Festival – Dials 2019

Dials Festival, Southsea, 5th October 2019

Returning to its now regular early October slot, Dials Festival brought another hugely impressive line up to Southsea’s Albert Road at the weekend, hosted across five venues all within a few minutes walk of each other. In a sometimes overcrowded market, it’s difficult to find a USP for a festival these days… well, how about this? Dials is run by volunteers, works hard to apply inclusivity towards artists and attendees and raises money and awareness for local mental health charity Solent Mind… now that’s a difference worth taking notice of.

And if that’s not enough, the musical talent on display is a joy to discover. Channeling their inner New Order, Two Tribes gave a great performance at The Wine Vaults, as did Sarpa Salpa with their synth infused dance tunes opening the venue’s stage. I love that people come out early for Dials and support the acts playing from opening slots to headliners.

Across the road at Lord John Russell, Heebie Jeebies kicked off a relaxed atmosphere with guitars and sax aplenty while The Loft saw some some sharp drumming and grunge appeal from Dad Hair and Eno-esque experimental synth loops from Friday Night Weird Dreams.

A firm favourite on the local live circuit, Madonnatron packed the room at The Edge and did not disappoint with their unashamedly brash post punk psychedelia and razor sharp multi-vocals.

As always with Dials, I found some great new bands who I hadn’t seen before, in fact the vast majority were new to me live. Quite how I’ve managed to miss Arxx so far is a bit of a mystery but with a set including fierce grunge tracks, a dabble with country and a Eurythmics cover to boot, they’re firmly on my must see again list. Representing the increasingly impressive Bristol music scene, the discordant drawl of spikey post punk from Haze and some ethereal slacker rock from Wych Elm also both come highly recommended.

Last year, LibraLibra opened one of the smaller stages and more than made their mark at Dials. This year they made an unquestionably triumphant return with a performance so powerful it may be worth checking if the Edge of the Wedge is still standing. Vocally it’s as though Gossip have been shaken up by X-Ray Spex; this is not a band to be missed. I assume by next year they’ll be well on the way to world domination.

Hot on their heels on the main stage next door, another absolute stand out set from Glasgow’s Walt Disco. Their uniquely dark brand of art rock disco is streets ahead of many of their contemporaries, largely because their material stands up on its own and doesn’t rely solely on the performance. That said, the performance is pretty spectacular. Billy Mackenzie would be proud.

One thing that Dials does consistently well is to bring a mix of genres to the table with cross appeal for those attending, allowing different moods and styles of music to reach new ears. From boiler-suited dancealongs with BASH! to Acid Tongue’s folk influenced garage and the dulcet vocals of Megan Lara Mae (including a cover of Minnie Riperton’s Loving You that managed to avoid screeching that note) there really was something for everyone.

Bigger festivals could learn a thing or two about applying gender mix to their scheduling from Dials; the line up this year once again proved that it’s really not that hard to find quality artists across the board with Saltwater Sun and Another Sky both drawing big crowds to The Wedgewood Rooms.

And after a line up so strong, who do you pull in to headline? Kicking a final blast of  vigour into the proceedings, The Blinders took no prisoners with their closing set, a visceral assault on the senses, a last chance for the crowd to decide that they still had enough energy to take on a mosh pit, a fitting close to a brilliant day with a guest appearance on stage from the Dials Fox.

Across the last few years, Dials hasn’t started just another festival; it’s started and built up something to be etched into your diary way in advance safe in the knowledge that each event keeps getting better than the last – till next year…

For more about Dials Festival please check their website

You can find out about the work Solent Mind do here

Words and photos by Siobhan

7th October 2019