Festival Review: Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, 27-28/08/16

The UK festival scene might be known for its name-grabbing giants like Glastonbury and V Festival, but last weekend saw one of the UK’s lesser known festivals, Victorious Festival, prove that you don’t need the big name to be successful. If the crèche that is Reading and Leeds isn’t your scene, then welcome to Victorious Festival, the weekend’s more sophisticated alternative.

Located on edge of the south coast, the location offered a refreshing alternative to the muddy fields usually seen at festivals. Victorious was framed by stretches of sea and blue skies, and Saturday certainly lived up to the dreams of the southern sunshine. With picturesque skies forming a backdrop to the Common Stage (the festival’s main stage), the appearance of the occasional ferry passing to the side of it was a quirk that is unique to Victorious alone – you won’t be seeing any boats passing the main stage at Leeds Fest anytime soon. Also, what other Festival can say that they have their very own real life lighthouse? The sites alone are enough to make Victorious a gem in itself.

Kicking off Saturday, Rat Boy gave us a taste of his youthful energy that has been taking the indie world by storm. The crowd, made distinctive by its face-painted youths, was keen to grab each song by its guitar-ridden hinges and – literally – jump right into every song. Despite a bass failure that halted the set for several minutes, Jordan Cardy – the twenty year old Essex lad behind Ratboy – was able to keep the crowd entertained; his blasting out of the opening riff to Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ proved to be a highlight for the crowd. An act to watch, it was Ratboy who undoubtedly provided us with the weekend’s most moshpits.

Next up over on the Common Stage was The Coral. Having helped soundtracked our iPods throughout the noughties, expectations were high for the indie-meets-country Merseyside band. However, the band provided us with a lacklustre performance. If Rat Boy was a sugar-filled set with nonstop energy, The Coral were bland in comparison. There was a lack of life in their performance and, at times, it felt like you sere simply listening to their best of CD, rather than listening to an enigmatic live performance. It is when a band forgets the importance of connecting with their audience that you begin to question why they cling to their former youth.

The opening guitar riff of The Horrors’ ‘Still life’ as they graced the Castle Stage came flying at us like a dove diving intently through a shower of moonlight. A gift sent from a higher force, we were at the band’s mercy as they repainted the setting afternoon sunlight in their own elated vision. When lead singer Faris Badwan sung the fan favourite ‘I See You’ the song possessed a magical touch that the recorded version cannot attempt to reach. As Badwan surveyed the audience, he did see us. But, not only this, but that he saw through us – something that is only emphasised by next track ‘I Can See Through You’.

As the sun began to fade, you couldn’t help but get the impression that the setting sun was just an elaborate backdrop to frame the set which proved that the band are destined for bigger things. Badwan swished his microphone wire around the stage creating great waves that encapsulated us all like the waving of a magic wand; we were all caught under their spell. The set ended. We woke up. And reality seemed a little bit more boring as a result.

If Saturday had blessed us with the kind of weather that Glastonbury can only dream of, then Sunday was perhaps more in line with the typical British summer. Despite the drizzle, Germany’s Milky Chance provided us with feel good summer-vibes in the form of their infectious guitar pop that had the punters dancing across the field.

Victorious’ real merits, however, is what the festival can offer away from the main stages. While the Common Stage and Castle Stage provided top quality music, it was the smaller tents away from these that really shone. With all the typical wavy-garm stools and 100% top quality burger vans you expect from a festival, Victorious also hosted a World Music Stage, a children’s section (including special performances by the one and only Fireman Sam) and a Champagne Bar for those willing to splash the cash.

The People’s Lounge Stage had a laid back atmosphere that made a lounge out of blue skies and daisy speckled grass. With frill covered beanbags, scattered books and a psychedelic elephant surrounding the flat level open tent, it was a more relaxed alternative to the standard festival stages. However, in a set that was to be one of the most energetic sets of the weekend, Rich Muscat & Cemal Gordon Funk Band amazed the crowd with their instrumental jazz and funk music. A tent that was meant to be witnessed from the safety of the beanbags was instead experiencing stage invasions. With a singer now on stage, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstitious’ showed the supreme talent of all involved, and Muscat’s various flute and saxophone solos were filled with enough energy to blast the band and the crowd out to sea. A brilliant effort, and one that had the crowd demanding for encore after encore. Not the response you’d expect for a local jazz band who claimed be ‘80% improvising’ after having only had a couple of rehearsals to prepare themselves.

The World Music Stage brought together all cultures and all musical genres together to remind us of music’s uniting force. Eva Lazarus brought a slice of rnb meets hip hop meets rap meets reggae to injection a spice of full-blooded energy to the stage. Not fearing to shy away in terms of music, Lazarus was also bold in her stage presence: she demanded that the crowd chant “don’t be a dick, DON’T BE A DICK!” along with her.

Savaging the last bits of the day’s sunlight, Liverpool’s Echo & the Bunnymen radiated these last bits of dying sunlight back to us throughout their set. Racing through ‘Bring on the Dancing Horses’ and ‘Lips Like Sugar’, we were transported back to the best of 80’s indie. “This is the greatest song in the world”, frontman Ian McCulloch snarls in a distinctly Liverpudilan accent before launching into ‘The Killing Moon’. You could see the darkness that the song encapsulates, and the song created a forest of guitar chords submerging us all in a shrubbery of haunting guitar lines and wistful vocals. The songs have a beauty that find their power in an inevitable surrendering to nature, fate and death itself. And it is this acknowledgement that even the greatest of melodies end in silence that gave the set its power; it was a set that was shrouded in darkness and nostalgia. Echo & the Bunnymen’s set may come to an end before making way for the final headline act of the festival, but they left in anything but silence.

And then came the moment that we’d all been waiting. The emergence of the one, the only, the 90’s rock n’ roll star himself, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

The old Gallagher charm was out in full force as Noel comically gave us a commentary of a stuffed puppet that had been placed on stage by the Make a Wish Children’s Charity Foundation. “It looks like Bonehead”, he joked, thus pleasing all the die-hard Oasis fans in the crowd with a reference to the band’s former drummer. This unsuspecting puppet provided an unusual and comical way to introduce one of the 90’s greatest hits. “If it wasn’t for this f*cking song, none of you would be here,” he said, staring out across us as he marvelled in our anticipation. “If it wasn’t for this song, I wouldn’t have any f*cking puppets thrown on my f*cking stage”. That oh so simple but oh so iconic opening riff of ‘Wonderwall’ was then sung before us, and Gallagher graced us with a rare rendition of the song that had the crowd go wild.

And the evening was one that both looked forward and looked back, with the combination of this mix of old and new creating a sound that was overwhelmingly present; while Gallagher’s latest album may be entitled ‘Chasing Yesterday’, his subtle changes in previously loved Oasis songs meant they had a unique freshness.  It was heart-warming to see that his solo tracks ‘AKA What a Life’ and ‘In the Heat of the Moment’ were sung just as heartily by the crowd as they sang ‘Champagne Supernova’ and ‘Half the World Away’.

With Gallagher choosing to end the set with his final Oasis rendition of the night, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, the crowd lapped up every last ounce of festival euphoria they could. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds provided a perfect end to the weekend, reminding us to look forward to all the musical escapades that await us, rather than to look back in regret at what’s gone.

A fitting end to a fantastic weekend, at a festival will only continue to grow.

Juliette Rowsell

[Image: Stand Out Multimedia]

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