PORTSMOUTH & SOUTHSEA'S No.1 for ARTS, CULTURE & LIFESTYLE
The sun sets behind the main stage during Brian Wilson's set at Victorious Festival 2018.

Review: Victorious Festival 2018

As we reflect on last weekend’s Victorious Festival the team behind the incredible event are dismantling the stages, removing the fencing and putting stalls into storage until next year. Soon Southsea common will return to its day job and we will have just the memories of the weekend to keep us going until next year. That should be an easy task as what incredible memories to choose from! Here are our highlights.

The Kaiser Chiefs (Stuart)
Prior to the festival, I would have never thought that I would be putting down The Kaiser Chiefs would have been one of my highlights. I haven’t suddenly been converted as a fan of the band but being there for their performance is a memory that will stay with me forever! This is because I spent the evening with my 80 year old Nan who was attending her first ever festival. I wondered if she would still want to go due to the wind and rain but as we had VIP passes for the show and it was under cover she was determined to be there. I don’t think she could name a single song but being a big fan of Ricky Wilson from his appearances on The Voice she could appreciate seeing him expertly entertain the crowd.

Joan was a bit of a star in the VIP area, so many people wanted to say hello, make friends with her and make sure that she was having a good time. When my aunt and I returned with hot drinks we found that even then minutes she’d learnt the whole life story from everyone around us and where they’d come from to be there that night.

It was lovely to be there and share in the enjoyment of her first festival. It was also heartwarming to see how nice and welcoming everyone around us were. She wasn’t so bothered about Pete Doherty though!

Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs squats down on the stage at Victorious Festival's main stage.

The Southsea Alternative Choir with Megan Linford (Stuart)
For many years now I have enjoyed the work of the musical collective that is The Southsea Alternative Choir and the great work that they do to raise money for worthy causes. On Saturday afternoon I headed over to the Real Ale Stage for their final of their three performances of the day. I picked up a pint of Irving Brewery‘s lovely Victorious Festival Ale from the bar, I still feel like they’ve missed a trick by not calling it Victorious Festivale but oh well.

The guys belted out some of their tried and tested covers while the large crowd sang and danced along with the band throughout. Towards the end of the set, they were joined on stage by local singer-songwriter Megan Linford for a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Natural Woman.’ This was possibly my favourite unexpected festival duet since Tupac joined Snoop and Dr Dre at Coachella in 2012. Can we have more team-ups in future please guys?

I picked up a pint of Irving Brewery‘s lovely Victorious Festival Ale from the bar, I still feel like they’ve missed a trick by not calling it Victorious FestivALE but oh well.

A young girl dances in the fountain to cool down on a hot day at Victorious Festival 2018.

Gaz Coombes (Chris)
When I stick on Gaz Coombes’ most recent single, ‘Wounded Egos’, my three year old starts singing ‘Wounded Eagles’ as the chorus kicks in. It really does sound as if the former Supergrass frontman is singing these words and when it’s followed by a line that seems to state that these injured birds are ‘riding cycles’. Suffice to say, when ‘Wounded Eagles’, sorry, ‘Egos’ gets an airing mid-way through the set, my daughter suddenly stops chasing her mate around and demands to be lifted onto my shoulders whilst we dance along to the whole song, singing aloud the completely wrong lyrics.

Gaz Coombes (Bernadette)
I’d been excited to see Gaz Coombes as since leaving Supergrass his work has developed a gentler, but still earnest approach. He blends euphoric, rising sentiment, fast-paced rolling bars with ethereal sounds, not too dissimilar to Radiohead. The sun was out on Saturday afternoon and we had just finished watching Sleeper. Gaz Coombes came on and with a white and jacket and guitar and he was really, very lovely. He played some beautiful music, including the amazing 20/20, the drop being transformed from the gentle recording to a bass driven, soaring number that completely washes over you. He also performed a real treat in the shape of ‘Moving.’ I’d heard through the grapevine that he doesn’t play Supergrass so often any more and you could see how much everyone enjoyed it. He played a great set and it was just the right setting.

Fans covered in glitter leaning on the barrier of at Victorious Festival's main stage on Saturday.

Pins (Russell)
Saturday started quite late for me in terms of getting to the festival but I was adamant that I would be there to see Pins, so I herded my cat like friends out of the door! I had slight apprehension beforehand as to whether to bring my camera with me but it turned out there were no issues in the end. I proceeded to the Castle Stage via the bar and a Tibetan food stall; the vegan momo dumplings those guys were selling were simply divine! Fluffy, flavoursome and pretty big in size and well worth the money in my opinion. I just wish I could remember the full name to give them the full credit!

