End of the Road 2021 – Review

End of the Road is a festival for people passionate about music. Set halfway between Salisbury and Blandford in Dorset, this years festival didn’t disappoint. With such an eclectic mix, it was appropriate that the main tent was sponsored by the ‘Loud and Quiet’ independent publication. No two words at each end of the musical spectrum sum up the performances over the magical weekend.

Stereolab headlined the Thursday night, with their first set since before the pandemic in March 2020. Clearly the bandhad initial stage nerves, but launching their biggest hit, French Disko, they renamed it ‘F**k the Daily Telegraph‘, presumably due to the chorus ‘La Resistance‘. Long gone are the days when festival would be three day affairs beginning on the Friday – such is the power of End of the Road’s attraction that they can attract such talent when people used to be accustomed to setting up their tent and perusing the merch stalls on opening night.

The political messages continued into Saturday morning, with the Mark Jenkin’s film ‘Bait‘ starting proceedings for the day. One of the defining British films of the decade, it portrayed beautifully the war between the local Cornish fishermen and the gentrification of the once-thriving village by rich city folk. Welsh musician Gwenno accompanied the film in person with a mesmerising score.

© Graham Tarrant

Later in the day as the sun began setting, Damon Albarn appeared as special guest on the main stage. Clearly enjoying himself and goofing around onstage, he mixed solo material, Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad and the Queen tracks, it was an impressive addition to the bill. Finishing with classic Blur song ‘This is a Low‘, it was a difficult act to follow or compete with. The only downside was that while Damon played the main Woods stage, Arlo Parks was booked to play the Garden stage at the same time – such a crime for there to be a clash pulling fans apart when people still haven’t developed the ability to be in two places at the same time. Still, she was booked over 12 months ago to play in 2020 so it shows the astute ear and crystal ball the organisers have for upcoming talent.

© Hot Chip

To beat Damon and Arlo Parks, the festival would have to pull out impressive headliners. And they did.

Hot Chip and John Grant would later be booked at competing stages as headliners on the same evening. Having chosen to see Hot Chip, it would have taken an unreal performance to have stolen the show from them. They were simply on fire with arguably the best headline show of the summer at any festival. This may sound like over-the-top praise, but in addition to their own classic pop and funk, they mixed in the mosh-pit frenzy of Beastie Boys classic ‘Sabotage‘ and finished appropriately with Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark‘.

Saturday began again with another Welsh six-piece, Melin Melyn – with catchy eccentric pop with a country twang. Joined by Dr Sausage onstage with a fake wig, beard and easel, they felt like a fresh new Super Furry Animals.

Dr Sausage – Melin Melyn ©Graham Tarrant

Later on Saturday, Anna Meredith dazzled the crowd with her self-defacing charm. Her music straddled so many different genres it would be unwise to categorise her, but she is a must-see on any lineup. Finishing with an unbelievable cover of ‘Enter Sandman’ which Metallica would have been proud of, it’s clear why she was even awarded an MBE on the Queen’s honours list in 2019.

Making a rare solo performance, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood followed on the Garden Stage. Introducing a number of classical songs from soundtracks to There Will Be BloodPhantom Thread, and You Were Never Really Here it was a unique concert experience. He’ll be playing a number of cathedrals and concert halls throughout 2022 and the acoustics in such venues will make this an exceptional experience.

Sunday began with a had a hard rock feel with Oldboy and John taking to the Big Top. Ear-splittingly loud, the two-piece (both appropriately called John), highlight how many exciting bands are currently out there, from Slaves, Royal Blood and IDLES.

Later, Porridge Radio took to the same stage, with singer and lead guitarist Dana Margolin rinsing her head under the tap multiple times before taking to the stage due to the sheer heat on the festival site.

Porridge Radio – © Graham Tarrant

Clearly it was a beautiful weekend on the festival site, and the peacocks rummaging around the grounds added to the beauty of the weekend. Simon Amstell’s comedy performance even described the crowd as the ‘forest people’ which was apt due to the magical transformation Larmer Tree gardens took for the weekend.

Heckled by sheep in the field behind, it was hard not to laugh at many of the comedy performances throughout the weekend.

