Elections are exhausting, aren’t they? Come morning on Friday 9th June, we were all in need of an escape. You might have dreamt of sailing to an idyllic island where 3G is sparse and Breaking News updates can’t find you. Along with 60,000 other festival-goers, I took that dream and made it a reality.
My escapist retreat left me assured in saying that the Isle of Wight Festival is the perfect festival experience if you’re a Southampton student. While its location on the island may sound dauntingly difficult to reach, it couldn’t be any easier with Red Funnel Ferries offering multiple crossings per hour. Each offer stunning views of the Solent and impressively cheap hot food aboard (which you’ll need before and after a festival). After docking at East or West Cowes, you choose between a quick bus or a picturesque boat ride to reach Seaclose Park – bringing your journey time to an average of an hour and a half.
IoW organiser John Giddings and his team should be applauded for their continued commitment to finding an eclectic range of acts at the festival. Music can be found in all shapes and sizes at the festival across a menagerie of stages. While the Main Stage boasts both the biggest artists and crowds of the weekend, the Big Top welcomes an equally versatile range of well-known names, and smaller venues showcase everything from 80s electro-pop to exclusive rock bands. While traipsing from one venue to another can be a tiresome exercise (thick crowds everywhere, not to mention hazardous mud and deadly potholes), there’s something for everyone.
An inadvisable all-nighter of depressing politics resulted in my late and exhausted arrival to the festival. I missed Razorlight causing a storm in the Big Top on Thursday, but the show really got started on the Friday. Alternative rock band Nothing But Thieves tore up an afternoon set on the Main Stage, with various acts including the Sex Pissed Dolls and Lucy Spraggan offering alternative sounds at the other venues. The first big name on the line-up was a sunset performance from Rag’n’Bone Man – doubtlessly the Sound of 2017 so far. His seamless vocals stretching across Seaclose Park was surely an early highlight for all that saw him, with a strummed down performance of ‘Skin’ in particular demonstrating just how talented the 30-year-old rising star is.
A welcome shock to the system after Rag’n’Bone Man’s soothing set came in the form of the Kaiser Chiefs, alighting the Main Stage with performances of classics including ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’, ‘I Predict A Riot’, and of course ‘Ruby’. Led by showman Ricky Wilson, their performance well and truly hyped the audience ahead of the night’s joint headliners. Wilson can be commended for his stamina, sprinting up and down the stage relentlessly, though the memorable crowd surf I witnessed at last year’s Boardmasters was sadly absent. A highlight for many on Friday I’m sure, they provided a notably different sound to what followed from Run-D.M.C. and David Guetta.
Though Run-D.M.C. may not ring bells for the younger music fans at the festival, their iconic hits ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘It’s Tricky’ had all generations chanting along with the hip hop duo. ‘Run’ (Joseph Simmons) ensured the entire festival knew how special it was to be seeing the largely retired New York icons in the flesh with his largely comical bragging (“We got so many hits I don’t know what to play next!”), while they honoured their deceased DJ Jam Master Jay by introducing his sons DJs ‘Jam Master J’Son’ and T.J. Mizell to play as part of their set.
The night ended with a spectacular light show from French DJ David Guetta, which ran for a lengthy hour and a half and featured both fireworks and flamethrowers as part of the set. Though a DJ set isn’t to everyone’s tastes (myself included), he played both his own material and some of the biggest tracks in current electronic house, even putting his own spin on the Chainsmokers and Coldplay at one point. Very clearly juxtaposing with headliners to come – Arcade Fire (Saturday) and Rod Stewart (Sunday) – Guetta’s set only reinforces Giddings and co’s desire to please all music lovers at the Isle of Wight Festival.