One of the joys of moving so far from my home is that when an event such as the Victorious Festival arrives I am faced with a 14 hour, 500 mile round trip just to be there. So with this in mind was the weekend worth the effort?
I only went to the original, and free, event in 2012. With the move to the August Bank Holiday weekend Victorious always clashed with Reading so I missed out. This summer though it was time to take a break and head ‘home’, a decision that was fully justified by the weekend.
Perfect start to the day, sunny sky, happy, cheery crowds and even the security at the entrance seemed in great spirits. Once in it became clear just how vast the area set aside was. And, more importantly, how impressive the whole feel was.
So straight away we headed to the Castle Stage to catch our opening act of the weekend. The Turner Brothers delivered a fun filled set that was reminiscent of the Specials. Being so early there was a sparse crowd who all seemed to be enjoying themselves fully.
From there it was a short stroll to the Real Ale tent and the always excellent Southsea Alternative Choir who never fail to deliver with a mixed bag of covers from love to blur. The very busy, and very warm tent certainly all had a good old sing along. Deciding what to do next we passed the Silent Disco and decided to pop in, and a great time was had by all, hearing nothing at all as you walk in it feels odd. But once you pop the headphones on and just get involved its great fun. The choice whilst we were there was either dance or ’90s indie. Naturally I chose the latter and again was rewarded as the likes of blur, James and the Stone Roses filled my ears.
After this, a stroll down the main road filled with stalls and boutiques – a chance to say hello to the Pie and Vinyl guys too – we arrived at the Common, or Main Stage. Flyte were playing as we arrived in the enormous arena. We took the chance to just chill on the grass as their melodic pop drifted across the field. They are a band we have seen a few times and certainly they fitted the family festival vibe well.
Unfortunately at this point the rain began to fall, gently at first though. However our party split, some headed to the Blue Reef Aquarium and the rest – myself included headed over to the Seaside Stage where we caught the last song from Southsea Alternative Choir before waiting to see cadet. Unfortunately they were not really my thing so we headed back to the main stage for some rock with Kill It Kid.
The afternoon carried on a pace and as the weather got steadily worse, the music got better and better. Blackfoot Circle were excellent, jaws raised the bar even further but then came one of the highlights of the whole weekend as Peter Hook took to the MainStage. No messing about playing new stuff and why would you when you have the Joy Division and New Order catalogue to use. From the remarkable Love Will Tear Us Apart and Blue Monday to the wonderful True Faith. It was 35 minutes of heaven.
Almost as good were the brilliant honeyblood. A duo from Scotland who very much reflect the excellent wave of rocking two pieces that have seen everyone from the White Stripes through to Royal Blood provide something special to the world of music. They performed brilliantly with so much energy through their set.
Debating what to do next we decided to eat. At this point the weather got even worse and showed no sign of improving. Sadly we missed a number of acts we wanted to see but trying to keep the kids even remotely dry was important. However eventually we decided to give up and just go for it. So back to the Castle Stage and The Subways. Another great set ensued. Even if the weather didn’t improve it was still a great build up to the remainder of the evening.
It was to the main stage we spent the rest of the evening. Primal Scream were probably the band I was most looking forward to seeing, someone I have loved for years but never got to see. They did not disappoint, playing a huge mix from their catalogue but the main songs were there, Rocks, Moving on Up and the really quite brilliant Loaded meant my evening was complete. But it wasn’t over as the headliners Flaming Lips were next.
Playing to an emptying arena (so many people seemed to call it a day because of the rain) those who left missed a real treat. The Flaming Lips were wonderful, odd, strange and psychedelic all at once. When huge caterpillars, Santa, fish, exploding glitter filled balls, a giant ‘Fuck Yeah Portsmouth’ balloon and the sight of Wayne coming out into the crowd inside a giant bubble you knew you were witnessing something special. Best of all those who waited were rewarded with the weather improving. In fact it stopped raining just for them. Absolutely perfect way to end the day.
With the weather being so bad on Saturday we knew the site would be a bit muddy. However I was surprised how well the ground took it. After a long day Saturday it was a later start on Sunday. We managed to catch a bit of Man Made before heading over to see one of the big names from the festival – Texas. Someone I saw 25 years ago and enjoyed, this time around though they are not my thing. With my musical leanings towards BBC 6 Music I felt like an outsider to a Radio 2 roadshow. Many people loved them but I wasn’t one. In fact I left before they finished and took in even more Southsea Alternative Choir. In a repeat of the previous days set it was a pallet cleanser for me.
We met up with friends at this point and all enjoyed Fickle Friends who, like Flyte on Saturday filled the afternoon with some lovely pop. Lovely pop is not what the Wytches play. A lot heavier sound all together but enough to keep us there until we moved over back to the MainStage to see the quite remarkable Hayseed Dixie, Covering all sorts of rock with banjos is just great to see. The fact they even managed to do Bohemian Rhapsody in less than 3 minutes must be applauded!
After that it was a chance to catch up with the simply epic Kassassin Street. The cities pride and joy musically. They never disappoint and again they delivered to a pretty full on crowd. Just get the album done and dusted please!
Queuing for Fish and Chips with cast playing in the background is something you don’t do every day. Nor is eating them whilst the Darkness are shrieking in the background. Again not really my thing but they proved good fun all round.
Kim Churchill provided a special warm up to the main event on the Acoustic Stage. Sitting on Hay Bales watching a very talented young man is a wonderful way to relax.
There was one clash on Sunday I hoped wouldn’t happen but it did. We all had to chose between Super Furry Animals and Johnny Marr. I went with the latter and it seemed around 20000 people also joined me. He was brilliant as always. Mixing his solo stuff with some of the very best Smiths songs and even a nod in the direction of his Electronic work with Bernie Sumner. It was 45 minutes of musical perfection. Panic, Bigmouth Strikes Again, How Soon is Now and the simply wonderful There Is A Light provided sing along anthems for everyone old and young. It was truly wonderful to be a part of. I just wish we had the chance to see both bands live.
After that it all, for me, it was a climb down. I enjoyed around 10 minutes of basement jaxx before we agreed to end our weekend with Ray Davies. In both cases they were excellent but I just wanted more Johnny Marr. But Davies played many of the very best Kinks songs so you cannot complain at that. It did provided a wonderful sing along end to the weekend. Best of all it only rained as we were leaving the site!
Reflections on the event
Would I go back to Victorious again? Without a doubt, its a great setting and on the right weather its perfect. The arena was more than big enough for everyone, there was plenty to see and do. Kids had their area to go to, the grown ups had their fun too. But most of all it was a family occasion. All ages had a reason to enjoy. The mix of bands was sufficient that you had great variety and appeal to all (just who the hell booked Super Furry Animals and Johnny Marr to clash!!). It was a great way to showcase the city. And involving everyone locally too helps. To see Pie and Vinyl, Strong Island and the like have pride of place helps. As does integrating the businesses within the arena space, such as the D Day Museum, Skate Park and Blue Reef offers something quite unique.
My only complaints are minor, food vendors should not be allowed to increase their prices during the day, the bars were too expensive – £5.50 for a pint of ale just isn’t on, and people need to understand that you should never bring an umbrella to a festival – its just plain wrong and blood selfish.
But that is it, this was a tremendous experience, its something for Pompey to be proud of itself, its something that can only get bigger and when it does we can all look back and reflect from such humble beginnings just how mighty this is going to be.
Best of all, just imagine the size of the concerts that the common could hold. Perhaps its time to ask the Foo Fighters and their like to come along for a show.
A huge pat on the back for those behind it. You made my journey worth every minute.