I love music festivals. Thatâs a fact. I love the atmosphere, the booze at 10 in the morning, the smell of greasy hamburgers and Chinese food mixed with the one of piss and beer for the whole time... And I even love the chavs and demented all dressed up for some reason that I, foreign, am not given to understand.
But, getting old, I stand less and less the idea of camping, mounting the tent, walking for our to get to the campsite, cold showers, and what if itâs raining, not to mention the idea of paying 150 quid for a 3-day tour de force in the woods and mud and the mathematic certainty that you will see maybe half of the bands you really wanted to see because usually the stage times overlap or youâre behind a tree throwing up the 5 litres of beer youâve had since breakfast.
So when I was asked to come to the Isle of Wight festival on Sunday as part of the crew (none the less as the only English speaker out of 10 people), I immediately said YES, already anticipating the pleasures of the backstage, dressing room full of free booze, VIP area, nice and (again) free food, not to mention wristband of a different colour that basically says to everyone else: âYou, losers, get away! Iâve got the power, Iâve got the bracelet that opens all the doors of this festival HA!â
And thatâs what it was, indeed.
Sundayâs line up was pretty cool, most of the bands I like at the moment were playing in the Big Top stage, curated by The Charlatansâ Tim Burgess, while I didnât pay much attention to the Main stage, that counted among his highlights Goldie Lookinâ Chain, that my friend obliged me to see (it was good fun though) a great set by reformed and rejuvenated Pixies, and an immortal (and kind of cute - in a pervy way, maybe? - for me that Iâm not that much into his guitar riffs and solos â that he must love so much, I think he does love his guitar) Neil Young.
So, here we are. After unloading the equipment and drinking a whole lot of booze thatâs waiting for us in the dressing room me and my mates head to the Big Top stage.
Dance For Burgess, this amazing up an coming band from Italy, mix of garage/ post-punk/ shoegaze at their best, put me straight into the festival mood, armed with Vox Phantom from the 60âs and Billyboy guitars. Theyâre young, theyâre all tiny but they know their shit.
FYI: the name is NOT a tribute to Tim Burgess, even though thatâs what he probably thought when he hand picked them via Myspace and he probably still likes to believe. It's the name of a composition by Edgar VarÃ©se written in 1949 and never performed.
Hatcham Social do another great set. With their donât-give-a-fuck attitude (the clash on the drum in broken, but who cares? They keep banging!) and creepy looks they give us a great performance of their first album â that to me, sounds so much better and more powerful played live than recorded.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart look and sound a bit bored. Maybe they're fed up with gigs and festivals and want a holiday? Who can blame them, considering that theyâve been playing non-stop in Europe for more than a month. Still, they present us with an outstanding performance. They seem to be a bit out of place among Killing Joke, Hatcham Social and The Horrors with their of their shoegazey twee-pop. And the crowd seems unimpressed, too. Still, to me they remain one of the best acts in the line-up.
But the true highlights of the day for me are The Horrors.
Their set overlaps with The Pixiesâ on the Main stage. Hmmm hard decision: rock legends or hype garage-goth-krautrockers? After 10 minutes at The Pixies, just to make sure theyâre still as great as I remember, we go back to the Big Top tent, moved by curiosity and a bit of scepticism to be honest.
You know, if you're a real fan you donât really trust a band anymore after theyâve graced the pages of the NME and Vice and acted in the Mighty Boosh. But they are actually getting better and better. Despite some small techy problems, on stage they are still as mad as they used to be, and even more. Hot stuff. â¨Just a shame the front rows are full of chavs dancing like they are at some rave in 1992. But hey, maybe Iâm just a bit too picky â yeah, I am one of those really irritating judgemental âpuristsâ that immediately start despising something the very same moment this something becomes public property. After all, thatâs the music business, baby, and thatâs where money is. And The Horrors seem to know this. Even with their fancy clothes (sponsored by some trendy company â hey, after seen their gig I sooo want to buy a pair of April 77 jeans or another pair of Doc Martens duh!) and polished haircuts, they keep rocking. They are good, thatâs a fact. And I donât care if you are laughing at me and think Iâm wrong. âCos Iâm not. And if you disagree, Iâll stab you with a peg and drink your blood.
After their set we are all ODing from live music, so we head to the artistsâ canteen where we scoff down anything we can fit in our drowned-in-beer stomachs and when weâre back to the festival site, we manage to catch the last bit of Killing Jokeâs gig, which is good fun. Then itâs time for the Charlatans. Well, either you like them or you donât. And I donât so Iâm definitely biased. Tim Burgess jumps around like a kid while playing all the big hits and everyone seems to enjoy it. And actually, I do as well (especially thanks to that stolen bottle of wine that me and my friend downed in 15 minutes during their set).
Overall it has been a good festival. I wouldnât pay that much amount of money for a ticket to go to there, though. I mean, as I said, I love the atmosphere and everything, but honestly, you can hang out and get drunk (in a cheaper way) in London Fields, too, and I bet you can see all those acts singularly in venues with a better sound quality, and save in money and health - ever heard of stressival? The stress that most festival goers seem to suffer from when the line-up is too good and they are struggling to see all of them even if the stage times usually overlap? Itâs something Iâm trying to demonstrate to NHS in order to get benefits for my poor (mental) health conditions due to too much gigs/festivals-going (it was not exactly this case, still...)
The conclusion of all this is: either you become a rock star or you marry one (or a band manager or a festival organizer), and live only the good side of the festival life. That is, still, one of the best treats that Summer can offer.