‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’ – VICTORIOUS FESTIVAL, SOUTHSEA 25-27.8.23
Having attended the Victorious Festival two or three times before, I’ve always been a little puzzled as to who precisely it is aimed at, as it has such a seemingly randomly diverse collection of genres represented. So much so that I’ve often thought that it lacks identity. However, this year I finally understood who the organisers are targeting: everybody. Whether you’re an indie geek, a metalhead, if pop’s your thing, you’re a clubber, or if you’re just a family out to have a nice time, there’s going to be something here for you. I’m not quite sure where precisely I fit in, but here’s a flavour of what I saw.
Day One – Friday 25th August:
CASEMATES STAGE 10:30am – 11:00am
On the Friday I managed to arrive at the festival not long after the gates opened, and headed to the Casemates Stage for Young Pine, an alternative indie band from Portsmouth. They’re pretty laid back, so are quite perfect for the time of day that they’re playing (10.30 in the morning). They don’t have a drummer today as Liam James recently dislocated his finger and tore his tendon, but he is brought on stage to make a special guest appearance on tambourine. There’s also some very tasteful picking on acoustic guitar.
Although the bulk of their material is original, they play a very impressive cover of Wet Leg’s ‘Wet Dream’. This is sung by keyboard player Lauren Barker, whose voice sounds remarkably feline. What impresses me about their version is that they don’t ape the record. They very much play their own version, projecting their own musical identity onto the song without sacrificing the spirit of the original.
They don’t really need to play covers at all though. Their original songs have plenty of quality of their own. ‘I Don’t Really Want To’ is seemingly about the singer’s ex. ‘Call You Up’ (written and sung by Lauren Barker) is I think about unrequited love, whereas ‘Ride’ is about life taking you for a (hopefully long!) ride. Yep, they do philosophy too! There’s a lot to pique one’s interest here, and hopefully before too long they’ll play some gigs outside the Portsmouth area. Brighton would be good. For those in the Southsea area they are playing the Emporium Bar on Friday 27th October.
Young Pine setlist:
2. ‘I Swear’
5. ‘Wet Dream’ (Wet Leg cover)
6. ‘Don’t Really Want To’
7. ‘Call You Up’
MILLION PEBBLE BEACH
PORTSMOUTH CREATES STAGE 11:00am – 11:30am
Next I wander along to the Portsmouth Creates stage, for Million Pebble Beach, aka singer/songwriter and pianist Claire Baker. According to her website she has been compared to Kate Bush and Björk amongst others. This doesn’t surprise me one jot as she definitely has a similar level of inventiveness and imagination to those two artists. She is an excellent pianist and singer, and has some very interesting lyrics too, especially in the song ‘Witches’.
Much of her music is quiet and delicate, and needs, no, deserves to be listened to properly. Unfortunately not all of the audience here take that on board. She’s wearing a cracking dress too – a scarlet ball gown that she picked up in a charity shop. This lady is an artiste writ large, and is definitely one to watch. Keep an eye out for the new Million Pebble Beach next single ‘The Cinema’ which is set to drop on 12th September. After which later on in the autumn there is also the promise of a full album’s worth of stripped back and acoustic music.
You can catch Million Pebble Beach at the ‘End Of Summer Cider Fest’ at the Fifth Hants Volunteer Arms in Southsea on Saturday 2nd September. Then on 9th September at ‘Escape To The Farm Festival’ in Hambledon, followed by The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth for the charity Food Bank gig on 24th September.
Million Pebble Beach setlist:
1. ‘The Elephant’
2. ‘The Archipelago’
4, ‘The Cinema’
5. ‘Back To The Moon’
6. ‘Finders Keepers’
7. ‘Hot Air Balloon’
CASEMATES STAGE 1:00pm – 1:30pm
I was hoping to see The Mary Wallopers, but they have pulled out of the festival due to travel issues. I therefore head back to the Casemates stage for Number 9. They are another Portsmouth based band. From what I’ve seen so far there seems to be a thriving music scene in Portsmouth with some very talented bands, Number 9 being another good example. They play occasionally funky indie with a strong psychedelic flavour. Both of the guitarists share lead vocals and play lead as well. They also harmonise well together.
