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Friday at the Isle of Wight

By the end of play on Friday night the Isle of Wight had truly arrived... “At festivals you should expect the unexpected”

It’s 4pm when Australia’s Sneaky Sound System arrive on the main stage to properly get the Isle of Wight Festival underway. With a huge amount of stalls selling everything from local food, jewellery, second hand clothes, art prints, and of course silly hats, up until now the event has seemed more like a bazaar than a music festival.

This is dance day, and the luck factor strikes again for the IoW organisers as their opening act are currently gracing the UK dance charts at number 1. Best known for their hit UFO, the infectious beats of their songs, and the soulful voice of lead singer Connie Mitchell wake the crowd from their slumber, though it is a fantastic cover of Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) which really connects with the audience. Quickly followed by UFO, and finishing with their current hit It’s Not My Problem, they go out on a high to a growing crowd, and set the stage for the rest of the day.

Iglu and Hartly, who follow, are a band who create polarising opinions, and today is no different. Well known for their top 5 hit In This City, it is not their music which is the cause of the problem, but the lead singer Jarvis Anderson. Their LA surf-rock is met by a bemused crowd, not quite getting it, and certainly not sure if they like the shirtless, long haired Jarvis, who tries his best with plenty of swearing to get the audience going. In This City, their closer, goes down well, but it is also met with a sense of relief that it’s been played, and can the Ting Tings come on now?

Like Iglu and Hartly, The Ting Tings polarise opinion, but unlike Iglu, they were rapturously received. Opening with the title track from their debut album ‘We Started Nothing’, and backed by a four piece brass band, they gave the crowd what they wanted, the hits; Great DJ, Be the One, Traffic Light, and a frantic version of Shut Up and Let Me Go which saw lead singer Katie White going ballistic behind her keyboard were all rapturously received by the crowd. Suddenly all the neon outfits seemed to fit right in. Before their closing song, That’s Not My Name, Kate tells the audience ‘This one is about being invisible – sing it’. And they abide.

From the minute the black clad Pendulum hit the stage, the unsuspecting crowd were almost shocked at how intense they were. The Main stage was packed to the rear by the festival goers jumping and dancing as Pendulum played Showdown, Fasten Your Seatbelt, Mutiny and the crowd favourite, Slam. However, it was a cover which got the crowd really roused. “At festivals,” lead singer Rob Swire said, “You should expect the unexpected” upon which the band launched into Voodoo People by the Prodigy, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Granite closed the band’s amazing set, and you have to wonder how long it will be before they headline festivals. As the band left the stage, Rob smiled, hugged and congratulated all the band. They’d thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the crowd had too, and you were left wondering how Basement Jaxx could ever follow that.

And though they tried, they simply couldn’t. Pendulum had produced such an intense, fun, and energetic set, there was only ever one band that could match, or indeed surpass it. And the Prodigy weren’t going to be on for another 2 hours. It wasn’t really Basement Jaxx’s fault, though the set was very mixed with a few too many slowies. Even with having a range of singers, instruments, dancers, tunes and experience, their set seemed lame after the louder, harder, just better Pendulum.  About half way through the set, the band seemed to finally find their rhythm, and Red Alert sounded like a band having fun. They followed with a great bouncing version of Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon, a frenzied Jump ‘n’ Shout, and a crowd pleasing Bingo Bango. Rendez –Vu got the crowd moving, but it was Where’s Your Head At which showed us all why Basement Jaxx had got to where they are today. It was a crazy, fast, urgent version of it, Felix Buxton coming to the front of the stage and almost taunting the crowd, spitting the words out like a man gone insane. So the band left having done their job, but the crowd had already moved on, and were preparing and discussing eagerly the next band, the Prodigy.

Unless you have seen the Prodigy, it is very hard to describe the experience. They know they are good. They have nothing to prove. They are the godfathers of this genre. They taunt the audience, they stare down the festival cameras, no smiles, lots of anger, and a bit of comedy. “All those eating at the back” calmly says Maxim Reality, “Wrong time. To the Isle of Wight warriors at the front here, sustain yourself!” Their music is loud, fast, and they now have a huge collection of songs to choose from.  They played a set comprised of some of their classics, and tracks off the brilliant Invaders Must Die album. Breath, Firestarter, Voodoo People were played around Omen, Warriors’s Dance and Run With Wolves, all leaving the crowd ecstatic and breathless.  After an encore of Smack My Bitch Up, Diesel Power and Out of Space, the band quickly leave the stage. “They were better than at Radio 1’s Big Weekend”, “They were better than at Brixton”; just two of the comments from passer-bys as we slowly, sweatily, left the arena. The Prodigy came and conquered, and The Isle of Wight 09 Festival had truly arrived. Roll on tomorrow....

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Mike Rowbottom
18th June 2009
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Friday at the Isle of Wight

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