Finishing off the weekend were Black Country New Road, with someone in the crowd shouting ‘you’re the best band in the world’ – not quite yet, but watch this space.

Little Simz followed and arguably the rapper should have been booked as a headliner, such was the power of her performance. Her album is entitled ‘Sometimes I Might Be Introvert‘, but that personality was not on show today – she was here to party in style and show the world, or at least Dorset, what a star she will be.

Little Simz – © Graham Tarrant

After Little Simz, watching Arab Strap showed the contrast of the festival. Aidan Moffat’s very dark but humorous lyrics painted him as a grumpy old Father Christmas, and it was clear many in the crowd didn’t see the comedic elements of the Scottish legends.

With many bands booked throughout the weekend having to cancel either due to Covid or travel restrictions, 2022 at End of the Road cannot come soon enough. With legends and Bowie favourites Pixies expected to headline, the next twelve months can’t pass quick enough so we can all head back to this incredible unique festival.

Words & Photos: Graham Tarrant

Victorious 2021 – Review

The definition of the word ‘Victorious‘:

‘Victorious’ – /vɪkˈtɔːrɪəs/ – adjective – having won a victory; triumphant.

Based on this definition, the name is definitely appropriate to this years festival, returning to the coast at Southsea in style, with an impressive line up and glorious sunshine.

The Lottery Winners kicked off the proceedings and it was good to see they don’t take themselves too seriously. Ferociously catchy songs were the perfect starter to get the crowd warmed up. On a similar note, Terrorvision followed and it was pop-rock all the way, culminating in the crowd singalong ‘Tequila‘.

Criminally, Peter Hook and the Light only had a 40 minute slot, and the legendary bass player shone. Playing Joy Division and New Order classics arguably better than their singer Bernard Sumner two years’ prior in their headline slot in 2019, Hooky certainly had more stage presence, bravado and crowd engagement.

Despite equipment problems, Feeder returned to Victorious with a blistering set. The Kooks followed and it’s amazing to think it has been 15 years since their debut album – their feel good songs still sounded just as fresh. Ending with hit Naive, there was no lack of experience in their set.

Madness clearly have a huge loyal fan base, with the crowd sporting more fez than a Moroccan wedding. The nutty boys came on stage smoking, but played hit after hit to their adoring fans. Questioning how many old Etonians have led the country on ‘Bullingdon Boys’, Suggs brought the politics and it’s good to see they still have a message to make. Finishing with ‘Always Look on the bright side of life‘, the crowd went home happy on Friday night.

At Victorious, organisers cunningly book a special guest early who may be found headlining other festivals to draw the crowd on site early. Saturday kicked off in style with Craig David and TS5 this year – fortunately he was delayed by an hour due to the sheer traffic trying to get on site to see him.  For those who haven’t seen his TS5 sets, Craig combines his ability to sing, MC and work the crowd while DJing. Mixing his own songs with the likes of Whitney Houston and TLC, everyone was on their feet dancing, including the security.

© Graham Tarrant

Stereo MC’s followed stepping it up, looking like a mix between Steptoe & Son and a long lost Chuckle Brother, while Morcheeba brought class and elegance to Portsmouth. Singer Skye made her own luscious dress and aptly played their hit ‘The Sea‘ next to the coast.

Local legend Frank Turner was up next, lamenting how he had memories of coming to Portsmouth to play and leaving with a stinking hangover. Having a shot of spirits, it was great to see him live in the flesh, so to speak, after he’s done so many zoom charity gigs for local venues closed due to covid lockdown.

© Graham Tarrant

Festival crowd pleasers Blossoms took to the main Common Stage while Reef blew down the walls at the Castle Stage with a blistering set.

Rag’n’Bone man truly was a giant on before the headliner. Arguably, based on the size of the crowds, Rory aka Rag should have taken the slot at the top of the bill – his voice was so strong even when belting out his ballads. The crowd repeatedly requested Human and he didn’t disappoint.

Richard Ashcroft was due to headline the Saturday night at the castle stage, but was replaced by welsh legends Manic Street Preachers. Arguably this was an upgrade for the crowd and anyone questioning a simple lateral flow test to gain entry shouldn’t be booked for these events – hopefully Mr Ashcroft’s sound engineers won’t bother earthing his guitar next time he complains about basic safety measures in place.

