Victorious 2021: A welcome return for live music after a tough 18 months
As we emerge out of lockdown restrictions, live music thankfully (finally) marks its long awaited return – and Portsmouth welcomed more than 65,000 people to Victorious Festival over the August bank holiday weekend.
Following the cancellation of the event due to Covid-19, 2021 saw the busiest year in the festival’s history – for better or for worse.
On Friday afternoon (August 27), the festival kicked off with fan favourites like Feeder, The Kooks and Madness, with decent enough sunshine to accompany the tens of thousands of festival-goers descending on the Common.
There was a real appetite for live music in the air; a starved hunger from the crowds as you could feel their sheer joy and relief to be at a festival again.
The usual sights, such as sequin jackets, light-up headbands and glitter beards, were joined by more unusual additions; inflatable animals wearing face covering masks and sanitisation stations at key points of the site.
As Saturday dawned, there was an energy among fans that felt excited, yet slightly unnerving for those apprehensive of attending large events for the first time since lockdown.
Blossoms were perfect summer vibes, playing just as the sun came out for the first time properly on the Saturday. Performing to a packed main stage, the band electrified the Common Stage with a perfect mix of old and new, with the odd cover thrown in for good measure.
Rag ‘n Bone Man was the stand-out of Saturday, performing a short yet hit-packed set as the sun set over the second day of the festival.
Finishing his set with the smash hit collaboration with Calvin Harris, ‘Giant’, he commented; “I couldn’t really play a set on the main stage and not give you all the song that you probably know me best for, ay?”
As Saturday night drew to a close, however, here lies the main problem of the entire festival – capacity. Extra tickets had been sold this year to accommodate for the enormous demand following last year’s cancellation, however it seems there were few provisions made to allow for this growth.
The carpark lacked any sort of effective traffic management, with marshals quickly surrendering to their fate as the thousands of attendees attempted to leave, leading to queues of hundreds of cars gridlocked with nowhere to go. I waited 2.5 hours without any water or food, stuck in the car, before being able to exit once the police arrived to help.
Another key issue, which ties back to the extra capacity, was the queues for the toilets and bars. Many starts of sets were missed due to being stuck in queues, and many festival-goers reported waiting well over an hour for the toilet, to get a drink, or for food. People were urinating in bushes, against fences, even just out in the open grass.
While the festival did acknowledge these challenges in social media posts – citing supply chain issues in what is a challenging year - it did not really suffice for the sheer level of disruption caused.
Sunday did, however, bring a more relaxed, warmer, sunnier end to the festival, with the line-up sharing something for everyone across the day and into the night.
Pop sensations Ella Eyre and Mel C offered up crowd-pleasing, electrifying sets of sheer pop joy, engaging well with the crowds and ensuring any shaky Sunday blues were fast dusted off; reminding everybody of the importance of festivals booking and showcasing more female talent as we emerge out of lockdown.
As the sun set and the headline sets drew in, Nile Rogers and Chic brought an eclectic disco inferno to the Castle Stage, closing out the evening with a smooth, funky set of well-known hits.
Royal Blood marked a triumphant close to the weekend, bringing possibly the heaviest rock set that the festival had seen for many a year. With a phenomenal light and firework show, with the usual mosh-pitting, the set felt emotive and meaningful to the south coast pair.
Seeing so many happy smiling faces, after 18 months of Covid-19 restrictions, really was a revelation in itself. Being able to see and enjoy the live music industry thriving again was a delight for many, bringing entertainment and escapism to people of all ages.
While Victorious Festival did do a good job to put on the event in what has been a difficult year for all, the capacity and infrastructure issues really cannot be overlooked. In a year where simply putting on any form of live event would have been good enough for many, 2021 really was not the year to attempt to push the limits of the site and crew.