The first year of Southampton’s Independence Festival rounded off at Engine Rooms for a Sunday filled with Kagoule, The Wytches, Theo Verney and Kassassin Street, which saw a definitive shift in tone from Saturday‘s acts. The festival was originally set to be held across stages over one day at the University of Southampton’s campus, before it was rearranged to take place over the course of the weekend. Despite initial worries over the split between venues, the longer length of the festival meant that it was possible to catch almost every band on the lineup. General anticipation and excitement for the Sunday was very high, with Engine Rooms filling up a lot more than it did on the previous day. In the crowd, you could catch faces of people that you’d seen on the previous day, making for an intimate atmosphere.
Theo Verney opened with a chilled out, post-rock feel before throwing the audience into their more rocky persona. Verney’s surprisingly liquid vocals permeated through the rawly vintage rock vibe, displaying a sound that harked back to the organic rock of the 70’s. With a great stage presence and a comfortable crowd, at times the tracks had a rhythm stranglely reminiscent of Busted but married with harsh guitar riffs for an interesting sound. Verney himself looked like a hippy-come-lumberjack, as he dedicated his last track (the title track from is Brain Disease EP) to earlier band Black Tambourines. This just continued the interaction between acts that was omnipresent throughout the weekend.
Next to the stage were Kassassin Street, who, until The Wytches, brought the biggest crowd with the most interaction. The band interestingly fell somewhere between mod rock and indie, with added techno flair that created an enticing depth of sound. The energy of the Portsmouth band, two of whom make their money doing The Who tributes, was captivating as they slickly layered punchy rhythms with intricate bass lines. Three-piece Tigercub then brought emo rocky loudness to the stage, with dulcet, droning vocals. With a Drenge-like flair (but not quite as good) the set eventually became a little bit laborious with the lyrics not quite clear-cut enough to keep engagement.
Kagoule, a trio of just-turned-twenty school friends who decided on their name in a P.E. lesson, were the ones I was most looking forward to of the day. Their female member graced the stage in a pink jumpsuit, with their sound emitting a dreamy rock feel through their combination of harsh, clashing guitars and intricately woven in vocals. The darker elements of their set plunged into grunge, with ‘Made Of Concrete’ allowing a contrast to this that added diversity as they switched between male and female lead vocals. The energy and relationship between the band, who started playing music in the “crappy music corridor” was comforting, and members of Kagoule could later be spotted in the crowd or milling around the merchandise stand.
YAK sent their apologies ahead of the cancellation of their set due to the band having been in Paris. The dreadful happenings in Paris had a hold of the weekend, with not a band going by who didn’t mention those affected and pay their respects.
The Wytches were the most anticipated band of the day, and the excitement bubbling from their following could be overheard in conversations throughout the weekend. Emerging on stage with a black backdrop, candles and gloomy blue lighting, the band brought heavy, brooding rock to the stage and the audience was plunged straight into it. The lead vocalist’s tone was a surprising one, something more to be expected from an indie band, but somehow it worked well against their rock backdrop. I did, however, realise that they weren’t really my cup of tea, but the rest of the audience were enjoying themselves. This was a downfall of the festival being split across two days: you couldn’t pick and choose who you wanted to listen to by wandering around from stage to stage.
For its first time, it’s clear that Independence Festival had a few teething problems. Venues and running times aside, though, what the festival did bring together was a great sense of community and interplay between all of the bands. I’ve not had the chance to see so much support and friendship between different bands before, and there was something pretty heartwarming about it. A festival to keep your eye on.