© Graham Tarrant

The Streets played the main stage after Rag’n’Bone donated his champagne to the headliners and clearly the crowd weren’t quite ready for what followed. Mike Skinner was clearly in the mood for a party – encouraging women to show the blokes how to crowd surf in exchange for a bottle of bubbly, he ended up spraying the Moet over everyone. Comically, he pitted the Portsmouth locals against the Southampton visitors, stoking the local south-coast rivalry, and encouraged everyone to jump in the sea after his set…maybe a swim would have been less painful than leaving the full car park after the fireworks.

Sunday began with positive vibes when legendary Annie Mac took the legends guest slot early afternoon. Mixing Balearic beats in the sun was the perfect start to get the day going. Liverpool legends Cast followed with the first classic version of ‘Alright’ of the day with singer John Power in his glasses and long hair increasingly turning into another Liverpudlian, Lennon.

Miles Kane brought an adoring audience to the stage, but like the churros sold nearby, it felt slightly more style over substance with fairly forgettable treats lacking any real memorability. Over on the Castle Stage, sporty Melanie C really got the crowd jumping. As well as her own solo material, she ably made up for her missing Spice Girls, singing 2BecomeOne and Who Do You Think You Are. It’s clear who the one with the talent was, especially when she also covered Touch Me In The Morning…

© Graham Tarrant

It was so good to see Supergrass back together on the main stage, with their own version of ‘Alright‘. With so many great songs, it was so much more enjoyable than Gaz Coombes solo performance years prior.

© Graham Tarrant

Bringing the show to a close were two strong headliners (well three if you include Clean Bandit’s DJ set on the Seaside Stage.) Two piece Royal Blood, with their unique sound were back strong for their first festival performance since the band’s third album ‘Typhoons’ became their third successive UK Number One. Blasting out bass solos and the occasional drum solo, the band finished with ‘Figure It Out.’

Talking of figuring it out, the only person who could rival Royal Blood was Nile Rodgers on the Castle Stage at the same time. The word legend is often used freely, but it truly applies to this man. As well as classic Chic songs, Nile mixed in his other work, including Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky‘ and Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance

© Graham Tarrant

Finishing with his classic song, the weekend can’t be summed up better than:

Good times
These are the good times
Leave your cares behind
These are the good times

Words and photographs: © Graham Tarrant

Boardmasters 2021 – Review

After a two year absence, Cornwall saw the Boardmasters festival return in style. Set at the stunning location of Watergate Bay in Newquay, over 50,000 people descended to the coast for a mix of sun, surf and superb music.

On Friday, Foals took the main stage by force with their headline slot. Playing their biggest hits, including Mountain at my Gates, What Went Down, My Number and finishing with singer Yannis Philippakis joining the crowd for a thrilling finale of What Went Down and Two Steps, Twice.

Lianne La Havas © Graham Tarrant

It was refreshing to see so many female artists on the bill at this festival – take note mainstream festivals such as Reading and Leeds with their continuous dirge of male dominated line-ups – there was a wealth of female talent throughout the lineup here. Earlier on Friday, Lianne La Havas delighted the crowd dressed in sunflowers, playing a mix of her soulful tunes, with a cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes chucked in the mix for good measure. Elsewhere, Holly Humberstone gave off early Avril Lavigne vibes, while Jade Bird delighted the crowd crossing so many genres with a fine mix of pop, americana and country.

Jade Bird © Graham Tarrant

To make the point that women can fill any festival bill, Georgia blew away the Land of the Saints stage single-handedly with her solo drumming and singing combo, while Mahalia filled the tent with her mix of R&B and soul.

As well as music, as the name suggests, the beauty of Boardmasters is its surfing connections. During the day, if musically nothing floats your boat (or board), Fistral Beach is a stone throw (or skim) away. Hosting the UK’s biggest surf competition, the BFGoodrich Longboard-open and Animal-open were exhilarating to watch, with the pro’s catching awe-inspiring air on the waves, and the occasional wipeout for pushing it to the limit.

