Here Ollie Tunmore reflects back on the Saturday of this year’s Isle of Wight Festival 2019.
Returning to the island for my seventh year at the festival, Isle of Wight Festival continues to grow year on year as it brings some of the leading names in rock and pop to a bustling Seaclose Park.
Topped this year by Noel Gallagher (Friday) George Ezra / Fatboy Slim (Saturday) and Biffy Clyro (Sunday), and other appearances from Sigrid, Tom Walker, Friendly Fires, Lily Allen, Rick Astley and many more across the weekend, festival-goers were treated to a wide array of talented acts.
Arriving on site on Saturday as the heavens opened, spirits remained high as fans threw on their waterproof ponchos, glittered up and pulled out the wellies out in true British festival style.
Kicking off the music for the afternoon, Scotland’s KT Tunstall brought a mix of new and old classics to the main stage as the sun managed to creep out.
Performing her famed remix of ‘Black Horse & a Cherry Tree’ and White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, the crowd warmly received Tunstall’s energetic set.
Next, I headed to the Big Top to take a chance on the only breakout name on my schedule for the day – Billy Lockett.
Described as a ‘piano man’, Lockett brought a soulful and intensely emotional set to the stage which was a welcome break from the rock-heavy line-up.
Performing with just a grand piano, he performed new single ‘Every Time You’re High’ and concluded by dedicating track ‘Empty House’ to his late father.
His powerful voice stunned the 5,000 people making up the Big Top crowd, as he claimed, “I genuinely expected about 50 people to be here – so this is blowing my mind… thank you so much.”
Returning to the main stage for the majority of the afternoon, I enjoyed an entertaining performance from British band Sundara Karma, bringing their Kasabian-esque style of alternative rock to the site.
Then followed by 80s legend Rick Astley, who brought his famed high energy set, mixing his own classics and covers of modern pop songs.
Continuing the afternoon’s performances, Anne-Marie brought a 50-minute set of her chart-pleasing pop bangers to a predominantly younger crowd, followed by one of the highest anticipated acts of the weekend: Bastille.
Performing their first show since the release of their third studio album ‘Doom Days’, the band brought a theatrical twist to the main stage, with multiple set/prop changes telling the story behind their latest album.
Although sound issues were a struggle, the band ploughed on through – with frontman Dan Smith even jumping into and dancing through the crowds.
Fans were treated to classics such as ‘Pompeii’ and ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ mixed with new tracks ‘Million Pieces’ and ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ as the sun set on the main arena.
Darting over to the Big Top, Miles Kane and band played to a packed-out stage, showing that he is nothing less than a true British rock star, but with his own flamboyant twist.
With a choppy hair style and glittered under eyes, Kane brought a guitar and drum-heavy rock set to the sweaty crowd.
Next was co-headliner of Saturday, Britain’s pride and joy – George Ezra. Since the release of his second studio album ‘Staying at Tamara’s’, Ezra has been on the fast-track road to taking over the world.
Since his debut album release in 2014, he has clocked billions of streams online, toured the far corners of the globe and was crowned British Male Solo Artist of the Year at the BRITs 2019.
His 70-minute performance in the warm dusk evening was gladly welcomed, from what had been a mixed day for weather, as fans threw off their layers and danced around the site to super-tracks ‘Pretty Shining People’, ‘Budapest’ and ‘Paradise’.
Performing on a stall for the duration of the set, having rolled his ankle the day before, he managed to deliver a charming, charismatic and entertaining set regardless – with a vast band and the most notable set change of the day. Concluding his set with hit track ‘Shotgun’, Ezra proved himself as an unquestionably worthy headliner of the main stage, bowing out to the fireworks lighting up the night sky over the site.
Catching the remaining minutes of British alternative-rock group ‘Friendly Fires’ in the Big Top as I left, I was struck by three things; the band’s mesmerising light show, their energy, and the incredible moves of frontman Edward Macfarlane.
Performing new tracks ‘Love Like Waves’ and ‘Heaven Let Me In’, the band had the audience in the palm of their hands as they executed a flawless set full of camp, colourful, rock energy.
As I walked to the car (to catch the midnight ferry back to the mainland) I could hear Brighton-based Fatboy Slim bringing the night to a close, blasting the main stage with his famed DJing skills, with the light show being seen and heavy bassline being heard for miles across the island.
What stands out about Isle of Wight Festival to me year on year is the fantastic organisation and the sustainable efforts made by the event.
No artist is ever late, security is crawling all over the site, the stages/stands/rides provide more than enough entertainment, and there truly is something for everyone – from young families to groups of teenagers, and through to the more seasoned festivallers…
One thing is for sure, Isle of Wight is a festival that puts considerable effort into its sustainability, its impact and its legacy, and I for one know I will be returning for years to come.