In January 2015, for some reason, a friend went to an Aaron Carter concert. In fact, he gave it the caption “Why am I at an Aaron Carter concert?”. I’m not convinced that I heard an answer. It also had a sequel in the comments – “Why am I getting my photo taken with Aaron Carter?”.
Sadly, little came of this, and I don’t think he ever mentioned it again. However, it might have been the inspiration for going to the Portsmouth Summer Show – as close as I close to a weird concert, at least for me, could get. I recall one of my lecturers being flabbergasted a couple of days beforehand. In fact, from the emoticons that she used, she seemed horrified.
Well, I only have myself to blame for this. Living in the northern summit of Portsmouth, I could see the stage being built from my bedroom window. Considering the £7 ticket price, I was kind of surprised by the line-up’s strength, at least if boybands and X Factor are your thing. They most certainly are not my thing. It could have subsequently been my worst musical nightmare. At least had I actually decided to go at last minute. Which of course, I did. The glutton for punishment that I am, I wasn’t going to an ignore a live event so on my doorstep whether or not it be the maiden voyage of Hampshire’s biggest pop picnic – Portsmouth Summer Show.
However, the terror began before I even reached the entrance, as there was a surreal rush of horror after I realised that I had just told somebody that I was in a hurry… because I might miss Alesha Dixon.
I got there in time, and everything looked as though it was going swimmingly. It was a massive, massive family picnic, and the weather was absolutely glorious. Then as Alesha Dixon took to the stage, and many people rose to their feet, I realised just how ‘family’ and ‘girl’ orientated the event was. I’m not sure that I have ever felt this out of place. Six foot isn’t especially tall, but I still felt that I was a monster. Sure that meant that I was always going to get a good view, but that sadly meant that I always felt like I was in someone’s way. Also adding to that irritation came the realisation that I was in everyone’s ‘selfies’, with many taken with the dreaded ‘selfie stick’, one of which I was clobbered with, as its holder threw a tantrum when the phone fell off. I’ve definitely ruined a fair few attendees’ photos, tainting it with my perpetually miserable demeanor in the background.
Alesha wasn’t too horrifying. She had made no secret of her transition from pop singer, to a much broader stage-and-screen entertaining, lacing ‘The Boy Does Nothing’ with as much “put your phones in the air” and “put your crutches in the air. Get well soon!” as possible. In her legendary trademark cackle, of course. Against a glorious backdrop of sunshine and funfair, the day promised a massive array of fun pop in bite-size half-hour chunks. Shockingly, it actually delivered, for the most part, albeit with a lot of pre-recorded backing vocals (where were the rest of Mis-Teeq for ‘Scandalous’?).
James Walsh from Starsailor had the misfortune of having to follow the big ‘Hey Jude’ singalong courtesy of The Silver Beatles, and sadly of being terrible and boring. He performed alone, and may as well not have been there. The crowd visibly dispersed. No amount of “Come on Portsmouth, one more time!” was going to change anything. After all, there wasn’t a first time. Lucy Spraggan on the other hand was much jollier. Luke Friend was surprisingly good as well, even without Spraggan’s folk-rock Snoop Dogg and Sir Mix-a-Lot medleys. In their place was a peculiarly energetic and mature-sounding growl. He sounded pretty imposing. Matt Cardle on the other hand, was absolutely terrible. He was Friend’s polar opposite. There was a curious irony as the man who turned his back on the artificiality of The X Factor, brought his guitar to very few songs, and performed a lot of covers. While the small stage might have justified the lack of a backing band, the pre-recorded backing (complete with vocals) were played at such a blaring volume that he may as well have been miming his best known cover of Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many of Horror’. They hardly prevented the crowd from squealing.
On the subject of phones, the amount of references to phones and the internet throughout the day was a real sign of the times. Alesha Dixon asked the crowd to put their phones in the air (which most already had done, filming her performance), Matt Cardle fell further down in respect when he said ‘#justsayin’ (complete with “hashtag”, having the nerve to complain that he had been plagiarised by Ed Sheeran) during his onstage banter. And later, Blue spoke individually announcing their personal Twitter accounts to follow. Even established tribute band The Silver Beatles’ ‘John Lennon’ was discussing twerking and Kanye West. It seems that one can’t escape the neologisms of 2015, even in the 1960s.
