VICTORIOUS FESTIVAL – SOUTHSEA 29.8.21
Sunday – Day Three:
The Brighton & Hove News Music Team had an August Bank Holiday getaway and so we headed off along the coast to the Victorious Festival which is the UK’s biggest metropolitan festival. Here’s our report from day three.
Sunday commences with the very wonderful Liz Lawrence. I have previously reviewed her in February last year and predicted that she would be playing on festival stages very soon. Well, because of covid it’s taken a while – but here she is!!!
Not much has changed since then, although there are songs that I don’t know which may or may not be new, and she now has a fringe rather than a centre parting. I remain very impressed with Liz’s nifty guitar playing – she plays riffs and licks rather than just straight rhythm, which is what many singing guitarists do.
Unusually amongst singers her vocals actually sound even better live than they do on record. She rocks far harder live too. Her songs are thought provoking and at times quite bleak. ‘Navigator’ and ‘None Of My Friends’ are prime examples, but they do at least give hints that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
Fenne Lily arrives onstage wearing a blue kimono as a result of “losing a game of ping-pong to a nine-year-old”. With her band she purveys pleasant, melodic, strumalong indie punctuated with the occasional heroic guitar solo of the kind that Neil Young would probably be quite proud of.
She plays a short seven song set, one of the highlights of which is ‘Hypochondriac’, which came out on the first day of lockdown. Also played is a new song which doesn’t have a title yet but is about Henry Miller, and which she plays solo. Fenne possibly sounds better without the band. This song is really rather beautiful, but does bear a slight resemblance to ‘Vincent’ by Don McLean.
A bit punchier than the rest of Fenne’s material aired today is ‘Alapathy’. There’s a hint of the Velvet Underground about it, but unfortunately we only get one-and-a-half verses instead of the usual three. This is their third show in two years and Fenne can’t remember the words!
The peace of Sunday is uncompromisingly shattered by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Since I last saw the band two years ago, singer Matthew Baty has acquired a moustache. This may be something of a style faux pas, as this adornment makes him look like a shorter version of John Cleese. He is barefoot, and when he sits on the stage and sings, he resembles a petulant toddler.
However, this in no way detracts from the music. They sound like a cross between Hawkwind and (on the more riff-driven songs) Black Sabbath. I can quite sincerely guarantee that this is some of the best live rock that you’ll see onstage today.
Apparently they recently had a very expensive banner made with their logo on it, but the organisers of Victorious wouldn’t let them use it. They have to put up with having their name on the screen behind them. A sympathetic crowd member makes them a banner on the back of an A4 Victorious Festival poster. They display it on a mic stand. Great music and humour – what more could you possibly want???
The Snuts are a bit of a throwback to the Britpop era, albeit with a funky edge on opening song ‘All Your Friends’. Vocalist Jack Cochrane bears a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan circa 1965, and reckons that The Snuts should come back to headline Victorious Festival next year. Nothing wrong with a bit of self-belief I suppose….
They have some pretty decent material, particularly ‘Glasgow’, which is sparky indie-pop and could potentially be a future classic. They’ve been playing together for six years, but aren’t quite the finished article yet.
Glasvegas are best known for their self-titled debut album which was released in 2008 and reached no.2 in the UK album chart. They still absolutely drip rock ‘n’ roll iconography: vocalist James Allan still looks like Joe Strummer circa his 1989 album ‘Earthquake Weather‘; touring drummer Chris Dickie stands up behind his drums like Moe Tucker in the Velvets, or Bobby Gillespie when he played in The Jesus and Mary Chain. So far so cool.
There is a problem however. They are playing to a largely indifferent audience in a large expanse of Southsea Common on a grey, chilly afternoon. In this environment, moving songs such as ‘Flowers And Football Tops’ come across as just plain dreary. This is a terrible shame as Glasvegas are a really good band, but this is absolutely the wrong environment for them. In a packed indoor venue in front of a partisan crowd, they’d be dynamite. They should probably get a new booking agent…..
And then came the biggest ‘find’ of the weekend. Passing within hearing distance of the Seaside Stage, I heard what sounded like a really good psychedelic rock band. I walked in the direction that the sound was coming from, and encountered (there’s really no other word for it) Slant. They are a five piece from Brighton: guitar, bass and drums fronted by two female lead singers, one of whom sounds like a cross between Grace Slick and Kate Bush, and the other plays occasional synth. I’ve seen them described as post-punk (well, isn’t everybody these days?), but they sound more psychedelic to me. I shall be seeing them again, will find out more and will report back to you all. Based upon what I saw at Victorious though, I wholeheartedly recommend them.
