Common People might be the littlest sister of UK behemoth Bestival, but it certainly packs it’s own unique punch. Held on Southampton Common (with a twin over in Oxford now too) it’s a two day hedonistic escape without the sleeping-on-a-rollmat or not-showering-for-four-days element, and as such, is an altogether pleasant affair.
Saturday sees the likes of Elvana (Elvis fronted Nirvana) doing, well… exactly what it says on the tin I suppose, and Loyle Carner whipping a tshirt around the stage and rapping hits from his debut album, to a sun-drenched and almost feverish front row made almost exclusively of ladies. Over on the Uncommon stage, local lads Fever are whipping up a storm with their classic punky rock vibes to a packed tent.
The arena itself is decorated with a well-known Josie Da Bank feel to it, silk flags flutter in the breeze and there are fairy lights, lanterns and rainbow streamers everywhere, but it’s the heart installation which simply reads ‘Manchester’ which stands out the most. After such a terrible event, it’s affirming to know that people will still make their way to a festival like this, but the increased police presence was very noticeable.
Despite the somewhat sobering feeling of walking past armed police to enter the festival, the atmosphere is free spirited and fun. The Kids area is packed with people attempting circus skills, hula hooping, bubble blowing and getting their faces painted. Hidden away in a magical little copse, it really does have that hazy secret summer feel to it, and the Jam Jar Bar is serving up delicious treats for the bigger kids. Did someone say Rhubarb Martini?
Over in The People’s Front Room, which is dressed up as a shabby-chic front room in case you were wondering… people are grooving along to funky sounds, but it’s pretty tightly packed so we’re off to check out the food options, which never disappoint at CP. Back in the dark old days of UK festivals your best hope was paying over the odds for some soggy chips and a distinctly grey looking burger, but at Common People your culinary compass can spin all around the world. From Paella to Macaroni Cheese, to thali boxes or soft shell crab burgers, there is nothing common about this menu. We can particularly recommend the brie, pear and walnut from The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Co. which was pretty flippin decadent.
Back at the main stage there are rows upon rows of screaming, glitter-bedazzled girls greeting a very dapper looking Tom Odell who is playing a roaring set from behind his giant centre-stage piano. Calling out “Southampton! Closest I’ll get to a home gig this season, back home, back in the badlands” Tom is returned with a chorus of “Marry me Tom!” from a group of young ladies who look like they might faint at any moment. One particular hardcore Odell fan has actually travelled with her father and sister from Brazil to see him here, now that is commitment!
Next up is Sister Bliss playing a Faithless DJ set in the deep evening sunshine which naturally has everyone up and dancing. ‘We Come 1’ is so heavy it rattles the panels of the helter skelter and Bliss looks right at home here in her sequinned bomber jacket.
Over to Pete Tong and The Heritage Orchestra to bang out some Ibiza classics and honestly, it is overwhelmingly amazing. Conductor Jules Buckley stands, arms spread wide in front of three tiers of orchestra and Pete Tong perched amongst the rafters at an LED lit mixing desk and they begin. It’s a strange sensation knowing these classics to be, to put it bluntly, somewhat simple musically speaking – but hearing them performed by the orchestra just brings them to a whole new level. Massive hits such as Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’ and Faithless’ ‘We Come 1’ get the full orchestral treatment but bathed in lasers and smoke. It’s strangely satisfying and retains the intensity of the original tracks. Pete also pays tribute to Manchester noting that it’s ‘on our minds’ before introducing Ella Eyre to sing ‘Good Life’ and Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ which are insanely good. Finishing up with Becky Hill on ‘You Got The Love’ has the whole crowd singing along and Pete Tong quips “We can’t pretend to go off and come back on again, there are too many of us!” as they close the show. With a mass surge out of the gates and into the town, day one of Common People is over and it’s been a blinder.
Sunday on Southampton Common seems a lot quieter, there are a smattering of people milling around for the first bands but it’s pretty sparse, at a guess some people went very hard last night and are nursing some pretty epic hangovers today.
The Novatones who come out strong and belt around the stage with their classic punk rock sound and jumping antics, it’s a great set and a shame so few people were out to see it. The Black Kat Boppers make short work of getting everyone who has made it in, up and dancing some sort of hybrid swing-come-dad-moves.
to being ‘stuck in traffic’ Nadia Rose appears to have all but missed her slot and Calum Lintott, who has just finished a set on the Uncommon Stage is hauled in to fill the time. He looks nervous as hell at first, forgets to plug in his guitar… “That’s a good start isn’t it! I did not expect to be doing this today” and waves awkwardly at his family out in the arena, but he pulls off a frankly fantastic second set anyway. Even the security guards are clapping along by the end and Calum seems pretty stoked about getting to play the main stage, ‘English Daisy’ and ‘Baby I’m Insane’ are going straight on the playlist.
