The Isle of Wight now has its fair share of music festivals and as it enters into its fourth year, Jack up the 80s is settling in to become a regular part of the local scene.
As the name suggests, this festival is dominated by 1980s bands with the odd filler thrown in. Jack up the 80s is an ideal family festival as it runs from mid day until about half 9 across two days, meaning that it's not too much for the children. The site is small but packs plenty in with a fair selection of food stalls, a couple of bars as well as clothes and other stalls. For the kids there are also some fairground rides and bouncy castles. Drinks are well priced with a pint setting you back £4, and a good selection of lagers ales and ciders for all tastes. The food also had a good range of the typical festival fayre, but at about £9 for a full meal seemed to be a little more expensive than we’ve been paying at other festivals this year. That said the quality of food was pretty good so was worth paying the extra.
Both the Saturday and the Sunday start the same way with performances warming up the crowd from High School Never Ends and local band Ska'd for Life - I'll leave you to work out the style. After that the line-up splits off into the main performances of the day. Saturday begins with a bonus as an unbilled set from funk jazz outfit Light Of The World. They weren't a band I was that familiar with but then when I discovered I was only seven at their peak I guess I can be forgiven for not remembering them. Following them was London Beat, whose spirited performance was one of the first standout’s of the day, with hits ‘9am on a New York Subway’ and ‘Been Thinking About You’ giving the crowd a good opportunity to sing along.
80s festivals trade on the nostalgia value, and the set by Johnny Hates Jazz, who were probably one of my favourite bands of the era. Their performance today took me back the dancing on my bed to ‘Shattered Dreams’, ‘Turn Back the Clock’ and ‘I Don't Want to be a Hero’. Fortunately my dreams weren't shattered as they are a band that have matured well and sound as good as ever. As did Paul Young, whose strong performance seemed a little ill-suited this early in the day, and probably could have headlined in his own right. With a good voice and natural stage presence he quickly settled in and kept the audience rapt to his performance.
The evening saw more big names and first up was festival regulars From The Jam, who although now only boasting one original member - Bruce Foxton - give a pretty good performance with plenty of energy, backed up by some of the most iconic songs of the era. It always amazes me how this band turn up at smaller festivals, as should Paul Weller ever choose to rejoin the band they would no doubt be headlining the largest festivals about. That said it is our gain as it gives the opportunity get close to one of the best live bands around.
Saturday headliner was Leo Sayer, an artist that is far bigger than many realise and I would count myself in that number, not realising quite how many hits he really has, and a career that has spanned four decades, and his set spanned all of those treating the crowd to ‘When I Need Love’, ‘Moonlighting’ and ‘You make me feel like dancing’. Time has not diminished his voice, and alongside the pop numbers he’s best known for was a surprising number of bluesy rock and roll numbers that when matched with a deep gravelly vocal bought to mind The Who - not what you’d expect from Leo. Altogether it made for a better set then you would have expected.
Sunday saw an additional activity for the kids with the arrival of a mobile farm providing a chance to pet chicks, goats and donkeys. Meanwhile on the main stage, after a repeat performance from High School Never Ends and Ska'd for Life, the day started properly with Nathan Moore, best known for his time with boy band Brother Beyond. Another returning act for the festival he clearly decided that the policy of not breaking what isn’t broken and came back with a repeat of his performance from the previous year. including organising the crowd for the floor dance with a performance of ‘Oops Up Side Your Head’. His performance gathered him a lot of fans which was a bit of a shame for the next act Owen Paul, who was presented with only a handful of people in front of the stage as most people left to take advantage of the chance to get Nathan’s autograph and photos. Undaunted, Owen, best known for ‘My Favourite Waste of Time’, also spent time in Mike and the Mechanics ploughed on giving a really good set showing that he still has a great voice.
Another returning act was Phil Fearon, who although billed as being ‘and Galaxy’ didn’t have anyone performing with him, and have to say that although pleasant the set didn't make a big impression so didn’t feel so bad about missing him last year. The same however cannot be said for the next act who I think was probably the biggest surprise of the weekend giving one of the best performances of the weekend. Angie Brown, it may be forgiven that she is not strictly an 80s legend being most widely known for her part of 90s band Bizzare Inc. This soulful singer grabbed everyone's hearts especially when she was happy to show how talented her children are when the joined her on stage.
The next act is another return for the one tribute act of the weekend ABBA Chique. This band seem to improve year after year, but perhaps that is just because everyone loves an Abba tune and there was certainly plenty of audience participation for all the big hits.
As the evening starts to settle. It's time for the last two acts of the weekend. First up were Five Star, with three of the original line up plus their little sister. They seemed well rehearsed and certainly put effort into their polished performance with well practiced dance routines, giving a pretty decent show for the crowd Although Five Star were billed as the headliner, it was universally acknowledged that no-one wanted to follow the last act of the day. Returning for their third appearance at the festival, Bad Manners were as welcomed as they were the first time, there are some bands that you never tire of and for many of the men it seems that they tolerate some of the cheesier acts to have their wild hour with the rest of the Fat Bastards. Buster may no longer physically be the size he was a few years ago but the loss of weight just continues to ensue that he performs to his best and he certainly did that again tonight with a set that included all the favourites.
So it was with this that Jack up the 80s draws to a close and once again, they seemed to have all the ingredients in the right place, putting together an nice and relaxed little festival that has become one of our favourites in the calender, 2017 can't come fast enough.
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