Jack Up The 80s hits all the right notes on the Isle of Wight

Jack Up The 80s 2013 review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Wed 14th Aug 2013

around the festival site

Saturday 10th to Sunday 11th August 2013
Garlic Festival Site, Fighting Cocks Crossroads, Bathingbourne Lane, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 0LU, England MAP
£25 for the weekend or £15 per day
Daily capacity: 3,000
Last updated: Wed 14th Aug 2013

Probably the worst thing about festivals is that they rarely take place near to where you live, so you have to arrange transport, pack up all the belongings you need, tent, food, as much beer as you can carry, the list goes on. So when on those rare occasions you’re lucky enough to have a festival set up outside your door it just seems rude not to take advantage of it. This is what happened to us when Jack Up The 80s pitched up in a field just down the road from where we live. 

The two-day festival was organised to celebrate 25 years of a local charity, Osel Enterprises, who provides work for adults with physical and learning disabilities. If you’ve ever been to the Isle of Wight Festival then chances are you’ve drunk the main product – Wight Crystal water – as the charity has supplied them with water for a number of years now. After a (very) short trip to the site we found a small but well laid out site, with a funfair, a selection of stalls selling fancy dress and festival essentials, as well as a few food stalls, bar and a couple of exhibitors showing off a selection of VW campers and Harley Davidsons. 

As you may have guessed from the name, the theme of this festival is the 1980s, and so the bands performing come form that era, or in the case of the first band we saw, a tribute band. Bootleg Blondie perform the hits of Blondie with considerable passion and lead singer Debbie Harris (yes, really!) has more than a passing resemblance both physically and vocally and worked her way through all the hits. 

Sometimes you never know what to expect from a band, and on the surface the opportunity to see Dr and The Medics perform was never one that I’d have jumped at, best known, actually scratch that, only known for their cover of ‘Spirit in the Sky’, I didn’t expect much from them at all. So I was really surprised, as what you got was a full-on psychadelic/goth band who, while only performing covers, made them very much their own – the performance was quite tongue in cheek and light hearted, belied a level of musicianship that respected the songs they performed and did them justice. Of particular note was Melissa Weekes powerhouse vocals on ‘Proud Mary’. If there’s any festival promoters reading this, you could do a lot worse than get the band to perform, as they really are a perfect festival act with plenty of sing-a-long moments and enough energy to wake up even the most lethargic crowd. After the energy of the Medics anyone following was always going to struggle and while Katrina Leskanich (ex-Katrina and The Waves) are a strong band with some decent songs, they didn’t manage to ignite the crowd the way that the previous act did, although a reasonable number of people were tempted back up the front for the bands biggest hit ‘Walking on Sunshine’. Similarly low key were The Lambrettas, a band that I remember most for ‘Ford Cortina’ which I would sneakily play on my older brothers stereo while he was out. They were pleasant enough and well received by the crowd, but didn’t really shine on the stage. 

They say that a headline act should add something extra to a show, and Saturday’s headliners Bad Manners extra something probably came in the form of lead singer Buster Bloodvessel’s tongue, while renowned it truly is something that has to be seen to be believed! Arriving on stage to the now traditional cries of “You Fat Bastard!” – something the organizers were probably cringing at given the firm family-friendly nature of the festival. Buster has slimmed down a bit since the Eighties, but is still the larger than life character that brings this band to life. Their set is unashamedly crowd-pleasing and soon had all the crowd up on their feet dancing along to the big hits such as ‘Lip-up Fatty’ and ‘Special Brew’ as well as a selection of old ska songs, closing with an energetic rendition of ‘Can Can’. The day ended at a very civilized (and very early for a festival) 8pm, as we left the site to start the (short) trip home, the sun set on what had been a very enjoyable first day. There was no on-site camping resulting in a bit of a bottle-neck to get off site as everyone left, but the lines were moving steadily and it didn’t take too long to get out. 

The next day we arrived on site to hear the closing notes of the first band of the day – the ska group Orange Street, so we headed straight for the bar to get a drink. Beer was very reasonably priced at £3.50 a pint, and there was a reasonable selection of beers and drinks on offer, including draught Pimms and lemonade – something I’d never seen before. Food however was a mixed bag, if you didn’t want the ubiquitous burger and chips or a hot baguette (£5-£7) then there was a noodle bar, which we were quite disappointed with as for £6 you got a very small portion, my beef and noodles had hardly any beef in, and if you were to add in an extra side order to make a proper meal of it you could end up spending over £10 easily. 

Suitably refreshed we settled down for the afternoon’s entertainment. First up were Eddie and The Hot Rods, best known for their hit ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’. Eddie himself is still very much the rocker and gave a good performance, with a selection of songs that bought to mind early Stones. They were followed by a complete change of musical style from Junior Giscombe. The Soul singer’s repertoire takes in several of his fellow 80s contemporaries including Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, not that this was a bad thing as his voice was easily up to covering their music. 

Toyah is an artist who is as well known for her TV work these days as she is for her music, however despite her other career, music is still her first love, something that she showed today, even though she was performing to a small crowd, you could see that the buzz she was getting. Her performance was still as vibrant as when she first started. This emotion spilled over to the crowd, who despite only being familiar with a few of her songs quickly warmed to the show.

If you were born in the Eighties, there’s a good chance that you may remember Sesame Street, and one of the repeating elements was the chorus “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not quite the same”.   The viewer then had to spot which was the odd one out from several activities. If we were playing this game today then the next act would be the clear odd ones out. The only connection to the 80s that I could see was that The Hoosiers would have been born around that time. That said they did widen out the appeal of the festival – giving the younger members of the audience a band that they knew – something that was borne out by the changeover at the front of the barrier. Their performance wasn’t the best I’ve seen of them, but was solid enough. 

Like yesterday, the show had an early finish, so by 7pm, when most festivals are just settling into the evening, Jack Up The 80s was preparing for it’s headline act. Heaven 17 were one of those bands that seemed to define the 80s, and as a closer for an 80s music festival they are probably about as good as it gets. Even the less well-known album tracks were well received, and finishing with the classic ‘Temptation’ and ‘Being Boiled’ from keyboard player Martin Ware’s Human League days made for a powerful end to what had been another good day. 

All in all this is a really nice little festival, perfectly pitched towards it’s target audience. Although only perceived as a one-off event to celebrate Osel’s birthday, there were several comments that indicate they are seriously considering repeating it again next year, and while without camping it may have only a limited appeal to those who live off the Isle of Wight, it could well become a welcome addition to the Island’s festival calendar.

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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