V99 Festival – Weston Park

(review by Neil Crud)

The straws were drawn & mine was the shortest, it was unsporting of Andy Fatman, Jake & Amy not to show me their straws, but I shrugged a shoulder & faced the fact that I’d be driving down to the West Midlands. Come on Friday & miss the queues is what the advert said, they advertised it so well that everybody took the advice. True to British tradition the Ministry of Transport checked the calendar, noticed that 50,000 people would be travelling to a rock festival & promptly reduced the M54 to a single lane. Just over an hour to get to the location and 2½ hours to get in.
V99 (Virgin Festival 1999), that entrepreneurial pie fingerer Richard Branson tries his luck at rock festivals & comes up trumps, & why not charge every car £5 to park, add this to the £10 for camping & you can see that the £60 weekend ticket is suddenly £75. Carrying 2 tents, bags of festering food & 24 cans of premium lager for almost a mile to the campsite in the dark with thousands of other people was not a joyous occasion, but we found our spot, pitched the tents then drowned ourselves in alcohol.
Glastonbury is a drug pusher’s paradise, 100,000 potential customers and no Drug Squad. Glastonbury is thieves’ paradise, 100,000 campers and no security.
V99 without a doubt has all these attributes, but half the punters. The drug pushers weren’t in your face; there were elevated platforms over the campsite with a 24-hour watch ensuring that tents were not systematically ransacked while everyone was watching the Stereophonics. There were security guards everywhere, but not to bully you or provoke you, they were there to assist you.
Having got to sleep by about 3.30am Saturday, Andy Fatman for some absurd reason is up before 9am for a walk around the perimeter of this fine country park. He then awakes the rest of us & we traipse along for a £1 cup of coffee. We came here for the bands & the only downer was that Brian Moloko of Placebo had tonsillitis meaning the band had to pull out.
Suede headlined Friday night, it was a choice of them or Massive Attack on the MTV Stage, and we vowed to see the latter on tour & enjoyed a superb set from Brett Anderson’s troops. Suede were enjoying the buzz of playing in front of about 30,000 people & that buzz rubbed off on us.
We had started the afternoon in front of The Cardigans‘ Swedish pop ditties & our first pint of £2.50 Budweiser of the day. A trip up to the MTV Stage saw us spring on the Freestylers, an excellent rap band without the Beastie Boy bullshit & no drum machine; these guys had guitars & drums & an attitude to boot, particularly the young break-dancers.
While Jake & Amy vouched for the Stereophonics, Fatman & I decided that thousands of screaming teenage girls would be too much for our libidos & took in the unrivalled sound of Mercury Rev, including that wonderful Goddess on a Hiway.
We made our way back to the campsite via the dance tent as the night drew to an end & finished a day of solid bad ass drinking with a couple of bottles of red wine. I decided that 12.30am was too early to crash out & dragged the crew back into the main arena in search of entertainment. Stumbling across the only source of noise we walked in on a fantastic looking lady on stage sporting a black basque, pink plastic knickers & fire eating utensils. She then lit a lightbulb, broke it & ate it, then broke wine bottles on the stage, danced barefoot, did the splits before knocking a 6″ nail into her head through her nostril. What a woman! Hi mum, meet my new girlfriend. All this S+M was too much for Jake & Amy so they headed back to their tent. Then a band started setting up & I thought I recognised them, they turned out to be Madragora, our (Sons of Selina) mates on Delerium Records. Their cyber-dance sounds pulsated across the landscape & attracted odd mutant like people as if from a scene from one of those old 1970 Zombie movies.
A sachet of Resolve from Fatman’s Pharmacy corner of the tent soon dissipated the dehydration & chemical imbalance of the late night. And we chilled out in the Sunday afternoon sun to Eagle Eye Cherry, not really listening or taking any notice until the phenomenal Faithless took to the stage and got the hangovers of scores of people throbbing out of the system. I had waited in eager anticipation to see my future wife Melanie C perform, so what was the attraction? At close inspection I sussed out that it was definitely her bank balance. Her show was rough round the edges, though her new single is pretty good & her version of Anarchy in the UK brought a slight, if embarrassed smile to my face. The crowd too showed their concern over Mel’s extremely thin frame by throwing food at her.
We turned our backs & walked out on Kula Shaker, with Fatman stating he hates Crispin Mills more than Phil Thompson. How could they replace Placebo with Kula pissing Shaker? We instead trotted up to the MTV Stage caught the end of Travis, Why Does it Always Rain on Me? Before a wait for the Super Furry Animals. I nodded off on the grass in the early evening sun & woke up with a fright when they started. I was surrounded by thousands of legs! I quickly got to my feet & quickly got bored of the token Welsh flags & sought inspiration from Annie’s Double Decker Bus food store & a bacon baguette. Annie suggested we go & see Supergrass, a great idea & a great band. The same cannot be said for the Beautiful South & we blocked out their poisonous whines with Paul Oakenfold in the dance tent.
As planned earlier, we had packed the tents away in the car during the early afternoon, in order to make a quick getaway as soon as the Manic Street Preachers had finished their rousing set. It was a great idea; as soon as James Dean Bradfield smashes his guitar in two & throws it into the crowd, we could then make the short trip from the arena to the car park & home. We had all the hits from the Manics in a vehement performance and the most important band of the 1990’s finished their set. Unfortunately our plan was leaked to the majority of the crowd as we all stampeded towards our cars, listening to James Brown get on up the other stage. 5,000 cars all trying to get onto a single track. Festivals, dontcha just love ’em?