mon 25/10/2021

Common People Festival 2016, Southampton | reviews, news & interviews

Common People Festival 2016, Southampton

Common People Festival 2016, Southampton

Chas & Dave, Duran Duran, Cuban Brothers and the blazing sun make this festival fizz

Duran Duran getting fired up

Rob da Bank’s Faustian pact with the weather gods continues apace with the second year of Common People, which takes place simultaneously in Southampton and Oxford. The forecast for days beforehand had predicted a cold front bearing relentless drizzle but, in the event, wellies were left packed away as the elements chose instead to offer blazing summer sunshine for the 30,000 revellers who attended the festival's second day at Southampton.

I went with my two daughters, aged 13 and 18, and the attention to detail, which makes da Bank’s festivals (Camp Bestival, Bestival) so appealing, is clearly present. Before we’re even onsite the booming sonic power of the Traction Sound System used by the Uncontained Stage is audible and, upon arrival, that space is already overrun with youthful ravers bobbing to the bass-boosted sounds of Bristol duo My Nu Leng, featuring Gloucester’s hirsute Dread MC on the mic. It stays increasingly busy all day, culminating in appearances by drum & bass/garage don, DJ Zinc, and reggae prosthelytizer David Rodigan. The same cannot be said of the Uncommon Stage marqee which, whenever we check it, is half-empty, hosting uninspiring, identikit skinny white boy guitar bands.

Chas and DaveThe day before, Saturday, saw Craig David headline the main stage over Primal Scream, Public Enemy and the Sugarhill Gang. Surely an ironic gag that’s got way out of hand? That said, the first act we catch on Sunday is Seventies/Eighties “rockney” hit-makers Chas & Dave (pictured above), undoubtedly regarded by many in the same vein. I’d argue that, like The Wurzels, they come from a folk-comic tradition, polished parochial entertainers whose story-songs veer off the beaten path of pop, most especially the number that finally rouses the crowd to its first fervour of the day, the ridiculous 1986 novelty hit “Snooker Loopy”. Women in their summery best doing arms-flailing knees-up dancing is quite a sight. The duo hammer through the hits – “Gertcha”, “Rabbit”, “The Sideboard Song (Got My Beer in the Sideboard Here)” and the surprisingly lovely “Ain’t No Pleasing You” – and then they’re gone.

A quick exploration of the site is rewarding. Wandering past the biggest bouncy castle I’ve ever seen, we reach the family area – shaded by oak trees, it's a panoply of activities, like a village green imagined by CBeebies. Wren & Bee (“Chicks With Sticks”!) lead little ones in making “willow hedgerow headdresses” and there’s a tricycle-peddling circuit, while Skull Llumi Art is a small tent in which UV lighting transforms intricately decorated animal skulls into psychedelic fluorescent art. Elsewhere hordes of toddlers attack large, inflated multi-eyed aliens. “This is all very exciting,” a mother says to her youngster. Yes, it is.

cp - cubansBack on the main stage it’s time for the Cuban Brothers. Their act, which I’ve seen many times, never palls, and they’re on particularly good form today. As ever, they combine near-the-knuckle humour (having us all chant “Michael Jackson, he loves children”), amazing, acrobatic, eye-boggling breakdancing (including an enjoyable guest turn from two local 10-yea- olds “Jamie and Jamaal from the Mercy Crew” – pictured above left with the Cubans), burlesque partial nudity, costumery, and joyous dance-along hip hop/funk jams. At the end, my daughters will acclaim them the best act of the day.

Then, however, it is time for Jamie Lawson. Have the British public really not had enough of this sort of thing? Apparently not. It’s just relentless – Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Foy Vance, George Ezra, Tom Odell, and on and on and on. The popular appetite is ravenous for such soul-shrivelling, predictable piffle, masquerading as "authentic" simply because it adheres to a romantic, guitar-toting troubadour archetype. Jamie Lawson is more of the same. This stuff is as much of a blight on pop as the manufactured bands its fans regard it as the alternative to.

cp - katy bMy younger daughter and I use most of Lawson’s set to practice our tightrope-walking skills although, unfortunately, we could still clearly hear him. We return to watch rave-pop crossover queen, Katy B. I’ve seen her before and she’s been vibrant, most especially at Glastonbury 2011 when she tore the roof off the dance tent. This time, however, partly hampered by a muddy sound, she fizzled. Looking resplendent in a sparkly light green mini-dress, accompanied by four dancers (pictured above right), her brief appearance, without a band, was akin to a club PA and, although she played the hits, somehow was perfunctory rather than explosive.

The same could not be said for headliners Duran Duran, a band who were the One Direction of their day, a globe-conquering behemoth, although self-formed rather than manufactured by any Dark Lord Cowell-type. In more recent years I’ve started to admire their capacity for continuing to come back with new material that actually makes an effort, that has zest and snap, something most bands of their vintage find hard to do, to recapture the indefinable something that gave their greatest work its fizz.

Duran DuranThey play newies, opening with the title track of last year’s “Paper Gods” album, as well as including the Nile Rodgers collaboration “Pressure Off” from it. Going back a bit further, 2005’s “Reach Up (For The Sunrise)”, with an interlude of “New Moon on Monday” and a gigantic confetti cannon explosion (pictured above left), is a set highlight.

Looking svelte and fit, chatting like people who actually like each other, laughing and bouncing about, they bring an enthusiasm to proceedings and, of course they bring the hits. With distance in time, and their tween-friendly rep long past, songs such as “Notorious”, “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “Planet Earth!” – the latter including a tribute snippet to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” – are welcome pop gems, all boosted by large-screen LED visuals. “Girls on Film” is allowed full sway towards the end, a shiny, catchy sex-funk classic, which leaves it to the encore to give us the arms-around-each-other’s-shoulders singalong that is “Rio”. A high point to end a day wherein sunshine bathed all, and the 2016 festival season got off to a lively, likeable start.

Hordes of toddlers attack large, inflated multi-eyed aliens


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Thank you..i love your review of our kids field. 

Excellent description and so true! 

Glad you and you family.. Like so many others had a great time..


Did you catch our efforts at CP Oxford too? 


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