Every once in a while, something randomly brilliant happens. Five years ago, you would have never guessed that one venue that housed 200 people could have evolved into something so enticing and expansive. Now a fully-fledged festival which this year celebrates its 5th anniversary, punters had the choice of 16 venues to attend, covering genres far and wide, in addition to poetry, comedy, and the occasional spoken word session. From the pubs and clubs to the music venues to King’s Theatre, Southsea Fest is nothing but an experience.
‘One day, one city, one street’ is the motto of Southsea Festival, and following the snake-like trail of Albert Road, you certainly get the feeling of opportunity, seeing some of the best upcoming and unsigned acts going in Portsmouth.
Starting the day off with Brake Start Brake in The Globe Inn, I was intrigued as to what lied in store for me, as a single artist made his way onto stage, expecting acoustic melodies, I was greeted with a bombardment of noise and violent chords. Although a brave and experimental attempt, it felt as if I was in the midst of an awkward marriage of acoustic with electro beats.
Next up, drifting into Little Johnny Russells, Gloryhole happened to be on the cards, and albeit having a racy name, unfortunately happened to be one of the most straightforward and banal rock bands I’ve ever seen. Imagine seeing a bunch of middle aged men, who happen to look like science teachers and sound like Suede, then throw in some unimpressed punters and there you have it.
Leaving LJRs to visit Rockfeedback @ the Loft and seeing Watashi Calcutechs, I was hilariously greeted instead by an empty room, no band, and boxes full of last month’s flyers. For a venue that was supposed to have started near an hour and a half ago, it sort of soured the experience.
Even though they started twenty minutes late, Curxes at LJRs happened to be a fresh face to see, playing Hurts-like songs to a crowd of indie punters, and once again happened to keep a smile on faces. Moving onwards towards the King’s Theatre, it felt strange to go from standing in the middle of a crowd to sitting down on plush velvet seats at the front row of a playhouse. Enter Portsmouth local folk band Matthew and the Atlas, and the befitting banjo music that plays for half an hour smoothens the harsh electro I’ve witnessed most of the day.
After finishing on a foot stomping song, we witness Fionn Regan grace the stage with as little as a whimper. Expecting something a little lively, and as he puts it a record that stands the test of time, all I hear are lines of nonsensical, yet soothing lyrics towards the crowd about overhead projectors showing slides of North Korea. Trying hard not to fall asleep to the sounds of this Irish singer-songwriter, I decide to move on midway through the set towards Club NME.
Catching the tail end of Talons at The Edge of The Wedge, their noise rock/ electronica instrumental fusion worked wonders for the lullabied mind I had adopted at King’s Theatre. Leaving through the side door into the Wedgewood Rooms, even more experimental rock managed to sober the folk I was subjected to, courtesy of Bleeding Heart Narrative and Clock Opera, the Wedge once again proved why it is one of the most favoured venues of the South. Definitely two bands to keep an eye out for in the near future.
Wondering back towards the Globe Inn to catch folk rockers Dry The River, Albert Road was ablaze with motion, banter and drunken hordes of indie lads, all in search for the next big thing or something close to it.
However, a constant underlining issue that ran throughout the whole day, evening and night, was scheduled timing. Bands that were scheduled at 6 played nearer to 7, which for me sort of ruined the whole feeling of the Festival. It caused someone from the crowd in The Globe Inn before Dry The River played to jump on stage, hurl a torrent of abuse at the band to hurry things up before being gracefully booted out to a ton of applause. Although it remained an absolutely great gig, eschewing sounds of Dexy’s Midnight Runners with Joe Cockeresque howls, it did raise a point.
Club NME concluded with the Reading based indie greats Pete and the Pirates, fresh from creating new LP ‘One Thousand Pictures’. Front man Tom Saunders highly rewarded those who have made it this far with a stunning performance to a jam packed Wedgewood Rooms. Songs stick out like sore thumbs, amidst crowd favourites ‘Mr. Understanding’, ‘Knots’, ‘Jennifer’ and many more.
Irregardless of timing issues throughout the day for most venues, Southsea Festival 2011 still remained a fresh experience wherever you went to. Giving something to everyone, no matter what the genre, no matter what the venue, it still managed to showcase what Portsmouth really has to offer both in terms of new and established talent.