Rockshot sent me to write a massive review of Victorious Festival 2017. To read about Days 1 & 2 and see some fantastic photos of the weekend snapped by photographer Simon Reed, follow this link.
On Sunday (miraculously, the third day of glorious sun), Turin Brakes, with a fantastic performance, perhaps rivalled Frank Turner as the act to express the most sentimentality about the location, and had every right to, as Olly Knights reflected on recording their first demos there, as well as hanging around in Southsea locations that today had been swallowed by the festival.
On the far opposite side of the festival site were the 2017 equivalent – heavier rock acts performing on the Butserfest stage, including local acts who might just record their demos as Turin Brakes did. One such Hampshire alternative punk band were the great sounding Brink Theory, who might have sounded angry, but they couldn’t resist smiling at every opportunity, or even dancing the can-can as they performed. I refuse to believe that they hadn’t been practicing that routine.
(NOTE: Brink Theory were chuffed to get a mention)
It was an entertaining joy that unfortunately didn’t continue on the Common Stage, due to an embarrassing set from Pete Doherty. It began with the smallest main stage crowd since the beginning of the day. Pete Doherty seemed to be in his own bubble, mumbling, often with his back to the audience. Referring to the Portsmouth crowd as “Southampton”, bringing on a poet to inaudibly chatter about suicide in quick bursts between songs, before eventually having to have the plug pulled on the performance as it overran, was always going to leave a poor taste. Despite a hilarious moment during which he waltzed with a security guard, there was only so much indifference or obnoxiousness than could be compensated for, sucking a lot of energy from the main arena.
Despite the blip on the Common Stage, the rest of the site was still beautifully energetic. Eight-piece ska and reggae band Bigtopp put on a rapid, grin-inducing performance on the smaller Seaside Stage. Considering just how active and packed the crowd was, one can only assume that something died a little inside frontman James Parsons upon announcing that “we give you the final festival of our careers”, unsure of why they decided to stop at all. Still, there is something gorgeously poetic about a big homecoming show, against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset besides the Solent, but their farewell show later this year.
(NOTE: Bigtopp’s final concert was at The 1865 in Southampton on 4th November 2017, and since catching them at Victorious, couldn’t resist catching them one last time. They were marvellous.)
Although the weekend was almost over, Sunday evening saw two of its most frantic performances to take place on the Common Stage. First came punk duo Slaves who despite their fury, seemed to brilliantly conduct the crowd – as to be expected of a singing drummer who refuses to sit down.
And it most certainly worked, because it takes a very enticed crowd to allow an act to reel off a furious monologue about the city’s residents who are “miserable wankers for the sake of being miserable wankers”. After all, it was an introduction to a song about raising spirits ‘Cheer Up London’, before asking that everyone present give the nearest person a cuddle. The word ‘cuddle’ sounds slightly odd when coming from a punk’s lips, but by this point, Victorious was used to that frame of mind. Next came Franz Ferdinand whose single-packed set rivaled all three headliners when considering how much of it was sung along to at a volume high enough to blot out the singer.
Although Stereophonics had yesterday put on a finale-style set, headliners Elbow lived up to the role of closing the weekend, albeit in a much different way. While tens of thousands of people were totally absorbed by the set, it functioned less to be explosive, and more as a much needed cool down, bathing Southsea Common under a night-sky and white light, This was defined somewhat by the celestially calming opening song ‘The Birds’, a peculiarly obscure eight-minute track that won everyone over nonetheless. From that moment on, Elbow had everybody wrapped around their little fingers, enough so to be in conversation.
Lyrics and onstage banter rarely avoided magnificence, love and beauty – “When I say ‘love’, you say ‘love’, LOVE!”. Often, it is to the point of charming mockery, and Garvey was well aware as he introduced ‘Station Approach’ – “Everybody say ‘love’! Everybody say ‘trains’! Everybody say ‘love and trains!”. And yes, everybody replied to every word.
Victorious Festival had opened with Beatles tribute act The Silver Beatles, who shamelessly performed the final sing-along section of Elbow’s best-known hit ‘One Day Like This’ (which Elbow ended their set on, making it also the final song of the weekend), during ‘Hey Jude’. Looking back, it defines the playfulness of the event, and how it has the friendly character and colour to stand as one huge annual event. Fingers crossed that it’s a while yet before they consider extending the campsite to the moon.