Advantages Pretty good variety of music, Fun-fair to keep you entertained, Easy to smuggle alcohol into arena
Disadvantages Only one stage meant no other music during acts you didn't enjoy, Campsite was too far from arena
|Is it worth visiting?|
Note: This review relates to the 2003 Isle of Wight festival.--Lineup--
---Saturday 14th June---
Cooper Temple Clause
The Nautical Theme
But there were a few things that held my interest. Firstly, the Isle of Wight festival has a reputation. Back in the days of the original Isle of Wight festivals (1968-1970) hugely popular artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan performed, and the final festival even incited groups of anarchists to tear down fences around the festival site to gain free entry. Secondly it was a festival taking place on the Island I lived on. Despite a line-up that wasn’t altogether my cup of tea, I wanted the festival to succeed, and help in assuring the festival became a regular event again. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I figured it would be good fun. Unlike a gig where you won’t generally go unless you’re a fan of the artist playing or you like the genre of music, a festival is different in that it attracts all sorts of people, and the focus isn’t necessarily the music.
Before I start I feel I should say that the line-up for the Isle of Wight Rock Festival 2003 did not have me hugely excited. In fact, if I didn’t live on the Island at the time I probably wouldn’t have given the festival a second look. My favoured area of music at the time was the punk rock genre, and everything related to it, from hardcore to ska. So as you can imagine, there was no-one playing that immediately grabbed my attention, save for Iggy Pop.
This was backed up on arrival at the festival, with the sight of people hauling crates of beer into the campsite, and a ferris wheel & bumper cars in the main ‘arena’ area. The campsite, perhaps predictably, consisted of a large field, by the time I arrived already close to full of tents, with a few outlets selling food and drink, and a bunch of toilets that were inevitably out of paper…But while music may not always be the main focus, it is a very large part of the festival, providing its major source of entertainment. Unfortunately, by the time camp had been set up and entrance to the arena gained on Saturday, I’d already missed the opening few acts, The Nautical Theme, Psychid and Balasco (none of which I’d heard of…) but was in time to catch The Burn, a band some presumably drunk bloke had been yelling about near the entrance queue. Next up were The Thrills, who I quite enjoyed, except for their use of a harmonica grating on me and then Cooper Temple Clause, who were a highlight for me, playing an energetic and varied set. John Squire weren’t bad either, although I felt they relied too heavily on guitar solos to carry their songs, and after a while the formula began to feel a bit stale and repetitive. Iggy Pop had a lot of support from the crowd, and was certainly the most energetic act of the day, if not the whole weekend. No mean feat considering his age. A good set although I know I could have done without him performing it topless… Starsailor had a hard act to follow and despite taking mild amusement at the booing they received after asking if there were any Southampton fans in the crowd, the rest of their set was somewhat less entertaining. Not bad, just nothing too interesting or exciting I felt. The final act of the night was Paul Weller, playing mainstream rock from decades gone by. Although there was a hefty following of Weller fans, the set failed to excite me, with listenable if unspectacular songs which at times seemed to drag on a little.
By the end of day one, some alcohol had been consumed on my part, but not enough in my opinion. Sunday was to prove more fruitful on the alcohol front, involving beer and cider to keep dehydration from the ridiculously hot sun at bay. In fact, the sun was so hot and bright that by Monday a number of body parts were bright red, including my nose and an area of my knee where my trousers had a hole. I’m also pretty sure the sun screen melted as soon as it made contact with my skin… But I digress.First to perform on Sunday were Jimmy’s Big Fish, a band who strangely bore no relation to either emo-rockers Jimmy Eat World or ska-punks Reel Big Fish. To be totally honest I can’t remember much of Jimmy’s Big Fish, which either means they left little impression on me, or I passed out in the heat. But I was certainly conscious for Countermine who I thought played a strong, passionate set. The John Butler Trio played some funky and laid back tunes that were perfect for the blazing sun, and they displayed their musical abilities with an impressive range of instruments. Both The Basement and The Raveonettes were okay, but nothing too special. They just felt a little lacking in energy, perhaps another thing that could be put down to the heat. The Darkness however had no such problems. Despite accusations that they’re a band going purely on the nostalgic novelty value of the 80’s hair metal they emulate, the band had a definite charm onstage and were never less than entertaining. After The Darkness I had to go back to the campsite to pack everything away, unfortunately resulting in missing Hell Is For Heroes. However, when I returned I caught Counting Crows, a band whose upbeat style suited the atmosphere with the setting sun in the background, and some refreshing shade forming in the arena. Unfortunately, I had to leave before Bryan Adams played in order to catch the bus back home.
Overall it was a fun weekend. I wasn’t hugely excited about the line-up, but there were a fair few nice surprises, lots of alcohol, and a great atmosphere. And it was bloody hot.More recent iterations of the festival have included multiple stages, and increased capacity dramatically (2003 had approx 15,000 attendees, in more recent years it has been over 50,000), which hopefully means the atmosphere has been better with more to do. However, when I went it was a decent weekend, but not nearly as good as other festivals I have attended.
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