Tuesday 30 January 2018

Preview: Icebreaker Festival 2018

The next time you hear someone start to talk about ‘festival season’ as we get into late Spring, give them a long hard stare. Because, contrary to what certain commentators might tell you, it doesn’t exist. If you’re in the UK and ever listen to Radio 1 you’ll know that their DJs are the worst, with their hyped up in a bubble statements like “Festival season starts here!” as they advertise their own Radio 1 event.

The reality is that music festivals, of various sorts, happen all year round. Of course, in the UK you won’t find any events that involve camping and music under open skies in January, nobody is that unthinking, but there are plenty of other events that involve bringing a bunch of artists together to create some sort of community in one or more places. 

Just a couple of weeks ago Rockaway Beach brought the likes of The Horrors, Wild Beasts, Honeyblood, Yonaka and Pater Hook & The Light together at Butlins with punters staying in cosy warm chalets and having the opportunity to attend an indie pool party complete with inflatables, wave machines, water slides and very loud booming guitar music. It was very good. Now, next up on the south coast comes Icebreaker 2018, which is situated in Southsea, Portsmouth, the home of Breaking More Waves.

Now in its fouth year Icebreaker festival has firmly established itself in the local Portsmouth scene. The concept is simple. Icebreaker isn’t about big names or expensive ticket prices. It’s about allowing unsigned and independent musicians from Portsmouth and the surrounding areas to perform in front of large crowds across multiple venues in Southsea and subsequently gain attention to their music from both punters and media. It has taken over as Portsmouth’s main multi-venue festival after the demise of the long running Southsea Fest and let’s not forget Dials, which I helped curate, which took the place of Southsea Fest when it took a years break. Dials has recently reactivated its social media accounts. Watch this space.

For 2018 Icebreaker is extending from its traditional Saturday takeover to add an additional Friday night. 152 acts will play over 8 locations on Friday 2nd February and 13 stages on Saturday 3rd February with one wristband giving access to all venues, subject to capacity. 

Of course given that the artists playing are selected from a relatively small geographic area, it’s fair to say that not everything is going to be the highest quality, although the organisers work hard to sift through the 100s of applicants they get to play the festival. In terms of music on offer, given Portsmouth’s apparent ongoing love affair with all things guitar you’ll also find that a high percentage of the bands playing are of the meat and two veg indie and rock variety. However for those prepared to dig a little there’s all types of music on offer, from country to a jazzy hip hop act and alt-electronic pop. It's all located on just a couple of roads in Southsea as well, so your pedometer won't clock up too many steps during the day.

So if you want to get your ‘festival season’ off to an early start and prove to Nik Grimshaw et al. that these events exist outside of the big corporate summer adventures, get down to Southsea this weekend. Tickets are available from the link at the bottom of this page.

To help you through the huge list of names that may well not be familiar to you, let Breaking More Waves be your guide. Having listened to virtually every band on the bill, it’s time to give you six recommendations.

Friday - Lily Garland – Wedgewood Rooms 20.55-21.25

If you like country music then Lily Garland is for you. She has been nominated for two UK Country Music Awards in 2017 and won Best Solo Act in the Portsmouth Guide Awards 2018. Her second EP reached number 5 in the iTunes country music charts.

Saturday – Grief Daddy – The Deco 12.45-13.15

An early start might be required to catch the Icebreaker ribbon cutting ceremony with Grief Daddy but it will be worth it. Winners of the Wedgewood Rooms Unsigned Showcase 2017 (of which I judged their semi-final heat) Grief Daddy describe themselves as ‘a leading provider of music entertainment worldwide.’ Hop over to their Facebook page (here) and watch their videos to get an idea of what their ‘brand’ is about. Enormously entertaining and often hilarious, if you think Sleaford Mods are a little too slick, catch Grief Daddy and expect all the messy ‘hits’ including Hot Shit (Pricks), Poverty Tourist and more.

Saturday – Sad Palace – One Eyed Dog 14.45-15.15

Fact fans may be interested to know that Sad Palace appeared on the 3000th blog post on Breaking More Waves. Music fans would probably rather know that this Gosport based group formed from the ashes of Bear Cavalry, and that both bands have achieved a little bit of traction online mainly due to their well-crafted, loose indie rock jams that offer much more musical depth for return listens than your average white boy indie four piece.

Saturday – Devin Jade – Wine Vaults 17.45-18.15

Still only in her mid-teens Devin Jade could well turn out to be Portsmouth’s next One to Watch, following in the footsteps of the likes of Jerry Williams. With a distinctive voice that has already found her getting through to a studio TV recording of The Voice and with support from her local BBC Introducing station, Devin Jade is already starting to get noticed. It’s very early days for her as she develops her sound, but her pretty songs might just win you over. 

Saturday – Barbudo – Wedgewood Rooms 20.05-20.35

Unsurprisingly the cream of the crop at Icebreaker can all be found playing on Saturday night at The Wedgewood Rooms, the festival’s largest venue. Havant’s Barbudo describe their sound as Nu Eyed Soul and having featured on last year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition Longlist (another event I helped judge) they’re bound to bring bags of warm laid-back retro grooves.

Saturday – Is Bliss – Wedgewood Rooms 22.35-23.35

Headlining the Wedgewood Rooms and finishing Saturday night off in style are Is Bliss. Expect exotic rock with a heavy dose of psychedelia. The place will be swimming in tripped out vibes (and probably spilt pints of lager and cider if a normal night at the Wedge is anything to go by) by the time they’ve finished. 

Icebreaker takes place Feb 2nd and 3rd 2018. Single or both day tickets are available. All ticket information can be found by clicking this link.

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