We arrived in the early afternoon for the second day of Victorious Festival at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard and were determined to make the most of things. Having been elsewhere for day 1 (and missing out on some superb acts such as The Milk, Chapel Club, old favourites Kill Kasper, long-time friend to the site Andrew Foster and the sublime Kassassin Street) we didn’t want to leave ourselves lacking for day 2.
As we queued up to enter the Dockyard we were serenaded from the bandstand stage by someone (and we’re not sure who) throwing out a spirited but vocally lacking Foo Fighters cover. Nonetheless it was a nice way to enter the site. Aside from the aforementioned stage there were a wealth of stalls as the boutique market threaded its way through the site. We headed straight for All About Tea and grabbed a cup of Southsea Afternoon blend, which was a wonderfully refreshing (and terribly British) way to rehydrate as we wandered around the site to soak up the atmosphere.
We found ourselves gravitating toward the Little Johnny Russell’s stage, where as luck would have it some old favourites were just setting up. We’ve been fans of The Deads since long before this site was born and as always they got our blood pumping with the ferocious energy of their set. One of those rare bands that we know all their songs despite barely knowing the names of any of them, we were dancing about, singing along and it seemed like the right time to grab our first (and only, as it later turned out) pint of the day! Frontman Clym Arnold was a blur of motion as always and the band seemed to have edged slightly away from their earlier punk sound into a more full bodied hard rock vibe… we like it!
After a pit stop for some cheese straws and a frankly amazing cinnamon roll from Continental Bakery (we couldn’t find a link, sorry folks) we went for a stroll around some more of the markets, there were stalls with everything from vintage clothing to hot stone massage by way of an excellent milliners where I bought myself a rather snazzy new hat!
Whilst wandering along we stumbled across one of the dockyard’s regular forms of entertainment, a group of volunteers in period costume singing sea shanties. We love a good shanty (and blame Chris Ricketts for that) and they were extremely enthusiastic so we stood around for a bit absently singing along before heading off again, we had a hot date with a shed!
We’d bumped into the very lovely Wit from The B of the Bang earlier on in the day and he let us know that he and drummer Elliott would be playing a pop up gig at Pie & Vinyl shack. So, after perusing the records on offer and catching up with Rowan from the aforementioned Kassassin Street, we were right up front for the impromptu B of the Bang activities. It transpired to be one of those moments that make a festival special, the duo ended with a spirited run through Lung, our favourite of their tracks (even more impressive as Elliott openly declared “I can’t remember how this one goes” as Wit announced the song).
By now it was time for a sit down, so we made our way to the Acoustic Stage (brilliantly set up inside an old railway awning) to set up shop on some hay bales. We caught the tail end of Aviv’s set, their easy going acoustic tunes seemed very popular, but we were there for the next act. Race Car Hearts have been around for a couple of years now but frontman Chris Perrin has been on our radar much longer. In fact, many moons ago Chris fronted the excellent Thirst, who we say at the Wedgewood Rooms in what was almost certainly our first gig.
Chris’s set was superb, older tunes and new ones in equal measure, delivered in a voice that has long made him one of my favourite local performers.
By this point we (I was there for the day with my wife Emma, without whom this site would never have been so much as an idea, she was the one who first got me into regular gig going) were getting hungry and there were a wealth of options available. Tempted as I was by the Chorizo van, we couldn’t resist heading to the Camp Cooks and their shining airstream van. There’s something about being served excellent diner style food by a bunch of Mancunians in 50’s style waitress outfits and full drag that really adds to the festival atmosphere…
Bellies full of Jambalaya and Lime Chicken; we decided to take advantage of the Dockyard facilities by chilling out on a harbour tour, checking out the military and industrial docks while relaxing in the sunshine, a nice break from the hurly-burly of the festival itself.
Back on shore and Charlotte Church is entertaining punters at the main stage, with the majestic HMS Victory sharing the limelight. Church sounds great and is a charismatic presence, but sadly the songs just aren’t very good so we head back to the acoustic stage where Big Love Soul were laying down some classic covers in a set that culminated with a rousing rendition of (Heard It) Through The Grapevine. At least, I think it was rousing; I’d entered into the spirit by this point and was merrily singing along, so I was happy at least. The typical festival poser had put in an appearance too, in this case a young girl with a large flower in her hair who was dancing around at the front of the stage, stopping regularly to try and get between the photographers and the stage.
Local soulsters Tremain were up next and by this point Emma and I were settled comfortably on our hay bales. Despite a number of “technical issues”, this trio were superb, playing their own compostions with beautifully put together harmonies. These sisters can really sing!
Heading back toward the arena to see Reef and be transported back to college age, the crowd was packed in and we realised that we weren’t going to get any closer before headliners Maximo Park took the stage. Having had a brilliant day and being full of tea and good food, we made our way home. We may not have made it to the end of the day, but we had a brilliant time, and are already keeping the weekend free for next year…