain had turned a major amount of the resort grounds into a watery, muddy paddock – somewhat of a novelty for these parts. Those in thongs and heels and high-tops halted and grimaced before taking the plunge, as those in gumboots continued on their happy trails to the bar, smiling and waving to the pissed-off looking blondes in white dresses (of which there were in abundance).

Upon entering the grounds, a trek across to ‘That Stage’ – the three stages are This, That, and The Other; evidently, the promoters enjoy making life difficult for drunk punters trying to find their friends – results in the discovery of security dudes in a line standing with their arms crossed, and informing the crowd that they’ll have to wait a bit longer for Little Red to start while the crew make some last-minute amendments to the stage. Which stage? That Stage. Oh, okay. There’s only one thing for it: downing our off-tap Coopers and partaking in the day’s first hits on the nearby beach volleyball court.

Sport at a music festival – who’d have thought? Kudos to the bright spark whose idea it was – I’m willing to bet that by nightfall, the already-muddy area surrounding the court would have been as thoroughly trampled as every other inch of the grounds. Poor Avica: their rolling lawns were absolutely destroyed by the festival attendees. I can imagine many tears and much hair-tearing by the ground staff on Monday morning. Before too many serves and spikes, there’s music emanating from the stage speakers, and hundreds of punters are soon running past security and leaping over the numerous moats of filthy water that approach the stage. But wait – I don’t see five dudes in white shirts playing old-school pop songs. It turns out that Little Red were inexplicably shuffled across to open The Other Stage without notice. Good for them, since they’d have had a large crowd passing through near the entrance, but bad for the several hundred punters who were keen to watch the Garage2V winners strut their stuff.

No, the act onstage is Robyn, that cheeky Swedish pop singer. It has to be said that Cobrastyle is possibly the greatest opening song of any festival stage ever: we’re all up the front getting our dance on to this ridiculously catchy, utterly brilliant track. Her style is the bomb digi bomb di deng di deng digidigi, indeed. There’s a moat of water five metres from the stage which divides the early crowd, who are entranced by the dual drummers on stage while Robyn and her platinum blonde fringe pulls all sorts of shapes out the front. The presence of the second drummer is entirely superfluous, but it’s absolutely mesmerising to watch two dudes playing the same beat while facing each other. Equally mesmerising are the stagehands ninja-ing up ladders and fiddling with the lights, even while the band plays. Robyn drops the hilarious Konichiwa Bitches very early into her shortened set: a little too early, as most punters flee early

As the crowd began to settle in for the long haul, the first of many familiar sounds floated in over their heads. Bandages by Hot Hot Heat. The British Columbians seemed well into the small to medium sized crowd that had started to form in front of –  “This Stage.’ Steve Bays zipped around the stage between flirting with the crowd and jumping back onto his keyboard when required. The band was tight and seemed quite into the gig – not an easy feat for the first band of the day, taking into consideration their late start and possible travel tiredness. But they pulled it off with aplomb and by the time they got to No, Not Now and much loved Talk To Me, Dance With Me the crowd was into it.

A rushed equipment set-up finds Cut Copy playing a little earlier than they expected, but no matter. They have zero stage presence and the sound is rather average; luckily, they’ve got some pretty ace songs that are faithfully recreated here today. A solid performance of Out There On The Ice from their impressive second album, In Ghost Colours, is followed by Zap Zap, which in turn segues into That Was Just A Dream. Like the Midnight Juggernauts performance at the Big Day Out 2008, it’s a little unnerving to watch a band play in the sun when they’re so obviously suited to the cover of darkness, but this is only a minor personal complaint. Singer Dan Whitford inexplicably dedicates So Haunted to Stevie Nicks; recent singles Lights And Music and set-closer Hearts On Fire are played back-to-back, which is confusing as hell since they both sound the same. A few people are caught out singing the wrong choruses; how embarrassing. The three-(and sometimes, four-) piece play an engaging set that demonstrates their growing popularity.

Next up on the This Stage were the ever-impressive Modest Mouse. After a considerably long roadie tune up (possibly due a fairly staggering assortment of instruments), the band finally took to the stage and were greeted by heavily enthusiastic applause. The crowd had somehow morphed into a more mature and subdued bunch, and were well behaved and completely appreciative throughout the entire set. And the band weren’t there to muck about, either – they ripped straight into it. They share the stage so well, and are so unassuming and composed and professional. They are so hard not to like and respect. These great qualities, when considered and combined with the band’s turbulent chop-change past, are reflected in their music.

The audience absolutely dug what they had to offer. Float On had everyone singing along and Isaac Brock and Johnny Marr both stuck out a little from the rest of the band as crowd favourites. The double drums were effing amazing and the sound was fairly crisp and clear. One thing is for sure, the gig at the Arena tonight in New Brisney is going to be cracking. Supporting is Hot Hot Heat – these boys were standing on the side stage rocking out as Modest Mouse pleased the crowd.

Nor did The Jesus And Mary Chain waste any time getting down to business. The days of on-stage turmoil seem well and truly over. From what was seen on stage yesterday that’s just the way The Brothers Reid now like it. The recognisable riffs and trademark feedback of Sidewalking drew punters from the other side of the grounds. Reverence drew a massive cheer. Snakedriver was epic. Clarity of sound was good and the undercurrent mood was one of stupour. They were just that good. Very little banter in between tracks from Jim Reid, just a few thank yous peppered here and there. So exciting, considering that they have recently announced there is new album in the works.

