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Festival review: Common People

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The inaugural Common People, the latest festival from the Bestival crew, injected some much needed life into the often dark and dreary Southampton Common this bank holiday weekend.

Smack bang in the middle of the 326 acre stretch of green in Southampton’s heart, the festival was a fantastic way to bring together the people of the city.

Common People | Megan Downing©

Day one couldn’t have asked for better conditions to kick-start the festival with the sun shining throughout the entire day, leaving many festivalgoers looking a little peachy. Bestival regular Mr Motivator arrived onto the Main Stage at around midday to get everyone excited for the first day. With his trademark enthusiastic aerobics session, he gained quite the crowd.

Winners of the ‘I want to play at Common People’ battle of the bands competition were The Novatones. The local lads had a big crowd for their early main stage slot, and they put all their energy into a performance of their catchy, Libertines-esque indie-rock.

The Uncommon Stage was buzzing from the moment the festival opened – it may have been helped by the stage doubling up as a bar, we’re not sure. Playing host to some of the best local, and national, rising talent, it was great to see so much support for new music.

First up were Somahigh, followed by another battle of the bands winner, Bel Esprit, with the Uncommon Stage being packed to the rafters all day, reaching a peak with headliners Jaws.

For those that fancied an afternoon rave, The Big Top was the place to be. Highlights from the day came in the form of DJ sets from Huxley, Dusky and finishing with an awesome headline set from Waze & Odyssey.

The afternoon on the Main Stage was filled with some fantastic live music, including an eclectic performance from Isle of Wight five-piece, Plastic Mermaids. With their crazy trousers and odd instrument swapping techniques, they pleased the crowds with their eccentric indie-pop, fit with operatic closer ‘Dromtorp’.

Common People | Megan Downing ©After being featured on the BBC Sound of 2015, the next act has already created quite the hype around his insightful spoken word – of course I’m referring to George The Poet.

The inspirational pocket rocket bounded onto the stage with such an infectious energy he had the crowd mesmerized. The Cambridge graduate performed many tracks including his latest release ‘Search Party’, and in light of the General Election, this couldn’t have gone down better – talk about poetic justice.

Jaguar Skills and DJ Yoda really got the crowd going on the main stage with people dancing as far as the eye could see. With the sun shining it was the perfect picture of what a festival should be. Followed by Bestival regulars, and hip-hop legends, De La Soul, the crowds were more than warmed up for the headline act Fat Boy Slim.

An hour and a half set full to the brim with hit after hit, the Godfather of dance music lived up to the hype. Fit with the verging on terrifying backdrop animations, his set was an attack on the senses.

Finishing with the legendary ‘Praise You’, the crowd couldn’t have wished for a better closing set.

Day Two, and although the sun didn’t shine as bright, the hoards of great music made up for it.

The legendary Craig Charles welcomed the new day with his trademark soul and funk DJ set. Followed by the completely bonkers Cuban Brothers, the day was off to a great start.

Slaves | Megan Downing ©Over on the Uncommon Stage battle of the bands winner, University of Southampton students The Costellos, were performing, as well as more local talent in the form of female solo artist Charley McCauley.

Dexters shone brightest in the coveted headline slot with Sean McGowen providing a fantastic warm up.

The Big Top had another day packed full of the best dance music, including a set from Common People’s very own curator Rob da Bank. After joining Fat Boy Slim on stage the night before it was hard to beat that performance, however, he managed to thrill the crowds with his signature eclectic DJ style. Derrick Carter bagged the top spot on the Big Top leaving festivalgoers raving into the night.

The afternoon really kicked off when punk duo Slaves took to the main stage. Those in the crowd unfamiliar with their brand of snarling punk probably had quite the shock when Laurie and Issac came tumbling onto the stage. For me, they were the highlight of the entire weekend. The punk re-booters from Kent dominated the main stage with highlights in the form of ‘Feed The Mantaray’, ‘Hunter’ and their new single ‘Cheer Up London’.

In 2015, the phrase ‘punk’s not dead’ seems more relevant than ever before, and we have Slaves to thank.

Years & Years | Megan Downing ©Great music on the Main Stage didn’t stop there with fellow BBC Sound of 2015 nominees (the winners), Years & Years on next.

The trio have been on quite a whirlwind since winning the coveted prize, and with Common People being their first Main Stage slot, the only way is up. They performed tracks from their upcoming debut album Communion to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend with most of the them hanging on front man Olly’s every move.

Band of Skulls and Clean Bandit also played on the Main Stage and provided the perfect warm up to headline act, the legendary Grace Jones who closed Common People with the most theatrical performance of the weekend.

Clean Bandit performed as the sun was setting over Southampton Common – the perfect ambience to perform their super summery debut album New Eyes.

Grace Jones took to the stage and performed an eclectic mix of her better known tracks including 80s hit ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, mixed with some exciting new material.

It was a highly energetic performance with Jones continuously jumping around the stage. Even the famous hula-hoop made an appearance at the end, giving the crowd an amazing, albeit slightly bonkers, show to remember.

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