© Graham Tarrant

The sun shown again on Saturday morning. Maisie Peters was a little ray of light encouraging the crowd to shout names of ex’s in anger in cathartic fashion. Fresh from her headline slot at Camp Bestival two weeks’ prior, Becky Hill demonstrated the power of Boardmasters that she could only make it to late-afternoon on this bill. Shamelessly plugging her new album continuously, it was clear many fans would be lapping it up when it is released the following week.

Mercilessly, the crowd surged for Loyle Carner, before Damon Albarn and his Gorillaz made their Cornish debut as headliners on the main stage. Playing hit after hit, with majority of songs coming from their acclaimed Demon Days album, it was incredible to think this is no longer a side project for Damon after over 20 years’ since their debut song, Clint Eastwood.

© Graham Tarrant

The Kooks clashed on the Land of Saints stage with their indie pop. With the sun set for the day, dance lovers headed to the stunning The Point overlooking the coast, where Basement Jaxx drew a huge crowd for their DJ set.

On Sunday after dancing ‘til early hours, Sunday’s mix was even more eclectic. Gentleman’s Dub Club began proceedings in style (despite being a headliner at upcoming Mucky Weekender festival). Sharply dressed in a suit and bow tie, the singer opted for no shoes or socks, presumably off for a dip afterwards.

Local Cornish royalty Katy J Pearson drew a loyal audience in the nearby tent. Later, Goat Girl (with appropriately named lead singer Clottie Cream) are surely a future headline act in the making with their grunge guitar band. 

Mercury Music Prize nominee Arlo Parks followed. A definite highlight of the weekend with a huge crowd filling the tent. With so many memorable songs, from Hope, Black Dog and Collapsed in Sunbeams, Arlo truly deserves to win – singing ‘We all have scars, I know it’s hard, you’re not alone’, her songs uplift but contain powerful messages for us all.

So, as if Maisie Peters, Becky Hill, Lianne La Havas, Katy J Pearson, and Arlo Parks powerfully lighting up the bill wasn’t enough, Jorja Smith showed that Queen Bee Beyonce better hold on tight to her crown – Jorja is a worthy contender and an incredibly inspired headline booking to close the festival.

Jorja Smith © Graham Tarrant

Stunningly mesmerising the crowd, it’s truly evident she has been writing songs since she was 11. With so many catchy songs, it was a true festival closing performance, sending everyone home. Be honest, we need more of this elsewhere in summer festivals.

See you at the beach next year! 

Review and photographs: © Graham Tarrant

Boardmasters 2021 – Preview

With less than a week to go until Boardmasters finally returns, we’re here to give you an overview of the ultimate surf & music festival on the Cornish coast.

Taking place between 11 – 15 August in Newquay, this year promises to be very special.

Headliners on the main stage include Foals, Gorillaz & the amazing Jorja Smith…but that’s not all. Oh no…Sam Fender, Loyle Carner, Jamie xx, Lianne La Havas, The Kooks, Blossoms, Mahalia Music, Slowthai, ANDY C, Eats Everything, and Django Django also join the incredible line up.

Is that simply not enough? There’s more – Basement Jaxx and Maribou State head to the Cornish coast with DJ sets, Georgia brings her one-woman drum machine and incredible vocals (hopefully covering Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill), The Futureheads (fingers crossed covering Hounds of Love by Ms Bush also), not to mention Young T & Bugsey, Arlo Parks & a whole host more…truly something for everyone.

No wonder tickets have sold out early…you may be lucky enough to find some on Twickets now if you’re lucky…

Hey, if the music isn’t enough, why not take a short trip to the coast during the day. Fistral Beach transforms into a vibrant surf festival complete with pro surf competitions, skate and BMX competitions, art installations, workshops, gigs and a bustling surf village.

See you at the beach…

Graham Tarrant

Camp Bestival 2021 – Review

After the past 18 months of lockdown, it would be easy to give undue love to any festival returning this summer. With Camp Bestival arriving in such energetic flamboyant style, there’s no need for faint praise here. 

It’s always difficult to name the highlight of a weekend at Camp Bestival. It could be one of the musicians or headline acts. Or possibly the entertainment and performers around the site for younger ones. It could even be the dystopian Caravanserai area with its heady mix of trapeze artists, sea-shanties and steampunk aesthetics. Hey, it might even be the Blue Coats holiday camp entertainers doted throughout the site. But for me, it was the world’s best chocolate brownies from the campsite coffee shop after enjoying all of the aforementioned.