And just to add insult to the matter, it took ten minutes for a teenage boy to laugh at my aged Nokia 1208 phone. Indeed, the key demographic for most irritating people on site were the 11-to-16-year-old boys who seemed even less sure than myself as to why they were even there, before discovering a new purpose – screw with everyone else’s day. One 12-year-old behind me seemed oblivious that everyone around him were laughing at him at just how scummy he sounded. While waiting for Matt Cardle: “Take your fuckin’ time why don’t ya?”.
Also, a group of boys took the opportunity to throw bottlecaps at a group of young women for no reason. They laughed, and the girls were clearly hacked off, but they came across as though it was a last ditch attempt for attention to flirt. Their attempt at being the evil jocks from 80s teen-coms. Humorously, they suddenly stopped their antics when I started speaking to The Sexiies.
No really, that was the name of their group, and yes really, that is how they spell it. After they spotted that I was taking notes, they asked me why, before member Emily introduced the group: “Do you want to write about us? We’re an up and coming girl band. You have a camera too? Do you want a picture?”. While they didn’t perform, they gave some damn good screams and hipshakes during Blue and Matt Cardle’s sets. And as a bonus, they were a very friendly bunch to spend the day with. So there we are, I’ve written about you. The least I can do for getting me through the day. Aside from when they started laughing at my phone as well.
Next was Professor Green, who was far happier than I expected, and had some daring chatter – “I’m not in Southampton, am I?”. Judging from the deafening response, the answer was reliably a ‘no’. He was an unusual booking against the Technicolored backdrop of the family festival, but he was good fun, albeit with a not-very-PG level of grit.
Prize for biggest twat of the day goes to the fifty-something woman who was presumably drunk, punched her way to the front of the crowd through the kids, and in a total injustice, she actually succeeded. Not only that, but as she got there, she threw her beer over those behind her (with emphasis on me), deliberately with a evil grin, and stole the cups of water that were handed out at the barrier to do the same again. She needless to say, was not very popular and got a lot of angry feedback (“WHATCHA MEAN? SO WHAT? EVERYONE’S THROWIN FUCKIN CUPS!” – Her voice, somehow even more grating than Alesha Dixon’s trademark cackle). Still, she sadly got what she wanted.
Finally came Blue, who were shamelessly self-deprecating in spite of their spectacular success at the dawn of the Noughties, so the demographic of anyone who felt old in the company of many-thousands of ‘tweens’ were finally fully satisfied. That is assuming that Antony Costa’s claim to being “One Direction’s uncles” was more to do with age than incredible mentorship. Lee Ryan’s warning that he was no longer able to hit the highest notes of ‘Breathe Easy’ confirmed the former, but no one really cared. Costa pointed out that at the time “Lee Ryan’s balls hadn’t dropped”. From entering to debut ‘All Rise’ to ‘Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word’, whether it was down to their voices, audience nostalgia, or just the boys plain looking good (probably a mixture of all three), it was boisterous to the end. It was a celebration. There was an aura of pride that continued into the encore, as Costa successfully provoked a ‘Play Up Pompey’ chant, followed by a smirking apology – “Shame I’m a Spurs fan!”. The giggly groan that he got back was a sign of the atmosphere, and I enjoyed it far more than I should have done.
In a strange moment, waiting for Blue, I was quizzed by a woman next to me about whether I knew anything about the headlining band Blue. Yes, I did. How young did she think I was? Judging from her reaction to me saying that I was twenty-five, she was clearly way, way off. Perhaps I should be honoured. That said, there was a bizarre change of atmosphere during Duncan James’ speech before the final song of the night (‘One Love’), on the legalization of gay marriage in the USA, and that they had performed at a Gay Pride event earlier that day. There was a really celebratory mood, until quite a few of those near the front had the rug tugged from beneath them. He didn’t even need to finish the sentence. “As a gay man myself…”. To be honest, I had missed that memo too. Perhaps I should read up more on Blue. Then again, maybe not. However, besides all of this, for what it was, the show seemed to be a massive success. I was genuinely impressed.
Worst bit: Losing all hearing in my left ear, after a young woman screamed as Blue’s Simon Webbe winked her at. Besides, he was clearly winking at me. Der.
Best bit: Losing all hearing in my right ear as a group of girls screamed having spotted a used condom and accidentally trodden on it. Suddenly, and explosively, the fact that it was tied up became obsolete. We shouldn’t have found that nearly as funny as we did. That will haunt them for life. That said, the conversation taking place behind me will haunt me too, as people discussed their suspicions on how it actually got there, especially how it was right at the front, and next the ‘dressing room’ portacabins. Considering the sexualities of the performers, their favourite theory about who the backstage suspects were, probably isn’t correct. I’ll leave your sick minds to imagine their visions.