V Festival Review by Rhiannen Hollyoake and Carolyn Brown with Photography by Bianca Barrett and Francesca Prince

With a stellar line up confirmed, wellies packed and flower headbands securely on, we headed to Weston Park, Staffordshire for a weekend of amazing live music, reviews and a cider or two! Even with the threat of rain all weekend nothing could dampen our spirits to party with V Festival and help celebrate their momentous 21st Birthday in serious style. Featuring a line up of world class acts including, pop royalty Rihanna, vocal powerhouse Sia and the controversial Justin Bieber on the main stage there were sure to be a few fireworks along the way!

V Festival

Katherine Ryan

Eager to ease ourselves in the atmosphere, we first headed to the comedy tent where Irish Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan graced us with her glorious presence. Having seen her on panel shows we were expecting great things from Katherine and oh wow she did not disappoint. Comparing herself to the Kardashians, commenting on controversial messages from the British media and mocking the likes of Cheryl Cole and Harry Styles, her pop-culture content was right up our street. I particularly enjoyed her bitter commentary on Taylor Swift as she endearingly reminded me of being a bitchy teenager. Looking glamorous and in the festival spirit with her boho chic top and black choker, she continued to entertain with stories about her age, dating life and and recent purchase of a London flat. After some solid laughing, endorphins were well and truly flowing and we were ready to hear some music…

All Saints

All Saints

All Saints

With a blast from the past and a serious dose of 90’s nostalgia All Saints hit the stage early Saturday afternoon as if they’d never left. Looking as good as ever the four-piece girl band sang seamless harmonies and took us on a trip down memory lane with smash hits such as ‘Never Ever’ and ‘Black Coffee’ to which the crowd went mad for.

The set featured some of their latest material including ‘One Strike’ and ‘Chick Fit’ which although aren’t quite as catchy as some of their classics still got the crowd moving and building up to their final song. Which of course was their most well known song ‘Pure Shores’. After leaving the stage to a huge round of applause it’s safe to say this newly reformed foursome made quite the comeback!

Sigala

Sigala

Sigala

Sigala certainly got the party started. The MTV stage was dressed up to make us feel like we were in some sort of caribbean beach bar; a perfect visualisation of the summer tunes we were treated with such as ‘Sweet Lovin’ and former no1 hit ‘Easy Love’. At the beginning of the act, technical problems meant a microphone wasn’t working, but thankfully the flamboyant dancers dressed in Rio style feather and frills distracted us. As well as a surprise from the sun making an appearance, the one and only Craig David appeared on stage. The crowd booed in disappointment as the microphone situation still hadn’t been resolved but thankfully as soon as it was solved we all forgot and just continued to dance to remixes of things such as Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’.

V Festival

Years & Years

Rocking up on stage in a Burberry print cap and oversized Gucci T-shirt lead singer Olly bounded onto the stage eager to start and burst straight into ‘Take Shelter’ without even taking a breath. His humble and friendly demeanour warmed the already hyped up crowd and his confession to being able to ‘share the stage with Rihanna was a life highlight’ was met with roar from the crowd who see the trio as just as talented and deserving.

His vocals were stunning as always with his runs and trills captivating and perfectly timed throughout. Dancing and grinding his way through most of their hits ‘Worship’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Real’, they then stripped things back a bit during ‘Eyes Shut’ to which Olly took to the piano and belted out a beautiful acoustic rendition which left the audience speechless.

This highly anticipated set was finished up with ‘King’ and a rather amazing dance performance that left the whole crowd wanting more as they graciously left the main stage to well earned whistles and cheers. Their infectious and catchy tunes bring something a little bit different to the pop industry and it’s only a matter of time until they will be headlining their own festivals in the near future.

Little Mix

Little Mix

Little Mix

One word to describe Little Mix’s performance? FIERCE AF (ok that’s 2 words, kind of). They are this generation’s answer to the Spice Girls, oozing with sass and girl power they marched onto stage looking like they meant serious business to start their set with major hit ‘Salut’. They were dressed accordingly with Army style jackets customised with the ‘V’ logo which eventually came off to reveal their smoking hot bods that left nothing to the imagination. This mixed with saucy and high energy dance moves, lots of smoke and hair whipping (for the performance of ‘Hair’ that moved into a strong rendition of ‘Whip My Hair’ by Willow Smith) surely left all the ladies in the audience feeling seriously empowered.