I sunk my beer very quickly so I could get some snaps. While leaning up against the barrier I resisted the urge to jump over! Lead singer, Faith Vern, was a joy to photograph, styled in a beige mac with her blonde bob and white sunglasses. The band were playing with two drummers which is unique, this created a driving sound which was also epitomised by the energy guitarist Lois MacDonald was emanating. The band rattled through six tracks in their thirty minute set, this wasn’t enough time for the newbies in the crowd to get the full effect of a bands sound but hopefully they’d already won them over by that point. They played a mix from their two albums and various EPs – tracks included ‘Trouble’, ‘If I Was’ and the infectious, pulsating ‘Serve The Rich’ which was produced by Jamie Hince from The Kills. I have since been asked to send my pictures over to the band which is an added bonus!

The band were playing with two drummers which is unique, this created a driving sound which was also epitomised by the energy guitarist Lois MacDonald was emanating.

Pins and her band on stage for their set at Victorious Festival 2018. Taken by Russell Leggatt.

Brian Wilson (Rebecca)
Listening to Brian Wilson singing ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice‘ with the whole crowd singing along and the sun setting will be a memory that stays with me for a very long time. The sunset bathed the crowd in a warm orange light and seeing the silhouette of the Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth’s Naval Memorial really was a sight to behold. Portsmouth is really beautiful.

I wondered if parts of the crowd didn’t initially make the connection with The Beach Boys or that there was a clash because there were tons of people that briskly walking, or even running to the Common Stage during the beginning of his set. If we’re being honest, the 76-year-old isn’t the singer he once was but his band were ace and the crowd really got behind him. It was a pleasure being in the company of such an absolute hero. After a couple of songs that I wasn’t aware of, Brian went into ‘God Only Knows‘ which had the crowd singing along. I couldn’t help but think how perfectly magical that moment was.

Fans covered in glitter leaning on the barrier of at Victorious Festival's main stage.
A young girl is held up on someone shoulders while they enjoy the band on the Common stage at Victorious Festival 2018.

Billy Bragg (Bernadette)
The sun was sinking when Billy Bragg strolled on stage and started the show a few minutes earlier than scheduled. The warm sentiment was enough to keep the cool sea breeze at bay, reinforced by the discussions between songs. Passionate statements from his opening song ‘Sexuality‘ to ecology, politics and toxic masculinity. Bragg gave a genuine performance, including singing Kirsty’s MacColl’s verse from her cover of his ‘A New England.’ The attitude of the crowd was a wonderful thing. There was the crackle of an excited cohesion. Stood watching children sat on the shoulders of parents, clapping to songs like ‘There Is Power In A Union‘ was a really special moment. Accompanied by C. J. Hillman, who as an exceptional musician and played wonderfully, Bragg was my favourite bit of the Festival.

Paloma Faith (Rebecca)
This woman is a tour de force! Strutting onto the stage in a pink wig, large thick-rimmed glasses and full-length pastel sequin gown channelling Mary Quant 70’s vibes while belting out ‘The Architect‘, ‘Cry Baby‘ and ‘Guilty‘ with flawless vocals. Paloma Faith is endearingly chatty, addressing body issues, beauty and the attack she faced from people post-baby, being honest and spreading a great message of body positivity.

She’s also a secret hit factory. I didn’t realise how many Paloma Faith songs I knew and could sing along to. Following a strong start she went into hits ‘Make your Own Kind of Music‘ and ‘Can’t Rely On You‘ to get everyone dancing.

Paloma even gave us some insight into the song ‘Til I’m Done‘, the songstress said: “We live in a generation, hang on, I feel we live in a generation where women are doing everything. Because we can have babies and careers and it doesn’t scare men off. I’m with a feminist man who looks after our baby while I work. I had to write this song for him.” Yes Paloma! I think we’re all here for these strong female vibes!

She drew a huge crowd despite Paul Weller being on at the same time and she put on a cracking show. What a wonderful end to a fantastic Saturday!

Paloma Faith dances on stage during her Victorious Festival set.

Sleeper (Chris)
The last time I saw Sleeper was actually my first ever gig! October 11th 1995 at the Pyramids Centre a mere five minute walk away from where I was standing. Things are a little different these days of course and trying to keep an eye on my three-year-old daughter whilst hushing my buggy bound baby son is not the gig going future my 15-year-old self would have envisioned the next time I would be seeing Louise Wener and co but some things haven’t changed. I’ve still got a big smile on my face for starters whilst the band knock out songs from their first two albums plus their awesome cover of Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ which they included on the Trainspotting soundtrack back in the day.

