FESTIVAL REPORT: Victorious Festival 2022 4

FESTIVAL REPORT: Victorious Festival 2022

When: 26 – 28 August 2022

Where: Southsea Common, Portsmouth

The August bank holiday weekend presents the festival-goer with a myriad of music-centric escapades. For a post-GCSE blowout, fresh-faced attendees brace either Reading or Leeds festivals; for the ravers, Creamfields is a site of holy pilgrimage; for the musos, London’s All Points East possesses an impressive roster of notable names. Victorious – held on Portsmouth’s Southsea Common – is not for anyone in particular, which remains its greatest strength. This year’s edition saw 150,000 people flock to the Solent shoreline over three days of live music.

Primal Scream were the first act of the weekend; they walked out to a half-full Common Stage and bravely opened with a subsection of their back catalogue. Whilst revellers were visibly happy to be back at the seafront festival, this first part of the set appeared to be misjudged. Bobby Gillespie – the band’s Scottish frontman – also misjudged his outfit. Although a suit inspired by their legendary 1991 album Screamadelica was a distinguished choice, it was soon ditched in favour of a similarly styled shirt that was more appropriate for the soaring afternoon temperatures. At this point Primal Scream hit their stride and utilised the remainder of the set to do the stature of their recordings justice.

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Primal Scream

Buoyed by a Mercury Prize nomination for her lyrically powerful pop record, Prioritise Pleasure, Self Esteem navigated her 45-minute slot with the confidence of a performer who knew herself even better than the crowd knew their own musical preferences. She revelled in the task of convincing “the 6 Music Dads” that her set was as strong as she knew it was, and the pockets of loyal support soon spread to the entirety of the arena. Memorable hooks, fantastic harmonies, and coordinated choreography ensured that it was one of the most joyous sets of the weekend.

Bombay Bicycle Club had the duty of playing the festival’s fabled sunset slot. An extensive touring schedule was reflected in the intricate tightness of their performance, yet their commitment to near-studio quality live renditions never interrupted the jubilant expressions plastered across the face of every band member. An unexpected highlight came when frontman Jack Steadman breezed into a cover of Selena Gomez‘s ‘Lose You To Love Me‘. The jaws of the two teenage girls stood next to me hit the floor, and whilst they were evidently not familiar with Bombay Bicycle Club’s discography, they sang every word of the cover at the top of their lungs.

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Bombay Bicycle Club

Stereophonics were billed as Friday’s headliner and they took to the Common Stage with a demeanour which implied that they knew exactly what they needed to do to ensure a memorable performance. The ‘Phonics are no stranger to a headline slot, and the setlist mirrored this veteran assuredness. For me, this made it a relatively forgettable musical spectacle. And whilst I was happy to admit that it was not my ‘thing’, the constant stream of people exiting the festival gates indicated that I was, perhaps, not the only one. The World Music Village was, in comparison, a place of entertaining sanctuary; under the banner of a Hindu deity, people of all ages danced into the night as two DJs supplied a stream of electronic beats. A real strength of Victorious is its provision of experiential musical spaces – you are never far from witnessing something that adheres to your tastes.

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The World Music Village

This was most notably demonstrated on Saturday. The festival offers afternoon comedy for attendees who wish to take an hour away from the music programme. This proved to be a popular option – whether out of a love for Suzi Ruffell, Milton Jones, and Joel Dommett, or because the tent provided a place of necessary asylum from the rising temperatures. Regardless, the three performers supplied a hilarious and somewhat vital change in pace, and by the end of their sets the busy passage from the tent back to the main arena suggested that the crowds were refreshed for further musical exploits.

These exploits appeared in a remarkably different form to Friday’s line-up. The resurgence of Sugababes in 2022 is something nobody could have predicted, yet the noughties girl-group have been a popular feature at a string of festivals this summer; Victorious was the last tour date, and “one of the best” – apparently. This genuine nostalgia trip was soundtracked by the three-piece’s harmonies and an impressive live backing band. An encore of ‘About You Now‘ sent the audience into frenzy and solidified a conclusively glorious crowd reception.

