Jack Up the 80s has it all - a great venue, excellent bands and a fantastic vibe

Jack Up The 80s 2015 review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Tue 11th Aug 2015

Jack Up The 80s 2015 - around the festival site
Photo credit: Steve Collins

Jack Up The 80s 2015

Saturday 8th to Sunday 9th August 2015
Garlic Festival Site, Fighting Cocks Crossroads, Bathingbourne Lane, Sandown, Isle of Wight, PO36 0LU, England MAP
£40 for the weekend or £35 per day
Daily capacity: 4,000

This is the third year for Jack up the 80s, or as it bills itself ‘Vol.3'. 'It is a festival that is pretty much summed up by it's name –although the decision to part ways with Jack FM as the primary media partner may confuse people in later years as to why they are Jacking it up. That said it hasn't been a problem for the organisers of the Mercury Music Prize. Set up three years ago as a one-off, the festival has not had an easy run, when last year it was hit by high winds that played havoc with the schedule and brought many of the acts to an early close.This year the Isle of Wight weather was on it's best behaviour and the festival site was bathed in sunshine all weekend, in fact almost too hot. The festival is set on a small site in the south-east corner of the Isle of Wight and is an ideal location for a small family festival.

Arriving on site, the first thing that was apparent was that many had waited to see what the weather did before making a decision about attending and the queues were long and slow getting in, but we clearly timed it right as when we arrived they opened up a second line which sped things up considerably. Having only a single stage and a small area, the arena really needs to meet everyone's needs. In previous years the trade and food stalls have been lacking, but this year was a great improvement with a good selection of food, from the ubiquitous burger vans, to pizzas, burritos, baguettes and more. The food was reasonably priced by festival standards and offered something for all tastes. There is only one bar but it is a relatively small festival, and it was well staffed so there was never too much of a wait, for the good selection of beers, ales and ciders on tap as well as wine and Pimms.

Most of the acts over the weekend are the original 80s performers but there are a couple of tribute acts sprinkled in to allow the music from acts no longer with us or far too large for a small festival. First of these on Saturday were Complete Madness, who despite referencing Madness in their name, also branched out across the ska spectrum to include music from The Specials and Bad Manners, they were an energetic ska band and got the crowd dancing. The next act was billed as Brother Beyond, but rather than the four-piece boy band many were expecting it was just Nathan Moore, singing along to backing tracks. to his credit he worked the crowd well, at one point heading out into the arena singing and dancing along with the crowd for the 80s dance floor filler ‘oops up'. Ultimately the set was a little too karaoke for my tastes though.

Jaki Graham: Jack Up The 80s 2015

Funhouse presenter Pat Sharp (sans-mullet these days) followed with a DJ set that maintained the energy of the crowd, which was no mean feat with the weather being so hot, and the momentum was kept up with festival regularsDoctor and the Medics who just seem to keep coming back having been one of the highlights of the opening year. One of the highlights of this weekend was Jaki Graham – a real classic soul singer of the kind you don't often see these days now Beyonce and co have hijacked the genre. With a natural stage presence and a powerhouse of a voice she could have sung Beyonce off the stage with ease.

The Original Bucks Fizz: Jack Up The 80s 2015

As mentioned earlier last year's weather played havoc with the line-up and seriously curtailed the set of, Cheryl, Jay and Mike formerly known as Bucks Fizz, so this year they were given a second chance. Their set was jam packed with hits (both theirs and others) and although usually I am overly critical of stars who perform to backing tracks, Buck's Fizz put a little extra into their performance that you have to forgive the lack of musicians. Certainly from crowd reaction they could have easily headlined the weekend. Especially as the headliners, ABC, were one of the more disappointing acts of the weekend. Musically they were polished enough, but the show lacked the punch you expect from a headline act. It didn't help that they played a large chunk from their upcoming album leaving a lot of the crowd to complain that they didn't know the songs. Festival sets should be crowd-pleasers, and especially at a festival trading on the nostalgia value - you have to be either brave or stupid to try anything else.

Sunday saw another bright if somewhat more breezy day, which made the arena, which offers no natural shade, a little more bearable. Arriving on site a little later than planned the first performer we saw was Sonia, who performed another karaoke set of other people's songs - pleasant, but ultimately uninspiring.

Timmy Mallett: Jack Up The 80s 2015

If like me you were a child of the 80s, then weekend mornings were probably filled with the antics of a single man and a large foam hammer. The Wide Awake Club (or Wacaday as those in the know knew it as) used to provide the perfect visual accompaniment to a sugary-cereal addled brain. At the time Timmy Mallett was the epitome of 80s naffness - wearing loud day-glow clothes the signature piece was Mallett's Mallet - a word association game that saw the losers get hit on the head from the eponymous foam implement. It's quite scary that despite the passage of over 30 years, his show (or indeed him) hasn't changed at all, and for a few minutes in the sun we were treated to a retread of the show that made his name, as well as performances of his now infamous ‘Itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot bikini. What was even more scary was how much fun it was to be given the chance to relive those surreal days again - some could see him as annoying, but he's so exuberant that you can't help but warm to him.

In the arena one thing that really has to be mentioned is the attention to detail for the rubbish collection, there was never a overflowing bin and one man (or so it seemed) was dedicated to ensure that the bins were emptied and any litter picked up, he was always willing to share a joke and a smile with the crowd, and it has to be said that wherever you went, tripping over empty cups or bottles was never and issue. Well done Jack up the 80s for their commitment to keeping the site clean - there are many events that could learn from them.

ABBA Chique: Jack Up The 80s 2015

The final tribute act for the weekend were ABBA Chique, and watching the reactions of all ages across the site, Abba seems to be one of the bands that cross across all ages, with even the young children singing along and dancing to all the hits. This was a band who needed a longer set to even be able to touch everyone's favourites, but I suppose it is always preferable to be left wanting more.

Protest singing and Soul is not normally two styles that go together, but in the 80s The Christians gave a pretty good stab at it. Move forward 30 years, and the band are still at it, with Garry Christians rich voice still sounding as good as ever. Ironically the recent political events have left the songs more apt than ever, and the songs core themes of alienation, lack of opportunities and injustice still ring true today. 

From The Jam: Jack Up The 80s 2015

Another band whose songs were protests against the society they grew up in were the Jam, and even though the only remaining member is Bruce Foxton, From The Jam's new members still manage to carry off the energy and poise of the original group - tonight particularly they were on fabulous form. The Jam were one of the first bands that made my hit list, seeing me sneak into my brothers bedroom and playing his mod vinyl collection. 50 minutes was never going to be enough and they could have played on. If I have one complaint about Jack up the 80's it is that most acts are given the same amount of time, which can leave some bands scratching around to fill their set, while others, like From The Jam could go on far longer.

Bringing the music to a close this weekend is another fantastic artist, Peter Cox with Go West has an amazing voice and although the set was a little more down beat than their predecessor, they were still musically brilliant an held the crowd with a set full of hits and a couple of cover versions.

Go West: Jack Up The 80s 2015

In all this has been a fantastic weekend and the best by far for Jack up the 80s, there was mention that the festival was only supposed to run for three years,but if this festival was to come to an end now just when it has got it all right it would be great shame. There are so many more 80s artists still out there, the Isle of Wight is the ideal setting to bring them all together.We certainly hope to be celebrating with you again next year.

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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