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Southsea Festival - Portsmouth - 18th Sept 2010 (Live Review)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 Written by Matthew Williamson
Southsea Festival - Portsmouth - 18th Sept 2010 (Live Review)

As we arrived on Albert Road, Southsea, it was awfully quiet for a music festival. That may be down to the fact that we were forced to get there almost an hour before doors due to the poor nature of train times running through Guildford. Southsea Fest has evolved from a two venue festival in 2007 to a one that now spans 16, from The Wedgewood Room to The King’s Theatre in 2010. One of the best things about the festival though is it's link with the Ellen MacArthur Trust, thus making all profits go towards something meaningful, good job.

First up in the ‘Edge of the Wedge’ was Oxford based Ute (pictured above). Frontman Ollie Thomas tells slightly strange stories about waking up shouting his e-mail address, and how his belt had broken the day before. However when they finally get started they set the bar high. The primary memory of their ‘murder ballad’. Thomas almost screaming as the band unleash passion and energy everywhere.

Alcopop’s newest signing gives over to Hold Your Horse Is. One of the rising stars of the British rock scene the band tear through material from their new EP, 'Rammin’ It Home', whilst their bassist entertains by joining the crowd. We were affectionately told during their supposedly 25 minute set, “Normally we have half an hour of power... twenty-five minutes of power doesn't sound right.” No, it doesn't, but they put every moment to good use!

ImageDown the road is ‘The Wine Vaults’ which had stages upstairs and downstairs running all day, upstairs are The 255s from “the north”. Their sound is hard to place but delivered at tempo with distortion, it’s all you need on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They’re not going to set the world on fire, but it’s a good set.

Hailing from the Isle of Wight A New Set of Bruises are slightly older than their peers but their punk-rock is no less severe. The only real notable point of their set however is the technical problems that hit them, white noise blaring out of speakers, and the quietness of the vocals under the guitars and drums.

They’re followed by Brothers. There must be numerous bands with the name (last.fm counts 5) but it was neither of the ones that I expected to stroll onto the stage. Their music is good but the vocals are poor. Again they’re plagued by problems as the drums keep shuffling forward. To prevent this a Marshall amp is laid in front, which didn’t seem to cure the problem.

Over in the ‘Edge of the Wedge’ Shoes & Socks Off uses his talent to do what he does best, play guitar. His gorgeous melodies fill the room, however not all appreciate it. There’s a distinct mutter inside the walls, prompting one man at the front to tell everybody to “shut up”.

The ‘catch-up break’ gives a perfect opportunity to nip up to McDonald’s, however when we get back ex-Blackfish &U&I have already started up. Their screams bring the biggest crowd of the afternoon so far. Trying to emanate label mates Pulled Apart By Horses with varying success.

Stagecoach’s lead singer has a slightly unhealthy obsession with Hayley Williams by the looks of it, with her picture gaffa taped to the back of his guitar, as he bounds smiling around the stage. How they manage to fit the five of them on it is a miracle in itself. Their radio-friendly pop is yet to be picked up by the general public, but it’s only a matter of time. Although their set is good it explodes as 'Good Luck With Your 45' begins. Drums are rushed to the middle of the room. Guitarists climb amp stacks, bars, stools. Absolute genius. The (very drunk) man next to me says that bands are remembered by the last thing they do and it’s absolutely true.

Just missing out on the headline spot Tall Ships play to an ever filling room. Their experimental gives ambience as much as anything. As they all swap instruments and smash drums it gets interesting, but maybe overshadowed by Stagecoach.

Headlining the Big Scary Monsters/Alcopop stage is the Pulled Apart By Horses (pictured). The tiny stage is filled up by a massive bass amp which may not have been thought through beforehand. As they appear onstage and fly into ‘E = MC Hammer’ the crowd goes absolutely mental. The barrier of people at the front tries to defend the band but just can’t cope. New single ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’ and ‘Back to the Fuck Yeah’ provide the highlights of the first half. Second to last is the crowd’s favourite, ‘I Punched A Lion in the Throat’. Any song with such a name is due praise, and particularly this one, as the barrier finally gives way and effect pedals get stood on, band members get angry and fans get the chance to sing with disdainful looks from Tom Hudson. Weirdly this would normally ruin a gig, but somehow they battle through. The breakdown is mind-blowing. 'Ultimate Power! Maximum Life!' After this however ‘Den Horn’ looks slightly mediocre. Swap the two around, end the gig on a high.

Little Fish start almost 15 minutes late on the main stage in The Wedgewood Rooms, but it’s alright because the place is filled with balloons, as it’s drummer Nez’s birthday, and there’s a party atmosphere in the air. You don’t expect the voice that comes out of her, however it’s good. The slightly 80s feel to the songs are a refreshing compared to Pulled Apart... ‘Darling Dear’ gets everybody dancing, but is quickly replaced by the edgy ‘Am I Crazy’. Far surpassing either however is ‘Die Young’, however the inclusion of a bass would’ve elevated it yet more.

You could be forgiven for wondering why The Xcerts are so high up the bill. Well it’s simple, and they explain for themselves in the three songs that I catch before I have to go to catch a train. Beginning with a new song that I still don’t know the name of, Murray MacLeod is on top form bounding around the stage like a man possessed. Jordan Smith (bass) and Tom Heron (drums) both provide backing vocals to MacLeod’s intense lyrics and with older songs ‘Do You Feel Safe?’ and ‘Crisis in the Slow Lane’ executed to perfection, there’s no doubt that they’ll be big. Very big.
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