Declan McKenna‘s music presents an interesting juxtaposition; his instrumentation is cheerful and melodic, whilst his lyrics often tackle global political issues. Bounding onto the stage with a glam rock visage, it soon became apparent that during festival season, McKenna places more emphasis on the former aspect of his musical persona. Songs from his debut record What Do You Think About the Car? and 2020’s follow-up Zeros were met with audience elation, yet it was the imminent arrival of viral hit ‘Brazil‘ that unsurprisingly provided the set’s climax. For a song that was penned when aged 16, the lyrical content is profoundly mature and McKenna commanded the stage in the manner of a performer who was considerably his senior.

As the sun dipped over the Portsmouth skyline, Paolo Nutini stepped up to headline the Common Stage whilst Bastille closed out a day of action on Victorious’ Castle Stage. A considerable percentage of ticket-holders opted to see the latter and were subsequently let down by sound issues. The live mix was entirely miscalculated, and despite my placement in the centre of the crowd, I could hear very little of the performance. Frontman Dan Smith’s heartfelt monologues between each song fell on deaf ears, and although the production looked rather impressive it did very little to pervade the increasingly disillusioned audience. Fortunately, this meant it was possible to catch the second half of Paolo Nutini’s set. Impassioned vocals set against psychedelic visuals created a genuinely unique soundscape that perhaps needed to be experienced in its entirety for the scope of the live show to be fully admired.

Sunday was the only day of Victorious Festival 2022 that sold out; a reflection of the strength of the artist roster compiled for the festival’s close. The sheer number of people descending on Southsea Common formulated severe traffic issues in the surrounding city and resulted in entry delays for numerous ticket-holders. Whilst many people missed out on being part of the capacity crowds for The Libertines and Example, the UK’s unlikely Eurovision success, Sam Ryder, provided an enjoyable spectacle that counteracted the audience’s lack of familiarity with his minimal discography. In stark contrast, Editors, with seven albums under their belt, produced a memorable set that utilised the popular singles from their exceedingly successful first three records, and combined them with cuts from their more recent output. Tom Smith’s weighty vocals brought a cohesion to the six-piece that complemented the continued strength of their setlist.

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At sunset, Metronomy brought indietronica to the Portsmouth seafront whilst Sophie Ellis-Bextor brought a pop disco to the Castle Stage crowds. Moving between sets was not as much of a stylistic departure as I had anticipated; Metronomy continued the good spirits following the end of Ellis-Bextor’s ‘Murder On The Dancefloor‘, playing multiple tracks from 2011’s The English Riviera. The iconic opening synth chords from ‘The Look‘ reverberated around the arena as the sound of 20,000 people saying “wait, I know this song” accompanied them.

As one of the biggest artists in the UK currently, Sam Fender was arguably Victorious’ biggest coup for the 2022 running of the festival. His most recent LP, Seventeen Going Under, occupied much of the setlist. Its memorable and relatable lyricism made the record highly accessible in a live setting; the crowd sang every word as though they had each individually penned them. ‘Spit Of You‘ was a particularly poignant moment in the set. A reflective song of love for his father transcended the personal realm and became a collective experience of parent-child relationships. It was surprisingly powerful. Fender looked at home as a headliner despite admitting that it was only his third time at the top of a festival bill, and attendees danced with friends and relatives as though the music had soundtracked a significant portion of their lives. Seeing the Geordie bask in the adulation of the crowd between each song, it’s hard to think that his debut album Hypersonic Missiles only hit the shelves in 2019. It was the perfect close to a brilliant weekend of live music.

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Sam Fender

It appears as though 10 years have been enough for Victorious to build a real identity – this identity is just not as genre specific or binary as its bank holiday rivals. Victorious is true to the notion that music festivals are communities; it presents a subsection of society, adhering to every age, demographic, and taste. A music festival will always be a temporary entity, but some feel more like coming home than others.

Tickets for Victorious Festival 2023 are available here.

Images courtesy of Victorious Festival via Carousel PR.

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