For us, the unofficial end to the 2012 festival season began with a pleasant 5:45am ferry from Southampton. Stupid I know seeing as the festival didn’t open until 9am but still, it was half the price at this time and whoever says they don’t enjoy crack of dawn drinks in a car park is a stone cold liar.
Entry to the festival could have been quicker. Security did thorough searches on everyone – only for glass bottles it seemed. Hats off to whichever clever clogs thought to sell litre plastic bottles for £1 to decant your booze into; they must have made a killing.
Being among the first in, we had fields upon fields to choose from to set up camp however as any festival goer will know, the agony of carrying all your camping gear and drink means that rationality goes out of the window so we pitched up in the first spot we found. Once set up, we sat back and soaked up the atmosphere in the sun. Nothing beats that feeling of excitement in the air on the Thursday of a festival, and with the likes of Alabama Shakes, The 2 Bears and Hot Chip all set to blow the roof off the Big Top it’s no wonder people were excited.
We headed over to shake our hips to the blues riffs of Alabama Shakes but, with the festival's limited line up on the first night the Big Top was packed, so we headed out for a tour of the weird and wonderful site.
Friday started with a trip to the roller disco in the gorgeous sunshine for an extended 3 hour set from one of Detroit’s finest exports, Moodyman. There’s a large roller skating rink next to the dance floor which married perfectly with Moodyman’s signature disco house, the set culminating in what I think was DJ Sneak’s remix of Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better with You’.
We pottered down towards the main stage to catch some of Soulwax who for me were disappointing. Granted we didn't stay long, but it sounded very ‘dubsteppy’, which was not what I wanted hungover in the sunshine.
Next it was time for one of the most hotly anticipated performances of the entire summer and one of two UK festival exclusives over the weekend - The XX. An eerie feeling came over what has to be one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Smoke machines began to work over-time, red lights pierced through the screen of smoke the band emerged and went straight into their new single ‘Angels’. The crowd sang every word drowning out the mellifluous, honeyed yet deceptively powerful voice of Romy Medley-Smith. Although Romy and Oliver Sim create the band's signature sound with their guitar riffs and voices it’s clear that Jamie Smith is the man pulling the strings on percussion, adding perfect little touches to each song here and there. The band treat the audience to a healthy dollop of new album Coexist, mixed with all the hits from their self titled debut.
What better way to end a fantastic day of music than with one of the true Godfathers of techno playing his chart topping music with Inner City - Mr Kevin Saunderson. Taking us on a journey through old and new they blended ‘Good Life’ and ‘Big fun’ with the more modern ‘Futures’ – classic!
Saturday was all about the main stage for us. We set off around 2pm for some soul charged disco with the Philadelphia sisters, Sister Sledge. They gave a stylish, sexy performance of ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Lost in Music’, giving the sun drenched audience a real party atmosphere. This continued for the next couple of hours with The Cuban Brothers and De La Soul.
Earth, Wind and Fire were up next, with original guitarist Al Mackay flanked by at least 15 awe inspiring musicians helping him tear through songs like ‘September’ and ‘Lets’ Groove’ all sounding as good today as they did 30 years ago (and I’m only 23!).
I’ve become a big fan of Two Door Cinema Club over the last couple of years however through no fault of their own I really struggled to get into the next set. Saturday had a really good party vibe with the wildlife themed fancy dress, beautiful weather and as much funk, soul and disco as you could cope with but TDCC’s unique indie sound just dropped things down a notch.
There was a lot of talk before the next performance as to whether New Order would be able to deliver a spectacle without their iconic bass player Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook. All this was quashed as they tore into their electro-indie charged set featuring ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘True Faith’. The best really was saved to last as pointed out by lead singer Bernard Sumner exclaiming “this is the song to end all festival sets” before finishing on Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Photo: Victor Frankowski
Sunday started with some wonderful Swedish soul-pop courtesy of Little Dragon on the Main Stage, followed by an adventure through the Ambient Forest. We wandered past the Lake Stage to find the Dukes Box - which has to be seen to be believed. The human juke box has a full band crammed into a 70s style caravan who will play any of the 35 songs in the library ranging from Peter Andre and House of Pain to Nirvana and Run DMC - all in their own unique style.
We keep walking through and find Ping Tron, a shed deep in the woods with only a black light inside to illuminate the lines of a ping pong table and the bright orange ball. It’s quite surreal to walk in and find a doubles match going on in the pitch black!
After a cocktail in the Africa style bar somewhere in the vast forest we head back out to the main stage where Stevie Wonder had got things rocking playing an array of hits including ‘Superstition’, ‘Isn’t She Lovely’, ‘Happy Birthday’ and a soul infused cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.
The entire audience then turned around to admire the spectacular firework display before heading off into the night to prolong the party or hit the hay. Weirdly we somehow ended up in the Amphitheatre to watch the film ‘Blue Velvet’, which has to be the most surreal end to a festival I have ever had!
Overall a fantastic weekend and extremely well run festival, I will definitely be venturing over to the Isle of Wight for another party with Rob Da Bank and friends next year.
Words: Dominic Citarella
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