Live Report: Isle Of Wight Festival 2019

Live Report: Isle Of Wight Festival 2019

From 1969 to 2019...

1969 was such an iconic year for music it’s even got it’s own Wikipedia entry.

Consider this: Woodstock, the Rolling Stones’ infamous Hell’s Angels gig, John and Yoko Ono sit in a bed for peace, the Beatles perform on the roof of Apple HQ, Jim Morrison allegedly gets his little Jim out during a gig, The Who hold their first performance of Tommy, Brian Jones dies and Diana Ross leaves the Supremes. Release wise there’s 'Abbey Road', Space Oddity, Led Zeppellin 'I' and 'II', 'Pinball Wizard', 'The Stooges', 'Let It Bleed' and 'The Jackson 5'. 

It makes sense then, why the Isle of Wight festival this year decided to have 1969 as their theme for 2019, with punters encouraged to dress up as though they were experiencing ‘Summer Of 69: Peace And Love’.

Despite this being a party theme that has been done to death (and then done some more), its no surprise as Isle Of Wight is a festival that loves to bask in the nostalgia of its early manifestation. In 1969 Bob Dylan headlined his first live performance following a motorbike accident three years prior. Other notable acts included The Who, Free and Joe Cocker.

50 years later the bill may be nowhere near as iconic but we did find moments that seemed to encapsulate that late 60s festival energy, but mostly down in the smaller tents and away from the main line up.

Liverpudlian six-piece Red Rum Club have had quite a 12 months. Winning the Pirate Prodigy competition in 2018, they’ve sold out every gig so far this year and their headline set at the This Feeling with Pirate Studios and Scott’s Menswear stage on Thursday night was an absolute carnival with fervent singalongs and more people on shoulders than not.

Their matador-on-the-mersey sound is at its most polished during 'Honey' (like very early Manic Street Preachers) and Calexico but epic closer 'Would You Rather Be Lonely?' took things to the next level with the crowd still piping as they made their way back to their tents. 

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Friday began with jangly Aussie trio DMAs playing to a deluge of multi coloured smoke flares. Singer Tommy O'Dell could hardly keep the smile off his face as he surveyed the carnage in front of him. Every performance from these guys gets better and better and they have the sort of epic tunes to be headlining in a few year’s time.

Next up the front pit went absolutely tectonic for Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Cinnamon, with 'Belter' and 'Sometimes' setting off what felt like the whole festival chirping in unison.

Then it was back to the This Feeling stage for the latest signees to Alan McGee's Creation 23 label, The Ks. Straight out of Blackburn, the passion and intensity is palpable, and these are ones to watch. Next up another Scottish troubadour, the teenage Dylan John Thomas. Leading the through covers of Stone Roses, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash, his originals were just as warmly received. 

Friday night saw a Mancunian double-header of The Courteeners and Noel Gallagher rounding off the main stage. Starting with 'In Love With A Notion' was a masterstroke as Liam Fray and Co unloaded hit after hit. 'Not Nineteen Forever' was greeted with a wall of flares and fans on shoulders.

A scene that, inevitably, followed for every single one of the songs from Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. Beginning with a quartet of tunes from 2018's 'Who Built The Moon', he soon kicked into the standard anthem-mode with Oasis classics.

Saturday’s highlights included Brummie groovers Sugarthief who worked through most of their dreamy indie pop EP I Before E on the This Feeling stage, swapping instruments on almost every tune.

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We stuck around for Saint Agnes who put on a face-melter of a set. Singer Kitty Arabella Austin stalked around like a vulpine banshee, at one point climbing to the top of the lighting rig ensuring she was the talk of the festival the next day.

A wander across the way to the Big Top gave a chance to sample another two new acts making waves. The Snuts, soon to support Lewis Capaldi on tour, gathered a large crowd, and new single 'All Your Friends' is clearly a big fan-favourite already. Palaye Royale have been around for a while but only now are they getting attention in the UK thanks to last year’s breakthrough single 'You’ll Be Fine', which works wonders here, especially down the sweaty front.

Friendly Fires played an electric set and have everyone dancing almost as maniacally as frontman Ed Macfarlane. From the opening 'Lovesick' to closing number 'Kiss of Life', its easy to feel psyched for this year’s long-awaited third album.

As Sunday rolled around, three days of wandering, drinking and listening to some great music were starting to take their toll. Feet were at the Big Top, and the Coventry five-piece don’t disappoint, especially delivering single 'Ad Blue' which sounds like Parquet Courts meets Beck.

Hardwicke Circus were the highlight of The Hard Rock Cafe stage weaving through a sun soaked set of originals and covers. They’re soon off to support Bob Dylan at his Hyde Park British Summertime gig in July and perhaps in homage treated us to an impressive version of 'Highway 61 Revisited'.

By this point, we’re flagging, but after a bout of Madness we head to the Big Top for the magnificent Idles. The Bristolian quartet have been non-stop touring since last year but tear through their set with ferocious intensity and we get stuck in. From the brooding Colossos to confrontational, anti-establishment 'I’m Scum', they give it their all and address a devoted sea of flailing limbs with their most important message: ‘love yourself’.

Idles provide a safe and loving space to, essentially, go fucking crazy. It’s anger, it’s love and it’s peace, all at once - fitting the theme much better than George Ezra and a pair of nylon bell bottoms. 

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Words: Lisa Higgins + Mike Knight

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