I grew up in the countryside in Hampshire. My nearest big town/city was Southampton, and it was there as a teenager I met my friends to go to the cinema, or headed out to the shops to buy nail polish and get our ears pierced. When I turned 18 it was the bars in Southampton city centre where I first went “out out”. Despite now living in London, Southampton holds a special place in my heart, and I still have lots of friends there. In 2015 and 2016 I went back “home” for the late May bank holiday to attend Common People for it’s first and second years. I knew the festival would be good because it’s put on by the people who run Bestival, and I had an absolute blast both years!
In 2017 I was on holiday at the time, and this year I was already booked to go to WeAreFstvl. However, my very good friends Andy & Zoe who live in Southampton were keen to go to the festival, and bless Andy he’s been an absolute star and written me a guest review! So here he is, with his coverage of this excellent event held in the heart of the city…
Andy & Zoe at Common People SO 2018
The year seems to be flying past and before I knew it the festival season sort of snuck up on me, which was excellent! One of the nicest things about Common People is that it’s so early in the calendar, a sort of lovely hors d’oeuvres to the festival feast of the year to follow.
The obvious downside to a festival in May however is the unreliable weather, and in the week ahead Zoe and I were understandably nervous about the forecast – it looked like we were in for a thunderous affair, but bar one incredibly brief shower it was absolutely scorchio all weekend! The Met Office wasn’t entirely wrong as we did get a stunning thunder and lightning display, but the festival gods were kind to us and saved it all for the walk home on Saturday night.
That leads nicely on to my next main point about this festival. Zero camping. So, if you are new to festivals or don’t like the thought of pitching a tent in the mud and rain or sleeping on the floor then it’s an obvious choice for a local festival.
This was my second venture to Common People and Zoe’s third – my last one being back in 2015 (the first year it ran) and from first view, it hasn’t changed significantly over the years, but why change a winning formula? Run by the makers of Bestival (a festival we have previously been regulars of), Common People is the brainchild of the legendary Rob Da Bank and Co. who after the success of the first year decided to run two festivals back to back in Southampton and Oxford. The festival itself is tucked away in the middle of Southampton Common (hence the name) and is a family friendly affair with 4 stages and a large kids area. Travel to the site is relatively easy with a designated taxi and bus drop off or about a 25-minute walk from the train station and city centre.
Now a fairly established annual event, the website and planning that goes into it is pretty slick, with all of the information you would need on their official webpage, and the interactive sitemap and schedule were also featured on the Woov App for easy access when on site.
So, the first thing you are drawn to is the main stage – known as the Common Stage. At first glance it’s a little plain when compared with many bigger festival stages but it’s actually a really good size for the crowds it draws, and the logo accurately reflects the city park feel the festival has.
On the first day it hosted the likes of the All Saints, James and was headlined by Lily Allen. Like I said it’s a family friendly site and this is reflected in the acts it provides but the Sherlocks were a good choice for the middle of the day slot to keep things more current.
On the second day it had a strong disco feel in the evening with Boney M, The New Power Generation (Prince’s band) and the ever-sensational headliners The Jacksons who performed a moving tribute to their late brother Michael and delivered a blast from the past with some old footage of them growing up as well as dancing along to their classics just as they did in their teens.
For something a little more risqué earlier on in the day were the festival regulars, the Cuban Brothers (mentioned in previous posts by Jessi) – if you haven’t seen them before, in a nutshell they are a hilarious mixture of bad accents, awesome old-school hip hop tunes, sweet breakdance moves, cutting jokes and glittery spandex #ThatsWhatI’mTalkingAbout #JustKidding #NotReally #AllowIt. Following on from this was DJ Jaguar Skills, another festival staple, who wears his classic ninja facemask whilst playing a wicked mixtape of short multi-genre bangers that always get everyone dancing and relishing current and old tracks. A little boy of about 4/5 years old, who I assume is his son, joined him on stage and was ‘having it large’; running about the stage riling up the crowd by acting like a raving hard nut whilst wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon ninja on the front. It was a comical, endearing contrast to Jaguar Skills’ music but actually the crowd got really into it …you probably had to be there. (Jessi: here’s a post on Jag Skills Instagram showing the moment!)
