The Isle Of Wight Festival has a legendary history, harking back to the Summer of Love when Bob Dylan returned to the spotlight after a long hiatus, and the following year when Jimi Hendrix played in front of an estimated 600,000 people – the biggest crowd Britain has ever seen. The Isle Of Wight Festival today, like most of the majors, is a well-organised, strictly controlled, and corporate affair that has been steadily growing in popularity since it began in 2002 and has but a titular connection to the original.
Perhaps because of the nearly 30 year gap in successive Isle Of Wight Festivals the organisers tend to include a selection of acts from previous decades with recent headliners, including The Sex Pistols, Neil Young and The Rolling Stones. No surprise then that this year follows the same pattern, especially in the “they’re still alive?” category. As well as The Beatles cover band that is Paul McCartney filling the Sunday night slot on the main stage, an eclectic, eyebrow raising mix of retro acts like Spandau Ballet and Suzanne Vega get high spots and Ocean Colour Scene, Suzie Quatro, the recently reformed Reef and James fill out some Big Top slots over the three days.
For campers who arrive early, Jimi Hendrix tribute act Are You Experienced? has the now almost traditional honour of starting the festival on Thursday, before the festival proper gets underway on Friday with Jay-Z headlining on the main stage. Two years ago Glastonbury made the Gallagher-irking move to put him on as a headliner and, although it’s a less risky move now, it’s still a considerable leap for a festival that has only had three American acts headlining since the modern manifestation began in 2002; the previous black American headliner was Jimi Hendrix, three weeks before his death in 1970. Also appearing on the main stage on Friday are Florence And The Machine, continuing their pattern of world domination, Calvin Harris and The Doves. Like last year, Friday under The Big Top showcases only female artists with Suzie Quatro headlining a diverse range that also includes Juliette Lewis, Marina And The Diamonds and Shakespears Sister throwing their toque on to the stage.
On Saturday The Hold Steady turn up to enthrall the daytime crowd with their solid new album and considerable back catalogue before antipodean softies Crowded House do much the same. Vampire Weekend, Blondie and Biffy Clyro will do their best to create that festival moment before The Strokes take the headline spot when the sun goes down. On Sunday Paul McCartney might be the perfect choice for the festival closer as the person most likely to bring two solid hours of sing-along tunes to a tired and dirty crowd of 50,000+ punters, and he is preceded by a diverse collection of artists like Pink, Editors and Friendly Fires.
The Isle itself is nowadays the unofficial start and end point of the UK summer festival season, kicking off on 11th June this year with the Isle Of Wight Festival and completing the circle with Bestival in late summer. While Bestival is considered to be more alternative, the Isle Of Wight Festival’s varied line-up this year might be the perfect destination for those searching for a good dose of nostalgia mixed in with their chart tunes.