Little Mix

The heavens opened during a very emotional rendition of ‘Secret Love Song’; like a pathetic fallacy, girls all around sang along passionately whilst I’m presuming they pictured the faces of crushes and ex boyfriends. It was moving and heartbreaking, although I can’t say the same for the 2 huge guys in front of us who, in between battling with their big bag rain coats, insisted on dramatically fake sobbing on each others shoulders, mocking the girls around them.

As well as wishing V Festival a happy 21st birthday the girls were also celebrating their 5 year anniversary. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Little Mix’s performance as much as I did; it was really awesome, those girls can dance and have some seriously impressive lungs.

V Festival 2016

Tom Odell

Tom Odell

Tom Odell

Perched in his usual position Tom Odell cut a smart figure behind his beloved piano, his blonde curls perfectly tousled and unique vocals flooding the MTV Stage. Odell sailed through ‘I Know’ with a knowing sway from the crowd who were appreciating the laid back vibes as the teasing sun shone through the clouds, ciders clutched in their hands.

Tom himself was getting into the party spirit, taking generous swigs from his gold hip flask throughout the set and joining the audience in an afternoon tipple or two. His latest song ‘Concrete’ was a huge hit as he stood away from the piano and centre stage quite vulnerably singing the sultry tune as the audience sang every word back to him.

V Festival

David Guetta

World-renowned DJ and all around nice guy David Guetta hit the stage with a bang quite literally as he towered above the crowds on his huge, light up decks. Immediately getting the crowd dancing by saying ‘ I wanna party hard’ to which the crowd responded with screams of approval.

The red tinted stage was alight with lasers, flashing lights and puffs of smoke so this set definitely isn’t for the faint hearted! Blasting out tune after tune Guetta took us right back to the beginning of his career with ‘Play Hard’, which then merged into ‘Shot Me Down’ and then seamlessly combined with’ When Love Takes Over’. He then continued to play all the hits including Sia’s ‘Titanium’ and even bought on American beauty Bebe Rexha to sing ‘Hey Mama’.

Filled with songs from years ago Guetta’s set was non-stop dancing fest from start to finish, with him even getting in on the action and pouncing on top of the decks for a quick rave or two between tracks. With over an hour-long set it still wasn’t long enough to fit in everything he has produced and when his time is finally up everyone feels thoroughly pumped and ready to take on the main act of the night, Rihanna.

V Festival

V Festival

Jake Bugg

Jake Bugg

Jake Bugg

It was a bit of a change of vibe moving from David Guetta on the Main Stage to Jake Bugg on the MTV stage. The 22 year old singer songwriter lead a slightly more understated but still seriously cool set; it was more Later… With Jools Holland, than club in Ibiza. His floppy hair, leather jacket and shades reminded me of a young Noel Gallagher; he looked (dare I say it) too cool for school as did the rest of his band. He performed hit songs from his latest album such as ‘Bitter Salt’ as well as older favourites including ‘There’s A Beast And We All Feed It’ which with all the country and folk elements mixed in we couldn’t help but get our line dancing moves out.

Laura Mvula

Laura Muvula

Laura Mvula

We were surprised that there wasn’t more of a turn out for soul singer Laura Mvula, who performed on the smaller V Street Stage. Standing on the stage with an eclectic looking band, she introduced herself by telling the audience how she was looking forward to sharing her music with us, and I’m sure I can speak for the rest of the audience when I say we were truly grateful she did. Watching her on the smaller stage, with a less intimidating crowd made me feel as though we had discovered a hidden gem within the festival, and that felt special. She opened the show with ‘Overcome’ and played other songs such as ‘Let Me Pour’, ‘Phenomenal Woman’ and ‘Kiss My Feet’. There is a rawness and authenticity about her that makes her music truly impressive. Her performance felt personal as she shared intimacies with the audience; she admitted to writing ‘Flying Without You’ when she had been heartbroken, gave special mentions to her family and dedicated her set to the resilience of the human spirit during hard times.

