Southsea seafront is a shocking slash of vibrant colours and glitter-coated faces, as the glorious Saturday sun beats down on the second day of Victorious Festival. In the same vein as previous years, the south coast soirée welcomes a wide array of revellers, who congregate a stone’s throw away from the crashing English Channel waves awaiting yet another diverse assortment of artists old and new.
Our bank holiday musical banquet begins on the Castle Stage, where atmospheric Londoners Palace fill the air with brooding alt-blues as the mid-afternoon rays cascade onto the balding field below. Shimmering rock gems from the four-piece’s superb debut album ‘So Long Forever’ sound infinitely impressive, with the wondrous ‘Veins’ and glorious finale ‘Bitter’ making the vast space feel eerily intimate. The latter, which caps off their dreamy stint, is an emphatic conclusion that sets the tone for the day.
If we’re talking epic though, British Sea Power‘s anthem-packed show later on the very same stage takes things up a notch. The Brighton-based indie stalwarts play a scintillating slew of songs; a setlist that brims with big tunes that span a decade plus of music-making. Most feature sweeping strings, rib-rattling percussion and euphoric moments so huge you could spy them from outer space. The highlights are many, but set centrepiece ‘Lights Out for Darker Skies’ is especially triumphant and rip-roaring fan favourite ‘Remember Me’ is a welcome throwback to their formative years, with an appearance from grizzly bear mascot Ursine Ultra the cherry on top of the cake.
Scottish soul-bearers Frightened Rabbit also journey through their brilliant back catalogue, airing exceptional cuts from their exhaustive arsenal at sundown. Victorious‘s Castle Stage is privy to the band’s rousing hooks, emotive melodies and cathartic songcraft and the highlights come thick and fast: ‘The Modern Leper’ soars, ‘The Woodpile’ is thunderous and slow-burning closer ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ is the ultimate fan-pleasing finale, finding the festival in fine voice. As its epic refrain ripples through the onlooking crowd, it’s the mark of gifted lyricist Scott Hutchison’s ability to pen music that resonates deep within. Their stellar appearance is truly one to savour.
Over on the Common Stage, the dark seeps in and eats the light, leaving the black sky above a silver sprinkle of stars. In this setting, Notts troubadour Jake Bugg provides a fitting soundtrack with a string of stonewall guitar-pop hits that stir and subdue in equal measure. Static and poker-faced, Bugg’s emotion-filled bleat is most affecting on spine-tingling solo ‘Broken’ – a bruised ballad from his first full-length record that is testament to the fact that simplicity, raw talent and classic songwriting never fail to rouse. To conclude, he ramps things up with set climax ‘Lightning Bolt’, which duly sends the choppy sea of ticket-holders into meltdown.
Bill-toppers Stereophonics start to trawl through their comprehensive discography just after, with an enviable number in attendance, but the lure of Victorious‘s Acoustic Stage is too strong. There, Benjamin Francis Leftwich mesmerises with his twinkling folk. There are only a few hours to the day’s credit, but in them the York singer-songwriter leaves a strong breakaway turnout in hushed awe, perched on hay bales and transfixed by delicate cuts from his first two albums. The soothing standouts are ones from his earliest offering: ‘Atlas Hands’ is a magical jaunt and ‘Shine’ is a quiet singalong that warrants wide-eyed wonder. It’s a spellbinding end to the festival that always seems to deliver.