Victorious Festival 2023: Road To Victorious winners, Portsmouth's Crystal Tides will play three times over the weekend

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A year ago the Portsmouth indie-rockers Crystal Tides were due to make their debut at Truck Festival in Oxfordshire.

Unfortunately on the way there, their less-then-trusty van broke down leaving the five-piece stranded and desolate on the side of the A34, unable to make it to the festival in time for their slot.

Come this July and the ambitious band were again due to play there – this time around as the first leg of their prize festival tour for winning The Road To Victorious competition (more on that later). The band are playing three times at Victorious this weekend.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Truck was insane,” says frontman Billy Gregory. “We saw the stage we were meant to play last year when we arrived, but the stage we were actually playing this year was about triple the size. We got onto it when we arrived at the festival and looked out and thought, god, this is a big area to fill!

Crystal Tides will open the Castle Stage at Victorious Festival on Friday and Saturday, part of their prize for winning the Road To Victorious competitionCrystal Tides will open the Castle Stage at Victorious Festival on Friday and Saturday, part of their prize for winning the Road To Victorious competition
Crystal Tides will open the Castle Stage at Victorious Festival on Friday and Saturday, part of their prize for winning the Road To Victorious competition

“We didn't know if people were going to watch us – we'd be happy if a couple of hundred people turned up. We were backstage and the techs were setting our kit up and we kept peering out to see what was going on and the crowd kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It was mental.

“Then when we went out to play, the team from Victorious who came to watch us, they reckoned it was about 1,500 people out there. It was the best redemption story ever for us.

“We were so gutted last year that we didn't get to play it last year, and then getting to play the bigger stage to such a massive crowd, was brilliant.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This summer has been “very, very busy – flat-out” for the band, who have been working hard on building a fanbase far beyond their hometown. Their singles have been gaining airplay on Radio 1 and 6 Music, and their shows are drawing in new fans.

Crystal Tides in Guildhall Square, PortsmouthCrystal Tides in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
Crystal Tides in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth

“But it's been a lot of fun,” adds Billy, “it really feels like it's teetering on that edge now... It's just exciting.

“We're all in the process now of figuring out our next steps and how we tackle our day-to-day lives but it's an exciting thing to be worried about. We’re not there yet, but it takes a lot to be doing so well that we can give up the day jobs.”

Earlier this year they were given a major boost when they won the Road to Victorious competition. In a strong shortlist of local bands selected from dozens of entries, the winner, voted for the public, would get access to industry experts, studio time and a slot to play at Truck, Kendal and Tramlines festivals before a triumphant homecoming at Victorious.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Arguably the highest profile act going into the voting Billy admits that this actually made them feel less confident of winning.

Crystal Tides on the roadCrystal Tides on the road
Crystal Tides on the road

“We felt maybe that other people expected us to win because of how much we'd been doing outside of the competition anyway. We thought all of the other bands are going to be going in as underdogs, and everyone loves an underdog story, so we needed to make sure that we get everyone we know to support us.

"We've got a relatively good sized fanbase now, and we had a lot of people outside of Portsmouth as well to push it on to. When we played gigs in other cities we made QR codes where everyone who saw us could vote for us after seeing us play, so we were lucky to be able to extend our voting circle outside of Portsmouth, and outside of our regular fans, even, during those months where the competition was running.”

And when they heard they had won? “It was relief! It was a very stressful few weeks of just driving it into people and then constantly doubting yourself – would we win it? Would it be close? To know that we had won it was a big, big relief.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In recent years we’ve had many great bands in Portsmouth who have struggled to transfer that hometown popularity further afield. However, bands like Hallan and Seething Akira have been making waves across the country, and Crystal Tides are now doing likewise.

“Obviously Portsmouth will always be our number one – our hometown, and the atmosphere for those gigs are always the best for us, but it's nice that we're able to branch out and play these other cities and play bigger venues.

“Before this we did the Engine Rooms, which is a massive place in Southampton, which was close to selling out. When we came off stage we were speechless, it was 100 per cent one of the best gigs we've ever played, it was really special. Sometimes when you do play outside of your home, it's nice to have so many people that you don't actually know singing along and buying merch and just going mental for it.

“And in London we did a 300 cap venue and sold it out. The thought that we're doing venues this big outside of our home city and selling a lot of tickets, it's everything we could dream of.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“You have to take a moment and take it all in. I've done a few of those gigs in the past, playing to one man and his dog, so it's nice to play to lot of people who know the songs and all the words!”

They’ve also been inspired by the success of The Lottery Winners, another independent band, who Crystal Tides supported at Staggeringly Good in Portsmouth the week the north-eastern band had topped the album charts.

“One thing Thom (Rylance, frontman) said on stage was that they'd been going for 15 years, so that filled me with a lot of hope, actually! We've been going at Crystal Tides now for five years. They've kept at it, and they've got a huge fanbase now. It's really good to see people sticking at it. I think sometimes in the music business when people don't get what they want early on, they give up.

"If you keep ploughing on through the tough times, I think a lot of the time you end up better off, and I think The Lottery Winners are a prime example of that – they just kept going and going. Now they're absolutely smashing it. It's great for us to see that, and we're working hard doing the same things they did. Hopefully we'll get a number one album too, but we know it's work, work, work. Those overnight success stories, they're never fully true – it's overnight success built on 10 years of hard work.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The band are heading out on a run of dates in autumn with indie stars The Hoosiers – a tour which was arranged before they signed X-Ray Touring who represent heavyweights from Blur to Elbow, Manic Street Preachers and dozens more. It is a move which should help the band step into bigger leagues.

“That came out of nowhere,” says Billy. “We've been chasing a booking agent for years, and we'd been told it's the next stage up. But actually getting one is really difficult, as we were fully aware.

“But in the end it was totally out of the blue. The booking agent who signed us, she approached us, which is really nice. She'd been doing some research on us. She's really involved and hopefully next year it means the gigs and the tours, everything will be bigger and growing our fanbase to the next level.”

​The band, completed by guitarists Harry Knowles and Neil Cripps, bassist George Regan and drummer Joe Knights, promise a new single in October and they’re currently writing and recording a new EP for next year, but for now they’re focusing on Victorious. They’re opening The Castle Stage Saturday at 11.20am, and then playing on the Beats & Swing Stage at 1.50pm.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Originally we were just going to be on Beats & Swing. We've played Beats& Swing for the last three years - Luke (Fuller, B&S promoter) has always been really good in helping us and pushing us and had us on that stage, and we've always had a massive reception there. We asked the guys at Victorious if we could play the early set at The Castle Stage and keep the Beats & Swing slot and they made it happen for us.

“We are urging people to come and see us at the Castle Stage as it's our first time on one of the big two stages at Victorious. This is what we've been pushing for – it's our hometown festival and it's very exciting.”

And in a late addition due to rescheduling after Katy J Pearson had to pull out die to illness, they are now also opening the Castle Stage on Friday at 12.05pm.

"Playing Victorious is everything we ever wanted. There's always that difference in a hometown crowd – they just always seem a bit more up for it. It's a natural feeling of confidence when you play your hometown. Sometimes you go out and play other places, even if you know you've sold the tickets, you can feel a bit more nervous because it's unknown territory. But when you play here, you know it's going to be good because you're home.”

Victorious Festival on Southsea Common runs from Friday to Sunday. Adult day tickets from £70, weekend tickets from £190. Go to