Isle Of Wight Festival 2006

Isle Of Wight Festival 2006

Photographer: Kate Anderson Ross Purdie on 11 June 2006

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It’s all kicking off on Friday. The hottest day of the year to date has seen helicopters dumping water supplies to jam-stranded motorists on the M25, two tankers colliding in the Solent to disrupt ferry crossings, and 35,000 festival fans making the journey almost half a million hippies made on a similarly steaming day back in 1970 – to the Isle Of Wight for the UK’s oldest and original music festival.

And now The Prodigy are stepping up the chaos. Having missed Morning Runner, The Rakes, Goldfrapp and Placebo as the result of the congested eight hour journey from London, we can only assume they did a good job judging by the carnival atmosphere that’s generated throughout the festival site, from the long winding thoroughfare linking the campsites all the way down to the spread of smiles and sunburn illuminated by the dazzling lights of the main stage.

“This ain’t no funfair shit”, roars Maxim as he surveys the backdrop of glowing fairground rides rising in the distance above the seething throngs of the crowd as night sets in. Meanwhile Keith, a waterfall of sweat looking like Robbie Williams after a toxic accident, gurns and prowls the planks as the key makers of modern dance music burst into the pummelling ‘No Good’. Cue pandemonium as ‘Poison’ erupts like a jarring, paranoid bad dream, mayhem when the opening beats of ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ rip through the humid evening air, and universal elation as set closer ‘Outta Space’ tears the place up for the final time this Friday evening. It’s a greatest hits set that rarely varies from the formula set out at last year’s round of festivals but even the usually sedate Liam, controlling it all from tardis-like rows of computers at back, is up for it this time and The Prodigy consistently play so well that you get the feeling they could headline for the next two nights and the crowd would still be happy.

Of course, though, there’s plenty more firepower in the Isle Of Wight Festival’s arsenal, with this year’s lineup containing easily the strongest set of headliners on show since the festival was revived in 2000, with Foo Fighters and Coldplay still to come. However, Saturday afternoon is all about one thing – England versus Paraguay. The festival’s organisers have made the strange decision not to show the match anywhere on the festival site and so morning is filled with a nervous tension as tens of thousands plan their escape to see the most anticipated game at a festival since we went out to Portugal at Glastonbury 2004. By midday, nearby Newport is at breaking point as an estimated 10,000 jostle for space in the town’s pubs (which one source tells us has capacity for about a fifth of that number). Those lucky enough to have cars drive out to other towns and villages on the island. England win. Many football fans at the festival clearly don’t.

With The Kooks legging the site early to play their own after party at a local garlic farm, it’s left to Dirty Pretty Things to soundtrack the perfect victory celebration as the cheering masses return, their bullish brand of post-Libertines rock’n’roll causing a typically English riot of its own. Guitarist Anthony has grown in confidence and gusto since joining The Libs during their Doherty-absent festival tour back in 2004 and provides the perfect foil for the band’s central figure, Carl Barat, who struts and hair flicks his way through most of the band’s debut album, ending on the ‘damn it, gonna be humming this all weekend’ hit ‘Bang Bang Your Dead’.

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Red Funnel for getting us there!

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