The inaugural Common People Festival held over two days of the Bank Holiday Weekend on Southampton Common. No camping facilities so this made for a very local audience. 

Previous events on this scale have been The 80s Festival so good to see a move in a rather more creative direction. Driving force behind the festival is Rob da Bank and it had the slight feel of being an advert for other events he curates in this neck of the woods, notably Bestival (Isle of Wight) and Camp Bestival, the very family-friendly festival held at Lulworth Castle.

The consensus was that as the inaugural event they had played safe with the line-up which comprised a large sprinkling of DJ sets (including Saturday headliner Fatboy Slim, and Rob da Bank himself on day 2). The bands were also mainly local, including Band of Skulls. Sunday’s headliner was Grace Jones, again going for the mass-appeal vote.

Organisation was pretty good with plenty of distractions for younger ones via the mini fairground and play area. There were usual comments about length of wait at some food outlets. 

One gripe from me was the bar facilities. There were lager-bars aplenty across the site. Very laudable that they also had real ale and craft beer available but this was limited to the small 'Uncommon Stage'. This would have been ok but their very helpful idea of providing 4-pint pitchers (think ‘milk carton’) meant the lager-drinking fraternity were also drawn to this bar for lager in 4-pint servings, making for a painfully overcrowded bar situation.  

This was particularly acute on Saturday afternoon; less so on Sunday as they ran out of cartons so only those who took cartons back for refills were able to continue availing themselves of the facility (which I did).

We were able to attend some of Saturday and most of Sunday. 

Here is the review of the acts we enjoyed


Novatones - earned their spot as winner of Battle of Bands. Very competent and enjoyable 4-piece guitar band, today with a 4-strong female backing vocal accompaniment. Drummer had his right arm in a cast leading the compere to comment 'the best one-armed drummer I've ever heard'. Not sure if he was being facetious or had never heard Def Leppard.

Rickyfitts - 2-piece guitar/drum line up, in the current mode. More melodic than many bands of their ilk, but still best described as crashing guitars and roaring vocals. Excellent.

Plastic Mermaids - hailing from the isle of Wight, all five band members were in bright, sixties style dress. The set started off with electro guitar mash-ups all accompanied with wide smiles, the epitome of a band delighted to be playing such a big stage. As the set progressed the tunes became increasingly atmospheric with the lead guitarist using a bow on some numbers, and this morphed into beautifully melodic/summery tunes reflecting their flower-power era outfits. The set climaxed with the introduction of a female vocalist who sang in operatic style - a spine-tingling conclusion to an excellent set. (This band is my one find from the weekend - already booked tickets for their London show in October).

George The Poet - as the best-known act so far on the main stage GTP was the first performance to draw real energy from the sun-drenched crowd. His articulate rapping is underpinned by strident if broad-brush political views. Unfortunately for me, I'd been looking at Akala videos in the morning - a far more edgy performer; made GTP sound a little bland by comparison.

Black Kat Boppers - RnR standards. Standard.

Jaguarskills - reflective of the atmosphere of this festival this DJ / Dubstep set was core fayre for much of the crowd. 



The Costellos - another local Battle of the Bands winner. A youthful 4-piece guitar band delivering their own RnB tunes with great energy.

Craig Charles - Soul and Funk DJ mash-ups. Highlight was Sexual Healing on brass over a funk groove. As on Day One, the nature of the audience at this event meant this got a greater response than many of the bands on the bill.

Charley Macauley - wonderful soulful voice. Her songs were given colour through her 7-piece band that included a vibrant brass section, but never over-powering the strength and clarity of her vocal. 

Cuban Brothers - usual zany antics from this dad-dancing/underpant-wearing troupe. Mr Tumble for grown-ups.

Daisy Kitty & Lewis - Rockabilly six-piece. Their best tunes were those that lead with Harmonica or Sax, giving a more earthy, bluesy vibe

Slaves - great response to this brash full-on two-piece band. Most entertaining song was 'Feed The Manteray' when a crowd-surfer dressed as a flat fish jumped from the stage. Humorous moment when the band had to stop to ask the crowd to pick him up so he could complete his journey back to the stage

Years And Years - 4-piece band: 2 keys, drums and vocals. Drew a good crowd for their poppy/tuneful songs

Brother Goose - another local band on the smaller 'Uncommon Stage'. All five of the band were in maroon. Fortunately that's where the comparison to Maroon 5 ends. A punchy set interspersed with melodic pop numbers, like 'Lightbulb Moment'. Had a bass player making his debut. New tune 'That's The Way It Is'  in the middle of the set was the highlight.

Band Of Skulls - 'local band made good' were very comfortable on the larger main 'Common Stage'.

The Rising - much better live than their demo CD suggests. A really tight set. I still think their song 'Strangers In The Night' is a classic.

Clean Bandit – Solid performance from this band that have got themselves well into the mainstream.  Rather Be was an expected highlight and drew an excellent reaction from the early evening crowd. 

Grace Jones - broody and prowling around the stage with youthful grace (excuse the pun). Hats off to her continuing to deliver such an entertaining show.

So in summary, a good kick-off event which we hope will be repeated.  I think there is a worthwhile comparison to be drawn with a comparison the Victorious Festival, down the road at Portsmouth. 

Victorious had it’s inaugural year last summer, and apart from a few indie bands it was a pretty safe line up with 80s bands and Stones/Beatles tribute acts.  

The 2015 line-up this coming August is looking much more ambitious.  So from a selfishly optimistic view I hope Common People Fest goes the same way.