Sunday, October 28, 2012

London 2012 Part V: V Fest Chelmsford

Somehow it took 5 hours to get back to London from Leeds the next day - someone had told me a lie about Brits not having cars, but it was a lie, I tell you! Traffic was horrendous. I take my hat off to anyone who managed to make the Staffordshire V-Fest, because I could barely keep my eyes open in the car the next day. Sleep had been a rare commodity after the show because some drunk man outside my window had been shouting at his girlfriend who seemed to have kicked him out. Also, the police closed down the ‘club’ down the street around 4am due to noise. Add this to the fact that 1am saw texts from Jess and Amii saying they’d all just met the band, and my total sleep amounted to about 3 hours at the most.

So anyway, 5 hour drive back to London (I don’t actually remember packing up or leaving the Travelodge, but I do remember that they charged us about 25 Pounds for parking – that’s about R300 for 3 days). Back in Wimbledon I passed out in a bed for as long as I possibly could.

Sunday rolled around and I was about to attend my first ever major festival. I had no idea what to expect, but from what I'd seen of these festivals on TV, they looked like pure madness, and I figured I'd be somewhere near the back, on the outskirts of the crowd, but at least I'd get to watch the show on the big screens, and still be able to hear. Ha. What a joke. I ended up 4 rows back, just to the right of Mark. But I'll get to that.

Anyway, we arrived in Chelmsford around 9am after leaving London just after 7am - we were in no rush as gates only opened at 11am and we didn't really care about any of the acts besides Snow Patrol and TK, who were the last two bands. It was apparently one of the hottest days of the year - a whopping 29 degrees - and yes, I come from Africa, but I still took strain in that heat.

It turns out that absolutely nothing in Chelmsford is open on a Sunday, so after a 30 minute trek to town to look for food, we returned empty handed and were forced to wait for the food stalls to open. I think I had a bacon roll and a coke for breakfast – the Brits are big on bacon rolls.

In the shade of a tree, I recall making Lauren stop talking several times so that I could strain my ears … I could have sworn I heard Miss Atomic Bomb being soundchecked! Oh and then there was the worry of collecting tickets with an international credit card, but somehow it went off without a hitch.

We entered the arena around 11am, and the lines moved miraculously quickly! And now we had the entire day to creep around and wait for the last two bands! The arena areas was huge and we walked around for ages trying to find the main stage – plus the wi-fi didn’t work, fail – but when we finally did find it, there was almost no one there. It was great. We spent an hour or two in a spot of shade near the bar, watching The Stranglers, some other randoms, and Tulisa. Actually, by the time Tulisa came on stage, it had started raining, and Lauren and I were huddled under one thin plastic poncho, each with one eye stuck out to watch the performance. We weren’t missing much.

Somewhere along the line we ran off to the merch stand to buy Snow Patrol shirts, and I ran into Sinead, because out of 80 000 people, I would run into one of only two other people I knew there! That’s how we Victims roll.

But by the afternoon, it was boiling again, and we tried desperately to find some shade, where we remained until the beginning of Tinie Tempah's set, when we returned the main stage to try to obtain a good spot for the headliners. Tinie is not exactly my kind of music, and his fans made me want to rip my own head off. As they shouted about 'Drinkin' from the bo’ole (bottle), I cringed and hoped I wouldn't have to share my band with this lot. Eek. 

We got about 6 rows back for Snow Patrol, simply by pushing our way through the crowd of Tinie’s fans, who were moving in the opposite direction to go to the 4Music stage where LMFAO were playing. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I was a little sad to miss LMFAO – I mean, everyone loves a little party rockin’, right? But Snow Patrol were obviously our priority – I’d been kicking myself for the past 4 years for not going to Coke Fest to see them! Gary Lightbody is highly entertaining on stage, he’s such a performer. They opened with ‘Hands Open’ and although the set was super short, we got to see ‘Shut Your Eyes’, ‘Crack The Shutters’, ‘Just Say Yes’ and ‘Chasing Cars’. OH, and, well, ‘Run’. I think the crowd’s reaction to ‘Run’ was far stronger that it was to ‘Chasing Cars’, even though the latter was a much bigger hit. I have no words for ‘Run’. Spectacular does not even begin to describe it. Emotions were running high, and The Killers hadn’t even started yet.

Sometime between sets, the screens at the side of the stage read something along the lines of 'scream if you want to hear [can't remember what song it was]' followed by 'now scream if you want to hear Mr Brightside' so all 80 000 of us screamed and Mr Brightside blasted across the field and we screamed some more. That got us nicely warmed up for the actual show! 

I gasped when I first caught sight of The Killers’ new backdrop - the mountains, the sky, it's the most stunning background ever. Everything about the stage set up just screams what pro's these guys are - lights, screens, the K, the bolt and who knows what else. My excitement had reached fever pitch by the time they finally came on. I thought they'd open with Runaways, but instead they exploded onto stage with Somebody Told Me! What! We were treated to This Is Your Life, and I got to do the famous arm-wave again (people think I'm nuts because I do it every single time I hear the song) and Miss Atomic Bomb was amazing. The guy next to me was totally judging me for knowing the words already, oh well. But the crowd's reaction to all the songs was amazing, everyone seemed to know the words! When Dustland came along, I'm not sure what anyone else thought, because once again, the world melted away, and it was just me and the song. The mountain backdrop had been taken down by now, and replaced by the big screen showing different scenes for each song. The Dustland background is the same as it was in Cape Town and somehow it just feels like everything's come full circle. 

If there had been a roof over our heads, Mr Brightside would have blown it off, it's got to be one of the best festival songs ever. It's irresistible. It had gotten to that point where I could start to predict the setlist - it was actually quite scary. When they left the stage, I wasn't worried at all because of course they'd be back for Jenny and WYWY. And I wasn't disappointed.

I'd never seen the band like that before. I can't actually believe that they can be just as at home in front of 80 000 as they were in front of 2000 two nights before. The never cease to amaze me. After the show, the crowds began to peal away, leaving a couple of us Victims to converge at the barrier and watch the equipment be carted off. We started shouting for Rob until he finally heard us and turned to fist-pump in our direction.

As we made out way over the detritus of empty cans and bo’oles back to the car, I was chattering away at breakneck speed about how perfect they were. Lauren even admitted that after seeing them she finally understood why I was so ridiculously mad about them – they were that good.

But wherever The Killers go, traffic follows (it’s only natural) and we sat in the parking lot for a good hour and a half, by which time we’d listened to all of our recordings, and fully creeped Gary’s Twitter (he was hoping see Foo Fighters at Reading) and we were hovering somewhere between asleep and awake when we finally pulled into the driveway in Wimbledon at 3am. I think I passed out wordlessly, and the next time I was conscious was around 11am. Ha, it was time to hit Oxford Street. 

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