They have quite a lot of new material, some of which they play for us today. On one of them one of the guitarists plays keyboards. It sounds quite like The Small Faces. The keyboards sound particularly like Ian McLagan.
Apparently the amount of new material is a sign of them not having gigged much recently! The singing does drift off key occasionally, but on a scale of 1 to Ian Brown it’s not that bad. I’d put it down to nerves. They apparently have no other shows scheduled at the moment, but they are on Spotify. They’re very much worth a listen.
Number 9 setlist:
1. ‘La Fille Dans Le Ciel’
2. ‘Show Love’
3. ‘More Than Meets The Eye’
5. ‘Back To Bed’
6. ‘Real World’
7. ‘Mirror Maze’
8. ‘Solid Sun’
CASEMATES STAGE 1:50pm – 2:20pm
I remain at the Casemates stage (which is in danger of becoming my second home) for Calaveras, who are another Portsmouth band. I have a personal preference for bands that are not easy to define, and other than being broadly defined as a ‘rock’ band, Calaveras very much fall into that category. Their opening song is pleasingly riffy hard rock, with some great wah-wah from the guitarist’s Gibson 335.
That is followed by ‘One Atmosphere’, for which the singer straps on a Fender Jaguar. This song has a slightly trippy feel to it. For the third song there’s a fuzzy bass sound and a delicious slide solo. Some cool harmonies too.
Each song is markedly different, which keeps things very interesting indeed, but without making the band’s sound lack identity. Another band who are seriously worth checking out. Their next gigs are: 16/09 – Groves Bar, Hayling Island, 22/09 – Lord John Russell, Southsea and 23/09 – The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea.
1. ‘The Joker’
2. ‘One Atmosphere’
4. ‘Dandelion Times’
5. ‘Fall From Grace’
CASEMATES STAGE 2:40pm – 3:10pm
Next up at my second home are Sabres, who introduce themselves thus: “We are Royal Blood. We’re really not!” There is a vague comparison, as they are a duo consisting of a drummer and a bassist whose bass mostly sounds like a guitar. However, that’s really where any similarity ends. They are far, far heavier than Royal Blood. The singer / bassist repeatedly introduces drummer Dominic Taylor, but unfortunately doesn’t tell us who he himself is. We’ll call him The Singer/ Bassist.
Their material has a dark humour which I really like. ‘Moronic’ is “a nod to tabloid newspapers and the sh*t that they spew”. It has a superb riff that should you choose to do so, you could probably bludgeon people with. ‘Some Things Never Change’ is a disco song, sort of, in a heavy rocking, depressive lyrics kind of way. What should have been the penultimate song has a bass solo that sounds like a guitar solo. The singer clearly has a very powerful voice, but drenched in reverb (as it has been throughout the set) it sounds even more so. The last song is dedicated to “all the dog lovers in the audience”; it’s The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. As the song finished the singer keels over flat on his back. When he gets up Dominic Taylor jumps on his back.
However, they’ve finished early so they have time for another song. Hurrah! We get the cheerily titled ‘Pollution’, which is fast and powerful and proffers the opinion that it is now probably too late to do anything about the environment and save the planet. They may well be right. However, Sabres tour in October and play The Rossi Bar in Brighton on 14th October, if the planet hasn’t died by then of course.
1. ‘Paint By Numbers’
2. ‘Put It Out’
4. ‘Some Things Never Change’
5. ‘Tell Me Where It Hurts’
7.’ I Wanna Be Your Dog’ (Stooges cover)
CASEMATES STAGE 3:30pm – 4:00pm
I am unable to move from the Casemates stage as next up are the very wonderful Welly, who are on their way to becoming one of my favourite live bands. It’s not just their music, which is excellent, but it’s the fact that they’re really funny onstage. Their lyrics and stage announcements are very witty, and there’s a lot going on both musically and visually. Recently they apparently had a bit of a legal disagreement with Brighton band Hutch. I suspect that this was more of a publicity stunt than anything else. Whatever, keyboardist and percussionist Hannah wears a Hutch t-shirt during soundcheck. And that’s something else: Welly are even entertaining when they’re soundchecking. When they’re checking their vocal mics, the musicians all say the same thing: a little speech commencing “would you like a sample…”. Unfortunately I can’t remember all of it.
