Review: Victorious Festival 2019

Review: Victorious Festival 2019

It has been a few weeks since the great and the good descended onto Southsea Common for this year’s Victorious Festival. This event gets bigger and better every year and with the addition of the lush weather this summer was no different. I know that sounded like a generic statement that you would expect to have come straight from a press release but genuinely the team behind Victorious have yet again raised the bar, offering some of the UK’s best-loved bands and musicians, juxtaposed with your mates local bands.

We were fortunate enough to have a number of writers at the event over the weekend and they have selected their highlights of the weekend.

Bloc Party | By Bernadette Pamplin

The bright sun was sinking, we posted position on the slope slightly under the glorious Victorious lettering. As the sky was fading through orange and deep blue hues the tension started to build, and Bloc Party took to the stage to play the high anticipated Silent Alarm. There’s a lot to be said about a band playing a whole album. When you love an album, within its movements it becomes its own piece of art, as much as each song is. I must admit, I was thrown when that anticipated flow wasn’t there, as Bloc Party were playing the songs out of order, and as I later discovered, in reverse. But there’s something to be said for that. After the popularity of a European tour, they had also played the album at some dates around the UK, that seemingly had its final play at Victorious, as mentioned by frontman, Kele Okereke.

As the sun set into darkness, they opened with of Compliments, moonwalking back through the album. The stage was lit up in a sedate purple, regularly bursting into blue and red strobes as they made their jumps between ethereal songs like Pioneers and This Modern Love into vivacious numbers like She’s Hearing Voices, from Blue Light into Banquet. The atmosphere felt surreal and genuine. A friend had suggested I may want to dance, and I had insisted on sitting and taking notes, but as it felt time reversed and was ultimately running out, I succumbed and we spent the last and first few tracks doing some serious dancing amongst the crowd.

Although the set felt strange not flowing in the direction we were used to, it gave a different facet to the music. And coming towards the end, finishing on Like Eating Glass, there was a feel of magic. Like Silent Alarm had once been born of celestial magic, and reached out into space, the star had hit its pinnacle of brightness and wound back down, imploding in on itself and collapsing into a beautiful black hole. The encore the had us then leaping forward in time, comprising of Two More Years, recorded just after Silent Alarm and featuring on the later release, Flux from the second album Weekend in the City and Ratchet from their third EP The Nextwave Sessions. In true Bloc Party style, the was a mathematical sense to the chaos and on reflection, whilst it took me by surprise, it’s exactly what I had hoped for.

Four Folds Law | By Russ Leggatt

After having a great first day on the Friday at the festival which was a mini Glastonbury ‘19 reunion with friends, I was very much looking forward to the Saturday night at the Seaside stage which played host to a number of superb local bands, none more so than Four Folds Law and Neverman. These guys were up against some guy called Lewis Capaldi (never heard of him?!), who appears to have pulled one of, if not, the biggest crowd Victorious Festival has seen, playing the Castle Stage and the mighty veterans Ocean Colour Scene on the Common Stage. It was tough slot to be playing but both bands managed to pull in some good numbers which is great to see people supporting local music. My friend Dan, who plays drums in Four Folds Law, had asked me to photograph the band and then told me Ocean Colour Scene were playing at the same time, he now owes me a few beers for that!

Four Folds Law have been an entity since 2014 however it was a new year, new start approach to 2019. Drawing their influences from Starsailor to Gomez through to Arctic Monkeys, Rifles and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) they have spent this year searching and writing. The band began gigging frequently at the start of the year to get new members up to speed with them now experimenting with styles and writing.

Their 30-minute slot on the Seaside Stage saw them blast through the back catalogue, my personal favorites being ‘Cyclone’ and ‘Gun Shy’, as well as introducing the tracks ‘Hold On’ & ‘24/7’. It was clear to see that BRMC were an influence given the amount of noise that was created! Four Folds Law released their EP – STRONG this July and close out the year by playing a headline show at The Rifle Club on 9th November. Be sure to check out both as you will definitely not be disappointed.

All Saints | By Liz Parsons

Being old enough to remember All Saints in their 90s heyday, my festival crew and I made sure we were there to catch the girls as they took to the Common stage early on Saturday afternoon. We were primed and ready for a weekend of sun, fun and great live music, and Mel, Shaznay, Natalie and Nicole got us off to a great start.

