For the second time ever Southampton welcomed a wealth of acts and ferocious sunshine to their Common for a weekend of music, entertainment and most importantly of course, the world’s biggest bouncy castle. Predictions of a rainy weekend were washed away as the sun shone brightly over all the liveliness of the weekend – from local bands to big names, there was a lot to see.
For us the weekend started off at The Uncommon Stage, hosted by The Joiners – a local small venue that has opened its door to many big names in the past, you name them, they’ve most likely been there. In true Joiners fashion, they welcomed a number of up and coming artists and in all honesty, a lot of them put on a more interesting show than some of those on the main stage. The first act we caught on Saturday was Vicki Musselwhite, a singer/songwriter local to Southampton who emitted a powerful energy in her emotionally charged set. At this point of the day there were no real plans, just wandering around, hoping to be caught by something and at this instance it was Musselwhite with her enchanting vocals, a pleasant start to the weekend. Though enamoured by her set, it was time to move on and catch a very different act on the main stage.
Lady Leshurr bounded across the stage in a bubble of her own energy and whether you understood her songs about crispy bacon or her lines about someone “being a side salad”, you have to admit a certain level of respect for the grime artist. It was soon time for her closing song, inevitably the one that got things started for Lady Leshurr in the first place – Queen’s Speech Ep. 4 (you know… the one where she tells you to brush your teeth…). Now this is where the respect came in to play, before going in to it she addressed the fact that sure, this track is a bit of a fun, but it’s really so much more than that – it got her a home and her mum a mortgage. Basically Lady Leshurr was saying a big “fuck you” to anyone who ever gave her stick for it, because whether it’s really a good track or not, it got her where she needed to be and that’s all that really matters.
Enough life stories, next on the main stage were The Sugarhill Gang. These guys carried on the fun energy and got the crowd moving, not only with their hit track ‘Rapper’s Delight’, but with their charm, so that even those not really sure of who these guys were (after all there were several generations of people at the festival that weekend) still managed to have a little boogie.
Then it was time for Ghostpoet to grace the Common. As deserving of a main stage slot as they are, there was an overwhelming feeling that they would be much better off in a dark dingy room. Their sombre sound is beautifully poetic, but not quite a match for the sun and greenery of Southampton’s Common. If it had rained at all that weekend, their set would have been the perfect time for the heavens to open. Ghostpoet were brooding and classy, chilled out and darkly romantic, just sadly out of place. Notes were taken for another listen later on, perhaps this time in the bath with a glass of wine, not at a festival with a pint of beer.
On the other side of the green, back at the Uncommon Stage, local band Bel Esprit were about to kick up a riot. Not only did they serve up their own flavour of energetic indie rock but they were fuelled with an undeniable passion. As were the crowd. Their set is a prime example of local support and loyalty to a band, something that continued to shine through the Uncommon Stage throughout the weekend. Whether it was their own songs or their cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, the crowd loved them, but even more importantly, they showed that they loved doing what they do.
Public Enemy were next on the agenda, however it was a mixed bag of really hitting the nail on the head and missing it completely. The big hits were great, but there were moments in between the set that were unfortunately a little boring and repetitive. People roared in agreement to rants about the world we live in, but it was more of a conditioned response than a real nod of understanding. However the set ended on a high with ‘Harder Than You Think’ and it’s no question that big hits like this were made for days out in the sun.
Things got a little more indie as Primal Scream hit the stage as possibly one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend. The first few songs were great, but again, it soon got a little boring when it became very apparent that there was little to no real stage presence. Despite acknowledging the crowd, frontman Billy Gillespie was quite limp and actually looked a little bored himself for the most part, but maybe that’s just his deadpan expression. Mind you, guitarist Andrew Innes was giving it all the moves, mimicking a shooting stance with his guitar during ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’. Songs hit the spot for the most part but it wasn’t as engaging as one might expect for a near-headline act.
This year, Common people saw the homecoming of singer/MC Craig David as Saturday’s headliner. He took to the stage with just a deck and laptop, boring to some but his passion matched with the nostalgia of his tracks kept the mood up and brought the crowd together as the first night came to an end. There are arguments that he rested on other artists’ tracks to please the crowd but upon accepting that the headline act was simply a DJ performance, it became a lot easier to appreciate. The point is his performance was engaging, even if only for the fact that Southampton locals could relate to his nostalgic references to the city, and come on, everyone has a guilty soft spot for ‘Seven Days’.
The second day of the festival rolled around, the sun still shining, the people still buzzing off of the night before. Bestival resident Mr Motivator was about in the early afternoon to pick up the energy and get the crowd moving at the main stage, shaking the Sunday slum out of everyone.
It was quite clear that the next main stage slot were a local favourite; hailing from the New Forest, The Magic Gang wooed the crowd with their upbeat indie rock. This was their first main stage slot and much like those locals on the Uncommon Stage, they displayed a level of passion that was enough to put a smile on any music lover’s face.
Heading over to the Uncommon Stage a little later, another local favourite Bigtopp, had filled the tent with people bouncing along to their high energy ska sound. They had built a connection with the audience that was undeniably profound and had them dancing to very song. Again they appeared to be so in love with that they do that their performance shone way beyond belief and expressed the feel good energy every festival should have. It put the fun back in to music and set you free, ready to wave out the weekend with the bang.
A few hours later and there remained that passionate energy, just this time in a different light. Science of Eight Limbs relied purely on their instrumental set and striking presence to connect to the crowd and you can’t certainly can’t ignore a full tent. Labelled as psychedelic punk this was a beguiling set with some people jumping about and others stood still in an almost hypnotic state. So diverse is their music that you can rock out and chill out to it all at the same time and with each song being delivered harder than the last, this was a set that just kept getting more and more rousing.
Back at the main stage Katy B was to be found jumping across the stage, delivering a killer set to all those swarming to see her. The buzz of her electronica could be felt even from afar, dominating a large part of The Common. Being on the line up for Bestival later this Summer, this performance was a mere warm up to something even bigger and better to come, and considering how well she transcended her presence across the festival, it’s all pretty damn exciting.
It was now time for weekend finale, a visit from 80s icons Duran Duran, and it’s no surprise that they blew the roof off, albeit with some corny performance clichés. Mixing some new songs and old they showed that they still had it, and not only for our Mums. They had absolutely everyone in the palm of their hands, the stage vibrant with both colour and showmanship, their sound storming across the crowd as hits like ‘Wild Boys’ and ‘Rio’ lit up the Common. An exhilarating end to a weekend that kick started the festival season.
The weekend had high points and low points but overall, Common People was a great deal of fun, and ultimately that’s what it all comes down to – people coming together to enjoy some music in the sun. Craig David’s headline performance is particularly poignant here, his home town pride ignited a fire in the crowd, spreading good feelings throughout as everyone joined in to sing and dance. Something that stood out over the weekend was the drive and passion of those on the Uncommon Stage, some of these performances outshining those higher up on the bill. The Joiners has seen many big bands walk through their doors and they continue to lay the path for those upcoming bands, offering a taste of what is to come of the current music scene. Rob Da Bank has succeeded again and we’re looking forward to another go at it next year.