On Friday, with gale force winds across Dorset, the festival literally took off the ground. Based on the popular tv show, Brainiac Live supplied explosive action and daredevil stunts for all the family…following this, Junior Jungle were booked again this year after an unbelievable tour-de-force in 2019. Described by organiser Rob da Bank as one of the “top 5 acts ever booked for Camp Bestival’, words simply cannot describe the show (hence the photo below…) Nick Terrific and MC Rocky’s hot costumes and energy literally brought the crowd on stage with them for some smooth moves and a whole new interpretation of a lateral flow test, which has to be seen to be believed.

On a more serious note, Georgia took to the Big Top in impressive style. Very few people would be brave enough to attempt to cover Kate Bush, but her solo cover of ‘Running Up That Hill’ was arguably a match for the original. It’s always a sign of a strong line up at a festival when there are clashes – two bands which you want to see, playing at the same time. In this case, 2-Tone favourites The Selecter took to the main stage at the same time, still showing such class and style after 40 years.

Becky Hill closed the Friday night with impressive pyrotechnics and banging hits. This was her first headline slot at a festival and it won’t be the last – having earned her way up the line-up over the years, she delighted her fans with charm and modesty. A contrast to Jess Glynn’s diva behaviour two years’ prior at the festival.

Everyone emerged from their tents early on Saturday morning, and there could only be one reason at Camp Bestival – of course it was Mr Tumble. Performing his japes and nursery rhymes, young fans (and many parents alike), watched with unparalleled excitement. Without his best friend Dick, Dom’s performance seemed a little less enjoyable this year without the banter the two have built. 

Sara Cox really got the party-started again with her 80s pop extravaganza and equally impressive shoulder pads. With two dancers joining her to perform the classic lift-off dance from Dirty Dancing, the crowd had the time of their lives.

What can be said about the next act though. The Cuban Brothers led by Miguelito continue to be highly inappropriate and great fun. With Kenny (the Bastard) and Dominic providing break dance moves and back flips, it’s clear why Los Hermanos Cubanos return every year, even if their language isn’t suitable for all ages. Yes friends!

Heather Small displayed her impressive back catalogue playing hit after hit, while Level 42 made everyone realise how many classic songs they had.

The funk soul brother Fatboy Slim was the star of the show on Saturday night. Celebrating his birthday, Norman Cook embraced the fancy dress theme dressed as the Pink Panther and kept the crowd raving with his rockafeller skank and deep bass. 

Sunday was a hazy start for many, especially for those staying up late the night before to hear snooker legend Steve Davis’ incredible hardcore DJ set. With such an eclectic mix ranging from Craig Charles‘ funk and soul, indie darlings The Sherlocks, rock from Reef and pop from Max & Harvey, there was something for everyone. Dom Joly even managed to provide the laughs with his Powerpoint presentation of unique holiday snaps and escapades from around the globe. Yes, it was definitely funnier than that sounds…

Dub Pistols © Graham Tarrant

Despite the Friday gales, sharply dressed Dub Pistols made everyone glad it wasn’t a truly mucky weekend with sunshine and occasional showers across the weekend. Groove Armada were the final act on the main stage at the weekend, with a full band line up. Compared to their DJ-only sets in previous years, this year their set was engaging, energetic and a highlight of the weekend. It truly finished the party in super-style before the emotional firework finale.

In conclusion, a big heartfelt thank you to Rob and Josie da Bank for their tireless work in putting on such an amazing show again in the face of such adversity.

In the words projected onto Lulworth Castle, We Are Family. Roll on 2022!


© Graham Tarrant

The Downs Festival, Bristol – Review

The Downs festival returned to Bristol and was Gurt Lush (or, for those who don’t speak native Bristolian, pretty incredible).

The festival was headlined this year by Ms Lauryn Hill – the first female singer to top the diverse line up. As a founding member of The Fugees,  she may have only one solo album to her name, but the Grammy award winning songs have stood the test of time and remain unparalleled among her peers. Incredibly, Lauryn took to the stage on time, playing classics ‘Killing Me Softly‘ and finishing with the classic ‘Ready or Not

Lauryn had to give one of her best performances, taking to the stage after fellow icon Grace Jones. With hits such as “Pull Up to the Bumper” and “Slave to the Rhythm,” Grace delivered a jaw-dropping spectacle. With a stunning, if extremely revealing, costume change between each song, she defied her 71 years by showing more energy than any other singer all day.

