We arrive to a stiflingly hot Isle of Wight, perfect conditions for a festival, and are directed to the ‘artist’s area’; a camping squat with clean toilets, we do feel elite. Setting up camp has never been my forte; I prefer to watch others struggle and am admittedly a festival virgin, so while the boys set about erecting my oversized ten man tent (which slightly resembles Sydney harbour), I slope off in search of treasures, famous faces and good music. Avid Merrion of Bo’ Selecta is in the tent next to us, ‘Sonia’ from Eastenders is walking around with an entourage the size of a small country, but it is when I spot Mel C, sports captain of the Spice Girls that my heart actually skips a tiny beat. Yes, I am a little in awe. It can’t be helped and I won’t be ashamed. I am simply a child of the 90’s, ever loyal to the five girls that coined the phrase ‘girl power’. Musically, the first band I encounter is on the acoustic stage, which is not hosting purely acoustic acts but a whole range of music from electro to Folk; we rename it the ‘eclectic stage’. The Bonfires’ warm, Americana tinged soft-rock is slowly introducing my ears to a weekend full of noise. Their sound is stadium-esque, harmony fuelled and hook driven; the crowd lap up their finishing song ‘Romeo’ with the singer being pulled from the stage by eager fans for photographs.
What is striking about this festival is that there is something for everyone. Each arena for music is constantly busy, no stage left unappreciated, unsigned acts shine just as bright as the major acts and are able to showcase their abilities to a crowd full of music lovers. There are no cool kids here, inhibitions have been released, and dancing is on the cards.
I decide to stay beside the acoustic stage, avoiding the crowds on their way to watch the 80’s obsessed Calvin Harris. Next on the bill is established Brighton band The Perils – people in the audience seem to be showing their support by donning ‘Peril’ t-shirts, and I actually spot a ‘Peril’ condom in someone’s hand… Their music is a blend of classic 60’s rock with a modern day Indie twist, the melodies are upbeat, the lyrics up-front and the singer is formidably striking, spurring the crowd on to get involved, which they do – after the 3rd song their audience has doubled, people are singing along (albeit not always in tune) and for me the ideal festival scene has been set (either that or the vodka is kicking in).
Florence and The Machine are next on my ‘to watch’ list and her magnetic voice has already started to echo around the fields before I manage to reach the main stage. By ‘reach’ the main stage I mean reach the adjoining field to the main stage. Alas I am nowhere near the actual performance, there are a good few thousand people in between Florence and I, so it is to the television screen I turn to watch her florescent red locks and sheet-like white dress billowing in the fake wind. She looks like a fashionable female version of Jesus or a messiah of music. Even though her performance was captivating and her renditions of hits ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and ‘Rabbit Heart’ mesmerising, I was finding the lack of intimacy agitating and could not help staring enviously at the VIP bar which was next door to the stage. In ten minutes my highlight of the festival would occur …the realisation I could get into that bar. Proudly I took myself over to the security guarding ‘heaven’s gates’, waving my artists wrist band in his face, and he let me into literally, a different world. Free, yes, free bacon rolls were being handed out to the hungry (after paying £4 for an orange squash, this was much appreciated) and after stuffing my face I made my way onto the bar’s spacious balcony to watch Jay – Z. You know you have been to a good gig when you awake the morning after, bones brittle through overzealous dancing and a raspy voice through enthusiastic singing. It is a satisfying if slightly painful joy. The night was stolen by Jay – Z and the guest appearance by Kanye West. Not only did his set have universal appeal, his humbleness was admirable, having stopped half way through a song to chastise security: ‘Let the crowd have a good time or I’ll leave’. ‘Empire State Of Mind’ was the climax of the set, sung with an Alicia Keys look-alike by his side. This festival is the polar opposite of a ‘concrete jungle’ but it’s definitely where musical dreams are made.
The Oxygen Bar- detoxify your body with oxygen whilst sporting the hospital patient look
Crowded House- ‘everywhere you go…always take the weather with you…’
The Vintage stools – surprisingly reasonably priced
The Strokes – arrogance on a plate
Words & Illustration by Lana McDonagh