Plenty for everyone at Victorious 2022

Victorious Festival 2022 Review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Tue 6th Sep 2022

around the festival site

Friday 26th to Sunday 28th August 2022
Southsea Seafront, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO5 3PA, England MAP
currently £140 weekend; £45 Friday; £50 Sat or Sun
Daily capacity: 65,000
Last updated: Tue 23rd Aug 2022

This should have been the tenth anniversary of Victorious Festival, had it not been for the big C. Having been to almost all of them, I’ve been watching it grow from a smallish event within the nearby Historic Dockyard, to its current site on Southsea Common. Becoming one of the larger festivals on the south coast on the way. But it’s not stopping there - as I type this the organisers have revealed their intent to expand to a full three-day festival (currently Friday is a smaller affair with two-thirds of the site fenced off). But what is it like now?

The site itself is on the seafront, so one side is the city, which means that your view almost always includes a block of flats nosing up behind the usual festival flags (some of these have inadvertently gained a grandstand view of the main stage and I bet there’s a healthy AirBnB industry over the weekend). The coastal side is mostly hidden behind screens, but occasionally you will get a cruise ship going past. The first thing you really notice though is how flat it is – usually a festival will have at least one incline somewhere (usually dubbed ‘the hill of death’). The next thing you can’t miss is the road that runs through the middle of the site. Finally is the D-Day museum dominated by the landing craft out front.

The festival itself is dominated by the main stage arena, which takes up about half the site, while the other 12 stages sit in the other half. These stages vary in size from the Castle stage (almost as big as the main) to the tiny piano stage (not really a stage at all, but a piano and a small PA under one of the larger trees in the park. Despite the small areas and proximity of the stages, they’re pretty well laid out, and sound bleed is seldom a problem.

Despite estimates on the capacity being down on previous years (site scuttlebutt suggest 80,000 against the 120,000 it has reached previously) it did feel quite busy this year - finding a space to sit isn’t a problem, but any attempt to move around the site seemed to require manoeuvring round and through people in a way that didn’t seem to be as big an issue in previous years.

One thing that has changed this year is food and drink - the festival provides a good selection of food options beyond the typical burger and chips, and over the weekend we enjoyed Mac and Cheese, loaded fries, and stir fried noodles. Drinks are the typical selection of lager and cider (Amstell and Strongbow this time), but sadly departed this year is the real ale bar, so there was only had a Brixton IPA available. Prices have taken a steep climb though - you get used to inflated prices at festivals, but with a pint costing £6.50, and spirits around £10 each it was a noticeable jump from the £5 other festivals have been charging. Food is similarly high, and while a snack sized meal is around £7, a full meal is around £12 to £15. I guess with food prices in the real world spiralling festivals will follow, but it’s still a shock when you see it.

The music itself is a fairly eclectic mix of styles and probably the closest niche I could describe it as filling is ‘family friendly’ - I think it would be difficult for anyone of any generation not to find something to their tastes, with the parents enjoying the likes of Bastille, Paolo Nutini, and The Libertines; the kids getting into Anne Marie, Sports Team, Self Esteem, and Example, the grandparents reminiscing to James(pictured), Primal Scream, and Ocean Colour Scheme; and everyone enjoying Sophie Ellis-Bextor for completely different reasons.

A few years back Victorious stumbled over the quite frankly genius idea of how to solve the perennial problem of coaxing people out of their tents and into the main arena by putting a far larger (and occasionally headline-worthy) band on at the start of the afternoon. This year it was down to Primal Scream, some combination of Sugababes, and The Libertines to fulfil this position. It certainly does the trick too - Primal Scream were great as a festival opener on the Friday, although Bobby Gillespie did struggle with the decision to wear a Screamadelica suit on a blazing hot stage. Heat notwithstanding, they put together a crowd-pleasing set, and included a touching tribute to Screaming Trees frontman, Mark Lanegan who died earlier this year. Sugababes drew the biggest crowd with a decent pop set, and while The Libertines had the smaller crowd, and didn’t quite get the singalongs the other two bands had, they were nonetheless on their best form.