The set itself is naturally far too short. Half an hour is simply not enough for the full immersive Welly experience. Some of the songs they play today I’ve heard before, and some I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve heard ‘Take 5’ (not the Dave Brubeck one) before. ‘It’s Not Like This In France’ is almost a golden oldie. ‘Flowers’ Welly describes as being their ‘Creep’, which I think is rather unfair on the song. If you’re fed up with bands trying to get everyone to get down on the ground and then jump up, then go and see Welly. They get everybody to mimic starting a lawn mower, which is a most refreshing change.
During the final song Stephen, one of the guitarists solos behind his head. Jimi who? Welly’s mum is in the audience, so he’s trying hard not to swear. He fails. Repeatedly. He’s trying to convince his mum that playing in a band is a viable career option. Hopefully he will be more successful with that than he was with not swearing. I should point out that both the band and the singer are called Welly. It’s confusing, I know. Singer Welly has written most if not all of the songs (I’m quite happy to be corrected here) so to an extent he IS Welly. Welly (the singer and the band, together, at the same time) play The Hope and Ruin in Brighton on 30th November.
2.’ It’s Not Like This In France’
3. ‘Deere John’
5. ‘Home For The Weekend’
6. ‘Me And Your Mates’
CASTLE STAGE 4:05pm – 4:35pm
Now Welly have departed I have no further reason to stay at the Casemates stage, so I sally forth for pastures new and find myself at the Castle Stage for The View. Their jeans must be pretty smelly now as if my maths are correct they’ve been wearing them since 2007. Still, they’re not a one trick pony and have many other songs which don’t involve dressing down to go out.
The View haven’t had the best of times in recent years, having been on hiatus since the end of 2017, during which vocalist and guitarist Kyle Falconer has released two solo albums. The band’s reunion was announced in February this year. However, during a gig at Manchester Deaf Institute in May Kyle Falconer and Kieren Webster had a bit of a bust-up which resulted in the following night’s London gig being postponed. Since then they have released a new album, ‘Exorcism Of Youth’, and judging by today’s performance normal service seems very much to have been resumed, the band sounding powerful and tight.
Unfortunately they only have half an hour, but their set is balanced between new songs and older songs. ‘Feels Like’ is the only song from the new album. Unfortunately it’s met by some impatient audience members calling for them to “play something we know”. With almost half the set coming from debut ‘Hats Off To The Buskers’ I don’t think that they have an awful lot to complain about. ‘Same Jeans’ makes its inevitable appearance as the penultimate song, the final song ‘Shock Horror’ featuring a rip-roaring solo from guitarist Pete Reilly. The View seem very much to be in rude health. They’re touring in November and December so you can go along and see for yourselves. They play Brighton Concorde 2 on 18th November (tickets HERE), and London Kings Cross Scala on 7th December.
The View setlist:
2. ‘Wasted Little DJs’
3. ‘Feels Like’
5. ‘Superstar Tradesman’
6. ‘Same Jeans’
7. ‘Shock Horror’
COMMON STAGE 4:45pm – 5:30pm
Next it’s over to the Common Stage, which is effectively the main stage, for The Charlatans. The Charlatans’ music has always been influenced by classic rock of the past, and it’s a little strange to think that they are now a classic band in their own right. Today is actually the first time that I’ve seen them for fourteen years, and therefore the first time that I’ve seen them since the passing of their drummer Jon Brookes in 2013. It’s over thirty years since I first saw them. Where does the time go? They still retain three original members: vocalist Tim Burgess, guitarist Mark Collins and bassist Martin Blunt.
The band only have a forty-five minute set, so there’s the bare minimum of chat to maximise playing time. Despite their longevity, there’s something about The Charlatans which makes them seem almost timeless. They’re well into their fifties, but they certainly don’t appear to be so. What we get today is very much a hit heavy crowd pleasing set. They’re still an incredibly good live band, so even if you didn’t know any of these songs (and I’m sure everybody here knows most if not all of them) you’d still have a good time.
Burgess still has his long blonde coloured mop: “yeah, I know I need a haircut” he tells us. He introduces a song “for all you north country boys”. Guess what that is? I’m really pleased that The Charlatans haven’t expanded their line-up like some older bands. They’re still a five piece, and remain true to their original musical ideals. They finish with the evergreen (pardon the pun) ‘Sproston Green’. It’s been a very quick three-quarters of an hour, but what a treat. The Charlatans tour from October through to December, playing London Troxy on 7th December.
