Week twenty one -Happy festival!

Festival season – the time you can see more live music in one afternoon than you have the chance to for the whole of the winter months. Super-short jean shorts, tie-dye and face-glitter cannisters come out of hibernation. I might not partake in any of these accessories, but I am certainly excited to see the music at a festival.

My festival pre-cursor this week was a return trip to The Grapes to see Joe Wilkinson again playing his beautiful covers and own songs. Jemma and I took our usual seats and we were joined by two other friends (who knew?!). Joe was on his usual flying visit to the UK and the long journey didn’t seem to do him any harm; it was a fantastic set as always.

And then Saturday came. Common People. The second year of this Southampton festival run by the same people as Bestival, and you can tell. It’s beautiful. The decorations look like a colour and shape explosion (in a good way). Even me, as cynical as I am, love seeing the coloured flags flying high in the wind and the sight of a helter skelter lit up is always a thing of joy.

Anyway, onto the serious business of music. I can’t possibly talk in depth about all the acts I saw over the weekend (I like to get my money’s worth). So here’s a whistle-stop tour (in no particular order):

  • The Sea Slugs – An Afrobeat local band. Lots of loud shirts and funky music. A good start to the festival especially as they sated my appetite for sax and cowbell. MORE COWBELL!
  • Vicki Musselwhite – Only caught the end of her, but loved the strong powerful voice. Saw her before solo so it was nice to see her with a band.
  • Lady Leshurr – Very late (traffic – classic). Fantastic energy and fast lyrics. Great to see so many young girls looking to her as a role model and knowing all the words.
  • New Desert Blues – Always love the dark atmospheric music from this band.
  • Sean McGowan – Local hero and stand-up mush. Loved the crowd singing along to the home-town show. Sean always gives it his all and we love him for it. Glad to see he stopped mid-song to tell the idiots having a fight at the back of the tent to sling their hook.
  • Primal Scream – Was quite a way back so the music didn’t have so much impact – ‘Country Girl’ took me back more than ten years to festivals with my band.
  • Mercy – A local musical collective from Southampton supported by the SoCo Music Project. Some of the boys from my school were performing. I was so proud I whooped a lot. They were amazing (but I may be a little biased).
  • Chas & Dave – classic songs and got everyone happy on a Sunday afternoon. Good work.
  • The Cuban Brothers – Classic mayhem and funky dancing (on and off stage – albeit a little less head-spinny our end). It was good to see them again, especially as a friend I was with had never seen them before and had no idea what to expect. Nakedness ensued.
  • Katy B – Watched her as a wing-man. Only knew a few songs but got to bust a few drum n bass moves.
  • Pretty Vicious – Loud and riotous. The mosh pit consisted of teenagers, but they were having the time of their lives.
  • Various artists at The People’s Front Room – An interestingly decorated living room tent (the kitch sofas and chairs literally match those in my mum’s front room) with random performances throughout the days. Saw some jazz, improv, covers and other jams. A warm, welcoming oasis that I kept being pulled back to.

Saturday evening, I eschewed the lure of Craig David and instead headed for the Uncommon Stage. There I got to see Lonely the Brave for the third time. Every time I see them, I love them a little bit more. They are a most intense band. Their music swells and gives you an unsettled feeling in that you feel that there is something bigger. They are what I call a ‘mean something’ band. I love any type of music as long as it means something. You can tell that as they perform their songs they mean every word of what they sing. Even the other musicians in the band sing along despite being nowhere near a microphone. They love what they do and you can feel it in the music.

Watch this and search your memory to find a performer with more fervour.

I particularly liked the way the lead guitarist handled the excited drunken calls from the crowd. We had come to see them, but some people felt compelled to show how they felt about Mr David on the main stage. “Fuck Craig David” the calls keep coming, their hilarity diminishing on repeat. On the third or fourth segway filled with these calls, the lead guitarist dead-panned “I wish I could,” and then struck out into the next song. A class act all round.

The act I saw more than any other this weekend was the Portsmouth Batala band. If you haven’t seen this band, it needs to be on your to-do list immediately. They are a Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae band. And they are incredible. You can watch this video, but it really doesn’t do it justice; you have to experience them live. The energy they have and the excitement they bring to the crowd is palpable.

I find it impossible to watch them without dancing, and seeing as dancing is one of my favourite things in the world, I am very happy whenever they play. I saw them last year at Common People and the experience blew my tiny little mind. Once again, this year their performance was incredible. Especially as the day wore on, the crowds loved their music. People were dancing and feeding off the energy. I love the fact that just some drums can build together to make such a wall of sound. I end up singing the bom-bom of the beat – don’t judge.  But it’s not just because they’re loud (and man, they are loud – especially if you get stood next to the heps), but the beat of the music. It’s like a heart beat that pulses through you. Then there’s the up and down of the rhythm. It eases off and builds until the drums kick in again; it’s like a defibrilator to the chest. I honestly think they should be prescribed on the NHS.

So, you many have gathered, I’m kind of a fan of Batala. Slightly. This may be their first appearance in this blog, but it certainly won’t be the last. Go see them and then we can compare notes.


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