Whilst Signals are mid set-up and sound check, Nadia Rose finally makes it to the main stage – albeit shoe-horned into the side with the DJ booth, accompanied by a large posse. Rocking a red bomber, with matching trainers and visible pants, as well as her signature space bun hairstyle – she is every bit the rapper celebrity the young front row have come to see. Busting out ‘Skwod’ and ‘Boom’ she has boundless energy and is absolutely fierce in her delivery, but it was maybe a little unnecessary of her to complain that “I’ve got a short set today, because I was put on late, but whatever” when it doesn’t seem like anyone was really at fault for that.
A brief but substantial downpour sees herds of people diving into bars and tents for shelter, which Amy MacDonald finds highly amusing “It seems a lot of people are scared of a little bit of rain… that’s a drizzle in Glasgow… southern softies eh?”. Standing in front of a broadway-esque red ruched curtain, the Scottish musician plays a storming set highlighted by recent hit ‘This is the Life’ but the rowdy contingent of Common People are squished side by side into the rainbow-ribboned Uncontained Stage area for Fat Man Scoop. Stalwart of the school disco, Fatman Scoop is of course playing an absolute cheese-fest of hits. Rocking lounge shorts and pool slides he leaves the decks to dance with three stunned kids who’ve been pulled from the crowd for DMX’s ‘Party Up’ but decides to get them to cover their eyes for his brief bout of topless shimmying. Good call Scoop, good call. ‘Be Faithful’ is exactly as obnoxiously loud and fun as you’d imagine, and with the appearance of Goldie, it’s just what we needed to get out of the grim weather funk.
Over on the main stage the House Gospel Choir are giving huge club hits in their distinctive style, notably a cover of Robin S’ ‘Show Me Love’, to a massive crowd. Up next British Sea Power aren’t garnering the same sort of response due to their softer, melodic sounds, but the front few rows seem to be die-hard fans who are absolutely loving them and their strange selection of stage-foliage.
Natives are shredding the Uncommon Stage with loads of people dancing and jumping around in the tent, and the bouncy castle has been dried and re-opened to hordes of terrifyingly fearless children. With a single experimental bounce and what thankfully was a minor collision with a manically grinning cannonball of a small girl, it’s time to escape to safety. Off to a less violent affair, lashings of glitter makeup from Dust & Dance and obligatory hair braiding, before heading over to see Wild Beasts. Flanked by flashing panel lights and a giant backdrop from their latest album ‘Boy King’ they have a distinct electronic rock sound that is definitely piquing some interest in the now quieter arena. I think they’re going to be the hot playlist add following the weekend, but I’m not sure they’re quite what everyone was waiting for.
Groove Armada pick it back up with a solid set of classic dance music, and I know it’s specifically listed as a DJ set but they really are holed up at the back of the stage behind a giant table. Why can’t DJ’s be at the forefront and engage with the crowd in any way other than that wistful sort of pointing into the sky reminiscent of Steve Zissou? Anyway… as they continue through the set the crowd builds and gets increasingly rowdy, during a remix of Breach’s ‘Let’s Jack’ security are rushed into the main stage pit to hold the barriers as people push against them whilst dancing.
After a couple of choice cocktails at The Day of the Dead Bar it’s down to Sean Paul to close out Common People 2017. Swaggering onstage in a dusty trenchcoat and a pair of sunglasses, Sean Paul looks every bit the nonchalant celebrity, but as ‘Get Busy’ begins it’s clear he is here to move and shake that thing as much as the crowd is. Flanked by two extremely energetic dancers, Sean Paul makes his way through a plethora of his classic hits such as ‘Baby Boy’, but it’s his version of Sia’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ that we are both wincing at, and simultaneously loving. It also then mixes into Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ and honestly It’s hard to assign one feeling to something like that. To explain, he changes the words… a lot. Enough to have no idea what’s going on except for the tune.
Calling out “We’re bringing you music from around the world tonight… we’ve got music from Jamaica, we’ve been to Australia with Sia… the UK with Ed Sheeran… who wants to go to Trinidad and Tobago with me?” we can’t help but think he’s playing the metaphor because his driver (easily spotted by being the only one at the back of the crowd sporting a full suit and tie) is looking horrified at the idea of driving anywhere other than home after this.
The crowd is getting considerably louder and wilder as the show goes on, and during ‘Temperature’ two girls are hauled over the barrier by security for having a scrap over which one can get closer to Sean Paul. It’s 50-50 on the funny/baffling ratio. Ending with a chant of “Say no no no, we ain’t going home” is fun until it’s actually time to go home and return to the real world, but at least there’s a bank holiday tomorrow to recover. Oh Common People you have once again been superb, with your eclectic mix of music, beautiful décor and incredible extra-entertainment options you are really anything but common, and you know it. Roll on 2017, and if you can’t wait that long for your fix, there’s always the larger scale Camp Bestival and Bestival to continue those CP feels.