Southsea Common 27 28 29 August 2021

My first post-Lockdown festival outing. It’s outside yes but a lot of people to mill around and drink with for three days – circa 65,000. I hope the vaccines work.

This is a great value festival. Early bird tickets were about £25 a day the first year I came and a three day ticket for next year is just £125. I first came here in 2014, a few years after it started, and have returned every year since, aside from the 2020 Covid postponement. The gamble on the bands and buying blind has always paid off.

No camping on site with a camp and ride scheme that is a more recent addition means this attracts a significant local audience from Portsmouth and Southampton – not that the camping arrangements have ever come into my thinking as a variety of hotels, pubs and other establishments of various quality have been my bases of choice. It’s now a regular holiday that has blossomed with the addition of Fridays and opportunity to access to the upgrade area in more recent years – eases tired legs and the queues for drink, food and yes toilets. Toilets in the ‘VIP’ area for those not content with a urinal are a winner. My mate Dave (DPi) even caught photo of a VIP, Miles Kane, on the viewing platform in front of us during the Supergrass set just after his on Sunday.

Miles Kane watching Supergrass – a Dave pic

There is loads of choice – the substantial 5,000 plus capacity Castle Stage, other smaller stages such as a World Music Stage and the pleasant relaxing hay bales of the Acoustic Stage. 16 stages in all, including one where kids can meet The Gruffalo (maybe you drop ‘The’ as in Buzzcocks in kid cool) and someone recently brought to my consciousness… Hey Duggie 🙄.

The hay bales of the Acoustic Stage

My only diversion from the main Common Stage and secondary Castle Stage this year was on Sunday at midday where I chanced upon the powerful voice of  Mollie Scott… a great start to the Sunday tunes.

Mollie Street – Acoustic Stage

Each year there is the initial excitement of the first announced acts… then the final bill… then the timings and the pre-fest homework comes in, looking at timings and compromise. (The clashfinder website is a cracker to negotiate your way through a multi-stage event…any idea of rapid stage hopping being enjoyable needs to be quashed mind.)

This was the menu I was feasting from, with 21 of the 22 acts I watched fully being on either the Common or Castle Stage. It all started on Friday afternoon with Terrorvision and finished on Sunday night with Nile Rodgers and Chic.


Friday

For me today’s highlights were Peter Hook and the Light and The Kooks.

Peter Hook stage wandering

A concise 40 minute set from Hooky and his throbbing bass, swinging as low as ever, with New Order and Joy Division classics. What a great selection starting with Digital and Transmission and moving through to end with Love Will Tear us Apart (“Gonna dedicate this to Ian, God rest his sole”) and Ceremony.

No real surprises as the set list could be made out on the big screen taped up next to the drummer.

Setlist for the eagle-eyed

Hooky looked passionate and fabulously grumpy throughout, giving it everything. I loved it. Taking those bass lines and showcasing them up front like this is quite novel.

Peter Hook – fabulously grumpy

I didn’t give Feeder much of a go. They started with some sound problem with a key onstage amp and I don’t know their stuff so I drifted for a beer and a rest, returning for The Kooks.

Kooks awaited

My one and only Kooks gig was at Southampton University in Oct 2005 (The Subways supporting). It’s that first album Inside In/ Inside Out that they are celebrating the anniversary of on their latest tour, which is handy as I don’t know much else…. yes Oo Lah and So Naiive stand out but a strong set and today’s silver medal on my rostrum.

The Kooks
Friday – Common Stage, Victorious Festival – The Kooks

Yes the crowd is growing and a lot of people are here for the headliners Madness – sporting the supportive fez.

Headlining Madness

I’ve seen Madness before..only once, at the Bournemouth BIC. Plenty of hits to roll out and they are appreciating their return after Covid. A bit rusty in parts and a few stop starts.

Suggs seemed to have indulged in the bar but hey ho everyone enjoyed the party. I’d manoeuvred a fair way back by the end to feast at the paella stand and enjoy the bench that came with it, serenaded by Baggy Trousers, Our House and Embarrassment. They finished with It Must Be Love, Madness and Night Boat to Cairo.


Saturday

The Castle Stage held the appeal for much of Saturday. Having spent day one with a knee support on I was pleased we established a base camp on the rear slope of the Castle Stage arena.

Saturday’s base camp just near the Victorious sign – Castle Stage

So let’s go, in order….

Rews
Rews – Castle Stage

Rews on first – a bit of a female Royal Blood – punchy rock. Sound.

Drummers start to gather in front of us before one stage change and this looked like load of fun to get involved with. They are Batala Portsmouth, an Afro Brazilian samba reggae group. (My YouTube clip)

Next notable ones were The Mysterines stirring a forward wander for some indie jangly pop rock.

The Mysterines – Castle Stage
The Mysterines – Lia Metcalfe

Shortly after were indie rockers Porridge Radio who held more interest – Mercury Prize nominated in 2020. Someone I’d like to see again and listen to more.

Porridge Radio
Georgia Stott
Dana Margolin
Dana Margolin – Porridge Radio

And next another Brighton based band Black Honey – more rocky but you might not expect so given the afternoon tea dress.

Guess who?
Izzy Baxter Phillips – Black Honey

Been listening to them a fair bit recently…. they’re winning so far but here come The Lathums.

The Lathums

The Lathums – that’s Lathums, not Lay-thums, from Wigan – the main man said so. The best of the newer bands of the festival in my book..well blog. I bought their live album and this band live up to the promise of that.

Great Escape a highlight. Frontman Alex Moore has a quiet confidence about him. He must know how good they are. I’m reminded of The Smiths at times.

Alex Moore – The Lathums

…and back to The Common Stage for Blossoms. Tucked into a favoured corner near to the left screen we view the the ever blossoming Blossoms from Stockport. It’s busy.

