Saturday and the IoW Festival reaches its half-way mark, As we arrive on site there’s plenty of people lounging about recovering from last night’s excesses. As we arrive on site, I’m starting to receive texts from friends who want to know whether the rumours about poor ticket sales are true – one person has heard that sales were as low as 15 thousand. One thing that the local people love is a juicy rumour – and seem to take glee in being proved right when a something on the Isle of Wight fails (See Bestival leaving for Devon or Google Cowes Floating Bridge for a cases in point). However I was able to refute these allegations estimating it felt like about 40 thousand to me (something that was later confirmed by official figures which recorded attendance at 39 thousand).
Our first stop of the day was the Main Stage for Manchester band The Slow Readers Club. This band, while currently unsigned who are definitely one we hope to see more of seen more of in the future, with a sound lifted directly from the likes of Joy Division and more recently Editors. Frontman Aaron Starkie’s voice has a clear, soaring quality that sits in perfect contrast with the more somber and gloomy indie-soundtrack of the rest of the band, elevating tracks like Cavalcade, and Start Again form pastiche to genuine anthems in their own right. By the end of the set they had managed to attract a good sized crowd in front of the stage..
We then took a wander up through the site to try and catch Wheatus, who were performing in the Kashmir Cafe, unfortunately the small venue was so rammed, there was no chance of getting into the tent, so instead we took this opportunity to explore the far end of the festival site, with the chance of a quiet five minutes and a cold drink in the Old Mout Kiwi Camp, where musical bingo and games of Jenga were to be found. This year the festival seems to have a much more relaxed and friendly atmosphere – generally festival goers and security all seem to be chilled and sharing the love in the face of the atrocious attacks that have been happening recently.
On our way back through the site we stopped at the Big top where Elle Exxe, was making a Scottish stamp on fashion, although I’m not sure drawing boobs on your dress is a trend that will catch on, but she gave us a feisty show with plenty of good pop rhythms to dance to.
The Platform One stage is a regular at the festival for a number of years now, and this year has benefitted from moving from the far corners of the campsite, to right next to the main entrance to the main arena. This stage provides a showcase for musicians who are studying at the Platform One academy of music on the Isle of Wight and whereas previous years have seen it struggle to get anyone apart from friends and family to show, it now attracts far more passing tradfe and most acts had a good-sized crowd to perform to. Highlight of the day for us here was Kokoro – whose prog/rock sound reminded us of early Marillion.
Food at a festival can sometimes mean a lot of choice , but not much variety, with an endless supply of burger, Chinese or pizza. In order to widen the palette a little the Isle of Wight festival has Octopus Garden – providing more variety of food for those who want to stretch their taste buds. This is backed up by a craft beer tent and gin bar for those who get fed up of warm and gassy Carlsberg from the main bars. Our choice for today was as bowl (cardboard box) of the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm's chilli with a massive chunk of grilled garlic bread, while there was a small surcharge on price for this - £10 rather than the £7-8 you’d pay for a meal elsewhere) there was plenty of it and well worth the price.
There is always a danger with bands that they can become like aural wallpaper, particularly if they fall into the category of being ‘radio-friendly’. Texas have always been one of these bands – in the 90s their music was played on almost every radio station you came across, and while not unpleasant there generally was nothing much that made them stand out from the pack. As such I didn’t expect much form them beyond a pleasant way to pass an hour on a Saturday afternoon. However I was pleasantly surprised by their live performance. Sharleen Spiteri performs the songs with an vigour that almost spills over into aggression – clearly enjoying herself and belting out the hits with gusto and passion. Here the familiarity with the songs works to her advantage and soon she has the crowd singing along with her. One of the outstanding performances of the weekend – and one that reminded me never to write off a band on what I know, and why we love to go and see live music in the first place.
The Kooks and Catfish and The Bottlemen are quite possibly two sides of the same coin – one band on the way up the ladder, and one on the way back down again. And their back-to-back performances on the main stage showed how stage-craft and raw energy can take you through a show. Both acts had this in abundance and although I was more familiar with The Kooks music, and enjoyed their show there was nothing new to really make me pay attention. Similarly Catfish are a band with a couple of big singles but not much else, so made up for this with plenty of energy and sheer enthusiasm. I can see why they’re big at the moment. Whether they will have any longevity remains to be seen – but this is clearly their summer and they are enjoying it while they can.
Arcade Fire’s headline performance was something I was really looking forward to amd I was pleased to say they didn’t disappoint. Arriving on stage in outfits bearing the logo for their upcoming album. They wasted no time in working their way through a set that covered tracks from their previous albums as well as a handful of track form the forthcoming Everything Now. This is a band who perform at full title and tonight there was no space for them to slow down – the only ballad of the evening was the title track from Neon Bible. The band performed without break – as well as no encore, the songs moved from one to the other with no gaps to catch their breath, allowing band members to carry the rhythms while others changed instruments – something they do quite often. The only complaint was that they didn’t perform their biggest hit – Intervention (something we rectified by blasting it out of the car on the way home), but in all it was a great show that showed why, despite never being a band to embrace the mainstream, they are certainly worthy of the headline shows they perform at.
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