They looked and sounded awesome live, with beautifully tight harmonies and choreographed two-stepping dance routines my inner teenager couldn’t help but bop along with. Retro chart hits ‘I Know Where It’s At,’ ‘Bootie Call’ and their cover of the Chilli’s ‘Under the Bridge’ sounded surprisingly fresh, and I was glad they included the still-cool 2000 number one ‘Black Coffee’ in their set.

With sun beaming down and the crowds’ arms waving along with the band’s, the tropically dreamy ‘Pure Shores’ was a real good vibes moment, and breakup anthem ‘Never Ever’ had us all reciting the famous verses word for word. Finally seeing an act you grew up with can sometimes be a bit of a disappointment, but All Saints well and truly proved nostalgic bookings like theirs are a festival win.

The Futureheads | By Liz Parsons

The Futureheads were a real favourite of mine at uni and having never seen them live, I was chuffed to see them on the Sunday bill. There were surprisingly few people milling around the Castle stage as the band kicked off their set, so we managed to get pretty close to the front for a great view. The Sunderland lads are a chatty bunch, and they were on great form at Victorious, bantering with each other and the crowd in between energetically performed songs.

The glorious weather seemed to rub off on the spirits of all the acts this year, and The Futureheads were no exception, really enjoying themselves as they belted out lively indie bangers Skip to the End, The Beginning of the Twist and Decent Days and Nights. The band have just released a new 2019 album, and treated us to first single Good Night Out – classic Futureheads with an anthemic chorus and full-bodied riffs.

Their final song had to be the mighty Hounds of Love, for which they split the crowd down the middle and had each side singing along with a section of the iconic vocal intro. Of course, by the end of the set the crowd had grown substantially, as is only right for such a stalwart of British indie brilliance.

The glorious weather seemed to rub off on the spirits of all the acts this year, and The Futureheads were no exception, really enjoying themselves as they belted out lively indie bangers…

Clean Bandit | By Liz Parsons

We wanted a party atmosphere to end our 2019 Victorious experience, so we headed to see UK electro dance collective Clean Bandit close the Castle stage on Sunday night. I’d seen them perform at a festival before, so I knew their chart-topping blend of dance pop with a classical twist would get the crowd going.

Always joined on tour by fantastic vocalists and musicians, band founders and musical whizz kids Grace, Jack and Luke were accompanied on stage by equally talented singers Kirsten Joy and Yasmin Green, and guest violinist Stephanie Benedetti. The huge crowd were on board from the get-go, dancing and singing along with massive hits including Symphony, Solo and Baby. A personal highlight was the surprise rendition of Destiny’s Child banger Survivor that merged cleverly into 2018 album track Should’ve Known Better. Like all Clean Bandit performances, this one came complete with a dazzling array of electronic and classical instruments, as Grace switched seamlessly from cello to MIDI drum kit to percussion.

Saving their biggest song for the finale, Clean Bandit ended their set with the megahit Rather Be, which won over even my dance music-phobic festival buddy. I like my Victorious headliners to leave me on a high, and Clean Bandit definitely stole the show.

Starsailor | By Chris Horton

If Victorious is gaining an ‘identity’ as such in respect to the bands it’s booking then it could be argued that they have a bit of a knack at spotting upcoming British solo acts – Lewis Capaldi’s third on the bill Castle Stage slot shows you just how far in advance they must have got him whilst Tom Grennan’s 2017 packed out acoustic stage performance springs to mind.

Alongside this slightly niche (yet very successful) genre trope it could also be argued that the festival does tend to enjoy booking a veteran Britpop act or two. This year saw the likes of Ash, Badly Drawn Boy, Doves, Space, Dodgy and Ocean Colour Scene grace the various stages of the festival. It could be easy to dismiss this type of booking but such is the musical landscape in today’s internet age – where relevance and longevity of bands seems to be forever extended – there’s still plenty of bands celebrating 20 or so years of defining records. One such band is Starsailor whose debut album ‘Love is Here’ was released to much fanfare in that early noughties post-Britpop age and was, personally, one of a handful of records to help define my first year at university.

