Blur whip up the passion but split the crowd at Isle of Wight Festival

Isle Of Wight Festival 2015 review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Thu 18th Jun 2015


Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th June 2015
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£195 with camping
Daily capacity: 90,000
Last updated: Mon 8th Jun 2015

Through the early hours of Saturday morning the rains fell, but were eventually moved on by a strong wind and as we arrived on site we were met by reasonably good ground in the main arena. and the only areas that had really broken down were the pinch-points, but a genrous lacing of straw had been put down and so the site was a lot less muddy than I thought - even the energetic mashing and pogoing of the crowd for Prodigy hadn't damaged the ground much, so the site was in pretty good shape for the rest of the weekend, and with a warm and strong sun those muddy patches were improving as the day went on.

Arriving between acts we took the opportunity to have a wander around the main arena. The thing that strikes you most this year is the lack of the iconic Ferris wheel that used to sit at the back of the main stage –over the past decade, particularly when lit up at night, this was almost as iconic a festival landmark as the Pyramid Stage is for Glastonbury –the sky ride that replaced it doesn't have the same appeal.

around the festival site: Isle of Wight Festival 2015

Another change for this year is, tucked in the corner, is the Bulmers Colourarena - where anyone who approached are inevitably be harangued by the colour-reps to come and try your hand at welly-wanging, Twister or other silly games. It looks as if Isle of Wight festival is taking a twist in its usual corporate straightness and putting in a few areas that will engage the more adventurous festival goer, with a paint party planned later in the day they were currently engaging people to come and try their skills in return for awards. What these prizes we're we couldn't tell you as few seemed to be successful at hitting the target but they were having a good time none-the-less.

Much is made of the links to the Isle of Wight pop festivals of the 60s and 70s and in particular the legendary performance of Jimi Hendrix, and this year the festival is renamedthe main stage as The Electric Church in deference to Jimi. Slightly less deferential is the attempt to set the record for the largest number of Jimi Hendrix masks being worn in the same place at the same time, which as well as setting the record also raised money for the charity Wellchild by selling the masks, and is a tribute to the 45th anniversary of the musicians last ever UK showat the original Isle of Wight Festival. At the time of writing we are still waiting to hear whether the record was set.

Leaving the fake Jimi's too it, we instead headed towards our favourite spot– the Kashmir Cafe, a chance for one of us to grab an ale, and what was hoped to be an opportunity to see the Two-hit-wonder, John Otway. Mr Otway sounded great, but that was all we could do as the tent was packed out. This year the Kashmir seems to be a victim of its own successes, with slightly more room being given to the stage and a bigger line up, but it was almost impossible to get into the tent, let alone near the stage. Anyone under 6ft tall has no real chance of seeing the acts. perhaps this venue now needs to reconsider how it utilises its space, with a slightly bigger tent or perhaps spinning the stage and opening the side of the tent to make artists visible from the beer garden, this could be a risk to the tranquility of the garden area but would be easier for those wishing to see the acts or trying to get to the bar.

around the festival site: Isle of Wight Festival 2015

The organisers have made an effort to make definitive areas through the site this year and where previously Bohemia Woods was just a stage it now grown to include it's own bar and the seemingly ubiquitous festival hammocks have arrived (They always seem to be the same ones each time - shipped form week to week to a new festival), but you can no longer wander to the stage without it being a conscious effort,so where we have previously caught acts as we have gone past, this is no longer quite as easy. When these micro area's first arrived a couple of years ago, they seemed to be an attempt by the festival organisers to diversify the festival, but now corporate sponsors seem to be taking over these areas more –'Jack Daniels Rocks', 'Hard Rock Calling Stage', and Bulmers Colourarena. This may or may not be a positive thing, but as someone who finds this corporate straightness a bit dull, I feel the festival needs to step away from the big names and support some smaller entrepreneurial groups if it really wants to maximise these areas potential.

It seems almost customary that when Kool & the Gang take to the stage the sun comes out to lifts the party spirit of the crowd. The band took to the main stage dressed like they'd just stepped out of an episode of Miami Vice, almost as if they know that they are noted for the cheesiness of the music, but rather than trying to be a serious act, instead they embrace their lovely factor and give a taste of the 80s to all they play for – they were welcomed with open arms by the Isle of Wight crowd who danced and sang-along in the afternoon sunshine.

For those who wanted something a little less cheesy, the big top furnished them with The Shires, whose country and folk tinged pop made for an unchallenging, but not unpleasant alternative.

Foxes: Isle of Wight Festival 2015

Clashes are always a problem at festivals, and you can always guarantee at least one will leave you torn. The first big one of the weekend for me was the collision ofJames on the main-stage and Foxes in the big top. On one hand you have one of my favourite bands of my youth, on the other hand it's the chance to see a new artist. In the end I settled for Foxes, although the staggered start meant that I was able to hear James open their show with 'Sit Down', Frontman Tim Booth declaring "If Blur are going to play Parklife, we'll play this", much to the delight of the audience - especially those who saw them perform a few years ago and miss their biggest song out.

I was pleased I chose to take a chance on Foxes (not actually a band but the stage name of singer Louisa Rose Allen) –sometimes it's easy to stick with what you already know, but by being brave I was rewarded with anthemic electro-pop was one of the personal delights of the festival.

This has so far been a funny festival for us. With yesterday's weather putting us a day behind on our exploring, and usual tour of all the food stalls, tonight it was a quick skirt round the stalls in the main arena, and the usual suspects were all present, from noodles, burgers and pizzas, the more adventurous stalls are usually further into the site. Tonight we settled for a noodle bar and have to say they were very generous portions of sweet and sour chicken, noodles and vegetables for around £7.

Pharrell Williams: Isle of Wight Festival 2015

For the rest of the evening the plan was to stay in the main arena, first for singer and rapper Pharrell Williams who - on the back of his collaboration with Daft Punk, was looking to make the crowd Happy. The show was not what I had expected and during some of his tracks he almost seemed bored and distant–the only time he showed any real passion was for one of the songs of his old group N*E*R*D. At one point I felt that it was more a dance show with more performers on stage than an X-Factor final, I was clearly in the minority however, as the crowd seemed to enjoy him, and sang along to 'Happy' and 'Get Lucky' with gusto.

Probably the biggest anticipation musically this year was surrounding the announcement that Blur had recorded a new album in secret. As much for the inevitable tour as for the promise of new material and the first album featuring the full line up in 16 years. The addition of new music places that band as more than just a 'greatest hits live'group. There was some concern as to whether Damon would perform as he was suffering from a sore throat which saw him pass vocal duties on to Graham Coxon for their appearance on TFI Friday the day before. In the end Damon did sing, although by his own admission his voice was 'a bit ropey'. what he lacked in range he made up for in passion however, putting his all into a performance that mixed a few tracks of the new album with a trip through their hits. Personally for me this was Blur at their absolute best - reminding more of the early days of the band when you had a very real sense that they were just about hanging on to the performance. However I understand that, talking to people afterwards a lot of people didn't enjoy the show as they felt there was too much of the new album and too little of the brit-pop era band.

All in all today has been very enjoyable and with the weather back on track after the rain of Friday. And with one more day to go I would certainly be go so far as to say that this has been one of the best Isle of Wight festivals yet.

Blur: Isle of Wight Festival 2015

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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