It used to be that summer’s end also marked the close of any year’s festival season. But, recently, it’s been proven that with the right location acquired, it’s just as easy to keep the sets rolling towards winter, albeit on indoor stages.
Albert Road, in a student-dense area of Portsmouth, serves as a perfect setting for a single-day celebration of the independent music scene. With a variety of venues within spitting distance of each other, it’s possible for festival-goers to casually hop between performances, which come from a wide range of bands existing within an equally diverse array of genres.
From the ears-ripping, riff-shredding metal that finds itself housed in the upper reaches of The Loft to one-man folk singers, and from locally formed bands still very much in their infancy to hardened DIY veterans and headliners Pulled Apart By Horses (pictured, main), the Southsea bill seems fully focused on bringing together a wide ranging selection of choice.
Early on, and up a windy staircase in a room above a Mexican restaurant where metal plates reflect any stray outside light trying to break in, we find noisy locals RickyFitts firing out a series of short, sharp bursts of post-garage rock mayhem. Around them, Christmas lights flicker and sweat drips, before the overly eager smoke machine triggers the venue’s fire alarm.
One of the most popular locations of the day proves to be the Fat Cat Records-curated stage in the Wine Vaults. Playing are psych-rock headliners Mazes, who quickly lock into a steady, Krautrock-inspired groove, and Honeyblood, whose electronically enhanced shoegaze arrives in a way that pleases many of the passers lured in by its magnetic hypnotism. Then there’s the fast-paced indie-rock of Bloody Knees to mix proceedings up further, making the Wine Vaults quite the draw.
It was over on the second stage of the Wedgewood Rooms, which had been taken over by Alcopop! Records, where several bands excelling in the performance stakes set out their stalls. Woahnows smash out powerful pop-punk gems, and Brawlers embark on one of the most memorable and fun sets of the day. With such excitable nuggets such as ‘Mothers And Fathers’, the Leeds quartet power through a set high on entertainment value, which sees charismatic frontman Harry George Johns unite the audience to summon a mass derision of the music that would regularly pour in from the main room.
Elsewhere, north-eastern indie quartet Martha knock out a frantic set of yelp-embracing guitar pop, and Bristol’s Thought Forms make more noise than a trio probably should, their highly textured and post-rock-touched sound growing to massive proportions.
Australian duo DZ Deathrays set the mood in the main part of the Wedgewood Rooms before the event’s headliners Pulled Apart By Horses attract a warm embrace of an audience. Closing the event with a hard-hitting, riffs-filled sequence of gnarly, three-minute bursts of energy, they send their fans away feeling that this year’s Southsea Fest has been another success. And it certainly is, and more, celebrating all that is right with independent music culture.
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