Quite possibly my favourite weekend on the calendar, the Isle of Wight Festival returned to Seaclose Park boasting a line-up with quite simply something for everyone. Owing to my final exams, I wasn’t able to attend the Thursday of the festival (those who did go saw sets from Razorlight and Starsailor), so here’s what went down over the rest of the weekend.
I arrived on-site on the Friday to catch Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, perhaps one of the biggest ‘hype’ acts of the weekend. After the success of Human last year, I was excited to see what he was all about. Despite arriving on-stage late due to technical difficulties with the screens, something which wasn’t rectified for the rest of the day, the former MC impressed the huge crowd watching with his immensely powerful vocals. Although I was a little disappointed with his stripped-back rendition of Skin, it couldn’t have really been a better start to my weekend.
The act I was most looking forward to over the weekend was Kaiser Chiefs, and they were up next. Although there was clearly some issues with the sound – the bass was far too loud – Ricky Wilson and co still managed to put on an incredible performance, playing through the band’s surprisingly large back catalogue. It was also very clear that Ricky is a showman: if he wanted the crowd to do something, they did it without hesitation.
After catching local lads Gyerphage in the newly-located Platform One tent, it was time for David Guetta to headline the Main Stage. It’s easy to forget how many hits he has had, but it was good to see him changing each one up for his set. Crudely, he had just turned up with his USB, but there was still a fantastic atmosphere and the audience were able to get involved throughout. It seemed strange that another DJ was billed straight after him in the Big Top, this time Jonas Blue, but the thousands still flocked over to go and see him. A bit more relaxing than David Guetta it has to be said, but Jonas Blue’s DJ set was still a great way to close the Friday night.
It was an early start on the Saturday to see local band Nakamarra open the Main Stage in front of a pretty decent-sized crowd for that time of day. I’m not buying the “Naka Tribe”, as their following is known, but it’s great to see a band from the Island doing so well at the moment. I then headed over to the Big Top to see Australian trio Germein Sisters, who I normally catch by chance each year. Their feelgood music was the perfect accompaniment to the Saturday sunshine outside, which put smiles on the faces of all those who watched. Following a set from up-and-comers The Slow Readers’ Club, it was time for the first established act to take to the stage – Tom Chaplin, former lead singer of Keane.
Although it was great to hear Tom’s distinct voice on some of his new solo material, the highlight of his set came when he performed Keane classic Somewhere Only We Know. It was only about 3 in the afternoon, but the festival was already providing huge singalong moments – a testament to the depth of the line-up this year. Not wanting to see Jack Savoretti, I returned to the Main Stage to see Scottish legends Texas. After seeing them in a tiny 200-capacity venue earlier this year, it was great to see what they could do on a much bigger stage in front of thousands of people. Once again, more singalong memories were made.
To the huge delight of the noughties indie fans in the crowd, The Kooks were next up. Perhaps milking their career with all this ’10th anniversary’ business, The Kooks are a bit dead now, but that didn’t stop them putting on a brilliant, enthusiastic performance. Catfish and the Bottlemen, however, were on another level. I joined the ‘pits’ just in front of the barrier and it was probably the most enjoyable performance of the weekend for me. I see these guys as future Isle of Wight headliners.
Arcade Fire were Saturday’s headliners, with their only UK festival performance of the year. It was probably the smallest crowd I had ever seen for an Isle of Wight headliner, but their anthemic tunes and orchestral set-up meant that a lot of people missed out on something special. After hearing my favourite song of theirs, Reflektor, I then headed off to get a good spot for Example + DJ Wire in the Big Top. Example was only on-stage for about 30 minutes which was a bit disappointing, but I was very impressed with DJ Wire’s music taste – think Kasabian, Vampire Weekend and all those other cool bands from the noughties.
Sunday was another early start for me to catch Tim Arnold perform with the Isle of Wight Camerata Choir. After all the recent terror incidents and tragedies in the UK, it was great to see such a powerful performance dedicated to love and togetherness, as well as raising awareness for a phenomenal cause, Amnesty International. Tim returns to the Isle of Wight to play in Ventnor on Wednesday 19th July. I then headed over to the Main Stage to see personal favourites Scouting For Girls. For a set at 1 in the afternoon, the indie-pop hit-makers drew a huge crowd and their cover of Livin’ On A Prayer was also a very pleasant surprise. Following a strangely enjoyable DJ set from Jack Maynard, literally known as being the brother of popstar Conor Maynard, The Vamps took to the stage to the reception of screams from the younger members of the audience. I must admit, I loved it too.
I saw The Shires first play Isle of Wight in 2015 to a small afternoon crowd in the Big Top, so it was pretty surreal seeing a good number of people singing along to their tunes on the Main Stage just two years later. Oh, and they’re also the UK’s most successful country act ever now. Later on in the day it was the turn of George Ezra who has been making a bit of a comeback as of late. An hour long set seemed a little long perhaps, but Blame It On Me and Budapest showed that he was worthy of his billing.
Bastille were the penultimate act of the weekend and, although they got their facts wrong about when they first played the festival, they were still pretty overwhelmed at the response to their set. Lead singer Dan Smith even ventured right into the crowds, much to the annoyance of the two security following him. They weren’t as good as when I saw them at Bestival last year, but they’re certainly fit to be headlining major UK festivals soon. Rod Stewart isn’t my cup of tea, so I headed over to the Big Top to see Clean Bandit. They got off to a bit of a slow start, but when the likes of Rockabye and Real Love came into play, it became a pretty good set indeed. It was, however, their guest vocalists who stole the show – future stars in the making?
“See you in 2018” is the word on the Isle of Wight Festival’s social media accounts, so its future doesn’t look in doubt at all. It will be interesting to see what happens to the site and line-up with LiveNation’s takeover, but from me: “more of the same please!”