Review: Isle of Wight Festival 2015


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.

Image via Sian Blewitt

Friday’s downpour didn’t ruin anyone’s mood

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’.

Image via Sian Blewitt

Pharrell Williams was the highlight of Saturday’s lineup

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.

Blur headlined Sunday and Damon Albarn quickly informed the crowd that he had lost his voice the day before. Ice cream van tunes and pink and white neon cones lit up the stage, a contrast to the bands previous modern art decor. Having met a woman on the ferry who was excited to see Blur’s new material, I eagerly anticipated hearing something different from the hits, but I found myself throughout the set wanting to scream “GIRLS WHO ARE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS TO BE GIRLS”. Whilst Blur are undeniably a great headliner, I couldn’t help but leave with a feeling of slight resentment that it wasn’t 1994 and instead 2015.
The Sunday had almost too many good acts to mention, but what turned out to be my favourite festival set EVER, came in the form of the beautiful Paolo Nutini. Although he had obviously had a few before he got on stage, he blessed every festival goer with a heart wrenchingly genuine performance. His encore, which consisted of a raspy yet romantic rendition of ‘Candy’, genuinely brought a tear to my eye.
The most bizarre festival rumour I have ever heard: Fleetwood Mac would be replaced by an Ed Sheeran/U2 collaboration. Thankfully, this was not a “truemour” and instead Fleetwood Mac hailed the main stage in full glory with a full lineup. It was clear that Stevie Nicks was the member of the band who had been ill, as at times in the set, she looked as though she was struggling. However, this did not deduct from an excellent headline set, which gave the crowd exactly what they wanted – hit after hit. Perhaps a highlight of the set for me was not the music, but drummer and founding member Mick Fleetwood, reminding the crowd to be compassionate towards themselves and one another in a short speech following their encore.


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Features Editor, Third year History Student and sarcastic Landlady for The Talking Heads.

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