Rihanna

With nearly 12 years in the music industry and hundreds of songs under her belt Rihanna looked every inch the world-class performer as she stepped out onto the main stage on Saturday night to an elated V Festival crowd. Dressed in a draped brown coat, leather bustier and dripping in diamonds the pop queen strutted around the stage with ease in her towering heels ensuring all eyes were on her as she belted out her first track ‘Stay’.

Warming up the crowd she sped through mixed tracks including ‘Love The Way You Lie’, ‘Birthday Cake’ and ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’, entwining them together so they all flawlessly merged trying to fit as many songs in as possible during the headlining set. All the while showing off her infamous derriere as she twerked and grinded through each track in true Barbadian style.

With every move and step choreographed her performance was polished to perfection mixing old and new sounds together as she pulled out the classic tune ‘Umbrella’ to which the crowd responded to by pulling out their umbrellas and swaying them to the beat as the rain quite coincidentally poured down. She then ran through ‘Needed Me’ with serious swag and even included a cover ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’ from psychedelic rock group Tame Impala. Which was accompanied by flashes of colourful lights and was quite noticeably a different sound that we don’t usually expect from the pop Queen.

The set came to a finale with one of her latest tracks ‘Kiss It Better’ to a roaring crowd who had been fully entertained throughout the entire set.  As she waved her final goodbyes it felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity to see such an acclaimed star grace the Staffordshire countryside, in the pouring rain, and with her musical crown still firmly in place she left the stage leaving us all wanting more!

V Festival

Sunday 21st August

Jodie Abacus

Jodie Abacus

Jodie Abacus

Starting Sunday morning off to a smooth start Jodie Abacus took to the V Street Style stage with his hearty, soulful voice and gently eased us into another day of amazing live music with something a little bit different.

The London based newcomer looked dapper in his polka dot shirt, pink trousers and trilby and kicked things off with ‘Halfway To Mexico’, followed by ‘Hot Kitchen’ and ‘Good Feeling’. As the set progressed more and more people joined the tent and were more than happy to participate in clapping, clicking and grooving along to the easy listening, feel-good music.

Destined for bigger things in the future and with fans such as Zane Lowe and Radio 1 I think there is much more to come from singer-songwriter Jodie Abacus, so watch this space!

Foxes

Foxes

Foxes

It seemed as though Foxes’ set couldn’t have been better timed. After a tasty lunch at ‘V Healthy’ we joined the crowd sitting around the MTV stage as the sun decided to make a glorious appearance. Shades on face and cider in hand, we sang along with the beautiful Foxes who looked so cool in her Tommy Hilfiger bomber, cropped black jeans and white trainers. She opened with the hit ‘Body Talk’ and performed other summer befitting tunes such as ‘Cruel’, ‘Light Me Up’ and the first song she ever wrote, ‘Youth’. The little gem of a pop princess was full of energy and really engaged with the crowd, after a more upbeat dance version of ‘Clarity’ she enlisted the help of the crowd for a ballad version of the same song. Her set provided one of my V Festival highlights as Dan Smith from Bastille joined her for ‘Better Love’, a song the two of them wrote together. It was full of dreamy harmonies and my ears (and eyes) were in heaven. She ended her set with upbeat song, ‘Let Go For Tonight’. She was a real asset the festival and I will make a special effort to see her live more often.

Foxes

Adam Hills

Adam Hills

Adam Hills

I had not seen Adam Hills before and had no idea what I was letting myself into when venturing into the comedy tent on the Sunday afternoon. Opening fairly tame with jokes about the inappropriately dressed Essex crowd in Hylands Park the previous day I had a little chuckle and thought ‘ah this is going to be good’. He then moved onto picking members out of the audience, the first being the disabled member of the audience who was in a wheelchair but not in the wheelchair section, it was quite funny and he marked the man as a hero. The next was Paul, a retired 66 year old who was clearly not your average grandad. He was sporting pink hair and willing to go up when invited onto the stage. This section of the act got awkward very quickly. After a few inappropriate jokes, Adam took photos down Paul’s trousers. The crowd were roaring with laughter but I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing; thinking he couldn’t take this much further Adam then posted the photo (with the victim’s’ consent) to Twitter. I stopped and wondered if the poor guy even knew what Twitter was, and it soon became difficult to watch. I was laughing but I was unsure how I felt about the whole situation. Luckily for Adam Hills, Paul seemed to be enjoying the attention and the majority of his audience roaring with laughter and egging him on. For me, it was time for some more music…

