14 June 2006

Isle of Wight Festival 2006

There are dozens more pictures of how I spent my rock and roll weekend and here they are.

England’s “Woodstock” was a beautiful dream from 1968 to 1970 until a scarcely believable one million hippies took over the Island, forcing action at government level. In 1970 the ‘Isle of Wight Act’ was passed by Parliament to ban all future festivals. The Act was repealed in 2002…

2006 sold out months ago but I came across a single last minute ticket (the vendor knows how grateful I am.) The one hundred and sixty square-mile island is barely separated from the mainland by a narrow strait but has the feel of a bygone era. A crucial local newspaper, scores of cousins and low mileage vintage cars demonstrate the efficiency of water as a boundary.

A note-by-note account of the music would have you yawning and reaching for the remote so I’ll stick to highlights and atmosphere but here’s a quick scan of the 3-day line-up:

The Prodigy
The Rakes
Morning Runner

Foo Fighters
Primal Scream
Dirty Pretty Things
The Kooks
The Proclaimers
The Upper Room
Suzanne Vega
The On Offs

Richard Ashcroft
Lou Reed
Maximo Park
Procol Harum
The Windows
Skyline Heroes

Thank you to Steve and his daughter for introducing me to island life.

I like it at the front, bouncing, up close and personal but in a giant seething crowd of fifty-five thousand that was impractical and downright fucking dangerous. I held a variety of positions over the weekend, sometimes within twenty yards of the stage at others two hundred yards away. At times the only way from A to B was to get your head down and push people hard to create a path where no gaps exist.

It rains too much in England but I was treated to three hot blue summer days in a row. I borrowed a girly blue hat to shade my sensitive forehead and slapped on SPF thirty-five. Wrap-around Oakleys saved my sore eyes. Late morning there was plenty of grassy meadow to sit on but by 11pm it was ‘sardines’ in a field. Stand in your garden for twelve hours a day and you’ll know how my feet, legs and back feel! Make sure you find a spot with not a speck of shade and choose a cloudless weekend. Yes, physical and emotional exhaustion are very real.

Teenage girls in halter-tops passed around spliffs as thick as your finger and scampered on dirty bare feet. Forty-something guys took off their T-shirts to sport taut white beer bellies. Bronzed fifty plus women bent to reveal seductive lower back tattoos and young boys with beer mugs staggered in the sun, their eyes reduced to unseeing slits. Oh, and there was me in my borrowed blue hat.

Fifty-five thousand souls make a lot of noise, they drop litter ankle-deep and they produce a vast amount of “waste” – please don’t invite me to discuss the toilet arrangements… The whole world and his wife thumbed texts in their mobile phones or shrieked into them, jumping and waving wildly to an unseen friend a hundred yards away. The air was thick with alphabet soup, text messages became constipated in the hot dusty air taking an hour to travel ten paces and thousands of digital cameras recorded every scene for posterity.

If the music failed to move you there were fairground rides three hundred feet tall to scare the pants off you. Another field of stalls sold ridiculous hats, shawls, beads and a myriad of hippie trinkets. Beyond that lay thousand upon thousand tiny tents for the hardy festival campers and after that acres of cars, their windscreens glittering in the dazzling June sun.

Back to the stage - huge beach balls bounced over our heads and imaginative souls held aloft inflatable alligators, waved flags on twelve foot masts and swayed to the summery sounds. Bands I thought might be wild were somewhat restrained and bands I had no expectations for blew me away. The variety was spine-tingling, from angular modern punk to sweeping anthems, from thrashing rock to mellow melodies, it was all here over three days. The sound was huge. This equipment aficionado studied the gigantic towers of PA speakers, the python-thick cabling and the million-knob mixing desks – wow I want one of those!

Procol Harum (Whiter Shade of Pale) were way down the order on day two and I expected nothing. So why did I become so very emotional and choke up completely at their set? Thirty six years ago they played at the final original I.o.W. Festival when I was a teenage schoolboy with my whole life ahead of me. I was yet to make the crazy fucking mistakes and do the reckless things that would forever change the course of my life. The humility and dignity of these men was beautifully understated yet emotionally charged. They will die doing the thing they love and their own mistakes are just part of a rich life. Music has extraordinary power.

Richard Ashcroft stabbed the mic at his bare chest offering his soul to the masses. Wearing his tormented heart on a ragged sleeve he introduced songs of love and death, depression and suicide - including "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "Lucky Man." The band left the stage leaving him to deliver "The Drugs Don't Work" with just his acoustic guitar. An emotional roller-coaster.

Dirty Pretty Things were as skinny as sharpened pencils, kings of cool in spray-on black denim with backs to the crowd. Swigging sherry from the neck of a bottle at twenty six you know they are approaching the essential age for rock and roll suicide.

Memories of grass hot but damp, cigarette lighters held aloft, searing green lasers that pierce the black night, ten vast video screens so those at the back of the island don’t see the players as ants, throbbing pounding bass that shakes my spleen, picking my way through piles of half eaten burgers and noodles, the setting sun, a death-defying electrician climbing the lighting gantry like a monkey, burning skin, azure skies, green eyes, sentimental fucking emotions, summer memories and still a teenager at forty eight…


sirreene said...

wishing I were there.....

