For those wanting to fend off those ‘end of festival season’ blues, the award winning independent urban music festival Southsea Fest is certainly worth a visit. On Saturday 14th September, more than 140 bands descended on Southsea’s highstreet in Portsmouth. Tucked away in venues varying from pub front rooms to decadent theatres and more traditional gig venues, a wide range of acoustic, rock, punk and even an 8-bit electronic band performed from mid-day until mid-night.
To kick-start the day at The Wedgewood Rooms in a truly energetic fashion were Kassassin Street, who have previously played at Southampton University’s own Frequency night. The psychedelic ambiance of the band was enhanced by the use of incense and Ganesh imagery. Flyte, a 4-piece indie rock group, (who had only been together for 6 months but are gaining a reasonable following) did a good job of bridging the gap between Kassassin and Dolomite Minor. The Dolomite Minor lads delivered a tight and grungy set as always, and a few days later they played a gig with Drenge, who we didn’t manage to see but were one of the favourites to watch for people at the festival.
In stark contrast the next set came courtesy of Big Fin, branded with a “may-cause-depression” warning. However Big Fin’s tongue in cheek banter, involving a comparison drawn between his music and Made In Chelsea, instantly captivated the audience and the bar staff. Easily one of the most memorable sets of the day.
Later on the same venue was packed out with fans ready to sing/shout along to Noyo Mathis, a gutsy Southampton based math rock band.
A short walk up the road was The King’s Theatre, a grand venue complete with orchestra pit and staff in waistcoats. Sons and Lovers were on next, a very accomplished 4-piece indie band, whose music wouldn’t seem out of place on a Hollywood film soundtrack. Whilst the space would be daunting for any band to play to, Sons and Lovers carried it off effortlessly.
A little further up the street and up a spiral staircase was the venue for Oxygen Thief, a man who describes himself as ‘one man acoustic loudness’, a title which he certainly stood up to; his set was packed with energy!
On the way back to the Edge of the Wedge we dropped in on MMX (they’ll soon be touring with The 1975), along with AKDK, who played at Champagne Justice stage. Their set-up looked simple, two drummers who both double up on a collection of analogue synths, but their music was nothing of the sort. Through the use of a homemade sequencer they develop highly dynamic and finely detailed soundscapes that produced the most committed dance moves seen all day!
Her Parents have managed to release two fantastic punk albums in the space of a few short months. The performance they gave was pretty ramshackle, but that’s exactly what they should be. There were no setlists, just the band and the audience shouting out words to the effect of “Hollow Out a Horse (an offal holocaust)” and “C*** Dinosaurs”. Unfortunately neither got played, but “You’ve Got Mail” had guitarist Calum taking lead vocals, which is a treat if you’ve been missing his old band Dananananaykroyd. ‘There’s a Body’ is great for a sing-along and ‘Nietzsche’ has an incredible bass-hook.
Unfortunately Gunning for Tamar, who were due to play, had pulled out of the festival due to unknown reasons, so instead we headed off to see Ben Marwood. The Atrium was now filled to capacity, with many revellers not all that interested in listening to Ben, which meant that sadly it was almost impossible to hear his voice over the noise of the crowd.
No strangers to Southsea Fest, being the fourth time they’d played, Stagecoach had very recently announced that they were to disband, making Southsea their penultimate gig. This made their set all the more special. Next on, The Computers smashed their set to a packed out venue, with lead singer Alex climbing up on the bar and the rest of the band playing on the tiny stage – it’s interesting how their sound has changed in the last few years, they’re very much more like Elvis Costello and The Hives than the screaming punk band they once were.
Occasionally you can lose that “festival-feeling” at urban festivals, however this was not so for Southsea Fest. The close proximity of all the venues along Southsea’s highstreet and the genre-specific venues meant that Southsea Fest was easy to navigate and maintained the festival feeling throughout the day and into the night.With lots of smaller labels and local acts showcasing some fantastic talent, as well as it being very good value at £18 a ticket, we very much hope to visit again next year!This review also contains contributions from Simon Everett.