Isle Of Wight Festival 2013: Review

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Isle of Wight. For some it means a boring country outing, to others it means one hell of a weekend with thousands of people there for an amazing time. The weekend from 13th to 16th June was certainly the latter.

The SoapBox team arrived on the Friday morning alongside a massive crowd all preparing themselves to put up tents in the blistering heat and then sit down with a beer or two. Or the other way round, dependant on how long they could put off the inevitable task of pegging and poling. We’re told that the stand out performances for Thursday were Jaguar Skills who always puts on a well renown show with incredible talent and ease. Friday meant the unofficial beginning to the madness that awaited, and Mistajam saw this in with an afternoon set before handing over to Levellers in the BT Infinity Big Top with the heartwarming music that everyone knows. If you were then quick enough you could just make it in time to the Main Stage to witness Jake Bugg and his army of followers rip the place up, even creating a mosh pit for ‘Lightning Bolt’. Benga was also a part of the line-up with a nostalgic set in the Dance Tent that reminded anyone around the age of 20 the roots of Dubstep and just how much of a key figure he has been for the entire growth of the genre.

Paul Weller was also playing at this time at the Main Stage, which seemed an incredible sight to see. Although all the fans knew some of the songs he played it seemed everyone wanted a singalong and the brand new material just didn’t cut it, especially if it’s unreleased and no-one knows the words. Even the absence of ‘Changing Man’ was disappointing. The Stone Roses then followed in suit later on at the Main Stage, playing to a crowd with high expectations that just couldn’t hide it’s excitement. Then the band turned up. Ian Brown, the lead singer, couldn’t hold a note, keep in time or even get the crowd excited. He just strutted about in a silly yellow jacket, clinging on to his youth in one hand whilst the other held the shakers.

Although there was a massive line up for the Friday, there was a mass of things to do around the festival for the whole weekend, including the Octopus’ Garden, full of fair rides and chill out spots, there was also the Strongbow Garden which had a relaxed atmosphere with spread out seats and a small stage to put on unsigned acts. Life’s A Beach was the same, except it had sand on the floor and a Hawaiian themed bar with expensive yet very tasty Pina Coladas and Crazy Coconuts. These types of acts that played the smaller areas were the ones that really impressed most people, anyone could listen and enjoy it at the same time as knowing that the act had nothing to lose but everything to gain, thus provoking performances full of emotion, determination and melodies that could be listened to time and time again over a Radio 1 playlist. There was also the Bohemian Woods, which lit up at night like Tinkerbell’s crew, alongside performers that suited the environment perfectly; slow, easy and relaxed.

Saturday brought in a day full of widespread hangovers and delirious campers, which lead to everyone just making the executive decision of rolling through and dealing with it, in order to prepare themselves for anything the day would throw at them (if in the crowd at the main stage, probably a cup of beer or something else sticky). Laura Mvula was one of the first bigger acts playing on the day, at the Main Stage. There is nothing to say about her performance other than everyone knowing they at least got their money’s worth. She sung her heart out with a voice that makes grown men weak at the knees in a set that was incredible and unstoppable. Another stand out performance was that of British pop/rock band Bastille, with their catchy songs and constant drum banging. Although they may not have been a favourite of the weekend for some, they were definitely making their mark after being the performers who played the Strongbow Garden in 2012. Ben Howard also played the main stage shortly after, and his sound was amazing as it sounded on every record. From the minute he walked on stage with his cool as hell band, a guitarist that played the electric
fantastically to mirror the perfection of Ben’s acoustic ability. He also had a sexy woman playing the bass, drum and keyboard who also contributed incredible backing vocals. Mr. Howard just oozes talent, his stage presence alone is enough, empowered by the look he gives between songs when he finally looks up for his strings and microphone and sees the mass crowd that was there to witness him. One thing that may have topped this was the echo coming from the crowd of every last lyric he had ever written, being sung back to him by thousands of people. Each song was perfect, precise and pulled off in the best way. One negative though was the fact he didn’t play his most renown song ‘Keep Your Head Up’, and everyone knew that it was missing from the set.

Later on that evening it was up to Bloc Party to warm up the crowd before The Killers, and that was certainly achieved. Playing nearly their entire discography, they whipped out unreleased songs before the classic ‘Helicopter’ opening riff, or ‘Flux’ with it’s resounding chorus, or ‘One More Chance’ with it’s fantastic synth chords. Lead singer Kele stood at the front, chewing gum in place, staring out into the crowd and challenging them with his eyes to try not to dance. He knew exactly what people wanted to hear and that their music provided this exact same thing, before giving a full band bow and wishing the enjoyment to the crowd for The Killers. Now. The Killers. Where to start… The beginning would probably be a good place but after showing up twenty minutes late it probably wouldn’t be the ideal place. Due to their lateness the band knew what they had to do. Play the song of the decade. ‘Mr Brightside’. That changed everyone’s mood instantly, with Brandon Flowers’ showmanship putting him in the centre of everyone’s gaze and the crowd were completely under his spell. Throughout the show they put on you could recognise the bands Las Vegas roots, with impressive pyrotechnics and putting on a completely over the top show that everyone was dying to see. Their set contained the songs that would always be sung back, including ‘Smile Like You Mean It’, ‘Jenny Was A Friend of Mine’, ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’, ‘Human’ and ‘All These Things I’ve Done’, the latter of which was the closing song. With the resounding lyric “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” being chanted by at least three thousand people before the band played the final leg, closing the set on a high with a massive bang of confetti and fireworks up in the sky.

Sunday lead well, with acts starting early and not caring for hangovers. The days line-up didn’t seem too overwhelming in all honesty, with a couple of stand out acts but nothing to really keep you. The only reason to stay through the final day of Isle of Wight would be to say that you had witnessed Bon Jovi and Blondie both play amazing sets, even if both seemed to be overkill. Bon Jovi had a three hour long set after coming on half an hour late, played a bunch of songs that all sounded the same apart from ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, three hours was just too long, but it gave you a soundtrack to leave the site with or accompany you to Blondie’s set.

Overall, a very impressive weekend with incredible organisation and wonderful acts set out for the attendees with always something going on or something amazing to witness. Every person loved their time there and the atmosphere for the entirety of the festival was fantastic and had to be experienced to be believed. If you love a great festival with great people, Isle Of Wight Festival is definitely the one to attend.

A couple of negatives points, and although there aren’t that many we thought it would be important to highlight so that organisers will know;

1. After The Killers set, understandably most people were tired and just wanted to get to their tent/caravan/home/patch of grass, but at the same time others wanted to carry on their Saturday as the night was still young and there was plenty to do. Upon leaving a certain section of the main arena maybe to go to a different venue or get a drink, you weren’t allowed back in, with security stopping any that wanted to make the most of their money by entering the most lively place of the festival. This was a major mistake and a stupid one at that.
2. Another big area for improvement would be that of the Dance tent, situated past barriers that you could easily go through one way but if you wanted to come back you had to be wearing a red camping band thus making an entire stage and all of it’s acts inaccessible for those not staying on site.

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Written by Max Necus (@MaxNecus)

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