The Isle of Wight Festival 2015 paid tribute to it’s heritage this year with a special weekend dedicated to the legends who had made the festival popular in the 1970’s. 45 years ago to the date of the festival, 600,000 people crammed together to watch Jimi Hendrix, arguably the world’s greatest guitarist in his prime. Unknown to the thousands of festival goers, he would die only a few months later at the age of just 27. With this in mind, festival organisers made an obvious effort to make this particular year special, with a spectacular line up that included a headline slot from newly reunited Fleetwood Mac.
This was my first time at The Isle of Wight Festival, and having previously experienced the bass heavy drug-fest that is Bestival in the same area, I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately though, arriving early on Friday I found that the crowd consisted of mainly middle aged parents and the vibe was a lot more chilled. Any queuing was made easy by instant laughing and conversation with other festival goers.
I kickstarted the weekend by watching Counting Crows. I had listened to them briefly back in my high school ’emo’ years and was seriously intrigued to see what they were like live – I was pleasantly surprised. The band had obviously been performing together for years and were fantastic showmen, with a well rehearsed set that they worked through effortlessly. Lead singer, Adam Duritz, showcased real emotion with every song he performed and engaged the crowd throughout.
The Prodigy headlined the Friday, and despite a constant downpour of rain, they provided an utterly
insane performance. When the first crashes of drums opened their set the entire crowd surged forward welcoming the unruliness that was expected to follow. They did not disappoint, and Sleaford Mods’ singer Jason Williamson guest appeared on the thuggish ‘Ibiza’, adding to the chaotic performance. Mid-set they pulled out their biggest hit, ‘Firestarter’, along with deep red flares that made the entire crowd look like it had been set alight. Nobody stopped moving during the hour long set and by the end of it I had burned off the calories of the overpriced pizza I had eaten earlier and was absolutely drenched.
Saturday provided a line up that meant a lot of running around. The Jack Daniel’s Stage was smaller and had a crafted line up of some of the best up-and-coming bands on the festival circuit. We caught Hyena there in the afternoon, an alternative rock band who had recently supported Turbo Wolf in Southampton. Hyena bestow a chaotic, gut-wrenchingly raw live show littered with an impressive amount of “on-stage banter” which proves the group have been friends for years. They finished their set with their edgy new single ‘Mental Home’.
The highlight of Saturday was Pharrell Williams. It’s easy to forget how many chart toppers Williams has featured on. He worked through a momentous amount of hits with astounding choreography from his backing dancers. However, despite the intricate pre-planning of his seamless evening slot, the highlight was a complete surprise. As the seductive baseline of N.E.R.D‘s 2004 hit ‘She Wants to Move’ echoed through the speakers, a middle aged mother leapt on stage and begun the most raucous dance-off in history. Williams amorously complied with her advances and the two got it off for the entire song. Contrastingly, the set ended with an entire choir of children joining Pharrell onstage for ‘Happy’, bringing an emotional end to Williams’ incredible performance.