There’s nothing like rounding up some of this year’s best new acts right at the end of the summer, especially when the setting is as accessible and enjoyable as Portsmouth’s Southsea Fest. Over the course of twelve hours, punters waver between one kooky pub and the next, gorging themselves on acts as established as Pulled Apart by Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up as well as treating themselves to the hottest tips like Happyness and Honeyblood. All in all, it’s a well-organised, highly enjoyable day, but the brilliance of Southsea is just how well locals and labels alike collaborate to showcase the bands they love so much.
One of this year’s strongest line-ups comes from one such collaboration, between Fat Cat Records and Southsea’s Pie & Vinyl Record Cafe. Taking over the Wine Vaults, they provide invigorating performances from Manchester’s Mazes and the aforementioned Honeyblood who, after gaining a replacement drummer last minute, seem more than comfortable tearing through their recently-released debut album in the crammed and extremely tiny venue. Likewise for Mazes, whose newly refound indie pop mentality have heads nodding all the way from the front to the top of the stairs. Loud, well rehearsed and very ready to jam, the new cuts from ‘Wooden Aquarium’ sound bold and refined, and take on a whole new level of energy when their live, krautrock-y experimentalism unfolds.
A real surprise to those who stumbled upon them but a sure winner for those already familiar, County Durham’s Martha dominate the One Eyed Dog with a fast and frantic set. This small band clearly have quite the following, with a good couple of rows of fans yelling along to every word of their rapturous indie rock. Martha are brilliant at taking high octane, albeit straightforward pop songs and applying a sugarcoating that’s just sweet enough not to be irritating. On stage they’re a force to be reckoned with, a band whose strong songs are backed up with a performance that can only be described as deeply passionate. It’s the same case for The Magic Gang, who swap Martha’s ramshackles for Weezer-tinged pop-rock. ‘She Won’t Ghost’ is terrific, and the young four-piece are more than confident in swaying about to their power chords and throwing in a few vocal harmonies for good measure. Both are without doubt bands to be excited about in the coming months.
Over at the DIY-curated Wedgewood Rooms, Happyness take to the stage to deliver their take on ‘90s revivalism. What makes this three-piece stand out from the crowd on record is their eclectic lyricism and knack for hooks, and that translates aptly for the busy venue. Never ones to truly raise the roof, their jangly guitars are a welcome change of pace from the rest of the day - that is, until Pulled Apart by Horses take over to headline. Considering they’ve just come off the back of a European tour, the guys are as rearing and ready to go as ever, and their pedal-to-the-metal attitude is a blast to watch unfold as ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ sparks massive moshpit action. There’s a reason they’re playing festival main stages now, and for loyal fans in the front row this is a rare, all-thrills performance that proved impossible to miss.
Photos: Carolina Faruolo
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