Grace Jones © Graham Tarrant

IDLES played their largest ever gig in their home town when they return to the main stage at The Downs. After an incredible year headlining Glastonbury’s Park Stage and their well-deserved nomination for the 2019 Mercury Music Prize, the crowd chanted their name while they tuned up. Singer Joe Talbot admired the huge crowd with awe, while mutton chopped guitar player, Mark Bowen, danced around the stage in his finest Calvin boxers.

IDLES © Graham Tarrant

Introducing each song with the sentence ‘This is an anti-fascist song’, their energetic punk anthems blew away the crowd, with the band stage diving throughout. As well as playing song ‘Danny Nedelko’ to his immigrant blood brother, they also played unique snipers of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’.

Elsewhere, on the Avon Stage, fellow Glastonbury star Loyle Carner proved why he’s a unique talent in the world of hip hop. Down-to-earth and with less macho bravado than his contemporaries, his honest lyrics stand out in the social media age. His sound has been described by NME as “sensitive and eloquent” and by The Guardian as “confessional hip-hop”.

Loyle Carner – © Graham Tarrant

The festival also hosted ‘The Information’ area, with speakers including Desree, award-winning Charlie Craggs and Extinction Rebellion highlighting how we can make a positive impact on local and global issues.


Skunk Anansie Live – Bournemouth O2 Academy

Skunk Anansie Live – Bournemouth O2 Academy

Tuesday 27 August. Review – Graham Tarrant

Celebrating their 25th anniversary together, Skunk Anansie are back on the road touring – it’s clear why they’re described as one of the greatest live bands the UK have produced as they blew away the Bournemouth crowd at the O2 Academy.

Skin burst onto stage in mesmerising fashion like a rock goddess wearing her spiked hoodie. Opening with ‘Charlie Big Potato’, she flicked her hood back to rapturous applause from the adoring crowd hypnotised by her energy.

Skunk Anansie © Graham Tarrant

It’s tricky to know how Skin should follow such an electric start, but she turned it up a notch further – during the following song ‘Because of You’, she leapt from the stage, surfing while held aloft by her adoring crowd still singing her cut-throat love song.

Skunk Anansie © Graham Tarrant

As the first first black British woman to headline Glastonbury in ’99, she hasn’t aged a day. In fact, she joked that while the audience were exhausted and sweating, she still remained cool and relaxed. Sickeningly, it was true despite her diving from the stage throughout the set.

The band remain as relevant as ever in the troubled divided times we live in, playing classics such as ‘Intellectualise my blackness’ and ‘Yes it’s f*ck*ng political’, along with a new song tonight ‘This Means War’. Along with recent single ‘What You Do For Love’ , these songs were highlights of the set – which is often rare when fans want to hear the classics from their 25 year career. If there’s anything good to come out of the shambles that is Brexit, it’s the possibility that the band will continue to be re-energised and write powerful tunes reflecting the disgusting rise of populism, not only in the UK but across the world.

Skunk Anansie – © Graham Tarrant

As well as their own vast catalogue, Skunk Anansie played a great rendition of Highway to Hell. Even when screaming above Ace’s guitar, her voice remains note perfect, and on softer songs, such as ‘Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good), the tenderness remains.

Skunk Anansie – © Graham Tarrant

Skin asked the crowd what song should finish the set, and there was only one correct answer – ‘Little Baby Swastikkka’. Not to be outdone by the adoring crowd, the singer again joined the audience in the mosh-pit, before surfing from the back of the packed crowd back onto the stage in impressive fashion.

This country has produced few better female voices and live, they are a sight to behold. Having bought their live album 25live@25, the band have to be seen to truly bring the sense of awe to life.

Skunk Anansie © Graham Tarrant

Victorious Festival 2019 – Review

Victorious Festival 2019 – Southsea

Review: Graham Tarrant

You can always tell how good a festival is based on how many clashes and must-see bands there are on the line up. With Clean Bandit, New Order, the Wonder Stuff and Basement Jaxx all playing at the same time on the Sunday night, it meant Victorious was an absolute stunner this year.

