The Bestival crew rolled into Southampton for the second year running to put on Common People their inner city event, transforming Southampton Common for 40,000 people who got the opportunity to experience first hand what the Bestival phenomenon is really all about.
Common People is a true tale of two halves. Held on two separate days, with two completely different genres and characters and this year with two sites, with a new twin in Oxford sharing the same lineup. Like Reading and Leeds and V Festival, but with more style and class and without the public urination. And with the world's largest bouncy castle (really).
Saturday had a more urban theme with a mix of rap, dance and R&B, interspersed with some good old rock and roll, headlined by Southampton's own Craig David, currently surfing a big re-e-bound back into the public's heart. "You can take the boy out of Southampton, but you can't take Southampton out of the boy!" he pronounced, obviously thrilled to be on stage again in his home town. Despite not being a fan of his garage tunes, he definitely does a great job of his sets as a solitary man with decks and a mic and I still can't get "Rewind", "7 Days" or "Fill Me In" out of my head, much to my consternation.
While Primal Scream and Gaz Coombes brought a great slice of rock and roll to the main stage the rest of the day (with one very obvious exclusion) belonged to rap and the spoken word with sets from Ghostpoet, Public Enemy, The Sugarhill Gang and Lady Leshurr.
Public Enemy are a long time favourite of ours, but it was disappointing to see that Flavor Flav wasn't there again. Whether it was because of an immigration issue or disagreement between them, it's like only having Chas without Dave or a single Chuckle Brother (Chuckle D?), and without Flav to balance it out their performance loses something which is quintessentially Public Enemy. It won't stop us wanting to see them again, but it wasn't a classic performance.
No such issues for rapper Lady Leshurr, though, who blasted her way on her own through her set with an assurance that we weren't expecting, or the Sugarhill Gang who reminded us where hip hop came from.
Sunday belonged to 80s favourites Duran Duran, back on the main stage after their performance last year at Bestival. Performing new and old tracks they paid homage to David Bowie at the end of "Planet Earth" with a short rendition of "Space Oddity" and later during the encore they paid tribute to Prince during "Save A Prayer". Midway through the set they let off a gigantic confetti cannon explosion which just about summed up this classic Duran Duran performance, it was a spectacular set, rammed with typically brilliant 80s singalong anthems and it brought the event to a close in typical Bestival feel-good style.
Duran Duran were joined on the lineup by Katy B, Jamie "Wasn't Expecting That" Lawson, Chas and Dave and the Magic Gang. This change in genre for the headline act changed the demographic of the crowd, with many more children of the 80s, but there was still a great mix of ages over both days. The Southampton people are loyal to their local events.
What sets Rob da Bank's events aside, though, is the inclusion of acts that have no place on any festival stage, but always work brilliantly, so it was no surprise that Mr Motivator, The Cuban Brothers and the Chuckle Brothers shared the stage over the weekend.
This year the second stage left the tent and went outside, hence the name "Uncontained", and in the sun this made it a go-to destination for anyone into dance music. And they kept this area alive and pumping all weekend, it was always busy, usually packed and perpetually fun. Bestival has a reputation for quality dance music and its party crowd, and this is where they were. Acts like Camo and Krooked, 99 Souls, David Rodigan, Kurupt FM, London Elektricity, DJ Zinc, Prince Fatty and many more span the decks or MCd on this small stage. The atmosphere was superb and allowed an alternative for anyone who didn't fancy the main stage bands. May it stay this uncontained next year as well.
Fans of a more independent ilk were drawn to the Uncommon Stage, sponsored by the Joiners, which hosted acts from a wide range of genres.
Rob da Bank's crew understand how kids like to feel grown up and adults like to behave like kids which is why the world's largest bouncy castle was open to all, with some careful vetting to make sure that toddlers weren't on with anything but parents so we could all feel like kids for a few minutes. If you get a chance to have a go, do it, you'll be thinking about pulling that somersault before you know it.
Throw into the mix a large Kids Area, familiar to anyone who has been to Camp Bestival or Bestival, some brilliant food and drink and the bouncy castle and you've got another winning event. Yes, there were some complaints about queuing on the first day and some unlucky folk did get caught up, but organisers were quick to address the issues and got them sorted.
Overall the Bestival crew are the perfect party people, effortlessly and seamlessly morphing from daytime into the night as the party evolves. It's getting to the point now that we think that the Bestival crew could arrange the Lib Dem party conference and still do a blinding job of it.
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