Fast forward 18 years and it’s almost like I’m back up in Sheffield watching the NME’s new favourite band of 2001. Almost. Lead singer James Walsh’s hair may be turning a little grey but starting with early single ‘Alcoholic’, his vocals haven’t changed a bit, still moving within the same beautifully fragile yet powerful range that first caught the attention of critics and fans alike. Followed quickly by another track from the debut – ‘Poor Misguided Fool’ – the crowd begin to show their own voice, singing along to it’s chorus. It’s been a while since I last saw them but on a scorching Sunday afternoon on the main stage I’m brought back to those student union indie nights and ‘Four to the Floor’s’ disco infused beat and sing-a-along chorus reminds me of the band’s knack for a snappy melodic hook.

Walsh is gracious throughout in his interaction with the crowd who return the love with warm receptions greeting each tune like long lost friends. They finish with ‘Good Souls’, it’s mighty chorus line of ‘Thank Goodness for the Good Souls’ being directed straight at the Common Stage crowd. At the end of the song, the band segue into a cover Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’. Hmmmm, now there’s a turn of the century artist I wouldn’t mind seeing grace this stage one day…

Henge | By Bernadette Pamplin

I had briefly heard a friend talk about Henge, and she insisted that we had to see them. Little did I know that they were going to be the find of the festival for me. Closing the night at the infamous Beats and Swing Tent, we just missed the start and got there with the party in full swing.

Henge are more than a band. They’re a full-on show. Psychedelic explorers and tribal astro druids, the members, Zpor, Nom, Goo and Grok are masters of a genre they call Cosmic Dross. In the flesh they were a sight to behold, comprising an alien, something similar to Chuthulu, a dude in beautifully coloured robes, with an amazing frontman clad in robes and staff, complete with an incredible headdress topped with plasma static electric ball. There were Mighty Booshesque elements of beautiful absurdity as they rolled through belters of songs like Mushroom One with its eerie surfer guitar breaking into gentle dub and In Praise of Water, which is a proper twitchy toe tapper of a tune and The Great Venusian Apocalypse which is wonderfully crashy. Their music challenged my perceptions, a sea of multi genre fusions coming from all directions and pierced with all sorts of peeps and squiggles and other excellent sounds you’d imagine to find in 70s Sci Fi.

And on top of this awe inspiring visual and audial wonder, they had a lot to say, encouraging a warm and welcoming atmosphere, an essence of unity and possible utopia. Holding up boards with the words to Demilitarise so we could sing along “We demand that the weapons of war are manufactured no more, demilitarised. We demand that we have in its place, the means to unite and colonise space”. I have to add, the crowd were bursting out of the tent at this point and the chorus of everyone singing along to this was really special.

Henge are out of this word. And, I would add a life altering experience. If you missed out on them, then there may be hope for you. They’re playing at the Wedgewood Rooms on 24th October. As far as I’ve heard tickets have been going thick and fast since this set. So, if you want to see them, act quick. And if you do, prepare yourself for magic.

Greener Portsmouth | By Chantelle Wyatt

A huge highlight for me this year was the way in which the festival has embraced conservation and continued to be environmentally aware. Bordering the coast with the ocean next door is a reminder of how beautiful life by the sea really is and the organisers continue to make every effort to keep it that way.

Incentives to be green and reuse were evident and there was an obvious big push to encourage festival-goers to recycle cups and cans and minimize waste.

Rocking up with my own store of disposable glitter supplied by the guys at Bio Glitter, I was expecting to share it out with folk around me in an effort to prevent the use of harmful glitter but alas, non biodegradable glitter was not allowed to be used or sold by traders on site, along with other single-use plastics including plastic straws, stirrers and bags.

Bins were every few meters, recycle bins dotted about everywhere and local artist Pete Codling erected his ‘comment on how we are all aware of the plastic crisis and its effect on the environment, but we like many other things, ignore it.’ smack bang in the middle of the event. The Portsmouth star and crescent motif made it unmissable.

The fish sculpture was filled with plastic bottles and cups over the weekend and was a central spot as you walked through the festival, past the World music stage, on route to the common arena. The ambitious piece was inspiring and cultivated chatter around the event and made a good meeting point.

