Isle of Wight Festival, 10th - 12th June 2005Newport Isle of Wight, Sunday 12th June 2005
Photos and introduction by Boo and a personal perspective on the whole festival experience from Mr. Boo
The Isle of Wight Festival has gone from strength to strength since the dawn of the new era in 2002. That first year was full of unknown elements and curiosity and an audience as mixed as I've ever seen at a live music event. Some of the hippies from the 70s festival hey days came along to play homage to happy memories and young music fans wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Then it was a single day event and looking back, did rather have the feeling that it was flying by the seat of its pants a bit.
But with two more successful events under its belt, the festival was now well established in music lovers' summer calendars and the gangly and gauche teenager of 2002 was turning into well rounded and assured adult - the event really has come of age.
Starsailor were making their third appearance on the main stage, only missing it in 2004. The line up each year has expanded in both size and quality and the festival now runs over three days. Headliners on the three respective nights being Faithless, Travis (stepping in at short notice when Morrissey was unable to attend) and Roxy Music in joint top billing on Saturday evening and R.E.M. closing the festival on Sunday.
I'll let my husband take up the story, it's about time he made some effort to earn his keep at such events . . .
Whilst I'm knocking on the doors of 47 years old, I've only actually been to three festivals, the IOW 2003, V2004 in Stafford and IOW 2005.
I'm also well aware that on each of these occasions, I've been rather privileged to be in the position of Boo's Official 'Minder', which has delivered the festival goer's Holy Grail of privileges – access to the VIP loos! Mmmm . . . no queuing, clean, flood free, and loo paper - heaven, although Paul Weller's "Best give it five minutes mate" in the Artist's bar at the IOW 2003 was an outright lie - it needed at least ten!
Anyway, given that I've got limited festival experience and am still emotionally scarred by Paul Weller's motions, here's my experience of the IOW 2005 festival (well the Sunday anyway).
My morning constitutional walk on the beach at Sandown, where Boo and I were staying (in a hotel - not on the actual beach at Sandown) made it obvious that the weather was going to be kind, so it was back to the hotel room for a bit of slip-slap-slop - and before the pervies amongst you get all worked up, that's slip on a sun hat, slap on some sun block and slop on a decent shirt to protect my fair complexion from sunburn - all festival goers should take this precaution.
The drive into Newport was good, and so too was the diversion drive practically all the way back to Sandown again to make sure we approached the venue from the right direction.
Once on the festival site itself, it was clear that it was much bigger than 2003 and speaking to John Giddings (blatant name dropping again), he said that we would see a massive difference from when we had last been to the IOW, although he hoped it would be an even better experience.
For those of you who want to cut to the chase now he was right - it was better - much better. For those who don't want to know just yet whether I had a good experience - don't read this paragraph.
With only one stage, the only choices to make were watching the acts or visiting the many and varied food stalls and attractions around the site. After having a bad experience with a 12-inch hotdog at V2004, the thought of which still brings tears to my eyes, I decided to avoid the food stalls and was just heading off to have a full henna body tattoo done, when the first act came on stage.
I would like to point out that this is the real reason why I didn't get a full body tattoo and those nasty rumours circulating that my wife prevented me are just that - I can safely say that I am the master in our marriage, and I have Boo's permission to say so!
The good thing about the IOW site is that with just the one stage, you can wander around and still hear and see all the bands. Boo and I did this with the first few, namely Countermine, Kate Aumonier, The Subways and a band from our youth Caravan and we both thought the standard was such that my shoes might explode with excitement as the night drew on. But as you'll find out however, my shoes were destined to suffer another fate.
I must admit to not having heard of The Magic Numbers, let alone heard of anything by them, but don't go thinking that's because I'm just some old git who really hasn't got his finger on the musical pulse - I work with people younger than me who have never even heard of R.E.M.!
