Monday, October 08, 2018

Live Review :: Dials Festival :: Various venues, Portsmouth - Oct 6 2018


Dials Festival

Various venues, Portsmouth

October 6 2018

Reporting team: Steve Willcox, Debra Stone

Pictures: As text

A one-day festival, across a handful of venues all on the same main drag in Portsmouth, and in aid of a good cause. Despite the autumnal weather proving slightly damp, Dials Festival delivered a quite magnificent Saturday afternoon and evening with their bill of artists, from the more established acts to newer names that many punters were likely to be seeing for the first time.

The festival was organised in aid of Solent Mind, a mental health charity who provide a range of services to support people with mental health problems.


The stage up in The Loft is shining with red lights as one of the day's first acts gets underway in the early afternoon. LIBRALIBRA's Beth Cannon uses that strong voice of hers - comparable to the range of Bang Bang Romeo’s Anastasia Walker - to front this four-piece, with a taste of dramatics like a tamer HMLTD . ‘Tongues’, the song that sparked my interest, was every bit more than I had hoped for. A magical set which will have gained them a few new admirers tonight. An early festival highlight. Steve Willcox

Fake Empire

Initially I was rather taken aback with local group Fake Empire and their two guys in their late 30s and a young female drummer set-up. But that all changed on hearing them play ‘The Sadness Will Last’. It reminded me of somewhere between Editors musically, and New Order lyrically, and it was pure joy to listen to. The dark brooding vocals of Les Black excelled as this trio pulled all out all the stops to captivate the room of The Wine Vaults. SW

Lauran Hibberd

Back in a nicely crowded Loft, cheeky chappess Lauran plays her blend of electro indie pop tunes wrapped around beautifully written love songs and anecdotes on life. Delivered with her charmingly humorous comments between each track - “this song is called ‘Shark Attack’ but there’s no sharks in it” - Lauran creates an ambience of warmth and intimacy. Debra Stone

Omar Baba 

This urban jazz hip-hop fusion hometown five-piece play as a quartet today as they couldn’t all fit on the stage at the Edge of the Wedge. Kicking off events here at this venue today, the two guitars, keys and drums combo gave us half an hour of beautiful music, ranging from laid-back Sunday morning vibes to the hard-hitting ‘Apocalypse’ which would’ve made Yungblud proud. DS

Jerry Williams

Jerry Williams packs out The Wine Vaults for her solo set today, but she soon turns up the heat with some sublime guitar melodies. ‘Grab Life’, her song about making full use of your day, sounds even better live than on the actual record as her voice fills the room with its much softer sounding cadence, and the guitarwork blossomed without the full band behind it. One song that captured my interest was ‘David at the Bar’, written for an alcoholic who promised to give up drinking if she wrote a song for him. She seems to put real issues into music. A sweet voice with killer hooks. SW


The tiny little venue upstairs at Bar Acapulco was pretty empty at the start of Margot's set mud-afternoon, but within a few songs it swelled in numbers. Under a psychedelic backdrop these five guys have perfected the dreamy indie vibe. Vocalist Alex Hannaway seems a very capable frontman and was self effacing enough to endear himself to the crowd. ‘Tired’ with its mellow riffs and wistful lyrics brings the band up a notch, and new song ‘Fame’ -  a sideswipe at TV show Love Island - was well received. I came away from their set pleased that I’d witnessed it. SW

Bella Spinks 

Sounding like early Tori Amos, Bella sits behind her keyboard at the Edge of the Wedge, looking serene and beautiful and plays a set of hauntingly exquisite songs that make your heart ache. She introduces the song ‘Solid Ground’, written about not knowing what is reality and what isn’t, as a poignant tribute to today’s festival in aid of Solent Mind, helping those with mental health issues. DS

Violet Mud

This gender neutral  quartet from Southampton are well supported in the dingy, dark, sweaty upstairs of Bar Acapulco. Playing dirty, grungy rock, the quartet grind out 30 minutes of hard punching, driving guitars under decadent vocals to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd. DS

Sad Palace

Back at the Edge of the Wedge, Sad Palace's five band members are on a small corner stage which make them look incredibly cramped. A group reliant on heavy basslines makes for an easy rhythm to get lost in as the crowd finds its feet and start dancing to their funked up guitar indie. ‘Rainbow’ started slow but grew into an enjoyable song and during the set a trumpet came out too, making for a pleasant gig. SW

Salt Ashes

Brightonian alternative singer-songwriter Veiga Sanchez is a solo electro-pop artist, armed with just a laptop. Strong performance levels on stage with an upbeat energy. Her voice is sharp and clear and she even includes next single ‘Go All Out’. An enjoyable set even for those who might have a thing against soulless laptops. SW

Sleep Eaters 

Debut single ‘Ghost On Fire’ just out, this five-piece don’t even fit on the small stage upstairs at Acapulco. They’ve been heavily promoted prior to this gig and confidently delivered on that promise. A set brimming with earthy indie garage and cow punk, 30 minutes was just long enough to appreciate how good Sleep Eaters are and make us want more. DS

