Southampton Common once again played host to a number of bands on the May Bank Holiday Weekend as Common People celebrated its third year – its biggest yet. Of course it’s hard to top a headliner like Grace Jones from the very first run in 2015, but that doesn’t mean that the festival itself falls behind. A weekend full of great performers, from well loved locals to well established stars, this years festival was a blast from start to finish.
Our Saturday started on The Uncommon stage, hosted by The Joiners; a local venue well known for paving the way to success for many big bands that we know and love today. Submariner come to the stage with a humble opening set, but don’t be fooled, their passion sets them apart from a lot of up and coming bands at this moment in time. They are well polished, and though it may look effortless, you know that they’ve been putting in all the work, certainly a band to keep your eye on in the coming months.
Across the green is the main stage, where Kassassin Street can be found – simply on fire with the booming beats of their powerful indie pop sound. So far there seems to be a common theme in genre…
That is until Mad King Ludwig and the Mojo Co. knock it out of the park with possibly the biggest shock factor of the weekend. The flamboyant singer’s bellowing voice mixed with saxophone make their set impossible to walk away from. Mad King Ludwig were in their element – a surely unforgettable set.
A lot of the days highlights comes from The Uncommon Stage, a phenomenal line up across the whole weekend, full of variety. Be it the old school rock of Feeble Grandpa to the fresh and fun indie punk of Scarecrow Boat, a band you can’t help but sing along to, (whether you know the words or not), The Joiners have selected the best of the South Coast talent in all genres.
What makes Common People so eclectic is its fun loving spirit, its ability to unite a range of different genres on one stage, and being so bold as to put a tribute band on the main stage. What comes to mind when you hear Elvis Fronted Nirvana (or Elvana for short), is exactly what you get. The self acclaimed ‘guy from Newcastle upon Tyne, posing as Elvis, posing as Kurt Cobain’, performs Nirvana classics, complete with Elvis-isms thrown in there. It really needs to be seen to be believed, but be wary, those songs will never be the same. Add to that a cover of Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and the whole set is a whole load of fun.
Back to reality, we have Nakamarra, a band from Isle of Wight, serving up soulful synth pop. It’s a familiar sound, but in a realm of its own. Powerful vocals warm the crowd, with their single ‘Double Shot Scotch’ a highlight, adding a rock edge to their set.
In keeping with the theme of variety, LST performs next – his multifaceted sound full of energy. The band and special guest DJ Sylva performing as a solid unit, making effortless interaction with the crowd – a truly non stop set. Meanwhile, Loyle Carner brings his hip hop straight from the bedroom to the main stage, a smooth set that sounds like we’ve been invited into a personal space, this is an artist that you’ll definitely look up after seeing live if you haven’t done already.
From this chilled out set comes a wave of energy in the tent with Fever, who mid set shout “let’s have a party” to their crazed crowd, who are without a doubt, already on it. Tom Odell is the one who gets the main stage lot going, his set full of impact and revealing his showmanship, owning the stage more than ever.
Happy Accidents bring a sweet set with a back hand of angst before Beans on Toast steps out to a packed out tent. His unapologetic, honest, political front goes down a storm with the crowd, his fun loving attitude lining the darker matters at heart. Definitely one of the most loved artists of the entire weekend. That being said, Black Honey are strong contenders for performance of the night, their sultry commanding of the crowd making it impossible to take your eyes off the stage. Each track sounds just the way it should, complete with an extra kick of raw energy that The Uncommon Stage was made to see.
Closing the first night is Pete Tong, performing Ibiza classics with the Heritage Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley. Getting its first outdoors performance, the common turns into a dance floor for the rest of the night, the orchestra adding depth to the hits; ultimately creating a live Ibiza party in the heart of Southampton.
Sunday rolls around and local band Gun Shy brings a heavy, melodic sound. Though they seem to lack confidence, their sheer energy and the way they put their all into it, makes for a remarkable set – it’s a good reminder to support your local scene. These guys are all about the music and what it means to people, a perfect addition to the weekend.
Across the green are Signals and the rain fails to dampen their mood. Smiley and fun, their set is an upbeat rush of math rock, complete with sweetly powerful vocals that come in full range. ‘Parasthesia’ is possibly the best example of this, as it goes seamlessly from their typical math rock sound to something that is almost chill-hop.
For the most part, The Uncommon Stage hosts a variety of acts, but there is one trio of acts that can generally be referred to as your typical indie kind of shtick. Acts like The Dead Freights, The Costellos and Cassava certainly come under this category, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Their high energy sets, clearly welcomed by the crowd are undeniably strong as each band rides the wave of that quintessentially British indie sound, albeit in slightly different directions. It may have been worth spreading them out over the day a little more, nevertheless, they bring their respective sets to highest degree. Passion is ever present in both the band and crowd for each performance, and it really doesn’t get much better than that.
Where these bands bring a party, newcomers Laucan bring it down a notch, their chilling set proving that sometimes, less is more. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea as the crowd thins, but it is a beguiling performance nonetheless. It almost feels like you’re waiting for something to pop, for the atmospheric folk to turn out, but it maintains a chill inducing slow pace, and is all the better for it.
Next it is time for British Sea Power, performing amidst decorations of greenery, a set that is initially slow to start, but builds up to an explosive close. Meanwhile, Natives drum up a party on the Uncommon Stage, their sound coming across as pop-rock from the jungle, with their constant rhythm, and energetic front-man bounding across the stage. It’s a fun set that relies heavily on crowd response, and they certainly lap it up, dancing around, getting on shoulders, staring adoringly as the band raise the energy of the entire tent.
Blaenavon follow, still performing to an adoring crowd, yet a little less reliant on them. The power of their set comes from within as they transition seamlessly from the delicate side of their sound, to that raw element that comes alive on stage. It is inspiring, and certainly one of the top acts from the festival.
Similarly, Brighton’s The Magic Gang ignite the crowd with their passion for both music and the people who make it special, from bands themselves to the adoring fans. Together, these bands encapsulate the very spirit of performing, two of the strongest acts across the whole weekend.
Final act to grace the main stage is the man himself, Sean Paul. His set is exactly what you expect, hit after hit played out to a manic crowd ready to shake that thing, whether they’re ‘sexy ladies’ or ‘baby boys’ – you know, all that typical stuff. Just for something different, Sean Paul decides to freestyle over Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and essentially repeats the efforts of Pete Tong and gang by bringing a raging party to the Common. The end note is that it’s definitely a novelty to see Sean Paul – a good time guaranteed.
Rockabye Common People, until next time!