In its second year now, Rob Da Bank’s Common People is a riot of colour, glitter and oversized bouncy castles. More family friendly than its larger cousin Bestival, the weekender is a gentle introduction to the world of festivals for the throngs of teenagers that have flocked from the surrounding areas.
Kicking things off on Saturday morning are local Afrobeat outfit The Sea Slugs over at The Uncommon Stage. Despite the early time, the group cheerfully plough through a selection of back-to-basics Afrobeat numbers to a small but exuberant early morning crowd.
Meanwhile over on the main stage, children’s TV veterans The Chuckle Brothers manage to draw a sizeable crowd to their early afternoon set, careering their way through ten minutes of to me, to you before disappearing with the promise of ‘selfies for everyone’.
Things don’t go as swiftly for Lady Leshurr, however- an incident on the motorway leaves her MIA for over an hour, with festival organisers desperately scrambling for a suitable distraction. While entertainment does eventually come in the form of a dancing onsite promotional team in prosthetics, it’s a welcome relief when the Birmingham grime star finally takes to the stage. Seemingly unruffled by the delay in proceedings, the ‘Mad Ting’ singer banters easily with the crowd, delivering a confident set ahead of Hip Hop legends The Sugarhill Gang.
A casualty of the travel chaos, the group start late and finish disappointingly early, but not without squeezing in the undeniable ‘Rappers Delight’ before heading off to make way for the moody atmospherics of GhostPoet.
Over at The Uncommon Stage, local lads Bel Esprit tear things up to the delight of an inebriated crowd gearing up for the night’s proceedings. While their catalogue is hardly boundary pushing, their blend of indie rock and poppy melodies is the perfect festival soundtrack, and the atmosphere around the tent is buzzing.
Things get politically charged back at the main stage with the double billing of Public Enemy and Primal Scream. The former deliver a blistering set of classic, pioneering Hip Hop, but it’s Bobby G’s Primal Scream who steal the show with their mix of huge party anthems and cutting social commentary. It’s not until headliner Craig David arrives, though, that the party really begins. Another local, he beams as he describes his pride travelling down The Avenue towards the festival, before diving into a set packed full of smooth RnB jams and skillful DJ turns. “You can take the boy out of Southampton, but you can’t take Southampton out of the boy,” he grins, to rapturous applause from the crowd.
The atmosphere on Sunday morning is predictably laid-back, with Saturday night’s hangovers keeping the crowds relatively sparse. That is, until Mr Motivator arrives. Resplendent in neon lycra, the man also known as Derrick Evans is determined to live up to his namesake’s reputation, thrusting and lunging his way through half an hour’s worth of high powered workout. The growing crowd manfully keep up, unselfconsciously flailing along to his increasingly taxing antics before earning a well-earned rest in the form of The Magic Gang. The Brighton indie poppers are charming enough, with their jangly guitar lines and pretty melodies, but there’s little here of substance to hook the sleepy afternoon crowd.
After a nostalgic set from the inimitable Chas n Dave, things kick back up a notch with the arrival of Katy B. Opening with Tinie Tempah and KDA collab ‘Turn the Music Louder (Rumble)’, the dubstep pioneer and all-round pop babe battles against foggy sound to deliver a show packed back to back with DnB-flavoured hits. Skipping around the stage in sequins and silver Reeboks, the ‘On A Mission’ singer looks every inch the superstar as she works the heaving crowd into an excited frenzy, before disappearing after an all-too-brief 25 minutes ahead of final act Duran Duran.
Opening with newer cuts before heading straight into classic material including ‘Wild Boys’ and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’, the 80s synthpop legends put on a spectacular show complete with cinematic backdrops and flaming pyrotechnics. Despite them being a nostalgia act, the band manage to remain sounding fresh and relevant throughout, thanks to a heavy dose of onstage charisma and flawlessly rehearsed routines. Including at various points touching musical tributes to departed heroes Bowie and Prince, the set is surprisingly moving, and when the show culminates in ‘Rio’, it feels like a truly fitting end to a brilliant two days of music.
Images by Rosalyn Boder