One day, one street, no bags to drag around for miles on end and all venues indoors; Southsea Fest really has to be challenging for the “Best Way To End a Festival Season” award.
So, with the sun shining down, we throw ourselves in feet first for one last musical celebration before the winter hibernation.
It’s fair to say SSF copped a little bit of stick last year for not concentrating on local acts enough, especially those from the west of the county. The same criticism could never be levied at the festival organisers this year with almost every stage spilling over with bands from the local scene and Albert Road full of musicians jumping from venue to venue. The problem comes that there is no real buzz band for us to focus our attention on and build towards for the day. So for the first hour, as we sit drinking tea flicking through the programme, a scratch list of bands we know, have been told about or whose names we quite like is formed with more than enough gaps for random exploring.
With list in hand we jump in the only way Mintsouth know how; with a open mind and a beer in our hands-into the day. Starting with a lovely set from Leigh Mary Stokes we jump over to the Kings Theatre for the last ever gig by The Dawn Chorus (such a shame they’ve decided to call it a day) before the short walk to Little Johnny Russell’s for an incendiary set from Stone Them Crows really wakes us up and sets the mood. If ever a band wanted proof of how a summer hard slogging round festivals can improve you Stone them Crows should be held up as that band. Confident and tighter than ever before, the improvement is significant and can only grow.
Half three and that difficult time has arrived. The first genuine programme clash of the day. Southampton’s Seán McGowan or Portsmouth’s Huw Olesker and his cohorts launching his new Rex Domino project. Fortunately with the venues being almost on top of each other I manage to skip successfully between the two. Both very different but both of the highest quality in their fields and genuine hopes for their respective cities.
The rest of Southsea Fest vanished by so quickly in a lovely blur of new people, Blue Nun, hastily arranged acoustic parties in back rooms of pubs, something that can only be described as kidnapping to get me into the worlds sweatiest box of a room (Bar 56) to see Kinky Boot Beasts, dancing and awful situation comedy until we stumbled across what may turn out to be my highlight of the entire 2012 festival season; Walking past a small cafe we heard the strains of some interesting quirky folk, walking in we found Johnny 5th Wheel and the cowards playing completely unplugged with the frontman taking to climbing over the furniture and perching himself on every available surface to tell his amazing tales. Incredible, and I feel very lucky to have stumbled across such a potentially great band (even if they did try to steal my hat).
Looking back on the programme we missed bands like This Many Boyfriends, Tellison and Hey Sholay but we did see Crazy Arm, Pale Seas and Clock Opera and that seems to be the pleasure of Southsea Fest to me; you’ve got to go in with open ears and see where the adventure takes you.