Review by David Stone with Photography by Jessica Stone

Thousands of revellers were rewarded for ignoring forecasts of all-day thunderstorms to attend day two of Bestival’s Common People Festival in Oxford – as lightning lit up the skies during the headline act!

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With the sunshine defiantly blazing down upon South Park, the crowds were treated with high energy sets from acts spanning well over 40 years of music.

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With no camping, no on-site parking and no re-entry to the site, Common People isn’t your usual weekender! The location sits alongside a residential area to the east of the City of Oxford, a stone’s throw away from the popular O2 Academy on Cowley Road.

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Inside the barriers, however, it’s your usual festival scenery – a beautifully decorated field surrounded by colourful stalls, a range of quirky stages and a big ol’ expanse of grassy land to fill with dancing music lovers in front of an imposing main stage.

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Refreshments-wise, drinks at the bar began at around £2.50 for a soft drink – with a bit of searching you could find them a tad cheaper, but there was plenty of free water taps available across the grounds for those not wanting to stump up the dough.

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If your stomach started growling, there was a decent range to choose from at the usual festival stall prices. Everything from the eye catching ‘MAC NOT CRACK’ mac-n-cheese van to paella, steak and chips to vegan food and Churros to cupcakes were ready and waiting, and seemed to cope admirably with the tea-time rush.

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An early highlight of the day was Elvana: Elvis Fronted Nirvana, who put on a super-fun set of both Nirvana and Elvis Presley covers to get the reasonably-early birds smiling and moving as the sun broke through over the park.

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Honeyblood also put in a solid showing in an early afternoon slot – the Scottish duo played a half-hour set to a lively audience as things began to heat up.

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As time passed the site eventually became a hive of activity – Samba dancing, rock climbing and the world’s biggest bouncy castle were all available to those looking for more than just a day watching acts across the seven stages.

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The final stage could be seen being set up in the middle of the grounds throughout the morning, with workers climbing and rigging ropes, barrels and chairs 30 feet in the air. Mid-afternoon, the odd construction became the stage for an incredible show from Gorilla Circus – an incredible flying circus show featuring silks, trapeze, and balance acts. Three-quarters of an hour in the sun watching this show was awesome – definitely worth a watch if they’re performing near you!

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With the clock showing a little past 5 and the beautiful sunshine showing no sign of disappearing, Maximo Park took to the Common stage for a 45 minute set featuring a really nice mix of their old and new hits. From opening track Graffiti through to closer Apply Some Pressure, frontman Paul Smith performed with infectious energy and enthusiasm – including an impressively quick wardrobe change at the beginning of What Did We Do To You To Deserve This? after his dance moves exceeded the limits of his trousers!

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American pop legends Sparks arrived entirely decked out in pink jackets to deliver a set of their uniquely theatrical tracks, including This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us. Despite being a band that’s graced the stage for FIFTY years, there was plenty of energy on display! Save for Ron, that is – the keyboardist sat rigidly with his trademark poker face on throughout … until he sprung to life towards the end to the joy of everybody watching!

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With the Common stage area now packed, it was time for TWO headline performances! First up were Oxford’s own Ride, who performed over an hour of shoegaze classics including Taste, Catch You Dreaming and OX4 to stacks of adoring fans.

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As the hometown heroes performed, clouds began to drift in from behind the crowd. By the end of closing track Drive Blind, we got the first glimpse of the promised thunderstorms in the distance. Flickers of electricity in the air, to the South of the festival site. As the crew performed the changeover, the flickers became flashes and a lightning storm lit up the skies above as the temperature dropped and darkness drew in.

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The promised rain never appeared, there was no perceptible thunder, but a constant flickering and flashing of lightning bolts in the distance greeted the final act of the night, James, as they took to the stage.

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Kicking off with Hank, Frontman Tim Booth wasted no time heading to the crowd to sing amongst his people, leading an hour long sing-along punctuated by condensed thoughts on the meanings and/or subjects of each song. Old hits Come Home and Sit Down were the obvious high points, but whilst Donald Trump’s name probably made more appearances than it should have, the beauty and sentiment of Moving On made it an incredible track to see performed live.

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With the strict 11pm curfew closing in, the band eschewed the encore and Booth returned to the crowd to perform Getting Away With It to close out Common People 2018. A uniquely placed festival within one of the more beautiful parts of the world, which proved to be a fantastic day out with something for absolutely everyone to be entertained by.

See the complete photoset from Day Two of Common People Festival here.

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