Over the past few years urban festivals has seen a definite rise in popularity. Offering all the atmosphere of a large festival, with added appeal of decent transport links and nearby hotels for those wishing a more civilized experience. In the heart of Portsmouth, Victorious Festival takes advantage of the large space offered by Southsea Common to provide a good-sized festival. As with most urban festival there is no camping, although the festival does provide an off-site camping option on the edge of the city with shuttle buses to ferry people back and forth.
The big change for 2017 was the expansion to include Friday night entertainment, albeit on a limited scale – with large areas of the site still closed off. Bringing to mind a similar feel to the Thursday-night ‘campers’ evenings that a lot of other festivals offer. Most of the action was centered on the second stage with a line-up could probably best be described as fitting the ‘old, new, borrowed, blue’ adage of weddings. ‘Old’ came in the form of festival stalwarts The Charlatans whose well-trodden indie was good but offered no real surprises. ‘New’ was Sundara Karma, whose bright pop sat nicely in the warm evening sun. Borrowed was The Silver Beatles, whose note perfect presentation of the Fab Four’s classics, made for a good slice of nostalgia.
The evening was finished off with a performance from Madness, who surely must be officially be listed as a national treasure by now. Their performance was as faultless as ever moving comfortably form hit to hit. Sadly the ‘blue’ element was the feeling that came from what should have been a great headline to kick off the weekend being marred by sound issues, that left everyone standing more than 80ft away struggling to hear any vocals – we moved around a couple of times to see if we could find a better place, but short of muscling our way into the middle of the crowd at the front we couldn’t find a place that worked. During the songs this wasn’t a major issue as everyone know them well enough to sing along, but it meant we did miss out on Suggs between song banter.
Saturday saw the festival open fully. Victorious has a formula of supporting local bands and also not being afraid to put some big pulls on early in the day. Lunchtime on the main stage saw Frank Turner perform solo and it certainly drew the crowds in. It becomes noticeable that being on the edge of town there is no natural shade and although the weather forecast had not been great, the weekend cleared to high temperatures and surprisingly no sea breeze. So we headed into the smaller areas of the festival in search of a little respite.
There is plenty of choice for food throughout the site and also drink, but the main bars are very corporate with only a narrow choice and not the cheapest that we've experienced at a festival this summer – while it was welcome to see a proper ale alongside the lager and cider, it was a little galling to have to pay over £5 for a 330ml can.
One of the advantages of having a public park for the venue is a large amount of seating available throughout the site, with plenty of park benches, liberally augmented with lots of straw bales. Finding a spot of shade in the edge of the Acoustic stage we enjoyed performance from The Southsea Alternative Choir – a supergroup of local acts who perform covers drawn from almost every era and genre.
Victorious, like most festivals these days likes to sell itself as being family friendly – something that often means ‘we have a a craft tent and an expensive fairground in a corner of the festival’. However Victorious has to have one of the most extensive children’s areas you can come across. While the usual fairground rides are there, there’s also plenty of bouncy castles, craft tents, climbing walls and other activities, all interspersed with children’s entertainers and stages providing music for the adults – even just a casual wander through took us the best part of an hour to take it all in.
Victorious is a festival that trades on an unashamedly populist line-ups, and so it’s headliners are always full of big names and often even bigger anthems. So it seemed a natural fit for Feeder to perform – taking their formula of picking the big anthemic American rock-sound and matching it with quite personal lyrics they quickly had the crowd on their feet in the late afternoon sunshine for what came across as a fairly laid-back set despite the big guitar riffs and power chords.
They were followed by Maximo Park, a band who seem to be getting more political as time goes on, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, with the new album "Risk to Exist" being a tirade on the current government, refugee crisis and Brexit, while still managing to provide very hummable tunes. Live they are absolutely captivating, with gig tunes and lyrical intensity matched by gangly frontman Paul Smith’s, energetic dancing and easy banter with the crowd – probably one of the highlights of the weekend.
Jake Bugg seems to be going through a bit of a crisis of identity these days, undoubtedly he’s come a long way since his early folky roots, moving towards the more amplified Arctic-monkey-esque sound on his last album. These are two styles that don’t naturally fit together, and so to jump around between these two styles would be almost impossible. Jakes solution was to split his set in two – starting out with a full band for the big bombastic rock of ‘Gimme the Love’ then clearing the stage and performing a solo set for the earlier, gentler stuff. It was these latter songs that saw him at his best, with simple guitar and his soaring plaintive vocal captivating the crowd almost as well as the glorious sunset that provided a backdrop to his show.
With a choice between Rita Ora and Stereophonics as tonights headliner, it became quite noticeable that the site was beginning to split between age lines – with everyone under the age of 30 (plus anyone with children), heading towards the Castle Stage, while everyone else moved towards the Main Stage. Opting to go for what we know (as well as staying the right end of the festival to get back to the car), we stayed with the oldies to watch the Stereophonics. A band that are a bit like an old coat –a bit frayed and worn now, but comfortable and familiar. Kelly Jones’ rasping vocal belting out the classics with ease and giving everyone a good sing-along before heading off to their hotels or Air BnBs for the night.
We also have a published review of Sunday.
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