Icebreaker Festival, Portsmouth, 25th-26th Jan 2019
Billed as ‘The South’s largest unsigned metropolitan music festival’ Icebreaker has become a staple in the winter festival calendar. Chasing away the January blues, this weekend saw over 150 artists play over 2 days in venues along Albert Road and Elm Grove in Southsea, leading to the much loved and established Wedgewood Rooms. As well as providing a host of stages large and small, there was a real community feel and the event clearly brought visitors and business into the local area.
The beauty of Icebreaker is not just in the number of acts to choose from but the diverse range of genres and music. With a lot of festivals it’s easy to go and see the bands you already know and love and maybe catch a few new ones too. At Icebreaker it’s equally easy to change that ratio; see a few favourites then take in as many new names as you can. And be left in no doubt that unsigned doesn’t mean there’s less quality around.
It’s impossible to see everyone but here’s how my Saturday played out. Despite being early in the day, The Vitrines opened Edge of the Wedge with bags of indie energy; down the road at Emporium Bar, Something Leather showcased their hauntingly gothic melodies and Currls kept everybody smiling with some soul-tinged new wave at Lord John Russell.
My first visit of the day to the Wedgewood Rooms was for BBC Introducing favourites Drusila, a two piece with a love of synth and some infectious tunes. It was a pleasure to see them perform and to slow things down later with an engaging acoustic set from Me and the Moon at The Wine Vaults.
Over at The Fat Fox there was a whole heap of reasons to stick around; a reminder from Heebie Jeebies that there aren’t enough saxophones about, suitably psychedelic lighting and much 60s style partying for Number 9 and plenty to please those looking for heavier riffs and fierce drumming from Violet Mud and You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons.
One of my favourite sets of the day came from The Howlers, currently gaining acclaim across the country with their raw psych rock performances. Pending live dates will be well worth checking out.
Back at the Wedgewood Rooms / Edge Of the Wedge – kudos to FLOWVERS (header photo) for having their own mosh pit at a packed main stage as well as being the pit for punk duo Bird Shoes’ next door in the Edge. Brother Deep completed a trio of local bands all getting a great reception and winning over new fans in the process.
Again, a tough call with headliners at every venue (I spoke to people throughout the day who were all finishing up in different places) but I opted to head back to a now very hot and sweaty Fat Fox for Skinny Milk’s closing set. Quality fuzz punk garage from one of many acts on the day whose sound belied the fact that there were only two of them on stage, a magic pedal board turning the bass into something much more dynamic and distorted. I chose well; the perfect way to end a solid day of being drawn in to see what I could hear from a distance – maybe the best part of any festival.
All in all, Icebreaker offers something different, an easily walkable multi venue festival with lots of choice and an excellent way to spend the weekend discovering new music. It looks likely to keep growing so keep an eye on announcements on their website later in the year to stake your place for 2020.
Words and photos by Siobhan
28th January 2019