After attending several other festivals this summer and walking around in the aftermath, I was fully expecting to potter through an array of trash during the festival and on Monday morning. None. Being a total eco geek meant that I could have cried at the clean view of our seaside town after thousands of people boogied in the beaming sun over the weekend.

Victorious stood out for me this year because it cared and because I really noticed its attention to detail to support our local community and environment. Thank you Victorious. Until next year!

The Kings Theatre Stage | By Chris Horton

The site just seems to get bigger and bigger and I love some of this year’s little surprises. One such being the King’s Theatre Stage tucked next to the Beach Volleyball courts and Avenue De Caen. It’s a nice little set up and one which certainly feels intimate magical as you stumble upon it. The stage plays host to a range of performers throughout the day and I catch Dicey Riley on the Saturday afternoon – a father and son acoustic duo who’s Irish tinged folk goes down particularly well with a pint of ale in hand as I sit on a hay bale in the glorious sunshine. My own little oasis in the middle of the festival. 

Idlewild | By Chris Horton

As a band, Idlewild emerged in the late 90s on the back of the post-grunge movement and seemed to provide a slight juxtaposition to the Britpop bands of the time with their sound a real hybrid of British and Ameican influences. Further down the line their sound has been smoothed a little with Roddy Woomble’s vocals seeking more melodic flourishes than discordant screams. They have often been referred to as a British REM which seems pretty apt when midway through today’s set they play ‘Little Discourage’ and sound like Michael Stipe fronting Nirvana.  Woomble informs us that their keyboard player is absent through illness and as a result this afternoon’s set seems to verge more towards their earlier sound with no electronic string sounds to fall back on.

The band delightfully crash through a set mostly made up of older tunes – ‘A Modern Way of Letting Go’ receiving a warm reaction in particular – though there is also an outing for new single ‘Same Things Twice’ which has the crowd nodding along to it’s chorus. ‘A Film for the Future’, spits out guitar lines in a flurry of distortion and feedback and with the band thrashing around on stage it has the feeling of an epic set closer. ‘It looks like we’ve got time for one more’ states a slightly surprised sounding Woomble before they finally do finish with ‘Captain’. A little bit of a live rarity recently, the song is perhaps the band’s heaviest with Woomble on his knees, mic-lead wrapped around his arms whilst he screams into the microphone. It’s an exhilarating end to the set from a band who seem to have been let loose this afternoon.

Neverman | By Russ Leggatt

Fresh from their headline show at the Wedgewood Rooms at the beginning of August, Neverman returned to an even bigger stage at Victorious Festival. The band have been together for a year and half and have been born out of chance meetings with one another. Lead singer Matt McGowan is the chief lyricist and has brought to life with the band an arsenal of songs that he had written during a tough time. The band have developed quite a following in the short time they have been together, and this was there to see at their set on the Seaside Stage. This saw them play favourites ‘Icarus, ‘Too Much Waste’ and latest single ‘Spineless’ which was played by BBC Solent on its release day on 9th August. The band will be playing Winchestival at the end of September on the same bill as the Mystery Jets and are currently working on an EP to be released early next year. Keep your eyes peeled!

Can we just talk about Sunday? | By Russ Leggatt

Given the scale of the festival now, it was great to see so many local artists, groups musicians and bands being so well represented and supported over the weekend at this seaside festival of ours. With this in mind, I paid a visit on Sunday to The Peoples Lounge over in the World Music area of the festival. This area is one of the most eclectic parts of the site and draws in music, arts and cultures of all types, embracing and celebrating the diversity of our society. This area has such a great vibe and is a must-visit during the festival. I ventured over on Sunday lunchtime to go and see Drumnation Tribe carry out their drum workshop. Drumnation Tribe are the group of drummers you will see welcoming everyone to the festival at the gate opposite Palmerston Road on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The group are non-profit making voluntary community group who are made up of musicians, drummers and percussionists mainly influenced by West African rhythms. The workshop was a great experience and the inclusivity created was second to none! Various drums were handed out to the crowd, which included people of all ages, for them to participate in the tuition which was led by Torin. Torin used various hand symbols for people to follow and showed everyone which drum beats to play at what time. Michael and Antonio also led the crowd to participate in a limbo game that had been set up for the audience whilst the rest of the group played rhythm in the background. Great fun was had by all with smiles all round and it was great to see families getting involved together. Stickers were also given out to all those that participated. Drumnation Tribe runs weekly groups in Portsmouth and offers free drumming workshops and performances. More information can be found on their website – www.drumnationtribe.org.uk

