Who got Jay Z and Pink in the V Festival headliner sweepstake then? As Jamie Lawson once said, I wasn’t expecting that.
That the bill leaked online a day early added to the incredulity – and for every positive post on Twitter there were scores more laced with derision. Some of them, you suspect, are still waiting for Warren Beatty to admit he picked up the wrong envelope and announce the real line-up.
Yes, it appears music purists (for want of a less twattish term) are yet to forgive V for abandoning its rock roots. For many years, of course, the twin-sited event was the quintessential indie festival. The roll call for its debut – V96 – reads like a who’s who of Britpop luminaries, with Pulp, Paul Weller, Supergrass, The Charlatans, Cast, Lightning Seeds, Elastica and Sleeper all treading the boards. V97 offered more of the same, starring the likes of Blur, The Prodigy, Kula Shaker, Dodgy, Ash, The Bluetones, Mansun and Gene, among others.
Even as the fabled mid-90s movement fizzled out, the festival powered on, its northern leg settling in Stafford in 1999 after the then fledgling Leeds Festival nipped in to take over its original Temple Newsam home.
V remained a swift sell-out as recently as the early 2010s, when the thinning pool of viable rock headliners (The Killers headlined V no fewer than four times between 2007 and 2014), the proliferation of music festivals and the growing popularity of more boutique events, all contributed to a dip in its popularity. The importance of headliners to festivals in 2017 is a source of contention but, to V's model at least, they remain crucial.
Action was needed: V’s pop influence had become more pronounced through the years and in 2016 - after tinkering with a split rock/pop headliners and a sojourn into EDM via Calvin Harris - it went all out, snaring Justin Bieber and Rihanna to top the bill. Despite the event (predictably) struggling to find love from the critics, commercially, it worked and the decline was arrested.
A few notable voices have been predicting V’s demise for some time now, and whether last year proves a genuine turning point or a mere sticking plaster remains to be seen. Nothing lasts forever, as many a festival in the sky can attest. But continuing down its current path should ensure V sticks around for the foreseeable future - whether Jamie Lawson expects it or not.