Thursday, 16 June 2016

Isle Of Wight Festival 2016 Part One - Flat Caps And Festival Hats

So after a 20 month break the blog is back. I could come up with many excuses for the bloglessness: Running a shop, heart surgery, solving the Ecuadorian marmite issue but basically it's been laziness. But (too many buts? (You'll see I still have my love of brackets)) after a stunning weekend at The Isle Of Wight Festival I thought the blog/diary should at least make one more appearance. Who knows, I may get the bug again. Speaking of which I think there's still some kind of bug in my now packed up tent.

I was there working with Bang Bang Romeo. I say working. I carried an amp and sold some CDs. I spent more time in a hammock. So lets diary it up. Predictably that said dairy it up originally. We were heading to Cowes though.


Friday 10th June

It would take too long to go into all the reasons why a 9am departure became a 10.30am departure for the heavily packed car and minibus. It just happened, O.K?  All was going smoothly till about 90 minutes from Southampton we realised we had an hour before the ferry left. Richard Gartland is an extraordinarily talented drummer but his real forte lies in navigating. What with that and manager Keith ignoring most of the rules of the road we got to the ferry port ten minutes before we were due to depart. Ferry was half hour late. Bloody thing.

Got to the island, had my first Waitrose experience (crayfish and rocket sandwich anyone?), found the festival site, eventually found where we had to pick up all our passes. First mistake of the weekend, put my wristbands on too tight, nearly lost my 2nd favourite hand. Our camping gate was the one before the passes gate so had another drive around the fascinating one way system till we eventually got to where we needed to be. Spent an hour trying to put my tent up. I was putting the wrong pole in the wrong hole. Once I'd got the right hole it only took me 2 minutes. I think I need to stop this now.

I should point out before we enter the festival proper that it all got a bit messy so the memories are hazy at best (it is now 4 days since The Who played and I only remembered singing my head off to See Me, Feel Me because it came on my iPod this morning).

Festival hat on and we're ready to go on. A bright orange hat on a 6'5" bloke became a very useful meeting point over the next 3 days. First port of call was Main Stage to meet Faithless drummer Andy Treacey. He's worked with BBR in the past and is a big supporter of the band as we'd find out later. Said hello to the Everything, Everything boys who had just come off the Main Stage, had photos took with Jess Glynne, met one of the greatest drummers on the planet and then back into the main festival site. It was about time we actually saw some bands. 

This Feeling Jack Rocks stage for Hidden Charms, a band I've heard but never seen. I was reliably informed that live they are something very special indeed. They are. First band in and the bar is already set very high indeed. 

Hidden Charms

Do I need to point out the beer had been flowing freely for sometime now. This is where it all get hazy. Main Stage for Stereophonics, a band I've kinda lost my way with in recent years. I was with them till 2005 then we just drifted apart. Like an ex parading her new fella who is better than you in every way they showed me I'd been wrong to leave them and should have fought for our relationship. Indian Summer and Graffiti On The Train in particular were magnificent. Kelly Jones surprised us all with some serious shredding. They were simply brilliant. 

Chris Walker (who just to make things easier for all the people saying 'I know your face' we rechristened TV's Chris Walker) had bumped into a mate running a cocktail bar. Free cocktail's to look forward to. Various members of our party went wandering with the instructions 'Meet to the left of Chinese, Thai & Japanese. Look for the orange hat'. That noodle stall became the centre of our universe. 
TV's Chris Walker and his more famous daughter

Tall man in orange hat and the stage tech legend that is Sam Craggs

A friend of mine questioned Faithless headlining over Stereophonics. To me it made perfect sense. Faithless are quite possibly the ultimate festival band. I once saw them do a 1pm slot at V99 and still wipe the floor with all that followed. Dusk was kicking in, stage lights getting frenzied as Andy Treacey's drums thundered round the site and there it was: First big screen close up and he's only resplendent in a Bang Bang Romeo T-shirt. Heaven. The band joined him on stage and launched into Emergency. It's a stunning 18 song set. God Is A DJ, Muhammed Ali, Insomnia, Bombs and closer We Come 1, all magnificent.

So BBR were playing The Big Top at 1.20pm on the Saturday. That's primarily why we were there and commendably the band set themselves a Friday night curfew which, after sampling the free cocktails, they all stuck to. 

Saturday 11th June

So I wish I could tell you we awoke refreshed and raring to go. I wish I could tell you that. Still, we were awake and slowly coming round. The main thing was to get band and gear to The Big Top for 11am. This we duly did, loaded the gear back stage and retired to our dressing room. This is the life. 

So beers in the fridge, food laid out, showers, Iggy Pop's crew nicking my fags and guitar hero Ross Cameron ironing Starsie's dress. Rock 'n' Roll. 

Show time. I made my way stage front in my new role as official merch guy. I'd tried security and drum tech and failed. (I soon lost the merch role to Holly Pocket and resorted to type as the bloke who could lift heavy things). I think Chris, Sam and myself were more nervous than the band. This was huge. This was a main stage at a major festival. We needn't have worried. It should never have been in doubt. IOW organiser John Giddings has tipped BBR as a future Main Stage headliner and for good reason. They belong on the big stage. Christ, they owned a big stage. 

They have the songs. Invitation, Revolver, Carnival, Reach Out, Johannesburg are all massive tunes. I mean seriously massive. Joel Phillips and Richard Gartland are as tight a rhythm section as you could wish to see. It is since these guys came together that the band have stepped up to another level. 

Ross Cameron's guitar is just sheer genius. It swirls through the songs, wraps itself round them, batters them into submission before letting them loose like a 'savage butterfly'. All this while the man himself looks the epitome of cool. 

And stage front is Miss Anastasia Walker. There is no better female singer in this country right now. Throw any name you want at me and you wont convince me otherwise. Her voice is a weapon. It fills the massive Big Top and floats over the festival site drawing people in from all over. Her stage craft is magnificent. Certain performers have that quality that you just can't take tour eyes off. Starsie has that. She was born to do this.

So hard to pick a highlight but new song The Bliss is just pure class. It's the band taking us to a new level, Starsie's mid song rant pulling us in further. I can't do it justice. You truly have to see it live to believe just what a phenomenon it is. 

I have to confess to crying my eyes out all through the set. The emotion of seeing a band I've followed and loved for years putting in a world class performance at such an important moment in their career. I'm not sure I've ever felt so proud.

Also seeing your mates on a big screen is always a bit special.

So after selling some t-shirts and a boat load of CDs it was back to the dressing room to empty the fridges and reflect on what had just happened. It was all a bit breathtaking. 

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