I’m also still surprised as to why they weren’t ever as big as I thought they should have been with ‘What Do I Do Now?’ and ‘Inbetweener’ classic sing-along Britpop tunes. It’s a nostalgia trip of course but it really works on a sunny Saturday festival afternoon. During the chorus of their final song of the set, I look across to my wife talking with a friend who has just come over from Australia with her husband and kids. They used to go to many a Pompey Britpop gig together back in the day too and so these two indie girls catching up, smiles on faces and Sleeper’s ‘Sale of the Century’ blaring out will always be one of my favourite ever Victorious Festival memories.

The last time I saw Sleeper was actually my first ever gig! October 11th 1995 at the Pyramids Centre a mere five minute walk away from where I was standing. Things are a little different these days of course and trying to keep an eye on my three-year-old daughter whilst hushing my buggy bound baby son is not the gig going future my 15-year-old self would have envisioned…

Three young teens sit upon the large love sign which was found at Victorious Festival.

The Real Ale Bar (Chris)
I know this feature is for our highlights but in name of balance I have to be honest, apart from the biblical levels of rain on Sunday the most disappointing aspect of the weekend came when I visited the Real Ale village to view the beer selection. Although it was positive to see offerings from local breweries Staggeringly Good and Fallen Acorn the selection across the board had been vastly reduced compared to previous years with a real lack of styles on offer. In fact, I cannot remember seeing a dark beer available which seemed extremely odd. I do hope this doesn’t happen again next year – the real ale/craft beer offerings in the past at Victorious has been excellent and a real antidote to the bland, mega brewery beers and ciders dotted around the bar areas in the main arena.

Everything Everything (Chris)
Playing the Castle Stage just as the sun is going down must be a real experience for any band. Looking over the field towards the lit up Victorious Hollywood style sign, over to the Southsea Castle and then out to sea – small boats bobbing in the water caught in the waves caused by a cross-channel ferry just casually sailing past. In fact, when I’m in the crowd at Victorious I’m often just looking around, taking in all the surroundings. However, when a band such as Everything Everything are playing your attention is grabbed from the off.

With what had to be my personal musical highlight of the weekend, the band begin their set with a majestic ‘Night of the Longknives’. Lead singer Jonathan Higgs – resplendent in some kind of slim red trench coat only a front person in a band can pull off – contorting on stage as he pummels the audience with a truly mesmerising vocal delivery. His awesome range is also evident in both ‘Run the Numbers’ and ‘A Fever Dream’ which follow soon after. Later, the northern soul stomp of ‘Regret’ offers up the first singalong moment for the crowd whilst ‘Kemosabe’ and ‘Desire’ are lapped up by the partisan crowd. A really magical show and one which, after ending with a thumping ‘Distant Past’ leaves me completely forgetting about that castle and the seaside vista. Well, until another ferry glides across the background again.

The Great British Summer (Rebecca)
My Sunday started by dressing for the great British summer, we layered up in wellingtons and several waterproof jackets to ensure our survival through the downpour. When we arrived at Victorious we were greeted by Dermot O’Leary on the main Common Stage playing Gene Kelly’s iconic song ‘Singing in the Rain.’ Everyone was sliding around in the mud singing and dancing as they linked arms with strangers, it couldn’t have been a better or more inviting start to the day. In that moment all my fears about the rain were blown away as I joined in the dancing and started to enjoy the ridiculous nature of our weather.

Victorious Festival goers dance in the rain.
Victorious Festival goers dance in the rain.

Dub Pistols (Russell)
Sunday’s weather was the complete polar opposite to that of Saturday! Rain, rain and more rain set the tone for the day but this always makes me want to make sure I have a better time as a result! Dub Pistols were the first port of call for the day, my good friend Sophie and I were deliberating when best to leave the house. We layered up with warm clothing and waterproofs and I added an extra poncho to this just outside the festival to make sure I was fully prepared for the monsoon rain. In true British style, a crowd had already convened at the Common stage ready to dance and have a party.

I’d seen Dub Pistols a few times at a local festival Blissfields and also Bestival but this was definitely going to be a different experience. The main band were tucked away to one side of the stage keeping dry while lead singers Barry and Seanie Tee conducted proceedings out front in the rain. Bouncing around with new friends and old friends was a great experience, everywhere you looked around you everyone had smiles on their faces and were dancing along too despite being soaked through! Barry and Seanie seemed to be enjoying the conditions and were interacting with the crowd the same as they ever do, encouraging the togetherness.

The Dub Pistols perform in the rain, with the lead singer using an umbrella during the set at Victorious Festival.

Friendly Fires (Rebecca)
Energetic and explosive, Friendly Fires really brought a lot of energy with some bold dance moves and smokey, inky neon graphics brightening the dull sky. I’ve been wanting to see them for years and they didn’t disappoint. Classics like ‘Skeleton Boy‘ and ‘Jump in the Pool‘ were cleverly mixed in with new tracks like ‘Can’t Wait Forever‘.