V Festival

Zara Larsson

Zara Larsson

Zara Larsson

Rising star and pop powerhouse Zara Larsson has made quite the impression during 2016 with many of her hits topping the charts and she doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. At just 18 years of age she looked every inch a star on stage and passionately went through song after song, note perfect and in exact time with her backing dancers without even breaking a sweat.

Her set flowed through her top hits including ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Lush Life’ and the infamous Euros anthem ‘This Ones For You’. As well as bringing on MNEK to smash their debut single ‘Never Forget You’ to which the crowd went mad for. She also gave us snippets of some of her new material that is ‘coming out soon’ in which MNEK features quite heavily on, along with the first song she ever wrote at just 15 years old – ‘Uncovered’.

She has proved herself to be a serious contender for stardom and with a voice like hers I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more from her in the future!

Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan

Famous YouTube prankster and Aussie songwriter Troye Sivan took to the MTV stage with glitter speed stripes and cheeky grin on his face much to the delight of his young audience and totally worked it out. Along with his sassy dance moves, he strutted around the stage comfortably playing well-known hits ‘Fools’, ‘Youth’ and ‘Wild’ featuring some amazing cover vocals from keyboardist Karina.

Halfway through the set Troye got quite emotional when talking about coming out as gay in 2013 and how he didn’t know if he was ‘going to be allowed to have a hot husband, to have children, or even be able to play music festivals in the UK’.  He thanked each and every one of his fans for their support and acceptance for him to be able to be himself and followed up his moving speech with the dedicated song ‘Heaven’.

With V Festival only being the 4th festival he has ever played it’s clear he has come a long way from sitting behind a camera in his bedroom to now being centre stage, where he belongs.

Bastille

Bastille

Bastille

It was 6pm and we were standing with the thousands of others with our raincoats on huddling around the V Main Stage preparing ourselves for a three huge headlining acts as a pretty epic end to the weekend. First up, Indie Pop band Bastille.

What Can I Say? Bastille ROCKED! Plugging their new album ‘Wild World’ on a stage that looked like a city scape, it was as if they were performing on the roof of a towering building block. They even had statues of 2 men perching on a ledge, imitating the ones on the album cover. Dan Smith, along with the rest of the band, Kyle Simmons, Will Farquarson and Chris Wood (Woody) entered the stage looking cool and edgy. Dan was wearing a Sia T-shirt reading ‘Now you Sia Me, Now You Don’t. The band introduced us to their set with familiar favourites ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Laura Palmer’. The fake concrete jungle they performed in provided a brilliant visual juxtaposition to Dan’s heavenly voice.

Bastille

The Danny Zuko looking front man appeared a little nervous when introducing us to some new material as he claimed everyone just wants to hear the hits they know the words to at festivals. He layed down some ‘rules’ as he urged the crowd to jump up and down and pretend to enjoy the new songs. The new stuff sounded on parr with their existing releases but also included brass instruments and more old movie clip samples as we have already heard in their current single ‘Good Grief’ which they also played. It appeared to go down a storm and everyone was having a great time with no ‘pretending’ required.

They played another new song called ‘Fake It’ amongst more from their debut album such as ‘Weight of Living’ and ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’. During ‘Flaws’ Dan got down from the stage and met the crowd so that the front row could be lucky enough to touch the end of his finger or graze the sleeve of his jacket. Dan also claimed his voice was f*cked as he had a cold, but I could not tell, to me his angelic voice is proof that angels do exist and this was confirmed during their No Scrub by TLC and Angels by the XX mash-up. They ended, obviously, with huge hit ‘Pompeii’ and left us excited to hear their new album and to see them play live again.

