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The prognosis was not looking good. As tens of thousands of people set off for the Isle of Wight on Friday morning, the news was dominated by talk of traffic chaos, floods and mud at the festival site. Even if you could actually get there (and to be fair, your only real chance was on foot), camping looked set to be a complete no go – so much so that people were either flogging their tickets at 1/4 of the price or seeking a refund.

But for those hardened festival goers, foolish rookies or dedicated music fans – this was not one to be missed. With the might of the three headliners (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam and Bruce frickin Springsteen) behind it, as well as a stellar line up lower down the bill, the joker that is Mother Nature certainly wasn’t going to beat everyone! And truth be told, our travel experience of getting there couldn’t have been any more straightforward. Coach > Hovercraft > Bus > Walk. Done. Easy. Until we got on site.

What greeted us was proper trench warfare territory. Mud so deep that it was filling peoples’ wellies. Half-arsed Bangladeshi cyclone scenes, with broken, sodden tents floating around. This was worse than any Glastonbury. There was no underlay of chalk, so the water had nowhere to go – instead it just hung around on the surface waiting to drench any fucker who fell in it. And arriving on the Friday evening of a festival, space is always of a premium. We headed for higher ground and ended up camping by a fence. Fences at festivals equal makeshift toilets. But needs must.

Unsurprisingly, the camping conditions and the time it took to trudge through the mud to the arena (up to an hour), actually meant you enjoyed more of the festival. Set off into the arena at lunchtime and you’re in there for the long haul. First up, we caught Dorset cow punk pioneers Pronghorn at the Garden Stage. A curious inclusion on the bill, but a most welcome one at that. The rain had stopped and the crowd lapped up the Hayseed Dixie-style folky punk vibe.

Dry The River were on The Garden Stage later and drew in a criminally small crowd, considering their epic soaring anthems are enough to make grown men cry. They gave their all into a set which included the beautifully sincere and rousing ‘Bible Belt’ as well the excellent ‘Weights and Measures’. What’s more, singer Peter Liddle has ditched the shaky, fragile vocals for a much more impressive falsetto, which even David McAlmont would be proud of.

Friday night really belonged to one act though, and that was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. American musicians like this sure know how to rock. Every memeber is tight as, putting in an exceptional performance on their instruments and it comes together to create ballsy, radio friendly rock which you just cannot help but rock out to. With hits like ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ and ‘American Girl’ really hit the spot, as well as a lush Travelling Willburys cover, but the undisputed highlight came in the form of ‘Free Falling’, which led to a mass singalong and provided a real festival moment.

Opening proceedings on Saturday was James Walsh, from Starsalior – a criminally underrated band. His signature vibrato vocal remains spellbinding as he played a crowdpleasing set, which includes hits from his band days such as ‘Silence Is Easy’ and ‘Good Souls’. He later replicated some of this set at a pop up gig in the Oxfam tent, where he also threw in a cover of Bert Bacharach’s ‘Lean On Me’. Lovely.

Festival favourites Madness took to the main stage late afternoon. You know what you’re getting with these guys – hit after hit of ska pop which you cannot stay still for. Songs like ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘Night Boat To Cairo’ are grin inducing classics, but it’s the potentially cheesy ‘It Must Be Love’ which totally steals the show and, as Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’, seals it’s place in the festival moment list. That and their cover of Beastie Boy’s ‘You’ve Gotta Fight For Your Right’.

Mainstream music was the order of the day as the evening drew near – with both Jessie J and Tinie Tempah putting in some top performances. Jessie J looked a little nervous (you’d probably be nervous too if the front had fallen off your jeans) but strutted her way through a powerful set of vocally excellent streetwise pop. Predictably, it was ‘Price Tag’ which stole the show and had everyone rubbing their fingers together. Tinie Tempah took over where she left off and blasted out his British rap pop mix, ending in an excellent version of ‘Pass Out’, where he got the crowd to get down and jump up. Go Tinie!

Award-winning Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro, dressed in white boiler suits, were surprisingly high up the bill – opening for American giants of rock, Pearl Jam, but then, they supported Foo Fighters last year so why the hell not. And the kids ruddy loved it. The highly charged rock had a distinct nu-metal flavour to it in places, with a nod towards Fall Out Boy or Blink 182, but the British sensibilities also shone through and their final offering ‘The Captain’ was truly outstanding.

Pearl Jam. Oh Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder is a rare breed of frontman – who has the crowd in the palm of his hand from the very start. Playing a brilliant set of hits (hell they’ve got a good couple of decades worth of material to pick from), Vedder’s unmistakable voice compliments the solid guitar playing and astounding drumming, carrying some of the most inspirational lyrics and singing to old and young alike. Songs such as ‘Even Flow’, ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Porch’ stood out – along with the behemoth of a song, ‘Alive’, which Vedder sang with such conviction, it sent shivers down your (already cold) spine.

Sunday belonged to one man – Bruce Springsteen. And while The Vaccines, Noel Gallagher and The Charlatans all put on a good show, with the former Oasis man pulling in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, it was ALL about The Boss (more fools those squeamish folk who left first thing Sunday morning). Playing a two and a half hour set, which included plenty of material off the new album (‘Wrecking Ball’, ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’ etc) and a good ole dose of the hits (‘Born in the USA’, ‘Badlands’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’), Brucie and his E Street Band were loving it; at times, a little too much – as they started behaving like they’d had too many blue smarties! The set ended with a massive fireworks display and warm, fuzzy feelings all round…until the journey home.

Words and photo: Laura Williams