Lead vocalist Ed MacFarlane sounded incredible totally ridding me of my fear that they wouldn’t as good live like they do on their records. As a long standing fan, I was totally captivated and not just by Ed’s Hawaiian shirt and wild dance moves.

Example and DJ Wire (Rebecca)
Example is the soundtrack to many a night out so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that his performance would be one of my weekend highlights. The crowd adored him and lost it to his big dance floor fillers. DJ Wire had mixed several other tracks into the set including Jay Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queen. After Example had finished on ‘Changed the Way You Kiss Me‘ the duo left the stage while a mix of The Killer’s ‘Mr Brightside’ kept the crowd dancing.

Example said: “I want to play Portsmouth every weekend, this has been the best gig of the summer”. We bet you do Example, we’re a jolly ace crowd and when you deliver non-stop dance tunes of course we’re going to rave with the best of them.

A young girl is held up on someone shoulders while they enjoy the band on the Common stage at Victorious Festival 2018.

Years and Years (Rebecca)
Years and Years had transformed the stage with big screens, light up symbols and big boxes which the band were put on meaning everyone got a great view.

I’d previously not been a massive fan of the trio but this performance totally converted me. They really put on an incredible show and Olly Alexander silenced any doubts I had about his voice, it was superb. The songs are catchy and like most bands, much better when performed live. Olly, who was in a yellow and black tartan jumpsuit, slowly danced onto the stage for the first song which was ‘Sanctify‘, followed by ‘Take Shelter‘ and ‘Eyes Shut‘. He put a lot into the performances, matching the dancers move for move or playing the piano on the slower songs which of course got the whole crowd singing along.

If You’re Over Me‘, ‘Karma‘ and ‘Desire‘ were carefully played around newer tracks ‘Rendezvous‘ and ‘Hallelujah‘. Soon I found myself singing along to the last track ‘King‘, I knew every word which I’ll hold Radio One accountable for after they relentlessly played this track, and was dancing about like a loon with the largely teenage audience. The dance moves I’ll have to take responsibility for, I like throwing shapes!

I had a sneaking suspicion as the band legged it off stage and shot off in a minibus through the festival site that they might have an appointment at Notting Hill Carnival!

Years and Years put on a real show and offered amazing value for money. I don’t think I’d have ever been able to see them as close as I did in a normal gig setting. It was fun and I left Victorious with a real feel-good feeling, the rain had ruined nothing!

I don’t think I’d have ever been able to see Years and Years as close as I did in a normal gig setting. It was fun and I left Victorious with a real feel-good feeling, the rain had ruined nothing

Years and Years wow the Victorious Festival Crowd.
The Prodigy close Victorious Festival in style.

The Prodigy (Chantelle)
These guys were all I had hoped for and more. I was so excited to see this happen this weekend and nothing, no rain, no wet pants; no muddy field was going to stop me. I got in the zone with some Friendly Fires jams beforehand and waited patiently for The Prodigy to grace the stage. Dermot O’Leary was stood in front of us being a generally ace chap and having his photo taken with everyone and it crossed my mind how surreal the whole day had been and was still being. Mad rain, pit stops home for tea and pizza, Dermot and now just chilling waiting to catch a glimpse of Keith Flint, one of my all-time fave people ever. We waited and fashioned glow stick hats and then it all began and it rocked!

Total nostalgia hit me and memories of dancing about in Brighton clubs like a maniac to Prodigy classics. As I saw the lads come on stage and the crowd’s reaction I knew it was going to be great! Everyone around me was buzzing, standing on tiptoes to see more or jumping around about like lunatics. That really is what The Prodigy is all about, they get you moving and going crazy. For me, that is what makes them so legendary.

I lost my mind when the began ‘Smack my Bitch Up’. Surrounded by best friends I thought, this is what festivals are all about, good music and good people. It’s all about having fun, rain or shine and Victorious made that happen for me this weekend which I am grateful for so cheers guys.

A girl next to me was in tears when ‘Voodoo People’ came on and I thought yeh, that’s what Prodigy does to you. Thanks for playing it Prodigy and thank you so, so, so much Victorious for booking them. Made my Sunday completely.

Written by Stuart Barker, Rebecca Henderson, Chantelle Wyatt, Russell Leggatt, Chris Horton and Bernadette Pamplin
Photos by the Strong Island Media team, including Tom Langford, James White and Russell Leggatt

The Prodigy's light show during their closing set of Victorious Festival.

RELATED POST

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

INSTAGRAM
FOLLOW STRONG ISLAND ON INSTAGRAM