As Sunday dawned on the site it promised to be another hot and sunny day. Usually by Sunday festivals are starting to slow down, as after a couple of days partying people take a bit longer to get going, but maybe because most have a decent bed to sleep in, the site is pretty lively quite early. Opening proceedings on the main stage were one of our discoveries from the festival last year. Manchester band The Slow Readers Club, whose sound brings to mind the likes of Interpol and Joy Division. Frontman Aaron Starkie’s vocal has a real unique quality that soars over the doom-laden guitar riffs, giving the songs a beautiful, if bleak quality that draws you in. If you haven’t seen this band yet I’d recommend doing so.
Convincing people to arrive on site early is a dilemma for a lot of festivals, and Victorious’ solution is to put bands on ‘out of position’ to draw people in, so it was that at half 1 in the afternoon we found ourselves settling down for The Dandy Warhols - a band that probably deserved a place higher on the bill. However if you’re going to put a band on early, the they are probably the ones, with their laid back sound perfect to sit back and enjoy the sun.
After catching a typically full and frenzied set from local band Kassassin Street on the Castle stage, we took the time to explore some of the other areas. With a festival like Victorious that has big names on the main stages, then a jump to far smaller bands elsewhere it’s very tempting to just hang about the big stages. But if you’re prepared to take a risk then there’s some serious talent to be found. This I think is one of Victorious’ real strengths, in that it provides a platform for smaller bands that wouldn’t normally get the exposure. One of these bands was DRGM, whose mix of modern electronic/indie matched with an old-school jazz style that made for something genuinely interesting - definitely a band to watch.
One of the more interesting spaces at the festival has to be the Seaside stage - isolated from the rest of the festival by the walls of Southsea Castle and perched on the sea wall, with a view overlooking the Solent and the Isle of Wight beyond, this stage has a feel of a ‘festival within a festival’. As early evening approached took the chance to sit down with a handmade pizza, enjoy the evening sun and watch the last festival performance of ska band Big Topp, who after a decade who are calling it a day at the end of the year. As one of the best acts of their type and seemingly at at the top of their game today, it will be a shame to not see them in the future, so the chance to watch them one last time is welcome.
As with Saturday, the end of the evening seemed to split the crowds along age lines - with the younger members of the crowd heading towards the Castle Stage to get a good position for Olly Murs. We however again stayed with the main stage. First for a performance from Franz Ferdinand, a band that following their recent collaboration with Sparks seem to be revitalised. Always a great live act anyway, this evening they seemed to up their ante with frontman Alex finding a greater joy in the songs than before. For me it was probably one of the highlights of the weekend, and quite possible the best set I’ve seen this year.
All this set a high bar for the headliners Elbow - fortunately one they were more than up to fulfilling. In the hands of some artists the introspective and often downbeat songs could make for an odd ending to the weekend, however if you’ve ever seen this band live you’ll know that Guy Garvey’s bare bones and honest performance elevates them to something truly beautiful and uplifting. Finishing the set with their classic ‘Beautiful Day’, the it also made a fantastic ending to a beautiful weekend.
The festival scene is a very crowded one these days, and where new festivals crop up all the time, all vying for a diminishing pot of money, it seems that Victorious has hit upon a winning formula. Providing an experience that satisfies a wide variety of tastes - comfortable sitting pop acts alongside established artists, and fulfilling the ‘big event’ that grabs peoples attention while still respecting the smaller and more intimate parts of the festival. It took us a few years to get to this festival, but we’re glad we did, and I can see it being a favourite of ours for years to come.
We also have a published review of Friday/Saturday.
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Victorious Festival 2018 Review