Penelope Isles

The Wine Vaults are already in full swing to the sound of this indie punk band by the time I arrive. A band exuding energy, good tunes and high spirited antics. One highlight is Lily Wolter's delivery of ‘Cut Your Hair’s punchy lyrics. As the set ended, guitarist Jack Wolter rolls over on the stage with his feet splayed akimbo in the air as his sister slaps his bum. So funny. SW


Popular four-piece punk outfit from Portsmouth felt right to be playing in what feels like an underground cavern, but is the sweaty upstairs room at Acapulco. Hardcore punk, with belligerent vocals and an in-yer-face frontman. Superb. DS

Vinyl Staircase 

The Edge of the Wedge is wedged tight with people packed in to see Vinyl Staircase's set in the early evening. Surprisingly unsigned, the four lads from Dorking produce delightful anthemic riff-driven indie songs with some stunning vocal combos and tasty guitar solos. The lads come across as amiable, boys-next-door types, which adds to the cheerful vibes that their music invokes. DS


On their Facebook page the boys' mantra is ‘we’ll make you dance’. Well, did they? You bet your disco boots they did! Vocalist Moses Moorhouse onstage is like a proverbial Jack Rabbit continuously dancing about and it’s totally infectious with about 80 people trying to get their ‘groove on’ in The Wine Vaults room. ‘Love Gotten‘ starts with Jamaican flavoured guitars and a soaring falsetto with gritty edged vocals throughout. Closing on an upbeat Crystal Waters cover, ‘Gypsy Woman’, which brings a much needed boost to this reviewer's energy levels. SW

Breathe Panel 

In the cavern-like loft of Acapulco, Breathe Panel play their gentle melodies, with mellow guitars and introspective tunes. With their daydreamy sound, the four-piece from Brighton carry us away on their positive vibe with uplifting riffs that shine light in the dark and leave a positive glow in the room. DS


Having seen Thyla last year in support mode, it's great to see them on the massive Wedgewood Rooms stage with about 150 people looking on with anticipation. They totally suit the bigger venue and vocalist Millie Duce has gained more stage presence, making her one of the new leading ladies on the music scene today.
New song ‘Fade’ is given its first airing and I am amazed at their progression as artists, as they go all out to totally capture the crowd tonight. ‘Blue ‘, taken from this January's new EP, is full of hard hitting beats and flailing guitars riffs with slight reverb on Millie’s voice throughout. So chuffed to see this and for them getting ahead of the game so quickly. SW


One of the most memorable acts of the day for me is punk quartet Lice from Bristol who serve up some meaty true-punk tunes with antics and ad libs galore in The Loft - including a walk through the crowd by guitarist Gareth, which promoted frontman Alistair to quip “how did no one unplug him...missed opportunity." Bundles of fun. DS

Art School Girlfriend 

Dreamy laid back tunes created by songwriter Polly Mackey, tonight backed by a further guitar, drums and keys for Art School Girlfriend's set in The Wine Vaults. The visual of the band, all dressed in black, adds to the atmosphere generated by Polly’s haunting vocal, creating goosebumps with songs like  ‘Measures’ and the popular, crowd pleasing ‘Moon’. DS


Bringing up the heat and performing in a haze of red, Estrons are one of the much anticipated bands of the day and as they take to the Wedgewood Rooms stage to kick off with ‘Lilac’, there's already a headbanging urgency going on amidst the packed rows synths front. Tali Källström looks uber cool in her black dress with matching Chelsea boots, and with a voice of gritty angel delivers punchy vocals alongside her bandmates as they thrash and kick up a hornet's nest onstage. ‘Cameras’ gets an airing and with lots of guitars on reverb aplenty and kicking down the doors drumbeats bring a feeling of wanton chaos to the room. SW

Hotel Lux

Having seen these Portsmouth boys before I had no doubt they would bring their usual highly watchable performance to the Edge of the Wedge stage. Lewis Duffin has had a few beers and is totally relaxed and nonchalant that he’s performing in front of a fully packed room. ‘Eddie’s Gaff' with his vitriolic spoken word vocals spitted out with that punk edge, and ‘Berlin Wall’ get the crowd moving, before ‘Daddy’ brings the audience together as one body as he rams its lyrics home. The band are on good form as they end on a new song ‘Loneliness'. SW


Ending a superb day, Tigercub pounce onto The Wedgewood Rooms stage heavily whited out by dry ice to the electric track ‘Control’. Statuesque Jamie leads us through through well-known tracks ‘Omen’, ‘Memory Boy’ ‘Divided States’, while bassist Jimi athletically throws himself around the stage. All the while James drives the drums at a 100mph pace. Tigercub were surely breathless at the end of this bewitching performance; the crowd definitely were. DS

As so Dials Festival draws to a close for another year, having provided a truly captivating and lively day that even despite the inclement weather, kept punters happy and entertained throughout.

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