The Charlatans setlist:
1. ‘With No Shoes’
3. ‘Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over’
5. ‘North Country Boy’
6. ‘The Only One I Know’
7. ‘One To Another’
8. ‘Just Lookin’’
9. ‘Sproston Green’
CASTLE STAGE 8:05pm – 8:55pm
Next I trek (and the later it gets, the more of a trek it becomes) to the Castle Stage for Jake Bugg. I saw Jake a couple of months ago at the ‘Primavera Festival’ in Madrid, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him today. Like The Charlatans Jake plays a crowd-pleasing ‘festival set’, with the bulk of the material being from his first two albums ‘Jake Bugg’ and ‘Shangri-La’, although there are two or three from his most recent album ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’. Jake starts out on acoustic for ‘Me And You’ then switches to a Gibson 335 for ‘Simple As This’ and plays a superb slide solo. His lead playing is impressive. He certainly doesn’t need another guitarist in his band these days.
I’m quite surprised at how many people in the crowd know every word to all of his songs. I thought his albums were ‘my’ secret!!! In all seriousness though I’m pleased that his work remains so well known. I wonder how the Jake Bugg who wrote ‘Seen It All’ and Jake now would relate to each other. Mind you, that can be said about all of us as we mature. Jake actually seems surprised and genuinely moved by the reception that he receives.
The set closes with a solo acoustic ‘Broken’, then the band return for ‘All I Need’. Jake and the band keep things simple. Their playing serves the song rather than themselves. There’s no grandstanding, although I’m sure they’ve got the chops to do so should they so desire. This would appear to be the end of Jake’s tour, so if you want to see him live – you’ll have to wait!
Jake Bugg setlist:
1. ‘Me And You’
2. ‘Simple As This’
3.’ Kiss Like The Sun’
4. ‘Trouble Town’
5. ‘Slumville Sunrise’
6. ‘Seen It All’
8. ‘Two Fingers’
9. ‘Lightning Bolt’
10.’ Simple Pleasures’
12. ‘All I Need’
COMMON STAGE 9:20pm – 10:50pm
So I trek back to the Common Stage for tonight’s headliner, Jamiroquai. Now I must confess that I’m not the world’s greatest Jamiroquai fan, but good music is good music right? Right. I remember seeing Jamiroquai at a ‘Top Of The Pops’ filming session at the BBC Television Centre, when Jay Kay stopped the band because “something’s not right”. I remember being surprised that a) they weren’t miming, as I assumed that all bands on TOTP mimed; and b) how good their playing was.
And so it is tonight. This is music that you simply can’t not move to. It scoops you up and away you go. I’m surprised when Jay Kay says that Jamiroquai have now been going for thirty years. “F*ck, do I feel it!” he says. This really isn’t my kind of music, but there really isn’t anything to dislike here. The tunes are good, the musicianship is superb, and all in all it’s a shedload of fun.
There’s a superb synth solo during ‘Space Cowboy’. It puts me in mind of Sly and the Family Stone, 1970s Stevie Wonder, and The Isley Brothers of the same era too. On top of the great music, Jay Kay is really funny too! In all honesty, he could do stand-up. As the set comes to an end there’s no messing about going off and then coming back for encores. The final song is ‘Virtual Insanity’ and then there’s a shock and awe inducing firework display. It’s been a great end to a really rather super day, and I hate to admit it, but where Jamiroquai are concerned, I may be a bit of a convert.
1. ‘Main Vein’
2. ‘Little L’
3. ‘Space Cowboy’
5. ‘When You Gonna Learn’
6. ‘Seven Days In Sunny June’
8. ‘Emergency On Planet Earth’
9. ‘Travelling Without Moving’
10. ‘Cosmic Girl’
11. ‘Canned Heat’
12. ‘Love Foolosophy’
13. ‘Virtual Insanity’
Tickets are already on sale for next year’s Victorious Festival. If you are interested then head on over to www.victoriousfestival.co.uk
BONUS PHOTOS OF OTHERS THAT WERE PERFORMING TODAY: