Monday, 28 August 2017

Franz Ferdinand / Harmonie London / Jerry Williams / The Slow Readers Club / Bella Estelle - Victorious Festival - 27th August 2017




Festivals are often a voyage of discovery. You turn up with a set schedule and that goes out of the window as you wander round the site, grab a beer and catch whatever grabs your ear as you go past. We went to Victorious Festival in Southsea for the first time on Sunday, watched a couple of old favourites and also discovered some fantastic unsigned talent.

It's 10am, an unusually early opening time for a festival, but as we'd flown down at the crack of dawn from Manchester, it made sense to go on site and see what was happening and get our bearings. Immediately we're drawn to a voice coming from the acoustic stage (the most ridiculously named stage on the Sunday as none of the acts were acoustic) so we walked over, sat down on the hay that doubled as seats and watched Bella Estelle soundcheck impressively with her band. Her stage time was 10.30am so we hung around to watch her set.

What we witness is a performer who's already exceptionally confident despite only being fifteen years old and has a voice that backs that up as well as a set of seven songs that mark her down as someone to keep an eye on. Whether it be the "cute little singalong" Crazy In Love, Up In Lights or the stand out track You And I, they've all got an immediacy to them that draws in passers by entering the site and keeps them there as the crowd swells considerably during her set. We're tapping our feet along to songs we've never heard before and we're sure many of the others who've chanced upon this wonderful set are too. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

 

We then head to The Common Stage for The Slow Readers Club who opened the main stage for the day. They'd been here the year before and played two sets so there's already a crowd assembled replete with a selection of flags and their ubiquitous READERS chants. Their first set this year feels like a rehearsal for next summer where main stage appearances at major festivals should become a regular occurrence if their star continues in the ascendancy with the release of their third album. For now though, it's a celebration of their first two and the conversion of a whole new set of fans drawn in by curiosity or the "must see bands" recommendations of the previews. Their eight-song set here is split 50/50 between the debut self-titled album and its follow-up Cavalcade and is effectively a singles set from the opening bars of Start Again and Aaron's clock-like arm movements that keep time with the chorus through to the audience singalong of the set-concluding I Saw A Ghost. The likes of One More Minute, Forever In Your Debt and Feet On Fire feel like they were written for this type of stage with this size of potential audience. It may be a long way from where they've come, but this feels like home.

 

After a wander round the site to take in the beautiful setting in the shadow of Southsea Castle, we move over to the Seaside Stage which is as close to the sea as you can get as jet skiers and cruise ships go past. There's possibly a bigger crowd here for The Slow Readers Club's second set and they're given longer so they play around with the set, but they've got such a powerful collection of songs like Fool For Your Philosophy and Know The Day Will Come that they can add in with diluting the power. Buoyed by the success of the first set and inspired by the beautiful setting they deliver one of the best sets we've seen them do. The response that they get at the end of the set from those down the front and those sat on the hill soaking up the sun tells its own story.

We then stroll around again and end up back at the Acoustic Stage where we're treated to a set from Jerry Williams and her band, a local artist who's already at the stage where she can play The Wedgewood Rooms with a couple of EPs to her name. And it's very quickly evident exactly why, she's got a powerful stage presence and a voice to match it. She's got a huge crowd here as well including the first few rows who seem to know the words to every song, even the unreleased ones. She definitely has a star quality to her, the songs have a human feel to them, as she explains David being about an alcoholic guy she met who promised to give up if she wrote a song about him or Stalker, which has a killer line "don't worry, I'm not obsessed with you" before adding "much" with a smile and grin. It's rare to see someone so utterly assured in their performance but with their personality stamped across what they do. The reception she gets at the end of the set and the massive queues to buy her CDs told its own story.


The next act we watch on this stage is Harmonie London, a fourteen year old who plays solo sat behind a set of keyboards and plays covers of, what we imagine, are some of her favourite songs. Whether it's Charlie Puth's Attention, Julia Michael's Attention, Rihanna's Diamonds or Adele's Rolling In The Deep and Hello, the immediate thing that strikes you is her astonishing voice and the way it stops people mid-conversation to just sit on the hay bales and listen to her. We wouldn't normally comment on artists performing a set full of covers, but this was something quite special.

Franz Ferdinand seem to have been away an age and they've shed Nick McCarthy and expanded to a five piece. Whilst the likes of Darts Of Pleasure, This Fire and Take Me Out might be a decade and a half old, those songs have not lost any of their ability to get a crowd moving along whilst their two new songs Always Ascending and Lazy Boy show the knack is still there as they wait to end the interminable wait for new material.


As it's a festival, the set is heavily weighted towards their debut and they don't waste time with pleasantries like the headliner does later and it's a decision that goes down well with the Southsea crowd that have spent the day in the glorious sun. It's a timely reminder that they still exist and they're still on a mission.

Franz Ferdinand's official site can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Harmonie London is on Facebook and Twitter.

Jerry Williams is on Facebook and Twitter.

The Slow Readers Club can be found at their website.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter. Our Introducing The Slow Readers Club piece can be found here.

Bella Estelle is on Facebook.
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