Sia

Sia

2 men holding a black cloth appear on stage and something is happening. The crowd is wet, cold and curious to know what is in store from the mysterious Sia. I felt like this was kind of a big deal and we were going to experience something special, I suppose a lot of this is down to Sia’s secretive identity, but also her totally mesmerising voice.

The black curtain drops to reveal Sia (or at least we trust that it is actually her). She is standing in a huge white dress on a simple set of just a large white square, in her infamous half-white half-black face-covering wig topped with oversized white bow. Her voice belts out powerfully the words to ‘Alive’ and chills are sent tingling down my spine. Dancers leap away from her as it turns out her massive dress was made up of people, and reveal Sia’s resident dancer, Maddie Ziegler lying on the floor in front of her. In the nude leotard and black and white wig, she gets up and begins to dance the familiar contemporary dance we have grown accustomed to with Sia’s music videos. The dancer had energy, grace and passion and elevated the whole set into something matching a Fine Art performance.

Sia

The whole set was mesmerising, a memorable contribution to the festival and nothing like I have ever seen or heard before. While Sia focused on the music by singing from under her wig and white smock on a podium in the corner of the stage, Maddie and a team of other contemporary dancers provided the songs’ visualisations. Each song was a narrative illustrated by the performers using a mixture of props ranging from mundane everyday objects like a work desk and phone to peculiar metaphorical objects such as oversized Wallace and Gromit-style trousers. It was as if they were a live story book; each song was a new chapter in which Sia provided the words and the dancers were the pictures.

The only downfall to the performance was that the video work was pre-recorded as a suppose to using the live performers. The live act was beautifully performed and could have been broadcast so festival goers at the back could also view what was happening on the main stage as a supposed to pre-recorded visuals.

She mainly sang her major hits such as ‘Cheap Thrills’, ‘One Million Bullets’, ‘Elastic Heart’ and ‘Chandelier’ as well as her version of ‘Diamonds’, the song she wrote for Rihanna, and ‘Titanium’ which that she wrote with David Guetta. Alongside this, Sia also played ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘Reaper’ from her most recent album ‘This Is Acting’.

Even though the rain poured, the atmosphere of the performance wasn’t completely dampened. I joined most others trying to embrace the fact it formed part of the atmospheric and ethereal feel of the show. I really appreciated the whole performance and would like to thank Sia and her team for sharing with us something truly extraordinary and memorable.

Sia

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber attracted by far the biggest crowd I had seen at V Fest all weekend. Despite being cold and wet, it seemed as though most people had stuck around to the end to see the Biebster. He made use of the lights and pyrotechnics alongside hiring talented dancers in an attempt to distract us from the fact he was lip syncing. It wasn’t so bad at first, but as soon as the singing continued when his microphone was lowered it became very apparent. He quickly lifted his shirt to reveal his rippling abs in an attempt to make us forget about the whole thing, which clearly worked for the majority of the audience as they screamed so loud; I’m pretty sure I saw some girls nearly pass out at the sight.

Memorable moments for me included the stripped back ‘Love Yourself’ and acoustic version of newest single ‘Cold Water’. He also wowed the crowd with more electronic-dance tunes from his fourth album ‘Purpose’ such as ‘What Do You Mean?’ and ‘Sorry’ as well as throwing in some older songs such as ‘As Long As You Love Me’.

Despite my the disappointment of his lip syncing he still put on a half decent show and any Beiber fans will surely have left Weston Park satisfied that they got to be within the same half mile radius as the super star.

V Festival

V Festival

There are two things you can rely on during the British summer; one is unpredictable weather and the other is lots of live music. There are so many festivals all over the country every year and that is something I feel us Brits truly embrace, rain and all. V Festival 2016 was one that I would say really appealed to us and our eclectic music tastes; David Guetta had us think we were clubbing in Ibiza, whilst All Saints took us time travelling back to the 90’s and Tom Odell had us contemplating life whilst gazing up at the clouds. It was a busy weekend with so many acts to see it’s a shame we couldn’t see them all. I guess we will have to come back next year…

V Festival 2016

See the complete V Festival photoset by Bianca and Francesca here.

One Response to “V Festival, Weston Park, Stafford, UK – 20th + 21st August 2016”

  1. Wayne Fox Says:

    Good work ladies :)
    Wx

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