At this point I had to leave Boo to get on with her work behind the scenes. Boo would like me to state here and now for the record that this was for photographic purposes, and not as some would have it said to get into a good position to stalk Peter Buck when R.E.M. arrived. Camouflage sun block and clothing is perfectly reasonable attire for a festival photographer, and spending six hours squatting in a bush looking for a lost lens cap right next to the artist dressing rooms is in fact perfectly normal behaviour, or so I'm told.
I could see that the area around the stage was starting to fill up, so I decided to pay one last visit to the VIP loo (I can just sense that 'festival loo envy' now) before staking my place front-and-centre.
I had been seeking out Parry and the gang he was with, but whilst I had been made aware by Boo via text messages that they were quite close, I couldn't find them, and with the ever increasing crush of people I never did find them. It could however be that they did in fact know where I was and were simply avoiding me.
So to the gang - if you missed meeting up with me, I missed you too, but if you were avoiding me, I didn't want to meet up with you anyway so ner-nerny-ner-ner to you lot!
At this point I think a scale of being squashed in a crowd needs to be established. Level 1 would be having enough space around you to trump without any fear of being detected. Level 5 would be trumping and the people in your immediate area looking at you, calling you rude names, but having enough space to move away in case you repeated the offence. At the other end of the scale, Level 10 would be having so little space around you that you could in fact safely blame any one of the fifteen people right next to you of trumping, and so like with Level 1 it allows you to effectively trump without fear of detection or retribution.
With a reading of Level 6 on the crush-o-meter, the mighty Starsailor (plus 2) were up next – with their occasional guest guitarist Mark Collins (Charlatans), and some strange woman lurking in the shadows taking pictures.
Stel's usual distinctive booming bass however was immediately brought to a grinding halt as something went 'pop' on stage. Consummate professionals however, the rest of the lads carried on whilst there was a lot of lead changing and eventually a change of Stel's bass.
Their set was (as expected) totally superb, and from where I was stood everyone was really into it, although having since watched the TV coverage on Channel 4 of James shouting at the crowd during Four to the Floor, it made it look as though everyone was just killing time and waiting for Embrace to come on stage, but it really didn't feel like that on the ground.
I was also taken aback with James's impression of a London cab driver (Jon Culshaw look out!). James was relaying a conversation he had with a cabbie recently - you know you've made it when cabbies know your songs – "You look like you're in a band mate" said the cabbie, to which James replied "Yes". "Which band are you in then mate?" "Starsailor" said James. "Never heard of you - what songs you done?" James then rattled off some of the best Starsailor titles to which the repeated reply was "Nah - ain't heard of that", until he got to Alcoholic "Woah now you're talking - I've heard of that" but after a slight pause it was followed by the statement "You won't know, but my poor old Dad was an alcoholic" and James relayed how by the time he got to Heathrow, he'd had the poor bloke's whole life story. So fame is clearly a mixed blessing.
Everyone around me thought they did a great set, with the four new songs the lads did being just as well received as the ones we already know and love.
Embrace were up next. For Embrace we are talking level 7 on the crush-o-meter, which left us just enough room to pogo as requested by the band by way of a warm-up for Snow Patrol and R.E.M.
I would now like to ask why anyone would ever think it would be a really brilliant idea to bring a six pack of yogurts to a festival, place them on the ground and then think that they are going to remain intact? The last time I was in a supermarket, festival-resistant titanium packaged chilled dairy products did not exist.
Needless to say, pogo - pogo - pogo - squish - pogo - schluurpy pfllpf - pogo - 'bloody hell, which fool brought yogurts' - pogo - 'oh my yogurts, are they alright?' - pogo - 'what do you think?' - pogo - 'oh well!' - pogo - pogo - brilliant song - cheer and clap, was about the measure of it.
By the middle of their set I was surrounded by two distinct groups of people, some young students half-cut on weak shandy and a group of Welsh lads.
Two facts: firstly, and I know this will come as a shock, not all students appear to squander any of their precious and pathetically inadequate student loans on deodorant and secondly, not all Welsh people can sing in tune!
