We preview some of the top acts on the bill this year.
Summer festival season kicks into high gear this weekend with the first big event of the calendar taking place on the south coast. Tens of thousands of people will be heading to Seaclose Park on the Isle of Wight for a bill, which is top heavy on heritage acts that bring with them a sense of nostalgia. While recent years have welcomed the likes of Jay-Z, Calvin Harris and Kings Of Leon to headline, this time round it seems big names with an even bigger back catalogue are being used as the main attraction.
However, many of the headline acts seem to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. For example, Blur, whose new album 'The Magic Whip', their first since 2003, has won critical acclaim. The former Britpop poster boys will take to the Main Stage on Saturday night in the knowledge that this is one of the first times that UK crowds will get to see this new material given the live treatment. You can expect a set heavy on those new songs, but peppered with all the classic singles, certainly a formula for a memorable festival appearance. It's a similar story for The Prodigy who'll headline the Main Stage on Friday after The Black Keys. Both acts have played the festival in recent years and here they're repeating the joint top billing that was given to Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris last year. As with Blur, The Prodigy's new album, 'The Day Is My Enemy', has revived interest in the band following an extended period out of the spotlight. Elsewhere, Fleetwood Mac will bring proceedings to a close on Sunday, bolstered by the return of Christine McVie to the band, a set covering Rumours era gems like 'Don't Stop' and 'Songbird' is a strong possibility.
There's also a sense of nostalgia over at The Big Top this year. The big names there include Billy Idol, Groove Armada, Paul Oakenfold and The Charlatans. It's not a complaint, but there seems to be less room for newer names alongside these heritage acts on the Isle of Wight bill this time around.
Blur headline Isle of Wight Festival with Fleetwood Mac
There are obviously many more things to see at Seaclose Park than just the tentpole names over the weekend. The festival site tends to include things like a manmade beach and family areas that are always popular. In honesty though, it's some of the names lower down the bill that could provide the best moments of the festival. While they've always struggled to attract the attention they deserve in the UK, Counting Crows' mid-afternoon slot on Friday has the potential to be a real treat. Recent album 'Somewhere Under Wonderland' boasts material that will work well on the Main Stage and with anthems like 'Round Here' in their back pocket they're likely to draw a sizable crowd. Equally, Pharrell's anthem 'Happy' is sure to get the party started on Saturday evening during his support slot. First Aid Kit are also well worth checking out, and although their brand of Alt-Country and Folk may seem more suited to the Big Top than the Main Stage, they're sure to provide an excellent soundtrack for a summer afternoon. 24 year-old James Bay's rapid rise to stardom is also likely to be cemented this summer and his slot will no doubt be the first of many festival performances to win over new fans. There's also a surprise Sunday lunchtime slot for Suzanne Vega, who's certainly no stranger to these kinds of festivals, although it's rare to see her perform a show like this in Europe.
If those names don't tick the box for you, there's certainly more choice in the Big Top this year. Louisa Allen, better known to the world as Foxes, could almost count the festival as a hometown gig. The 26-year-old from Southampton may only have one album under her belt, 2014's 'Glorious', however her brand of Dance infused Pop may prove to be a highlight of the weekend. The gloriously noisy Chicks On Speed are also likely to blow the top off the Big Top on Saturday afternoon. Other names of note include a solo Sharon Corr and Geno Washington who may well put in impressive performances for those looking to pursue the nostalgic tone set by the festival headliners. There's also a great 1-2 punch of Ash and then The Charlatans on the Sunday night in the Big Top, but my money's still on Fleetwood Mac to draw the crowds. It's also worth remembering there are other stages dotted around the site. The Garden Stage for example includes names such as Ben Montague, James Walsh and London trio Honey Ryder, all of whom could provide the perfect antidote to and respite from the crowds in the main arena. If you're headed to the Island this weekend, I only have one cast-iron guarantee for you. When you get the ferry home there will be an impromptu outburst of singing from festival-goers, it tends to happen most years. This time around I'm pretty sure it'll be a selection of Fleetwood Mac and Blur's greatest hits, so you'll want to get practising.