The festival started off on Friday with a really strong lineup on the main stage - with Self Esteem managing to be both bubbly and a bit miserable at the same time, Anna Calvi gave a seemingly effortlessly cool delivery, and headliners Stereophonics worked their way through a hit-filled list in an efficient, if slightly detached manner - you get the impression that shows like this are part of the job for them, and they seem to lack the engagement that they used to have with crowds. The highlight of the day had to be James - I may be a bit biased as I’ve loved the band for a long time, but I think anyone there would have struggled to say a bad word about this set. Dominated by Tim Booth’s incredibly bad dancing and soaring vocals and supported by Andy Diagram’s trumpet they soon had the crowd in their hands - excitement that reached fever pitch when Tim sung the whole of 'Come Home’ from within the crowd and crowd-surfing on two occasions. Leaving after only ten songs they clearly would have carried on if they could, with Tim Booth quipping “We’ve got another 300 songs to play you…”, and guitarist Saul Davis playing the riff from ‘She’s a star’ as he left, telling the crowd “This would have been the next one”. Hopefully they’ll headline at some point and be given the time they need.

One of the things that Victorious does well is its children’s field - this is a truly massive area of the festival, with plenty of things going on to entertain both kids and adults. Centred round a stage with a succession of children’s characters performing, the wider field is full of activities from craft to more physical assault courses and mini sport tournaments - most of which is free - given the high cost of entertaining young one’s these days it makes a welcome change.

Saturday saw performances form the likes of Bastille, Declan McKenna, Sports Team, and Coach Party,. One of the highlights was Baby Queen (pictured), whose afternoon set on the Castle Stage was a pleasant surprise (we’d turned up expecting to see Remi Wolf, who was a no-show).

Headliner Paulo Nutini was a welcome return to the music scene - after disappearing for the best part of the 2010s he was back and clearly enjoying performing again. Although his performance did split the crowd - in particular his choice to rework his earlier material - notably merging ‘Jenny, don’t be hasty’ and ‘New Shoes’, in with a cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ and presenting them more as rock songs than lightweight folky numbers. Personally I preferred the new versions and felt they were more in line with his later work - something he admits is more ‘him’ than the early sound. Nonetheless for those who did stay it was a fantastic psychedelic tinged performance, which brought to mind early Pink Floyd or The Doors, and a worthy headliner for it.

For those seeking something a bit different from the music they could enjoy the comedy stage - this ran every afternoon and saw performances from local comedians as well as more established names such as Milton Jones, Russell Kane, Joel Dommett, and Rosie Jones.

Sunday came round, and while starting to flag we pulled ourselves out of the hotel room for the last day. One of the advantages of an urban festival is the large amount of hotels available if you prefer a bit of luxury. For the hardcore festival goer there is a campsite, but it is too far to reasonably walk, and so you need to use the shuttle busses to got to and from (even then it’s well over an hour to do the round trip).

Sunday, for us at least, didn’t have the same pull as the other days (although with performances from the likes of Example, Turin Brakes, Editors, Amy Macdonald, Metronomy and Anne Marie it wasn’t poor by any means), which left us free to investigate some of the bands we didn’t know so well. This led to the second discovery of the weekend. Dylan John Thomas, who like a Scottish Jake Bugg plays searingly heartfelt folk and blues with a soaring vocal. Although only having half an hour on stage, I don’t think it will be the last we’ll see of him, and look forward to seeing him again.

Once again it was a 90s band that stole the day - Suede are old hands of the festival scene, and Brett Anderson is a master at working a crowd - running around the stage and to the crowd like a man possessed, he performs with his heart on a sleeve. They are also a band with a surprising number of hits - alongside ‘Animal Nitrate’ and ‘Filmstar’, songs I’d forgotten about like ‘Metal Mickey’ and ‘Trash’ took me on a trip down memory lane. Here was a band who, like James, probably should have headlined.

For the headline set we had the option of Anne Marie or Sam Fender, and chose the latter simply because it meant we didn’t have to trek back across the site again. I didn’t know much about him and so came with an open mind. And certainly he put in a competent set and the fans were lapping it up, but nothing that really sold it to me. Next time we’ll try Anne-Marie…

Victorious is an interesting festival, it manages to be big, while never feeling big - and there are plenty of opportunities for discovery and to make the event what you want it to be. The crowds are generally friendly, and the lineup is always worth looking at. If you’re looking for another festival to add to your calendar you could do a lot worse.

review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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