Phew, what a blinkin' scorcher, eh? The Isle Of Wight may be off the south coast, but you'd have presumed that was France rather than the UK this weekend. Sun tan holstered, sunglasses propped on nose, and shade-hunting vision systems are go.

The Isle Of Wight Festival 2014 has a long legacy of iconic musicians playing - from The Who to Bowie, from Hendrix to the Rolling Stones, and from Dylan to The Doors - and though this year may not have anyone of that calibre, the Red Hot Chili Peppers headline the Saturday. As a band who've been on organiser John Giddings' wish list for about a decade, and their first UK festival in seven years, it's an exciting prospect. They're not necessarily the most critically respected band, but like Bon Jovi at the 2013 festival, they're a band who know how to deliver hits, and cultivate a great party atmosphere with famous singalongs and hooks galore.


Since the festival's reincarnation back in the woozy halcyon days of 2002, back when England still sucked at the World Cup, pop has always been on the agenda. Perhaps it's more evident these days, with the likes of the ever-graceful Dappy (who tantrums offstage), Cher Lloyd, Lawson, Calvin Harris and other chart-botherers performing over the weekend. It has always been a staple though, and despite a handful of flaccid line-up picks this year, ranging from the duff to the abysmal, we see both the nadir (like Matt Cardle's afternoon pap-about in the Strongbow Tent - how the mighty have fallen) and zenith (see below) of pop's current roster.

Chlöe Howl is typically fantastic, packing out the Big Top on the Friday with her biting nuggets of synthpop and oodles of stage prowess, performing a slew of singles amidst new tracks from her upcoming debut LP. 'No Strings' riling the crowd to a rabid frenzy and causing much boppage, is a particular highlight. Katy B's headline set is an utter delight, with tracks from her recent record Little Red hitting the spot, amongst the balmy night air and throngs of sweaty boozed-up revellers. Nina Nesbitt's folk-pop shines out on the Saturday afternoon; a few acts later, and The 1975 draw hordes of partygoers (and slur through their set a fair bit). On Sunday Ella Eyre proves why she's been one to keep an eye on with a stunning vocal performance. All in all, despite a smattering of duds, Giddings & Co. have selected some prime pop outfits who all storm the stage.





Perhaps a surprise addition to the line-up, on the inaugural Hard Rock Rising stage, is Molly Beanland. Showcasing the breadth of new talent, the stage hosts other up-and-comers like Olivia Sebastianelli and OhBoy, but none are as arresting as the dreamy pop flutter from Beanland, who rattles off sweetly fanged ditties from her recent, wonderful EP, Night Dreams. 'Grand Theft' is a standout cut, and although there's painfully few festivallers on their feet, the few that are are clearly loving the synth-based haze and Pawws-esque pop. One to watch, for sure.

Looking at the rock front, the situation is similar to the festival's pop fare, in that some are totally naff and some are mind-blowingly great. On the naffer side, Kings Of Leon probably didn't need to headline again so soon (they did so in 2011), and less said Big Top alternatives - Travis - the better. Also, it seems that no-one bothered to tell The Pretty Reckless that it's not 2002 anymore, and Cindy-Lou Who takes herself, far far too seriously, meaning many struggle to stop cringing for the rest of the day.



On the flip side, with a Sunday afternoon line-up in the Big Top being pretty spectacular for indie-rock fans, there's plenty of sonic gold on offer too. Deap Vally strut with '70s pomp across the stage, rocketing through tracks like 'Creeplife', 'Walk Of Shame' and 'End Of The World' with rock vigour. Over on the Main Stage, Fall Out Boy, no matter which way you look at it, provide a decent opportunity to pretend you're 15 again, and pop-punk anthems like 'Sugar, We're Goin' Down' and 'Dance, Dance' are fabulous singalongs when you're on the cusp of blowing chunks after too much smuggled Sainsbury's Finest (read: Basics) vodka. Swim Deep are fantastic, if a little dour, and they're reppin' the XXXXXXXXL granddad shirts. Their psych-pop spin on posterboy indie whirs up a top-buttoned Big Top, and when they close on the double-whammy of 'She Changes The Weather' and 'King City', the tent goes frickin' apeshit, bodyboarding over the crowds and clinging to every word like it's gospel.

Possibly some of the most interesting line-up additions come from the 'special guests' slot. '80s ska visionaries The Specials perforate the admittedly, compared to the rest of the festival, greyer audience with .50 cal hits. 'Too Much To Young' rings out in true ska-punk fashion, 'A Message To You Rudy' is blinding, and 'Ghost Town' echoes through Seaclose Park, festooned with brass gumption and filthy sax. Another surprise on the bill is '90s proto-Britpop collective Suede, who hurtle through some of their most seminal hits of the last 25 years, including 'Filmstar', 'Animal Nitrate' and an acoustic version of 1999 track, 'She's In Fashion'. A tough act for Kings Of Leon to even try and follow, for sure.



However, rock headliners were out in force elsewhere this year, with Biffy Clyro and funk-rock veterans Red Hot Chili Peppers topping Friday and Saturday respectively. The former are clear legends in the making, with a commitment to pummelling out brutally effective rock. Their stage is a blitzkrieg of colour, of flickering lights and confetti cannons, macabre tree-skeletons and blazing infernos - they spout a spectacle like no one else over the weekend, and fortunately they have the tracks to back it up. Playing every single they've released since 2007 bar one, they dole out hits like Dappy (he's taking a beating here, isn't he?), lurching from spine-tingling jagged rawk riffery to pensive melancholia with ease. They've truly graduated above, and are fast becoming a must-see at stadiums. They may lack the math panache and grit they once had on records, but that hasn't stopped them screaming their lungs out and igniting probably the sweatiest crowd at the Isle Of Wight Festival ever.




No matter how much you dislike the Red Hot Chili Peppers - which, for many, is probably a lot - it's foolish to deny they've got a vast repertoire of big singles of which to unfurl. Almost every track has people joining in word for word, from opener 'Can't Stop' to closer 'Give It Away', pogoing along or attempting to imitate Flea's strangely-gymnastic-for-a-51-year-old moves. Between anthems, the Californian foursome deviate into weird indulgent jams, as they're famous for doing, and although the mid-set trundle into obscure back-catalogue album tracks ('I Could Have Lied' and 'I Like Dirt') is perhaps unessential, it's difficult to rope them into doing what they're told, mavericks that they are. That said, it's not easy to find genuine faults with their set (perhaps the lack of one of their most monumental songs, 'Under the Bridge', is one), and as Saturday night headliners go, regardless of partisan opinions, Giddings could not have had a better set of showmen.

There have been shadowy mutterings and clandestine words of betrayal surrounding the Isle Of Wight Festival in recent years: the infamous bad weather of 2012, the slow decline in quality of line-up, the commercialisation of the festival, the rising drinks prices, and probably others too. At the 2014 festival however, all those qualms seem to dissipate. Although it's still more akin to V Fest than, say, Latitude, that shouldn't be an issue - you go to a festival and spend hundreds of hard-earned squids to have a good time, and if you're singing along to massive pop and rock legends for four days straight, surely it's ticked all the right boxes. Here's to next year.