After the drumming workshop, I managed to catch a bit of folk music that was on the same stage, which was being curated by local musician Megan Linford. The music was second to none and was perfect for the sunny Sunday vibe. I soon released that Ziggy Marley was on over at the Common Stage so darted over there to take some more snaps and meet with some friends. Ziggy continued the chilled Sunday vibes beautifully and it was a joy to see so many happy, smiling people enjoying his sounds especially when he covered a few Bob Marley numbers! After Ziggy finished up on stage it was time for a quick bite to eat, which for me there was only one choice, the amazing momo dumplings being sold by the Tibetan Food Stall, those dumplings are an absolute delight! I know I mentioned them last year, but they are a must to sample over the weekend!

One of the main bands on my list to see on Sunday afternoon were the lads from Yorkshire, The Sherlocks. The Sherlocks have been on my radar for some time and up until this point I had never managed to get to one of their gigs for one reason or another, so was taking this opportunity. I made sure to get a good position on the barrier, as I had done all weekend, so I could get some good pictures of the band. The Sherlocks are made up of two sets of brothers Kiaran & Brandon Crook and Josh & Andy Davidson. Dressed all in black, sporting leather jackets, the band epitomised that rock n roll look and backed it up with their sound. Flying through their set with ‘Will You Be There?’, ‘Live for the Moment’, latest single ‘NYC (Sing It Loud)’ and finishing with Chasing Shadows, much to the delight of the indie heads in the crowd! The Sherlocks release their second album, ‘Under Your Sky’ on 4th October and head out on a UK tour to support the release. If you missed them this time around at the festival, then they’ll be playing the Engine Rooms in Southampton on 28th October.

New Order | By Christ Horton

New Order prove to be a fitting climax to the weekend with a set full of classic tunes from their 30 year plus career. The band offer a masterclass in performance and arrangement and the sound they produce throughout the set is great. Bernard Sumner still dances like a dad but he’s cool as fuck doing it whilst Stephen Morris holds things together, creating the numerous precussion and drum loops that drive each song forward. Some of the biggest cheers of the night are given to the inevitable Joy Division tracks which are incorporated. We get a thumping ‘She’s Lost Control’ early doors followed straight after by the angular ‘Transmission’.

The set is chock full of classics but a personal highlight is relatively new track ‘Tutti-Frutti’, it’s filthy, Italian disco inspired beats and bass thump along, reminding you how relevant this band have stayed over the last few decades. Influenced by dance music and in turn influential themselves in the same genre, tonight showcases just how innovative they are. The Belaric tinged ‘Vanishing Point’ from arguably their most electronic album ‘Technique’ comes a few tracks later, Sumner joining Gillian Gilbert at the keyboard for the song’s crescendo as the crowd dance along.

With a back catalogue spanning so many records creating a set-list is either an absolute joy or extreme torture for the band. We get airings of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and ‘True Faith’ which go down extremely well whilst the only miss-step seems to be a slightly sedate ‘Your Silent Face’ near the start just after the crowd have had their Joy Division double bill. The final two songs of the set though are what many in the crowd have been waiting for. ‘Blue Monday’ gets arguably the biggest cheer of the night before the band finish with ‘Temptation’, it’s ‘Ooooo-oooooo-oooooo’ vocal refrain perfect festival fodder.

Of course, there’s time for an encore and it’s another Joy Division double. We get an absolutely gorgeous ‘Atmosphere’ – black and white images of Ian Curtis appearing on the backdrop earning spontaneous applause from the crowd – before ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ draws the set – and Victorious 2019 – to a rapturous close.

Victorious has become a household name across the south of England and in some cases even further. We all know that you’re going to be going next year so why wait to get your ticket? Pick up your early bird ticket over on their website.

Photos by the Strong Island Media team, including Tom LangfordJames White, Russell Leggatt and Stuart Barker


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