AS THE final stragglers danced their way from the Common People main stage, the filthy sounds of favourite headliner Sean Paul still ringing around the ears, it was time for the organisers to reflect on how successful this year’s festival was.

40,000 flocked to Southampton’s Common in anticipation of yet another Bank Holiday jaunt on the south coast. 40,000 left smiling.

Compared to last year’s event, which saw a cocktail of over-crowding, too much heat and not nearly enough bar space unite for one sweaty weekend, this year everything was on point.

Despite national fears surrounding terrorism and public safety, the festival was awash with euphoric colour and a line-up of artists that proves how diverse our city’s musical tastes are.

There are few better feelings than seeing Kingston-born Sean Paul not just visit Southampton, but absolutely smash it. All the hype about witnessing the Reggae infused rapper who has had more blockbuster hits than Michael Bay, in our town was duly lived up to, as the vocalist behind tracks such as “Breathe”, “Rockabye”, “Gimme the Light” and “Get Busy” closed the two-day event to a sea of dancing grandparents and adrenaline-fuelled teenagers.

But away from the obvious glamour of having Sean Paul, Common People offered so much for those of all musical tastes.

Saturday’s main headline act was Pete Tong, presenting Ibiza Classics with the Heritage Orchestra. For many youngsters, hearing an orchestra brings up horrible flashbacks to primary school and failed lessons on violas and tambourines. But to see such a glittering array of talented musicians bring new life to reworked versions of likes of Moby’s ‘Porcelain’ only added to the hyper mood the crowd were in. Add to this goose bump-conjuring sound a light show easily stolen from Wembley arena – the illuminations would dance coldly out into the balmy night sky – and it was mission accomplished for Pete Tong and his 65-strong companionship of musicians.

Moving away from ‘popular’ festival music, DJ sets from Faithless and Groove Armada were great but there was still a yearning for the groups in their full disguise, ‘traditional’ festival music was in abundance. Left-leaning folk artist Beans On Toast shocked with his idiosyncratic take on current politics and the feeling of waking up at a festival with no drugs and girlfriend on ‘MDMAmazing’, whilst there was also storming sets from local lads Natives to whet the appetite of new music lovers too. Other high-points included the shimmering electronics and indie punch from Wild Beasts and the underrated tones of Brighton-based alternative troupe British Sea Power.

As is ever the case, festivals these days have become so much more than the music. It’s about the flavours, the tastes and the entertainment. For the third year, all boxes were ticked. From vegans to full-on-meat-devourer, every possible nutritional desire was complimented – nothing quite like a Zebra burger before seeing the absolute highlight of Common People – House Gospel Choir. Here was a group of singers from all different walks of life, united by a lusting after stretching their vocals chords to the max.

And perhaps they were the metaphor for this year’s Common People. A wild bunch from various backgrounds fused with only love and music in their hearts.

Words by Clive K Hammond


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