French electronic fiends Air glide casually onto stage and begin creating their pleasant soundscapes that wash across the sedate audience; we’re all pretty happy to be listening to these guys in the flesh. That is, until I realise that I’ve watched half of their set and not recognised a single song. Sadly, they conform to festival norms and load their well-known tracks late into the set: Kelly Watch The Stars, Sexy Boy, and La Femme d’Argente rounded out their set, but many punters missed it, choosing instead to join the human stream flowing toward the sexy sounds of Queens Of The Stone Age.

Once again the audience dynamic changed at –  “This Stage’ as the crowd anticipated the onstage arrival of Queens Of The Stone Age. The turnout swelled and the air became a little more electric. The reception of the band was thunderous as they sexy-sauntered out and took up their instruments. Their entire set was textbook QOTSA, a real treat. People have come to expect nothing less of the Desert men, no matter who is standing in for whom at the time. They rock like a well-oiled machine and when Josh Homme play-bitches at the audience (after a stray can made its way near him – “Hey, don’t make me fuck your Mom again”) it only makes the QOTSA experience more enjoyable.

All the classics were pulled out, including Feel Good Hit Of The Summer (“Let me tell you about some of my hobbies,” confessed Homme), a track that gig-goers were not indulged in when QOTSA played the Arena on Friday night. Homme announces that it’s Joey Castillo ’s birthday: much cheering and applause follows, such is our admiration for the tattooed beast behind the kit – it’s hard to believe that he’s 42. Castillo drums like a lumbering ox, if you can picture that: his versatility as a drummer is a constant source of awe and entertainment. The side stage screens were great for the fact that you could actually see the concentration and focus on Joey Castillo’s face and the sweat running off Michael Shuman’s nose.

Sensibly heading over to Duran Duran at –  “That Stage’ toward the end of the evening, it was surprising to see the size of the crowd. Small scale, considering the historical importance of the original fab five. The audience was evidently that little bit older (most of the young –  “uns seemed to have slunk over to the Smashing Pumpkins) and when the band did come onstage it was amusing to see on the side stage screens the surplus of 30+ women in the front row with placards. Simon Le Bon did his best to woo the crowd (although a little over the top with Gold Coast love) and by the first couple of tracks they had the crowd going. Even the kids up the back by the hill were grooving – quite a sight from afar! Highlights were surprises like Planet Earth and White Lines.

“You’ll like this one,” Le Bon teased as the lights flickered in time to the sounds of snapping cameras. Girls On Film was the one they had all been waiting for. Though Ordinary World had a few lighters out of pockets. “If anyone has a yacht and would like to take a rock band out on the ocean tomorrow, please apply backstage,” Le Bon requested. “But it has to be more than a hundred feet – it’s our first day off in about three weeks.” If they’re tired, they didn’t show it. The set went off seamlessly and stylishly and the muddy women were pleased.

If you’ve been following the Australian tour of the half-reformed Smashing Pumpkins at all, you’ve likely encountered more negative than positive remarks, mostly centred around Billy Corgan ’s apparent refusal to conform to festival norms and play songs that people actually want to hear. Sure, they opened with Today, and played Hummer and Tonight, Tonight early on, too: these are good songs from when Corgan and friends still knew how to write them. Most recent single Tarantula from the universally-slammed Zeitgeist is far from the worst song ever written; kudos to Corgan for faithfully recreating the tasty guitar solo in this song. Which brings us to the stumbling point in their festival setlist: United States, a ten-minute plodding prog-rock yawn which is often drawn out to double or triple that length. Yeah, we get it, Jimmy Chamberlin is a pretty great drummer, but this is boring, Billy. Just play the songs we know and love, and get off. And no, that god-awful acoustic version of one of your greatest songs, 1979, didn’t count. The decision to play Bullet With Butterfly Wings in practically double-time remains puzzling, Corgan makes the ill-advised move of mouthing off about how shit The Presets sound from across the field.

After the ridiculousness of Billy’s patriotic and tasteless tremolo- and feedback-infused wankfest, there’s a steady stream of punters flipping off the band that so many of us once loved, and treading carefully through inches of mud to check out the aforementioned Presets, who are winding up over at The Other Stage. Contrary to the bald elf’s beliefs, their sound is solid, and we’re all much happier dancing like idiots over here than listening to the big, dumb power chords produced by an outdated former rock god. The crowd is positively bouncing to Steamworks, before we’re treated to the most brilliant unpolitical political song ever written – damn, it’s hard to convey sarcasm. How about this: My People is a terrible song, but it’s still hilarious to dance to. They predictably close with the drum-orgy of I Go Hard, I Go Home, though from a distance, it’s hard to tell amid the lasers and smoke if they even play the drums anymore, or opt to just press ‘play’ on their iPod instead. Okay, forgive my harshness, the Presets are good value, and one of the quintessential festival bands of this era.

As the day and night rolled on the demands placed on festival-goers these days became more and more evident. The V Festival has obviously tried to combat this by having fewer stages, more amenities, good locations and small luxuries (i.e. free inflatable chairs), but were still unable to avoid the inevitable disappointment which is set clashes. The day became a time struggle as band set times began to lapse over and into each other, and the fact that the timetables were now irrelevant because of the late start left punters in a bit of a time tizz.

Many punters became professional hundred-yard sprinters as beer, bands and nature called simultaneously. But hey – getting back to the whole “work with what you’ve... blah blah.” – aside from the obvious pitfalls, it appeared a good day was had by most. And the novelty combination of mud/beer/sweat/piss even may have made it a little more festive.

By That_girl and Andrew McMillen aka Niteshok