Day 2 at Common People and it’s a proper live music day
Turning up on site just after 11 the first impression was how clean it all was. When last we saw that part of Southampton Common we were wading off home ankle deep in plastic cups. This morning the place is spotless and it is a testament to the hard work that the crew have been putting in late into the night.
Not being a gentleman that likes musicals I decide to give the West End Kids a miss (sorry kids) and go instead to the uncommon stage where another of the local bands The Costellos are on. I made the right call.
The boys are giving it their all and a full up Uncommon Stage responded in kind. I ping off some shots and we sit in the slightly dull sunlight people watching until it's time to return to the main stage where Craig Charles is due on.
Charles immediately impresses me as he has a remarkably good taste in hats and despite my reservations about blokes behind tables, proceeds to give us a full on funk soul set straight out of his radio 6 music playbook. Playing to the photographers he gives us full measure for the first three songs before we are ushered out and I return to the grass to sit and enjoy a brilliant set.
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis looked like a really good band to photograph so I was looking forward to seeing them. I wasn't disappointed on that front as the immaculately turned out siblings took the stage. The girls wearing sparkly skin tight catsuits and Lewis looking sharp in a retro tailored suit.
I like their music too but just like the Plastic Mermaids the day before, KDL misjudged how you work a festival with long stops between songs so they could all swap round their instruments. They could all play everything, which is immensely impressive and indeed admirable but you either need to have some fill music going on while people are swapping, chat to the crowd while you are getting set or just don't swap at all. What you don;t do is to just leave dead air and an audience wondering what is going on.
This was a real shame because I felt it got in the way of the guys showing their real quality on the day, turning what could have been a good set into an okay one. Soz.
The running order is much tighter today and there's only a quarter hour between sets. Next up The Cuban Brothers are an act I've been wanting to see for a while.
Hailing from the Scottish part of Central America Miguel Mantovani, Archerio and Kenny the Bastard were a riot of colourful, near the knuckle comedy, great sounds and some not-too-shabby dance.
Halfway through the set they are joined by Miguels' young nephew Juan Erection and he does some stunning dance moves. Sadly by this point we're all out of the pit so can't get any decent photos. Their take on the Sesame Street 'one of these things is not like the other' was hilarious.
They continue with some great sounds and wonderful comedy culminating in Miguel running into the crowd and embracing a young lady wearing only his shorts and ending the set onstage in just his budgie smugglers. If you get a chance to see them then go along. Just don't stand at the front.
In contrast Slaves, come out all guns blazing.
Their angry post punk sound almost disguises the intelligence of their message. Isaac is beating the drums like they are a drunken punter who has stolen his naans and Lawrie, intransigent, belligerently attacks his guitar whilst attempting to stare out the entire crowd.
Sadly, the music not only energises the crowd but also whips up a huge amount of enthusiasm on the part of the smoke machine operator who turns it up to 11. Hence the slightly milky look to some of the photos.
'I've never seen so many photographers' says Isaac. Get used to it. With sets like this you're going to see a lot more of us.
I'm surprised by how early the guys get into 'Cheer up London', the chanty singalong anthem, but the crowd get well into it. The biggest cheer of the day has to be for the appearance of a manta ray. I kid you not.
Or at least a bloke dressed up as a silky manta ray. He tries to crowd surf but the audience haven't quite got it. We're then treated to the comedy of Isaac trying to teach the Southampton crowd how to do crowd surfing. 'All push together then pick him up'.
The punters finally manage to work it out and eventually the manta is returned to the stage with Isaac admonishing us all to the effect that 'when someone gives you their manta ray don't drop it on the ground'.
It was going so well that the guys remarked on how worried the security guards looked.
'It's always good when security look worried'
Advertisers often produce creative that is designed specifically NOT to appeal to people outside their target demographic. Almost in the way that Years & Years didn't appeal to me but went down a storm with the pre teens in the audience.
The cheer went up an octave and sounded like the crowd at an under 16s Football match.
To me, there was nothing to hang on to from the foursome. They were good but to my mind bland but again those filling in a drop down a few age categories lower than mine were lapping it up and they was a hollerin and a whoopin.
So all good.
And I guess that's the essence of a good festival, something for everyone on the main stage, but at least a secondary stage to go to if you weren't keen.
Southampton group Band of Skulls brought a few with them and kicked into gear with a really strong set.
What impressed me was the variety in their song structure, yes there are some standard forms there but they mix it up.
On the rock side of indie they had a partisan crowd on their side from the off and rightly so.
We went off in search of food and tea, and found ourselves listening to mod band The Rising. We enjoyed it so much that we hung around and took in Sean McGowan. Both acts being local and both being excellent. Sadly such was the schedule that we missed Clean Bandit on the Common Stage.
And so to the festival headliner Grace Jones.
Lets be honest, I wouldn't travel to see Ms Jones, have never bought a single and never sought her work out. It's always been there of course and she's never been far away from the media so she's part of the background.
But I admit to being pleasantly surprised, not only by how good she was but also by how many of her songs I actually knew and, when played live, enjoyed.
La Jones turns up in what looks like African traditional white paint over her topless body and black corset. Striking is not the word. In fact I'm not sure what the word is.
A costume change after every song gave us plenty to shoot and what was clear was that we were in the presence of proper star quality. Whilst changing she kept up a stream of conciousness commentary. Mad as a box of frogs? Sure but it was also much more endearing than it sounds. Even following a trip she made light of it, throwing her shoes away and chatting to the audience all through.
I'd been tipped the wink by a security guard that Jones would be 'mounting' a crew member to enable her to meet her adoring public and so she did.
I still wouldn't buy a ticket to see her but I enjoyed what I did see and if she's at another festival that I end up at then I's still take in her show.
So I've been majoring on the live bands I saw. It's important to note that there was a superb kids area, open mic, bars, DJ tents and allsorts of stuff going on. Too much to take in or describe.
Personally I think that, council allowing, this is a keeper. It's big enough but not too big. Well organised but not heavy handed. All in all a fine weekend out.