Much of the line-up could have headlined Glastonbury in the late 90s. Dodgy opened the festival on Friday afternoon with hits ‘Good Enough’ and ‘Staying Out For The Summer’. It truly felt like summer had returned with the sun beaming down throughout the weekend.

The Zutons also warmed up the crowd, playing their energetic original version of ‘Valerie‘, which Amy Winehouse covered and made her own.  The Specials were brilliant from start to finish.  Playing all the old 2Tone classics plus a selection from the recent Encore album. Discussing Brexit, austerity, racism and poverty. Terry Hall stayed grounded despite the party going on around him, finishing with ‘Too Much Too Young‘, ironically recorded over 40 years earlier.

The Specials © Graham Tarrant

Festival favourites The Dub Pistols played the smaller Beats and Swing stage shortly afterwards, and based on the size of their merry crowd, surely they should have been booked for the main stage. Party starter Barry Ashworth blew away the crowd like the seasoned pro he is. Often described rightly so as the hardest working and performing singer on the festival circuit, he pogo’d around the stage with more energy than any other younger pretender. Among the hits was Mucky Weekend with its appropriate chorus: “Oh, no here we go again, I’m off my face another mucky weekend. One day I’m gonna have some kids and a wife, but until then, I just wanna live my life”

Dub Pistols © Graham Tarrant

Two Door Cinema Club clashed on the main stage and while the Irish band may have had a bigger platform to perform and more visual effects, it felt like The Specials should have been headlining the Friday night based on the crowd reaction.

Fireworks finished the night in spectacular fashion along Portsmouth seafront but the major drawback of all these bands was the car park – trying to get out of the car park each night was a true challenge. The stewards didn’t seem to know what day it was, yet alone where exit was as they seemed pretty full of festival spirits themselves.

Saturday began on a high particularly early, with All Saints taking to stage at 1.15pm. Crowds arrived early to ensure they didn’t miss the foursome begin with ‘I Know Where It’s At’. The set was hit-after-hit and they seemed timeless, having aged far less than most. Maybe there’s a secret potion, or not so secret personal trainers, make up, lotions and potions.

All Saints © Graham Tarrant

Elsewhere on Saturday, Republica played crowd pleasing ‘Ready to Go’ and ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’, while Badly Drawn Boy questioned whether he was at the right festival with his Mercury Music Prize winning folk after following the girl bands.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals received the award for biggest crowd singalong not only for Reservoir Dogs influenced Scooby Snacks, but also for playing Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ – even the security team couldn’t resist joining in swinging to the crooner’s tune.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals © Graham Tarrant

With mods Ocean Colour Scene playing at the same time as Lewis Capaldi, the clashes really began. The crowd for Lewis was unbelievable with no way to enter or exit from Southsea Castle within 30 minutes of him taking to the stage. St John’s Ambulance and emergency services deserve full credit for helping the adoring fans, and Lewis didn’t let down all those in attendance. Clearly he was moved too, filming the vast crowd himself for his Instagram channel.

Later, James Bay clashed with The Hives. Two extremely different performers – James’ hit ‘Hold Back The River’ competed for the crowd against the vastly different ‘Tick Tick Boom’ from the Swedish rockers.

Bringing Saturday to a close on the main stage were Rudimental with their vast stage presence, or on the Castle Stage, Bloc Party who played their masterpiece debut Silent Alarm in full, but in reverse, so the hits ‘Helicopter‘ and ‘Banquet‘ were anticipated by the huge crowd. Finishing with ‘Flux’ and ‘Ratchet’, they truly deserved their headline slot.

Bloc Party © Graham Tarrant

Sunday began with a more relaxed reggae vibe. Ziggy Marley, the son of reggae icon Bob Marley. While playing a mix of his own songs, the biggest cheers went out for the legendary Jammin’ and One Love.

Throughout the day, the lineup again basked in the bank holiday sun, with local Southampton group Band of Skulls blowing away any tiredness. Razorlight‘s Johnny Borrell still has all the energy from the early 2000’s and, having not listened to them in over a decade, the songs still sounded fresh and exhilarating.

