As the festival enters it’s seventh year it sees some significant changes, first a conscious move away from just an 80s weekend (although we’ve had acts from other decades for a while now) sees it rebrand as Jack Up The Summer, and also a move to a new site – familiar to anyone who has attended the main Isle of Wight Festival as part of the camping fields. Although a single event the festival itself is broken up into three days, with Saturday dedicated to the 80s acts, while Sunday is for bands of the 90s. But ahead of that there is a separate event, billed as Ska Wars, seeing local band Ska’d For Life playing off against Ska legends Bad Manners.
It’s fair to say that the weather is a big factor this weekend, not just for this festival but across the country, with Cornish festival Boardmasters one of the higher profile events cancelled, and Jack’s organisers must have been carefully watching the weather forecast locally. Fortunately the worst of the weather appeared to be going west of them, however high winds forecast to come though overnight led them to take the decision to move the schedule forward on Friday to get in ahead of the worst of it.
Island-based Ska’d for Life kick the evening off with a lively set drawing from across the pantheon of Ska - one of the advantages of being a covers act is that you can cherry pick the best of the bunch, and a set mainly comprising of 80s ska such as Specials and Madness, but occasionally dipping into the earlier roots of music set the evening up perfectly for the headliners. Bad Manners, while limited to their own music, nonetheless proved that they are still the masters of the craft with a hit-filled set intersected with plenty of banter from the fat bastard himself, Buster Bloodvessel. If it was a war, then they would definitely win, but really it was two bands working together to set the weekend off to a great start.
With strong winds overnight as expected, all seemed set for a day of 80s legends on the Saturday, when about half an hour before the gates were due to open the worst happened; the wind suddenly changed direction, meaning that instead of the forecast 25mph winds, suddenly the site was bathed in winds of around 40mph with gusts reaching over 60mph, causing havoc with the site, blowing down fencing and stallholders tents, while the main stage lost the sheeting off the roof and had to be hastily de-rigged to prevent further damage. Unfortunately the main program was a write-off, and while attempts were made to offer a limited acoustic show in the beer tent in the end the strong winds meant the site simply wasn’t safe to open and the day had to be abandoned.
It’s always a difficult call to make for any organiser, and the inevitable outrage on social media, especially those who had seen the 80s bands as the main draw, but In the end there was nothing to be done.
It would have been easy to call time on the whole weekend, but with better weather forecast for the next day the event team worked through the night, rebuilding the stage and site to get the festival back on for the Sunday. For those who had only bought a day ticket for Saturday, it was announced that these would be honoured on the Sunday instead. And so on time the gates opened and despite a strong wind and some heavy rain showers, things got back on track for the 90s day.
Exuberant performances from Livin’ Joy and returning act Phats and Small set the day up nicely, while in between sets from DJ Gilded Pleasures kept the energy up, supplying a large dose of 80s music for those that felt they missed out yesterday (and a whole section of action songs for those who particularly missed the kings of cheese, Black Lace).
Tribute band Noasis kept things going with a sing along through the Oasis back catalogue, but my personal favourites of the day (and possibly the act that should have headlined) were Space, although the crowd were initially a bit confused by Tommy Scott and co’s quirky, and occasionally gritty, take on britpop, they soon warmed to them. Tommy was on usual form, chewing the stage as usual, as well as climbing all over, and finishing the set in the crowd, leading them in a singalong for ‘Female of the Species’.
It left a big ask to follow that show, and 911, the first of two boy bands performing, did their best. They clearly had plenty of fans in the audience, and seemed to play well, but for me they were a bit anonymous as an act, and having wandered off to get some dinner, I failed to spot that they’d gone off the stage and it was the DJ playing songs instead.
Penultimate act of the evening were another 90s indie band - Republica who gave a great performance, with the big hits Ready to Go and Drop Dead Gorgeous understandably getting the biggest reactions.
Headliners for the evening were East 17 (or what’s left of them, Terry Coldwell - one of ‘the other two’ is the only original member left ). Like 911 the crowd were clearly up for them, and they certainly perform well, but the group weren’t really my scene first time around and tonight didn’t change my opinion.
With the new venue and a strong sense of what they want the festival to be, the organisers of Jack up the Summer, have shown why this is one of the better festivals on the Isle of Wight. It was a shame that the weather scuppered the event in spectacular manner, but despite this what did go ahead made for a great event. Hopefully they can recover and come back next year with a full festival again.
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