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Review: Icebreaker Festival 2017

Saturday 28th January saw the highly anticipated Icebreaker Festival back for another year celebrating “the best and upcoming music on the South Coast”. Set over 12 hours in 12 venues along Portsmouth’s Albert Road and Elm Grove, it’s extremely good value with 120 acts for the rather reasonable price of £12 adv or £15 on the day. It’s a favourite for residents but is also an awesome starting point for people looking to get into the local music scene and this year they’ve stretched a little further afield so there’s a huge variety of stuff to find. In fact, some of my favourite regular acts were challenged in almighty fashion by bands that I merely stumbled over, a delicious lucky dip which is just where this festival excels.

Skinny Milk by Paul Windsor

Keen as mustard I picked up my ticket relatively early and caught a short while of Deferers at the Deco who were riddled with energy for so early in the day. I then dashed down to the Honest Politician for the first full set. Skinny Milk, a psychedelic garage band delivered a cracking set. They’re a punchy little two piece with Johnny Hart on bass/vox and Tim Cox smashing out drums to the fuzzy bass with echoing yelps. I’d highly recommend them for fans of Thee Oh Sees and Wavves. The Polly was quiet when they started but soon filled up and grew into a good little crowd. They’re visiting Portsmouth again soon and no doubt they’d be welcomed back with open arms.

Next up was Percival Elliott at the Wedgewood Rooms. They’ve been doing for very well for themselves with gigs in LA, Hollywood and across the UK. Despite listening to recordings I was really surprised when I saw them live. The main body of Percival Elliott is Olly Hite on keyboards/vox and Samuel Carter-Brazier on guitar, but in addition there were also a backing band and string section and watching them live was just spellbinding.

Notes of the Arcade Fire and Jeff Buckley came through their “neo-nostalgic melodies” and I was lost in the beauty of their noise. Well done guys, I’ll be sure to be at your next show for sure.

From there I dashed back to Little Johnny Russells. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make Aviv and the Eunuch Horn. I’ve seen them before and they’re so worth going to. I did however, manage to catch Minque who were next on the list. Now, Minque released their album Opia on 20th December. They are fantastic live, their recordings definitely have an electro pop vibe but the instruments produce a fierce, rawer sound in a live performance. Dani’s voice is beautifully powerful as well it really holds its own even when laid over such an intense and gorgeous sound. Bones is a favourite track of mine.

Next on to The Fat Fox to see Belligerence who have been on my list to write on for a little while. They’re loud and brash with elements of Clutch and slithers of One Minute Silence. Riff led and monstrously powerful, they chew up sets and spit them out. They’re solid and wholesome and a staple band in our local scene.

Thieves By the Code were next and an unintentional discovery between my intentional acts and they were a fantastic surprise! Based in Brighton they’ve been playing for years and I was lucky enough to have a little chinwag with the lovely lads afterwards. Their music comes from their love of “blues, 60’s psychedelia and motown to the subpop level”. It’s heavy and riff driven, alluding to Queens of the Stone Age (sorry guys you’ve probably heard that more than once). It’s also incredibly melodic and has a darkness and creativity to it that’s quite delicious. Very pleased with them indeed, they’ve got loads of music online for you to check out and enjoy.

On to the Loft above the Kings. It was heaving up there and Offbeat Offensive were getting ready. Offbeat are another long standing band who are very busy on the local circuits. A fun, no holes barred ska/punk/reggae outfit, there was banter aplenty and dancing from all corners. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one of their gigs where I didn’t see anyone dancing. Songs like Being Human are just sunshine in music form. It’s infectiously happy music. It’s good for the soul. Now be a love and take your medicine.

Dirty Diesel Outlaw Orchestra were next. I’ve written about these guys before after a gig they played at the Admiral Drake one rainy afternoon (read here). Seeing them again was fantastic and I believe they have another gig lined up at the Drake on 25th February. Their hillbilly country blues rock always goes down a storm and you’ll leave a gig with an enormous grin plastered all over you dribbling, trembling chops. Please go and see them if you haven’t yet. They’re one of those bands that you’ll fall for and you’ll always wished you discovered them earlier so get on the case now.

It was a desperate dash from the Loft back to the Fat Fox for Horseflies and I was delighted to find that the room was stuffed with bodies backing out of it, a testament to their exploding reputation. An enormous amount of smoke obscured the band but it didn’t stop the sound and the crowd were loving it. The band are doing well with their single Decaydream out now and the album These Halls Are Haunted Now, which is out on 9th February and trust me, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Horseflies by Hannah Mesquitta

Stayed for a little bit of Foxer before heading on to Misigivings at Al Burritos. Al Burritos have opened up the upstairs room for gigs and the space does work really well. A veritable sweatbox, it was packed with happy campers who were all game for a good time. Misgivings didn’t have it easy, Rob was rather poorly and Joe had an early start in the morning hitting Europe for a tour but it didn’t stop them from pulling it out of the bag. All the fun of the fair, their melodic punk was just what we all needed as time was drawing on.

Just as I was trying to decide whether to hit up Zegema Beach or the Silhouettes, I caught wind of a band called Bimbo, due to play shortly after. Having a soft spot for a two piece I thought I’d play a wild card and hang fire to see what they offered and I was delighted! Describing themselves as “Psychedelic Doom Blues”, Bimbo are an incredible band. I was absolutely mesmerised by them and was so deeply involved in what they were playing I feel I must apologise to anyone who had the misfortune to encounter my late night dance moves. Braincramp is disgustingly infectious and has been cycling around my head ever since. They are creeping, they are savage, a stop start motion of saucy riffs and hooks that pop into accelerated rolling sludge bars. Absolutely fantastic music. What a find!

So there we are. Like seagulls to a bag of chips, a frantic animalistic gorging of sound, all over in a matter of hours. The vibe throughout the day was incredible, so many good people and bands. Also worth noting that it was really cool to see bands coming from further afield to play in Portsmouth for the first time that are now keen to come back and play again. With larger Festivals like Victorious soaring in popularity for bringing in larger acts it’s really important that we nourish our growing music scene too. Every big act started somewhere and if we support our local scene we keep venues open and we give our local talent more room to grow. The timing of Icebreaker during Independent Venue Week was a handsome addition to this very worthwhile cause.

With larger Festivals like Victorious soaring in popularity for bringing in larger acts it’s really important that we nourish our growing music scene too.

The calibre of bands I saw on Saturday was absolutely brilliant and worth so much more than the cost of going. Tickets are shortly on sale for next year, an ambitious 2 day event on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd February. Advance tickets are just £15 for the whole weekend so I’d say it’s well worth getting them now. It’ll be a sound investment. Huge well done to everyone involved, to those who organised it, those who played and those who came, it was an absolute triumph.

And one final note, music lovers. I really could have gone into so much more detail on each band, but I have to be realistic. However, I really don’t want this to end here. I really don’t want you to close this down and think no more of it. Please do check a couple of them out at least, it only takes a google search, most of them are on Spotify. They’re easy to find. So start something. Spread the love.

Icebreaker afterparty by Jonny Bell


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