The best thing however about the IOW in comparison to my experience of V2004 was that at the IOW nobody cared about student B.O. or out of tune Welshmen, but at V, the same caterwauling would have probably earned them a silencing punch on the nose! There was simply no hostility at any time - absolutely everyone I encountered was in a really good mood.
I think as a result of this good mood everyone was in, Embrace, like Starsailor and The Magic Numbers before them, seemed genuinely moved by the crowd response.
It was at this time I received a text from Boo, chuffed to mintballs that Peter Buck had actually spoken to her as she was leaving the Starsailor lads' dressing rooms, having conducted a Q & A session with them for the site here - and she remains absolutely adamant that he didn't say "Get me security - quick!"
As I have the inside track on the Starsailor Q & A session, Barry's answers are as follows: Yes, no, yes, yes, no, two words: ginger and donkey, perhaps, but Stel will have to shave first as I chafe very easily there, and yes but only if I can use cream.
With the crush-o-meter now registering Level 8.5, Snow Patrol took to the stage. Brilliant didn't come close. I saw them at V at Stafford last year, but I thought I'd seen the tribute band 'Frost Patrol' in comparison to what I experienced here.
Whilst the skies had clouded over and I felt a few spots of rain start to fall early on in their set, the sun came out again casting a brilliant golden glow across the stage just as the crowd were singing the last lines of Run, it was all very emotional - ooh I'm filling up just thinking about it again.
With the end of Snow Patrol's set, the crush-o-meter soon hit Level 10 and I would now like to state that my trumps just don't smell like that - OK - it really wasn't me! Not this time.
There are simply no superlatives superlative enough to describe R.E.M.'s superlativeness, so you can perhaps gather what I and everyone there thought of their performance, so I'll relate a conversation that took place just to my left half way through R.E.M.'s superlative performance - by the way have I mentioned that R.E.M. were good?
Now I accept that I work with some musical luddites who think that Embrace is a posh cuddle and Starsailor is a ferry pilot who landed the night shift, but I just could not believe one of the young students asking her mate So, like, who's on after this lot - they'll, like, surely never fill a two hour slot? Her mate pointed out to her that R.E.M. were in fact the headline act. She clearly hadn't been paying attention.
The other thing that made me laugh during R.E.M.'s absolutely amazingly superlative and generally good performance was the sight of a rather 'substantial' young lass just to my right trying to climb on the shoulders of her boyfriend, who was at best five feet tall and about eight stone wet through. For those who know me you will all know that I am neither sizeist, ageist or any other 'ist' you care to think of, but honestly she was no stranger to the odd fish supper and in respect of him, well I've seen more meat on a butcher's pencil! I did however start to play dot-to-dot with the zits on his neck whilst waiting for R.E.M. to come on stage - you'll do anything sometimes to take your mind off a Level 10 Crush with a full bladder!
Anyway, either that shandy was really strong, or he was simply overcome with the magnificence of R.E.M.'s most excellent performance and gamefully gave it a try. Let's just say the laws of physics and mechanics were working against him. I did think his excuse was a good one though - blaming his failure on me and the other people around him - cheeky blighter.
I'm not going to bore you with what songs they played, 'cos frankly, I can't remember, but they were all simply brilliant.
They did however finish the main set with that one with the 'miniature guitar' - or did my eyes deceive me and had Peter Buck suddenly grown two feet taller and a foot wider? (Parry will get that one as he's often heckled when spanking his mandolin with the line how small is that guitar? or how big is that guitarist?)
Boo and I had set off from home on Saturday morning, waved off by Boo Jnr with the words "you two behave yourselves!" Hang on, at 17, shouldn't we be doing the waving off and issuing the same stern warning? Anyway, we both knew IOW 2005 would be good and we knew from past experience that it had the potential for much more - in the end, IOW 2005 was just plain brilliant from start to finish.
So to summarise:
Disclaimer: Not everything you have read here may be exactly as it happened . . .
. . . but that Paul Weller . . .
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