There's been a growth in popularity of urban festivals in the last few years, and it's easy to see the appeal, particularly for casual festival goers – good travel links, decent phone reception and reasonably flat ground to name a few. The down sides are the lack of camping (although many may see this as a positive, the ability to stagger back and crash in your tent after a long day can never be overstated enough), and strict curfews mean that they often finish early and lack the late-night/early-morning activities that many consider to be the time when festivals really come alive.
Victorious Festival, now in it's fourth year, is based on Southsea Common, surrounded by the city of Portsmouth. this coastal city makes for an interesting location, as while all around you you have tower blocks, the south side offers an open view to The Solent, the stretch of water that separates the Isle of Wight from the rest of Britain, and it's not unusual to have massive cruise ships rolling past just beyond the fence. The festival itself seems to be divided into two halves - the main arena which takes up almost half the site and provides the focus of the main bands, while beyond it is a warren of areas full to bursting with micro-stages, kids areas, workshops and plenty of stalls selling food, clothing and jewellery.
Arriving early afternoon, just in time for Boomtown Rats. Despite being better known for his activities away from music, this is where lead singer Bob Geldof is most at home, a natural frontman with plenty of stage presence and moxie. Even despite the oppressive heat of the day (and boy, was it hot), he soon woke up the crowd and got them on their feet. Another band that were doing a good job of getting the crowd on their feet were Teleman,, with a bright electro pop-rock sound. Unfortunately we missed the start of their set but we were very impressed with what we saw and have made a definite note to check them out should we get another chance.
Although the line-up at Victorious tends to lean towards the pop and rock end of things, it still has space for an occasional curve-ball, and this was the case with Wretch 32, a rapper best known for his grime roots. However he's always pretty good at getting the crowd moving, although becoming a parent has clearly softened him a bit, and instead of the edgy rapper we now have one who has fully embraced fatherhood, apparently writing an entire album about how great his kids are – certainly the number of songs that he introduced about being about his kids was significant!
Following them up on the main stage were Levellers, a band that given their deep roots in the history of the UK festival scene should have been right at home, however despite putting in a pretty solid performance seemed a little disconnected to me, whether it was the stage or just an off day, but they didn't have the energy that I've seen them with in the past. The Coral however seemed to be willing to put out enough energy for two bands, despite frontman James Skelly's introverted performance, there recent return from a four year hiatus has seen them turn from a shoe gazing indie/folk outfit into a psychedelic rock band with plenty of fuzzing guitars and anthemic sounds. This break has clearly been good for them, and although the crowd, who probably know them for the older material, took a little while to warm up to this new sound they were on board by the end.
One of the advantages of the layout of this festival is that moving between the larger stages forces you through the smaller areas, and so it's easy to get sidetracked, as happened to us while returning from The Horrors set on the Castle Stage we were drawn to the Tavern stage to catch the second half of Mary Jane, a rocker in the Joan Jett mould with a really deft turn at blues guitar pulling some impressive sounds from a single acoustic.
Editors are a band who I feel never quite got the recognition they deserved – perhaps it's the darker aspects of their music that put people off and granted Tom Smiths deep vocal and songs such as ‘Smokers at the hospital doors' may put off those who like their music a bit lighter, but tonight's performance showed why they really should be a headline act by now, the darkness is offset by the big sweeping anthem sound and Tom's vocals are impressive and can soar over even the biggest riffs, something which they excel and a sense of performance that extends beyond just musicality and into the video wall, flamethrowers and light show. For me it was one of the highlights of the day.
Sadly travel limitations meant that we had to bail early tonight, so as the crowd at Main Stage sang along to a crowd-pleasing set of hits from tonight's headliners Manic Street Preachers, we headed off, but what we'd seen from today had whetted our appetite for this festival and we were looking forward to Sunday to see what Victorious could offer us.
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
festival home page
joining Ian Brown, The Streets, Royal Blood, Nile Rodgers & CHIC & more