Common People Festival – Oxford

Sunday 27th May, 2018

To top off what had already been a very busy week, I was to spend today at Common People Festival in Oxford. Ride were the joint headliners, hence why Tom got us tickets. After Wednesday night’s warm up gig in Reading, I wasn’t expecting much. Which is probably the best way to go into an event like this.

The organising team deserve a lot of credit, the site was well laid out, there were plenty of facilities and the atmosphere was really friendly. My only piece of constructive criticism would be that all of the main acts were male. Please get some female acts next year!

I had fancied seeing the London African Gospel Choir performing Graceland but managed to get there too late. My bad. The first act I saw therefore were Maximo Park, who wouldn’t be at the top of my I want to see list but gave a good show. An engaging frontman, enough tunes you sort of knew and decent enough guitars made them a good choice for a late afternoon festival slot. I can see why they were booked and a lot of the crowd really liked them. It was easy to move up to the front after their set, so we did. It was a relief to be in the shade of the stage as the hot sun had been beating down on us all afternoon. Those threatened thunder storms had failed to materialise.

Next on were Sparks, who don’t half put on a good show. Their backing band, all young bucks in pink denim jackets, were very good, but the brothers stole the show. The energy and warmth they projected was met by an enthusiastic crowd. They may have been around forever (I googled how old they are and was astonished) but the desire to make people dance and smile has not diminished at all. I really enjoyed their set, and was glad to have been close to the front to have seen them up close.

The joint headliners, Ride, were due on next. The reason the Ride Uber’s had travelled from Philadelphia, the Scottish borders, Carolina via Bristol and round the corner (lucky Steve). This was a homecoming show from the local boys who used to dream about being in a band as schoolboys in the very park the festival was in. Which did infuse the set with an emotional tinge and meant they were met with a loyal and friendly response to almost every song.

The sound was so much better, I could actually hear Mark and Andy singing this time! Ride clearly suit this big stage, although I was really pleased to be up close on the barrier as despite the festival site being on a slope I wouldn’t have seen anything from further back. The highlights for me included their most recent songs, Pulsar and Catch You Dreaming, the latter of which is dreamy and trippy. I think it is impossible not to love Seagull, Loz’s drumming on it is spectacular. It was exhausting just watching how fast his arms were flying and the rhythm patterns are brilliant, matched by Steve on bass. I’d say he is the quiet man of the band, but the amps were turned up so high the bass was hitting me right in the chest. “Is it loud enough” joshed Andy at one point and both he and Mark were more loquacious than I’ve seen before, I guess playing a huge festival set like this in your home town must feel damn good. I was bothered by some burly men towards the end (I’m kidding, it was the Ride Uber’s) and it was so good to share the music with them. Ride may not be my band, but I completely understand the level of passion and committment the Uber guys feel for Ride’s music.

Music at it’s best is a communal experience, festivals at their best foster this and in securing Ride for this, Common People did a great job.  In short this was so much better than Wednesday night’s warm up gig.