Review: Live & Unsigned Competition

It’s that time of year where the Isle of Wight Festival offer an unsigned band the chance to play on the coveted Main Stage this summer. With a short-list of 52 Island artists to choose from, just 10 were chosen to play at the  Blacksheep Bar heat on Thursday, with the winner progressing to the London final. Here’s what went on…

The evening’s proceedings were kicked off with an opening speech from the Blacksheep Bar’s Annie Horne, who introduced the four judges on the night, including BBC Radio Solent’s Alex Dyke, and the first band of the night: Polar Maps.

I’d heard a thing or two about these lads before their performance and it’s safe to say they lived up to expectations with two excellent numbers- a good, solid start to the night. They were followed by the most experienced band on the night, Route 27, who proved that age is no barrier, and injected a good bit of rock ‘n’ roll into the audience.

Third on the night was PORTABLEhigh, whose performance seemed more of a theatre show than one suitable for the Main Stage of the festival. This was a shame because lead singer Luisa Jane’s voice was undeniably brilliant, but the stage is there for a reason. I didn’t buy, and it would seem the judges didn’t either.

PORTABLEhigh performing at the Live & Unsigned Competition

Following a short interval was Claydon Connor, a very popular artist on the Island at the moment, and his solo acoustic set proved to be one of the memorable moments of the night. BaDow then played to a willing audience where lead singer and drummer Jodie Amos proved that their unusual set-up was a recipe for success. Former Bestival Main Stage artists XOCKHA were next, and their cool, professional performance reminded me of Foals a little- the crowd loved it, and so did I.

Following on from them were indie pop band Rebel and the Hearts, who gave a convincing performance and are looking very good ahead of their performance on the Main Stage at V-Dub Island later this year. Lauran Hibberd and her newly formed band were next and, after a few sound issues at the start, gave a very relaxed performance and one which would sound fantastic in the Big Top at the festival.

The penultimate act on the night were Vindico and, had I not been told, their new line-up had gone completely unnoticed by the crowd and their feel-good set left the audience wanting more- expect big things from these lads. Closing the evening were teenage rockers The Orders, but it was their drummer and his facial expressions that stole the show. In all seriousness, they were incredibly energetic and the audience’s response to them was probably the best of the night.

Vindico were class!

After a long wait, the judges eventually came to a decision, and Alex Dyke announced that XOCKHA were to proceed to the London final. Both Alex and Annie Horne expressed how much of a difficult decision it was, so much so that a number of the acts have been offered the chance to play on some of the smaller stages at the festival. It did, however, seem to be the correct decision on the night, but the likes of Vindico and The Orders must have been up there as well. We may just have a star in the making…

Congratulations XOCKHA! Next stop, London!


  1. I so disagree with your review on portablehigh ,they performed with passion and that’s what entertaining a crowd is all about ,their music a vocals was amazing, they didn’t just stand there ,they entertained and that’s what its all about ,and the crowds reaction proved that !!


    • Their performance was certainly passionate, I just felt they were only performing to two ladies stood at the front, I’d love to see them again, maybe on one of the smaller stages at the festival, they’re just not ready for the Main Stage yet.


  2. Were you watching the same act ,Portable high stole the show amazing performance amazing vocals just wow in general


    • As mentioned in the article, the vocals were fantastic, but I felt that only a few audience members were being included in the performance


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