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Festival review: Common People 2016


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40,000 music lovers descended on Southampton Common on the May Bank Holiday weekend to drink cider, get sunburnt, and listen to everything from unsigned local acts to international superstars.

Headlined by Southampton legend, Craig David, and 80s icons Duran Duran: Common People had something for everyone.Back for its second year Common People is a big deal for Southampton.

Opening on Saturday was Southampton local's Wild Front, who played an excellent indie set to an already impressive crowd. The winner of "I want to Play at Common People" played their new EP as people descended onto the spot that’s usually used for dog-walking and picnics.

Common People, the little sister of the Bestival family, is a great showcase for new talent. Southampton University band, Bel Esprit, played a great energetic set on the Saturday. The alt-rock four-piece played a set packed with powerful riffs and catchy melodies to a busy crowd.  One member even played an impromptu acoustic set in the ‘People’s Frontroom’ playing deconstructed hip-hop classics, as the sun came up on Sunday and the crowd stumbled in, Bel Esprit played ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ alongside other crowd favourites.

Craig David, Southampton’s never-forgotten son, headlined on Saturday as the sun came down. Describing it as ‘the most important gig of his life’ Craig played a mix of covers, his early noughties hits, and closed with ‘When the Bassline Drops’ with an encore of a 2016 remix of ‘Fill Me in’.

Craig David @ Common People

Stood behind a desk, with just a laptop and a microphone, a nod to his garage roots, Craig’s simple, stripped down set really worked. Less than a mile from where he grew up, his Mum and Dad in the crowd, Craig David’s set was full of emotion and enjoyment, “You can take the boy out of Southampton, but you can’t take Southampton out the boy” he chirped at the crowd as they danced to anthems, “I can’t tell you how many good memories I’ve had here, how many amazing acts I’ve seen here”.

He even mentioned how excited he was to see former Southampton FC player, Matt Le Tissier (who he describes as “the Lionel Messi of Southampton”) after the show. Looking around, you can see generations meeting, young teens at their first festival discovering David for the first time, families, and students celebrating the end of exams.

Propping up the headline, Scottish indie-legends Primal Scream played a relaxed set, far from their acid house movement roots.

Two of the Saturday’s highlights came in the form of 80s east-coast rap powerhouse Public Enemy and the orginators of hip-hop Sugarhill Gang.

Public Enemy played a gladiatorial, politically charged-set. Front-man, Chuck D, apologised for Flavour Flav’s absence, who wasn’t allowed into the country - and repeatedly screamed “Fuck the Government” as the crowd danced to ‘Harder Than You Think'.

Sugarhill Gang, were clearly a crowd favourite, as thousands sang along to a mix of jazzy tones and bounced along to 'Rapper’s Delight' as the sun shone on Southampton Common.

Elsewhere, Ghostpoet played a soulful relaxed set showcasing his sheer talent playing from his latest album Shedding Skin.

Chuckle Brothers @ Common People

In the morning, a very different vibe - the Chuckle Brothers played an hilarious - all be it slightly odd - set, doing their classic slapstick and of course “To me, to you, Bruv” - their 2014 colloboration with Tinchy Stryder.

Lady Leshurr, grime’s next big thing, fresh from performing with Alicia Keys, dressed in combats and bright white calvins was late to the stage after being stuck in traffic. Although her set was shortened, it was fantastic, it’s clear to see why Birmingham is so proud of their latest export.

Lady Leshur @ Common People

Lady Leshurr’s set was vibrant and grimey - she knew how to work the crowd.

Sunday night provided a different atmosphere, with a generally older and smaller crowd from the previous night, surrounding the Common Stage to see 80’s pop icons Duran Duran pull off a nostalgic headline set. Simon Le Bon, donning a pair of extra tight white chinos, lead the band through some of their classics from the past 40 years.

They rounded of the set with a performance of ‘Rio’, amoung new and old hits including ‘Hungry Like the Wolf,’ ‘Girls on Film’ and ‘A View to A Kill’. Their set was the biggest of the weekend, with a huge light show, pyrotechnics and confetti.

Thirty years on from their prime, Duran Duran are still a creative, colourful and opulent act.

Duran Duran @ Common People

The most memorable moment from the whole festival came from Duran Duran’s set, when they turned the stage purple in a tribute to Prince, with the whole crowd putting lighters in the air.

Before them Katy B, despite the flop of her most recent album Honey (which reached an abysmal #22 in the UK Album Chart), put on a lively performance. The first part of her set was marred by technical difficulties, which saw Katy flustered amongst a constant change of mics - and the crowd seeming confused more than anything.

She managed to rescue it however at the climax of her set, with performances of what are arguably her most successful singles ‘Katy on a Mission’, ‘Crying for No Reason’ and ‘Lights On’.

Katy B @ Common Place

The appearance of Jamie Lawson so late in a festival was a confusing one, nothing to do with his relative anonymity (he was the first artist signed to Ed Sheeran’s record label, Gingerbread Man Records, after all). No, his dulcet acoustic tones provided a more relaxed tone to the festival - instead of building up to the more upbeat stylings of Katy B and Duran Duran.

Another highlight came from the Cuban Bros, who for some reason, stripped down from a too-tight synthetic suit to nothing but a jock-strap on stage. "Hello,” the front man beamed at the crowd. “I am Miguel Mantovani - and we are los Hermanos Cubanos! Donned with fake tan and a stick on moustache he goes on to tell the crowd how they love Southampton and went to University there (“I did English Literature, and got a Desmond”). They are 45 minutes of non-stop fun, it’s no suprise that they’re regualrly hired to play celebrities’ parties.

Cuban Brothers @ Common People

Elsewhere, festival-goers enjoyed the world’s biggest bouncy castle - with tourrets rivalling the size the real-life castle in Cardiff. 26 different, and delicious food stalls, and various different bars. Overall, Common People was a great weekend, perfect for first-time festival goers, families, and anyone on the South Coast who loves music.

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