Rockshot sent me to write a massive review of Victorious Festival 2017. To read about Days 2 & 3 and see some fantastic photos of the weekend snapped by photographer Simon Reed, follow this link.
I am local to Portsmouth, and I admit that I became slightly concerned before attending my third Victorious Festival. Victorious refuses to stop growing. It engulfs the entire city, with stages on the southernmost coast, and a new campsite on Portsmouth’s northernmost border. With victory after victory (just thought I would get the references to being ‘victorious’ out of the way), it felt as though it might disastrously shut down Portsmouth for the bank holiday.
Perhaps that is destined to happen one year, but the strongest line-up yet spearheaded by Madness, Stereophonics and Elbow, along with abnormally gorgeous weather, made sure that 2017 was not going to be that year. This year’s biggest expansion came with extending the festival from two, to three days. There was now an opening party on the Friday, which considering the late afternoon opening times resembled more a concert in its own right. The main ‘Common’ stage wasn’t even open, as what little of the Victorious site was yet open, orbited around the second, smaller ‘Castle Stage’.
Sundara Karma kicked off the weekend with psychedelic art pop-rock and flamboyant pastel colour. ‘Olympia’ really goes to show their mindset – playfully, anthemic sounding tracks laden with mythical references to centuries past. Despite the striking androgynous teenage image, most of the band were deadly still. It was also a real pity that their set had to be cut short due to time constraints, as it felt as though they ended as soon as they had started to wriggle into motion. And frontman Oscar Pollock wriggles a lot – more than you would expect his skinny jeans to allow. This didn’t prevent the crowd being set into motion. Closer ‘Explore’ provoked what one can be best described as a ‘prance pit’, as fans skipped in circles.
The Charlatans brought yet more colour to the Castle Stage, with one of the most violently strobing light shows of the weekend, and they filled the inevitable annual ‘90s alternative rock legend’ slot beautifully with classics such as ‘Weirdo’ and ‘The Only One I Know’ performed just as energetically as ever. The surrounding chaos made it especially difficult to keep track of frontman Tim Burgess due to his habit of hiding at the back of the stage to take photos with his phone. This became especially awkward during frantic nine-minute jam session closer ‘Sproston Green’. It was difficult to be subtle when bathed in electric green light.
It didn’t even take for them to come onstage to accurately guess the reaction that Madness would get. I only had to see how many audience members were wearing fezzes. There were a lot and there is no denying Friday’s booking felt more like a standalone Madness concert than “Festival Day 1”. This was confirmed by most of the crowd knowing how to recite the entire 30-second spoken monologue opening to ‘One Step Beyond’, word for word.
It was a brilliant clash of old classic chaos, and not quite so enticing new material from their latest album, (or “long play”, as Suggs describes it, as he often proudly referred back to 1979 between songs), but the shallow and blunt fun factor meant that it was great start-to-finish. The start of the show defined it well – opening with rumble and explosion sounds, only to goofily launch into ‘Embarrassment’. It’s to be expected of a band with a saxophonist who spent half of a song playing hoopla with a tambourine and a microphone stand.