Covid soup

I first saw them at Glastonbury 2017 and more recently they were the last band I saw before Lockdown, at The O2 Academy Bournemouth…a nervy occasion.

Tom Ogden – Blossoms
Blossoms

The set includes Miss You by the Stones as a tribute to Charlie Watts and main man Tom Ogden is wearing a Stones t-shirt. They also played Reading Festival this weekend and the virtually identical set can be found on the BBC iplayer footage… all rounded off with Charlamagne from their first album in 2015.


Rag ‘n’ Bone Man is next. A big star in every way. I was going to duck him but I’m glad I didn’t – I do get it and see why he pulls in the crowds. I even recognised some of the songs but not the sort of thing I listen to generally.

“Good evening Portsmouth- you slaaaags!” …. and he had the audience with him from there. Through the set an ocassional “are you with me Portsmouth, are you with me?” just to check.

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

All you Ever Wanted to start with a stand out Alone shortly afterwards: I recognised a fair bit from radio play. A performer that’s hard not to like. Skin, most familiar, was maybe the top pick. To end Human and Giants as I weaved my way to the back to make my way over to my inevitable festival highlight….


The Saturday night finale for me is found back at the Castle Stage: The Manic Street Preachers.

Manic Street Preachers – Castle Stage

It was way back on 19 May 1996 that I first saw the  Manics, at Pheonix Festival near Stratford-upon-Avon. A hot dusty day, on just after the Foo Fighters and on a night Neil Young was headlining later. The CD cabinet is now bulging with every album but despite V and Reading festivals I didn’t see them indoors for ages and have made up for that in last 10 years.

James Dean Bradfield

They rev up with Motorcycle Emptiness as they get back on their bikes again after their pandemic downtime.

Any setlist would do me from the Manics but this one (Setlist) had a few surprises: the Bunneymen’s Bring on the Dancing Horses for onedoesn’t strike me as an obvious Manics choice but it works.

Of the newer albums International Blue has earned its place as a new classic. A few leaps from Nicky Wire. They’re bouncing again.

Manics – Castle Stage Headliner – Saturday

We are able to move up to the mixing desk with reasonable ease so I guess The Streets are packing them in at the main stage – I would have but this is one clash I didn’t think too hard about.

A great rendition of Ocean Spray and the other surprise one was Sweet Child of Mine …bit of an over covered cover but hey ho:

Sweet Child of Mine phone clip

They finish, as they started for me in 1996, when I stood up in a dusty Warwickshire field and asked, after numerous repeats of the chorus, what’s that one called? “Design for Life” replied a guy I was with…. smiling at my overt ignorance (the late and long departed Richard B).



Sunday

Day three – we’re still going. The knee support is off. Still blessed with the weather but without any blistering heat either. If you’re still reading you’ll be feeling the staying power of a three day festival.

After the initial Acoustic Stage visit it was Castle Stage upgrade/VIP area for Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs or Pigs x7 as they are more easily referred to. An endearing noise – quite heavy metally – and a great front man you can’t take your eyes off: Matthew Baty.

Matthew Baty – Pigs x7

With bare feet and Basil Fawlty moustache, Baty stalks the stage like a rock god with an occasional leap and a fair bit of screaming. The appeal is reminiscent of Napalm Death.

Matthew Baty of Pig x7

Next Annie Mac has a slot. Knob twiddling booop boop stuff that I clearly don’t appreciate so I’ll say no more. We endured it from afar eating pizza.

Into the Common Stage arena next, right on the centre barrier near the front for Cast. A short set packed with top quality vintage songs, starting with Flying. Great tunes: Sandstorm, Let it Out, Walk Away…

John Power
Liam Tyson – guitar

It’s feel good bouncy stuff and the band look happy, as well as hairy. The time goes fast with Get Up and Alright as we near the end of this bright afternoon set.

On bass – Jay Lewis

….and over to the Castle Stage to see Glasvegas. They sounded quite good but it all seemed a bit flat and a little dour. No talking or introductions, they just played the tunes intently. I like the sound and OK I don’t know their material well – listened to plenty over last year – but I left for the main stage afterwards, a bit disappointed.

James Allan – Glasvegas

Fontaines DC next. Main stage. Bodies are moving forward and it’s looking a bit steamy down the front. People are on shoulders and expectant. This feels like a big one and they don’t disappoint. Front man Grian Chatten comes out to a roar, sporting an estate hooligan look – can a cagool look cooler? Anti-fashion at its best.

Grian Chatten – Fontaines DC

Televised Mind is an early winner. The repetition and chant of the chorus of this and several of their songs are tunes you bash your head against the wall to if you were so inclined… a bit depressive at times but I like it.

I saw a livestream of theirs in Lockdown, from Brixton Academy, and without a crowd they really did miss something. Today Grian can perform at and feed off the enthusiasm in the crowd – he doesn’t have to say much…beyond the poetry of the lyrics of course.

The Boys from the Better Land is the one all are waiting for….well I am. A cracker.

Grian Chatten

Next Supergrass filled the stage and arena with their full sound. Satisfying and familiar. I was up on the platform in the VIP area so not too good for pics.

Supergrass – Common Stage – Victorious 2021

The last choice of the weekend. Do I stay at the main Common Stage and see Royal Blood or take Nile Rodgers and Chic to close the festival on. I’ve seen Royal Blood a few times: Glastonbury 2017 where they were new and impressive and Bournemouth BIC a year or so later when they just had too few songs and originality for the long set time given. It has to be Nile Rodgers.

Nile Rodgers…
…and Chic

That’s it. The marathon over. 22 bands over three days. The knee support is back on and it’s back to the hotel to recover ….and book for next year.

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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