I’ve seen Fontaines D.C. a few times now, but for a lot of other people I think they were the find of the weekend. The last time I saw them was at Chalk in Brighton, but today they show that they can handle a large festival stage with aplomb.
They come onstage to The Pogues’ ‘The Boys From County Hell’. Vocalist Grian Chatten paces up and down a bit and then they crash straight into ‘Televised Mind’. The increased attack of their performance that I noticed at Brighton Chalk is present and correct here. Guitarist Carlos O’Connell is rapidly heading towards guitar hero territory. He takes the stage in an electric blue suit, and early in the set is swinging his guitar repeatedly at the stage, narrowly avoiding hitting it. Later he dispenses with his jacket and plays with a fag dangling out of the corner of his mouth, a la Keith Richards.
‘Hurricane Laughter’ is so powerful and taken at such a lick that it could almost be Motorhead playing. Today’s set is essentially a truncated version of the Brighton Chalk set, with the addition of ‘Big’, which wasn’t played at Brighton. I suspect the band won some hearts and minds today. They just get better and better: rock ‘n’ roll attitude with the chops to back it up. Perhaps The Snuts should have come to see who next year’s headliners might be.
Since returning from the wilderness or their nine-year hiatus, or whatever you want to call it, Supergrass seem to have gone from strength to strength. Their initial reunion tour rapidly sold out, and since the covid restrictions have largely been lifted, they seem to be carrying on from where they left off. This is the first time that I’ve seen the band since 2008, and it’s like meeting up with an old friend that you haven’t seen for years, and it feels like you only saw them last week.
They have such an embarrassment of riches in their back catalogue that it staggers me how they can decide what not to play, especially when playing a festival slot which will be shorter than one of their own shows. They manage it though, even though I can’t think of anything I wanted to hear that wasn’t included.
Halfway through the set they have a short intermission where they play a recorded version of (the still hilarious) ‘Coffee In The Pot’. They remain a superlative live act, and there aren’t many bands that can end their sets with a quality quartet of songs such as the following: ‘Alright’, ‘Sun Hits The Sky’, ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’, and ‘Caught By The Fuzz’. An utterly storming set from an utterly storming band.
So, it’s headline time on Sunday night, and I have a dilemma. Royal Blood are playing on the Common Stage. I really like Royal Blood, but I’ve seen them a few times. On the Castle Stage is Nile Rodgers and Chic. Nile Rodgers is one of the all time great rhythm guitarists, songwriters and producers, and I haven’t seen him before. What to do? I decide to see the first couple of songs from Royal Blood and then go to see Nile Rodgers, who starts about twenty minutes later.
Royal Blood have augmented their live line-up with two backing singers and a keyboard player, who seems to be largely inaudible whilst I’m there. Maybe the onstage mix needed adjusting. The band is extraordinarily loud. I go to a lot of gigs, but this is really something else. They start with the title track of their new album, ‘Typhoons’, and it’s really loud. Because the band is really loud I can hear them very well until I actually reach the Castle Stage where Nile Rodgers is just starting. For Nile’s entire set Royal Blood are clearly audible between songs. They must be audible right across Southsea. By the cringe they’re loud!!! Did I mention how loud they are? Pardon???
Nile Rodgers and Chic are exactly as you might expect them to be: glamourous, slick and very showbiz. The band come on before Nile and play ‘Chic Cheer’, then Nile is announced and he walks onstage. He knows how to handle a crowd and is quite chatty. I get the impression that the set is timed and choreographed more or less to the second.
The set is designed to highlight his contribution to popular music, which is beyond considerable. So consequently we get three Chic hits, followed by two from Diana Ross, two from Sister Sledge, ‘Get Lucky’ from Daft Punk, ‘Let’s Dance’ from David Bowie, and two more from Chic: namely ‘Le Freak’ and a thirteen minute version of ‘Good Times’, including a segment of ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash.
It is no exaggeration to say that Nile Rodgers is to the music of the 1970s and 1980s (and later) what Steve Cropper was to Stax Records and the music of the 1960s and 1970s. Legend is an increasingly over-used word, but it can deservedly be applied to Nile Rodgers. What a pleasure and a privilege it was to see the man play live.
So, another Victorious Festival ends. This one was a triumph, both in terms of the music played and the way it was organised. I heard lots of people say that they’ll be back next year. I know I will.
Read our report on Victorious Festival Day One 27th August HERE.
Read our report on Victorious Festival Day Two 28th August HERE.
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