For those looking for something a bit more rave-esc (yes I did just make up that word) there was the Carnival Soundsystem Stage. This set up was a lot more visually stimulating and included the likes of DJ Yoda and Artful Dodger, both of which were exceptional as always. They sandwiched in between dance and house music from $hit Disco Presents; Jasper James, Kiwi, Pete Callard and HAAi which drew crowds from start to finish.
Moving round we headed to the Uncommon Stage which is a classic festival tent style stage and featured both local and up and coming band-based music. Ordinarily this type of music would be much more up my street and I really liked the look of the stage, unfortunately it was far too sunny outside to spend much of the day inside a tent. On our brief visit there we watched Pale Seas (featured in the picture) who sounded pretty good.
The last of the 4 stages was Sugar Skulls, which was more of a canopy type set up again with more DJ music and had a sort of outdoor club feel to it. I think it was here back in 2015 or certainly something very similar which an amazing cocktail bus attached to it but sadly that wasn’t here this time.
Did I mention this was a family friendly festival? Well, there was a lot of entertainment on offer for little people including an entire separate kid’s area with Peppa Pig, bouncy castles and inflatable slides, a vintage fun fair, helter-skelter and a Wall of Death motorcycle stunt team. There was also a circus style tent, lots of things to climb on and play with and old vans where children were encouraged to channel their inner graffiti artist all over. I decided against taking photos of other people’s children, so instead here’s a picture of Zoe and I with Peter Rabbit (look at the size of the smile on her face!) and me hanging out with an eagle owl that you could hold for a £3 donation to Haven Falconry, worth every penny!
Food & drink
Now for the most important part! Peppermint bars provided two large bars at either side of the stage which seemed more than adequate as the queues never looked particularly bad when compared with other festivals of a similar size. We fortunately had access to The Nook which was the VIP area to the right side of the main stage. In case anyone is thinking of going VIP for next year; I must say it was pretty cool with its own separate bar area, lots of outdoor furnishing and soft seating along with separate toilets which were nice and clean… and they had running water! There were two private booths in view of the main stage which you could rent for the day or evening acts. It had cocktails on tap for £7! (COCKTAILS ON TAP!)
The cost of a pint in most of the bars was about £5.50 to 6 quid for beers and cider. £££ you might say, but this is pretty standard for most festivals nowadays. I really like the printed cups they had as the Common People logo cast a cool shadow on the surface of the beers and was pleased to see you could do you bit by taking them to the cup return point for recycling after. There was also a large tent for the Great Solent Gin Festival selling 50 different gins with gin tasting and masterclasses by experts from the local Winchester and Isle of Wight Distilleries – this would have definitely been right up Jessi’s street!
There were several food stalls to choose from, I had a pining for Paellaria which is at most festivals and always serves up decent Spanish grub. Because I like to eat a lot, I tried the duck wraps which were pretty lush and also the pad thai for £7.50 which was insanely good! For the vegan following there was Bunnymans Bunny Chow; a South African chilli stall which served vegan (and also steak if you preferred) chilli in hollowed out crusty bread, we tried a sample of each and they were yum! There was always a massive queue for Churros so I’m guessing they must have been pretty darn good too – they certainly looked it.
An awesome bank holiday weekend festival
So, to conclude, this well-established mid-sized festival is a great starter to get you in the mood for rest of the festival season ahead. It comes with a good variety of acts and plenty to see and do especially if you have young children! With no camping facility, it’s a pretty good starter festival to ease yourself in to things if you’ve never been before and don’t know what to expect or don’t fancy the thought of sleeping in a muddy field. It’s got a friendly, safe and relaxed feel about it, and was all in all a glorious weekend.
Stay tuned for more adventures to come from the rest of Jessi’s season ahead, and hope to see you at a festival soon…
Andy (and Zoe) x
I’ll be hanging out with these two at Glasto 2019 for sure, maybe even a festival before then, so you’ll see them again on the blog soon enough!