Kiwi celebrates her birthday with rock legends at the Isle of Wight music festival

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Celebrating my 50th birthday at the Isle of Wight music festival.

Best birthday ever – I woke up in a Soho doorway… And, yes, while that may be believable, it’s not entirely accurate this time.

Life in London has been flying by, so much so that I recently hit the half-century mark and I decided to make the most of it.

To be honest, my birthdays haven’t always been spectacular successes: at 20 I was in Nelson with no money, food or presents. I did dig out my bankcard and take the boyfriend and myself off to Cobb & Co for a steak.

At 30 I was the only female in Dunedin’s Whisky-a- go-go (strip club) that wasn’t on stage, then lost my pal and ended up locked in a shed. At 40 I was flying across the date line in an Air New Zealand jet and was kindly brought a glass of birthday champagne, on the ground I had roast lamb and ended up falling asleep from jet lag and vodka.

At 50…well, while I didn’t wake up in a Soho doorway, I did hear that opening line belted out by the god that is Roger Daltry of The Who, at the Isle of Wight festival.

When Prince died I realised it was time to see some legends perform before they too bit the dust and as it is supposedly summer, ergo festival season, I had a scout around and decided Isle of Wight was the place to be. The 4-day music festival featured performances from some excellent rock legends.

My pal Louise agreed to come along and we hit the road in her trusty vehicle to Hamble at the bottom of England. At Hamble marina we stopped for a beverage in the sun and then it was onto a RIB to cross the drink to the island. That was a fun ride, we sped across the water bouncing around with the B-52s blaring Rock Lobster as we skipped over small waves and wakes, but things slowed right down when we reached the Medina, the channel that leads to the marina at Cowes where we crawled along at 5 knots.

On arrival we grabbed our packs and meandered up the road to the festival site. Neither of us could be bothered buying a tent and dragging loads of stuff around (our priorities being our water and wine supplies) so we had booked to stay at Tangerine Fields, where the tents are already set up and have an airbed and new sleeping bags ready and waiting.

We quickly settled in and after a bit of reconnaissance and a greasy burger headed out to see a couple of bands. Status Quo are not my usual choice of music but my lord, those old silver foxes know how to rock and work an audience! Everyone was singing along and it was a brilliant start. The people in the crowd were chilled out and friendly, no shoving or hassle, we were happy gals

On Friday we walked into Newport and had a wander around, it’s a nice little town and we found some delicious food. The musical highlight that night was Faithless, and again everyone in the crowd was cool, even with 10s of 1000s of people all jumping around behind us. But the coolest people were on stage…if Maxi Jazz were a cult leader I would probably join just to bask in his charisma.

Saturday was a massive day and short of cloning ourselves there was no way to see everyone we liked. BUT… we did see Alabama 3 (not from Alabama and more than 3 of them) and they were doing the blues so damn good (think Sopranos theme song), and they is frum Brixton in sarf Larndan!

We switched to the other stage to see The Damned, and I was back in the early 1980s living the punk dream to New Rose etc. When they finished I headed for the nearest exit and charged on out to discover we were not in normal people land.

With my usual air of nonchalance, we rounded a corner and literally ran into Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible. It’s been a while since this talent of mine has manifested so it’s comforting to know I still have it.

The tents are already set up and have an airbed and new sleeping bags ready and waiting.
Sheridan Orr
The tents are already set up and have an airbed and new sleeping bags ready and waiting.

We switched back to the main stage for Iggy Pop and oh – my – God!! This man is totally freaking amazing! He is nearly 70 and runs across and off the stage with more energy than most teenagers; he is like a twister, a tight energy vortex. He really is a supernatural being and he sprinkled his magic on us – a truly unforgettable experience.

Like happy lobotomy patients, we wordlessly wandered off to have a beer, skipping Richard Ashcroft as we prepared for The Who.

The Who were as brilliant as I had imagined. Roger Daltry is over 70 and still almost as sexy as when I had my first crush on him in about 1973, his voice has always had a haunting quality that prickles my soul. Pete Townshend is just as cantankerous as ever and is an outstanding musician.

Short story is that seeing them play was a dream come true, something I had never imagined possible as a kid in small-town New Zealand. I was not disappointed.

We floated back to the tent, wide-eyed and part of the universe. I said to Louise it would take some time to come off that buzz and that we should have a wine, but before that was poured I had fallen asleep in a state of bliss.

Sunday was day 4 of tents, roast pork rolls, wood-fired pizza, wine, beer and music and the last day of the festival with Queen as the closing act.

Queen had Adam Lambert as their front man, and he is great in his own right, cocky and camp, but for me, Queen was all about flamboyant Freddie Mercury with his high cheekbones, intense eyes, and overbite – he looked like a charming, yet devious, predator. And maybe he was?

Through the marvels of technology Freddie was virtually brought back from the dead for a couple of songs and they even revived David Bowie for Under Pressure and yep – I did shed a tear.

There were many other great bands and we were blessed with the weather i.e. it didn’t rain (much). A fantastic experience and good crowd, I will think about going again. There was incredible food available, plenty of rides and activities and a good vibe where I could forget everyday life and responsibilities, enjoy music and celebrate being alive.

Monday morning we left camp and again zipped across the water, back to the car and hit the road to London, while thousands of other poor suckers queued for shuttle buses so that they could then queue for hours and hours for ferries to the mainland.

Louise went straight to work and I went home to the place I was flat sitting. It was a massive few days and completely worthwhile.

Apparently, I looked shattered! Job done.


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