Will the weather be decent? Will the bands put on a good show? Will the people camping next to me make me want to take all the pegs out of their tent? Just some of the questions that rattle around the wary cage of a pre-festival brain.
In the year of its Golden Jubilee, Isle of Wight Festival immediately put all these nagging doubts to bed, as it was touched by enough gold-dust to fill a Red Funnel ferry.
With the absence of Glastonbury this year, all eyes were on IOW as the major opener to this year’s festival season.
One downside of the unreal weather, stolen from St. Tropez, was the lugging of all the beer and tents to camp.
Once the pegs were in (thanks to that handy geezer who lent his mallet to the whole site), the gazebo standing strong and chairs unfolded….that beautiful sound of the first festival can opening echoed a thousand times throughout the site.
TIME TO GET DOWN TO THE MUSIC
Thursday saw The Wombats open things up on the Big Top. Whilst indie classics such as Kill The Director and Moving To New York buoyed the crowd a little, the dust they have collected in the past ten years left things weighty and failed to truly ignite the crowd into a proper first night fervour.
Similarly, when Depeche Mode came to headline the Main Stage on Saturday, many felt that they didn’t quite do enough to warrant being above a certain Mr Liam Gallagher on the bill.
He is the Gallagher brother that forever splits opinion. Love him or hate him…as soon as footage showed him walking from behind the scenes onto the mainstage, it was nothing but love for the British icon.
His classic green parka buttoned to the top – even in the sweltering heat – his distinguishable voice belted out hits from his successful debut solo album.
Tunes such as Supersonic and Wonderwall from the Oasis canon reminded the crowd of the true legend in their presence and glued each piece of this set together. This was a fantastic performance that lifted the crowd for the evening shenanigans.
Despite one guy near us asking “are you lot going to watch Kabaskian later?”, Kasabian are the one British band that even lesser fans will realise, that when seen live, they possess a war chest of huge hits that makes them recognisable to anyone.
On the eve of their Friday night headline slot, lead guitarist Serge Pizzorno spoke to Absolute Radio and said the band “take each gig as it comes… [and they] just focus our energy into it. The new album was written in mind of standing in front of 50,000 people you know Ill Ray, God Bless This Acid House…..they were tunes for this moment.”
With these tunes and other big hitters such as Fire, Underdog, Bumblebee, Club Foot, and Shoot The Runner….they are purpose-built for the big nights.
Tom Meighan is the punchy, cocky lead singer that taps into the energy of the crowd and essentially throws it all in one massive blender, to create the most rock ‘n roll of treats. He told Absolute that the Leicester rockers ‘tend not to try to expect anything too much to a point where you fear the venue… [so we] just try and dismantle it as quickly as possible”. It is safe to safe they shook the Island to its core. This set was chaotic, awe inspiring and deafening.
Even mega-fan Peter Crouch got in amongst the action with us mere mortals down the front.
WHAT ABOUT THE SMALLER BANDS ON SHOW?
GIGsoup saw London girls Hey Charlie play a brilliant set at a This Feeling night in the New Year that meant the end of our Dry January.
Whilst they showed their class back then, this set at IOW showed how they have turned the dial up and mastered their craft. Wearing their trademark matching outfits, they sported T’s with “BULLSHIT” emblazoned on them. Funny, really, when this performance was far from that.
The beauty of these big festivals is stumbling across smaller bands looking to fight their way higher up next year’s bill. The weary faces that came into this last-day set were definitely won over by the grungy-pop riffs of the London trio.
The sun had definitely not gone to the crowd’s heads but all present would agree Hey Charlie pumped out one of the best sets of the weekend. They are a special blonde-tinged storm of attitude that is so devastatingly synchronised.
Look out for their other festival appearances, as they feature on the bill for Liam Gallagher’s date at Finsbury Park this week and at 110 Above Festival, in particular.
Talking of bands to stumble across, it was a thrill to wander in Sugarthief’s brilliance on Friday evening on the This Feeling stage. The Birmingham four piece say they “just create the music and let others create the pigeon holes”.
This outlook was sure on display as they forged a wall of sound so ballsy and carefree, it made them a number one priority for post-festival listening.
For scintillating grooves and ballsy beats that will restore any lost faith in upcoming British bands, look no further. From new bands to established acts, the whole weekend was full of talent.
It can only assumed that the crowd assembled at the Main Stage to hear the soulful rock of Hertfordshire maestro James Bay were either extremely pissed from overpriced beer or extremely pissed off with him snipping his long locks.
His heartfelt soulful lyrics and unbelievable energy onstage somehow ensued in some sort of ‘fight o’clock’ taking place.
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Just as the sun was setting on a lush day, a few arguments and scraps broke out around us which seemed so strange, in the face of such a feel-good performance.
One act with an elevated status, Van Morrison, showed what decades of experience affords you. He did not stop in his hour long set but and sailed so smoothly and astoundingly through all the hits, including a jazzy rendition of Have I Told You Lately, with a voice that is like no other.
Nile Rodgers & Chic brought similar levels of seamlessness, as they delivered nothing but Good Times (get it?!) and a real party atmosphere.
Sunday welcomed a massive moment for the festival: England playing Panama in the World Cup. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible, with the crowd able to bring their own warm beer and wine boxes with them.
It was only the fact the Three Lions scored 6 times that truly knackered those watching…that, and a thousand verses of “It’s coming home, It’s coming home…football’s coming home!”
Football fan or not, watching England here will live long in the memory (except for the bands that played to nobody for two hours).