The clashes on Sunday night were interesting, and  made choosing who to see extremely difficult. Ash were booked to play the Castle Stage almost at same time as The Vaccines on the main Common Stage. Ash won out everyday with their intergalactic sonic 7 inch singles such as ‘Girl From Mars’, ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ but The Vaccines charm made the energetic sprint worthwhile to catch their opening 20 minutes.

Ash © Graham Tarrant

Plan B felt a little out of place at the family friendly festival, with his Ill Manors, but the crowd sung along for ‘She Said‘ and ‘Mercy’, while failing to keep up with rappers Defamation of Strickland Banks.

New Order brought the party to a close on the main stage, saving their biggest songs True Faith, Blue Monday and Temptation for the devoted fans willing to brave leaving the car park at close.

Clean Bandit meanwhile finished proceedings on the Castle Stage with their mix of classical and dance pop music. They’ve become one of the most strongly supported radio pop acts in the country with a Grammy under their belts.

The set ended with a joyous rendition ‘Rather Be‘, which was an appropriate high to end the weekend on.


All words and photos: Graham Tarrant



Camp Bestival 2019 – REVIEW


Graham Tarrant

Camp Bestival is often described as the ultimate family festival, for kids big and small, from 8 months to 80, and it’s easy to understand why.

For the little ones, children’s TV royalty Mr Tumble, entertained with his catchy singalong and slapstick set, Mister Maker brought his favourite shapes and moves, and Shaun the Sheep came with his own Vegetable Orchestra and farmyard frolics.

There was so much else for the whole family – from Rak Su showing why they won the X Factor, to Lewis Capaldi who will surely be a headliner in in future years due to size of the crowd, Scottish charm and melancholic hits.

Dads squeezed into their now ill-fitting t-shirts to sing along to Ash, Shaun Ryder’s Black Grape and the Human League. Shed 7 made the fateful mistake of uttering the words no fan of revival music likes to hear, namely “Here’s a song of our new album’– the audience shivered despite the sun, wanting more of their 90’s gold.

Nile Rodgers, Chic, and Sister Sledge rolled back the years with their timeless disco hits and good times. During Sister Sledge’s slot, they tested who truly was the greatest dancer and no one could hold a candle to young Rupert’s smooth moves in front of a sell-out crowd.

As well as the main stage, there was also such a wide mix of entertainment for all other family members across the site. From Napalm Death’s ear-splitting head-banging set in the Big Top, Vengaboys arriving on their party bus, Mr Motivator’s energising session for the fitness bugs, to The Cuban Brothers hilarious (if somewhat inappropriate) funky acrobatics and breakdancing on stage.

The theme of the weekend was Superhero’s and Jess Glynne came on stage with pyrotechnics to her No. 1 hit ‘Hold Me Hand’– dressed as her own idol, Cher.

Spectacular fireworks over Lulworth Castle brought the weekend to a close.

After leaving the magic of the festival, the outside world feels very Black and White – without the colourful fields painted with a bright hullabaloo of sequins, glitter, inflatable, and colourful flags, everything feels beige in the surrounding fields of Dorset.

In addition to the music, Camp Bestival brought even more enchantment across the site this year.  There was so much else to see, that you could visit for the weekend and have a great time and not even visit any of the main stages. The Wild Tribe area offered drumming circles, leafy adventures, and an escape from any technology and computer screen, Sleep Retreat provided free yoga workouts to recover from the hedonistic previous night, and a feast of food stalls where you could eat something different for the next month, provided you didn’t venture to the world’s biggest bouncy castle afterwards.

This is all without mentioning the Caravanserai, which can only be described as a festival itself within a festival. Aerial performers hustled high above the quirky mix of ramshackle caravans, Wurlitzers, carnival DJ’s and Victorian fairground rides among other curiosities and oddities.

Fortunately, the sun shone on the crowd all weekend and the superhero theme was warmly received, with all family members getting into the spirit and squeezing into costumes.

Full credit must go to Rob Da Bank and Josie’s superhuman effort for coming back again this year and hosting the incredible party in the south.

Roll on next year’s Camp Bestival – let’s hope the party continues for many more years to come.

Review and photos: Graham Tarrant