Common People – review
"Throughout the weekend I forgot that I was a mere 20 minute walk from my house, so immersive and well executed was the setup."
The stunning and legendary view of Oxford’s dreaming spires from the top of South Park was mildly obscured on the last weekend of May, as 30,000 festival fiends descended on the lush East Oxford grass to watch a succession of first-class performances from a wildly diverse lineup of bands, performers and DJs.
The brainchild of Bestival head honcho Rob Da Bank, and imported from the event of the same name launched in Southampton last year, Common People was an ambitious attempt to bring a proper festival to a central Oxford location, and it’s fair to say the team achieved their goal in style, with extremely clever curation, great collaboration with existing Oxford institutions such as Nightshift, and miraculously balmly weather across the two days.
You could say that a recurring theme of Common People was ‘revival’, as the lineup was dominated by artists that you could have seen on listings across the last three decades, from Duran Duran to Primal Scream, via Public Enemy and Gaz Coombes of Supergrass. Seeing the mass of guests singing faithfully along to Craig David’s 7 Days, and Duran Duran belting out A View to a Kill with the same energy as when it was released over 30 years ago were two particular highlights.
Despite this prevalence of “classic” artists, the energy levels remained high throughout and at no point did the main headliners appear anything less than jubilant to be performing. It wasn’t all serious music, though, as silliness was provided by Mr Motivator and The Chuckle Brothers, and Oxford’s very best local talent was represented with the Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band, Zaia, Cameron A. G. and The Balkan Wanderers all making appearances.
As with all festivals, the artists performing onstage come second in importance to the atmosphere provided by the crowd and stage designers, and at many points throughout the weekend I forgot that I was a mere 20 minute walk from my house, so immersive and well executed was the setup. The Cowley Road Carnival team displayed the spirit of diversity and community that you see at their July event in a small space, and the Disco Shed stages saw fantastic sets from local legends like DJ Fu and Count Skylarkin’. It’s fantastic news to hear that the festival is now set to become an annual event, with Oxford City Councillor Christine Simm quoted as saying that Common People was “a fantastic success”, adding that she was “thrilled to hear that Rob Da Bank and Common People want to come back again next year, and the City Council would be delighted to welcome them - it will be great for the people of Oxford."
As the sun set over the city and Primal Scream closed Sunday’s proceedings with their trademark eclecticism and weirdness , the party wasn’t quite over yet, as the afterparty at The Bullingdon held by Oxonian dance music godfathers Simple was an utter masterclass in hedonism and revelry, as Glaswegian selector Denis Sulta whipped the crowd into a frenzy and wrung out the last of the attendees’ bank holiday stamina in a rapturous display of good cheer, high energy and relentless, pounding house music - not for the faint of heart or weak of liver, but a tremendous way to end the weekend all the same. Congratulations to the entire Common People team - we can’t wait for next year.
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