Anna Piutti* said...

Good bands/singers.

Patry Francis said...

You look pretty cool in that blue hat. Love the passionate commentary.

Perfect Virgo said...

Sirreene - wishing you were there. This was a weekend of astonishing music which I know you would have loved.

Anna - I enjoyed the atmosphere and the sights and sounds, Placebo were the best act for me.

Patry - thank you. I hope the words conveyed something of the flavour. By the way I have to own up I am not the cool guy in the blue trilby I am behind the lens at all times. To satisfy your curiosity I may post a pic of the girly hat, it really is girly!


My only wish is that I was there. Sounds so wonderful PV. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself.
I see you,
PS: I would of went on all those scary rides for sure!!!!!!!!

GEL said...

The tenacious hold or release of music grabbing your innards in a vice or freeing your spirit to soar... This "spine-tingling" innundation once-in-a-life time weekend sends minty ripples through me from your riveting descriptions. I can easliy imagine the ferocity of emotions surging to the surface from the surprise impact of certain songs.

P.S. Often I look into my teenage daughter's green eyes, hear her voice, watch her body language, and I literally ache with acute recall, feeling like I did then... (sigh) as the parental, responsible me disappears briefly into welcome quicksand. Remembering, feeling, and acting young is a gift. Age truly doesn't need to be a cement barrier.

Queen Neetee said...

We skipped the light fandango,
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor'
I was feeling kind of seasick.
Procal Harum
I can feel that! I would have gotten choked up too!
I was 19 years old when "Woodstock" took place. I listened to it on the radio as I was stretched out across my bed crying because my mother wouldn't let me travel from San Diego with semi-strangers to Yasgur's Farm in New York. Actually, I'm happy that she didn't let me.
But you little brother! What an absolutely wonderful commentary about another one of your FABULOUS music experiences.
It was as if I was standing by your side at every turn. When you write about music, I can definitely hear it!
Great bands! I think Wolfmother should have been there.
This is one exciting piece!!!
I LOVE this!

Thanks perfect virgo!
(forgive me for writing such a long comment. I was excited!)

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - you would have been in your element. You're a rock 'n roller so you'd have fitted right in. I bet you have a girly hat too!! One of the rides is a small open cage just big enough for two which is catapulted hundreds of feet in the air like a reverse bungee. I felt sick just watching.

Silvermoon - sir/prize imp-act is spot on. It spoils if I try to anal-yze it, but a heady mix of nostalgia, sunshine, ifs-and-buts-and-maybes combined to give me a rare few moments of lump-in-throat happiness. Seriously middle-aged but ridiculously, boyishly forever young...

PS: (penultimate son) reminds me of me. Young, lithe, invincible, impossibly strong and in demand. Our green/blue-eyed children keep our outlook fresh.

Neetee - I was 12 that year! What a life-affirming experience that would have been for you but a hazardous 3,000 mile journey. I fell hard for music three years later with Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. How those Woodstock and IoW festival-goers would marvel at today's vast screens, amazing sound quality and ever-mushrooming new acts.

Glad you tuned in to my commentary, maybe my emotional spot was a touch tender just then and Procol Harum found it.

I notice Wolfmother are playing the Astoria in London this summer but they would be a good band to rock a festival. Keep going I like long comments :)

finnegan said...

what is it about that procol harum song anyway? is it the elegiac quality that runs through it? you took me back to that time and that song (especially the melody) which opened up a whole pandora's box of emotions.

if i'd been at wight with you, we could have added our years up to over a hundred, boo-hooing together and scattering wary concert-goers so as to create ourselves a nice bit of breathing room.

doughgirl said...

To die doing the thing you love...Imagine.

Sounds like a great time, wish I was there to enjoy it with you. As usual excellent writing..

...to die doing what I love hmmm...

Perfect Virgo said...

Finn - good point young man. Our combined ages are horrific! Just the false teeth and missing limbs should be enough to make people stand off. We may not need to resort to tears!

DG - that band's singer said "I am not going to die on the toilet, I want to be up here doing the thing I love, the only thing I know."

I love your cheeky double meaning, good to see that humour returning. It has been sorely missed but I know you have been in a bad place.

GEL said...

"4-ever young"- Bob Dylan or Rod Stewart...

Savor the lump in your throat happiness and try to refrain from "anal-eyes!" although I, too, find that difficult.
One of my daughter's has blue eyes (with a touch of green), lest readers think you're talking of "our" children. No blog offspring surprises here.

Perhaps it's skewed thinking, but I feel I'd still have "never grown up" (akin to Peter Pan), even if I'd rather had children. That playful (impish) side of me, is too deeply ingrained. I hope you're still floating from your weekend.

Perfect Virgo said...

Silvermoon - I sewed a patch on my leathers which reads "Forever Young," I hope it says all I need to say. People might never guess the mysterious rider in black is not a teenager...

Each of my nine sons has blue eyes and brown hair.

I am reminded of Neverland.

Cocaine Jesus said...

i like wolfmother. i like wolfmother very much. another cool review PV.

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - there's a lot there you would have liked mate. Add sun and nostalgia to the mix and wow!

steve said...

quite a writeup - hope you're having a good recharge time