Common People, a modest, unpretentious festival created by the da Banks, returned earlier this year for the second time in Oxford, following its successful debut in the summer of 2016. With the reputation of the Southampton edition, its sister festivals and the previous year’s show to live up to, Oxford city centre was buzzing with anticipation for what this event might hold.
As a fan of the first Oxford Common People and feeling nostalgic about Oxford itself, I was urging this year to be as successful as the last, even though I didn’t think the line-up was as promising. However, as I walked over the hill of South Park, a wide area of park and grassland in the middle of Oxford’s spires, cranes and history, and could see the different stages standing so naturally in a seemingly small space, I knew we were in for a treat.
To describe Common People as a mini festival sounds underwhelming - it’s a scaled-down festival which draws A-list professionalism and artists to a community atmosphere. I felt this almost immediately as we walked through the gates of the festival, witnessing the rare togetherness of families, students and those of any age simultaneously enjoying the Uncontained Stage. This DJ stage caters to house and hip hop tastes, and gathered crowds for whom this may not have been their usual selection. Age boundaries were also broken down by Pig’s Big Record Club tent, which blared out golden oldies, and other alternative tunes to throngs of people enjoying its classic sounds.
On the Saturday, Sean Paul headlined on the Common Stage, and he did not disappoint. He gave everyone the opportunity to reminisce with his classic songs and his showmanship could not be faulted. He encouraged everyone to let loose and enjoy themselves, and made everyone’s day with his “Sean da Paul” (imagine the accent) references. It wasn’t just the headliner who made me get up on my feet. I was pleasantly surprised by Amy Macdonald’s performance and her soothing scottish tones in ‘This Is The Life’ brought back happy memories of my younger teenage years. Yet it was not only the Common Stage that produced stand out performances. On the Uncommon Stage, a pop rock band called Leader stole the show. Not only were they easy on the eye, but their unique sound combined with their genuine attitude made for a fantastic set - a band I would highly recommend.
The Sunday came with the promise of Pete Tong and his Ibiza Classics, collaborating with The Heritage Orchestra and conductor Jules Buckley. Even though I personally felt that the lighting could have been made more spell binding and in tune with the music, and it would have been nice to hear the live orchestra a bit more, he still put on a fantastic show. Classics from all his previous sets in Ibiza were played, with the inclusion of new hits such as ‘Grey’ by Kölsch, and it was a perfect way to end the Sunday and the festival.
Other contenders for making Sunday my favourite day included Becky Hill whose powerful voice electrified the Common Stage, the Dutty Moonshine Big Band with their sassy combination of jazz with DnB and Garage sounds, incorporating a 7 piece brass section with drums, synths and a DJ. And yet again, the Uncommon Stage delivered the goods with Rhymeskeemz and the P45s. Even though it is not a genre usually celebrated at Trouve la Groove, it was hard to find fault with these artists’ bars, teaming up to express their opinions and put on an impeccable performance
I cannot finish without mentioning my all-time favourite group The Cuban Brothers - a DJ/dance collective who play new and old party classics, usually in flamboyant outfits. Although this was my third time watching them perform, I was still as pleasantly horrified and entertained as the first. The mix of their surprising yet effortless movement, coupled with their sense of humour and ability to make you feel at ease that makes them so good. It helps also that their youngest member is absolutely gorgeous, but their soulful sound and buoyancy make them an absolute pleasure to watch.
The Common People weekend was jam-packed full of joy and variety and for a seemingly “small” festival, it had so much on offer. I believe what makes Common People so unique is that includes the variety and talent you would expect at a well renowned festival and manages to pack it all into a smaller space. This concentrates the buzz and communal spirit increases the intimacy between the audience and artists. I would highly recommend Common People to anyone, in Oxford or Southampton, as I believe it beholds understated and unappreciated delight. Common People, you may seem small, but you are incredibly mighty.