It would have been easy to overlook Simple Things, Bristol’s annual inner-city music festival – the city centre was ticking by with a crowd of weekend shoppers, with few tell-tale signs suggesting anything out of the ordinary was unfolding.
But between Bobby’s Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop and a weary employment centre, lives Christmas Steps - the beating heart of the festival calendar’s black sheep, Simple Things. It’s home to a quaint Crack-Magazine-run pub and a number of independent shops tailing down steep steps; the street was like a Somerset take on Diagon Alley - but rammed with, instead of wizards, an invading fleet of hipsters.
After guzzling down the first pint of local Ale, a 3pm trip to explore the many facets of Colston Hall was rewarded with a DIRTYTALK DJ set on the terrace and a quick fiddle in an Ableton software workshop – which left revellers feeling like kids in a candy shop. An approach not unlike that of 18-year-old Iglooghost, whose sample-rammed brand of psycho-speed electronica caught my interest from a dingy converted Firestation soon after leaving the hall.
The festival truly went up a gear during a sweat-ridden slot from Idles at The Sportsmans pub – a venue seemingly home for the day to the South-West’s deep, dark recesses of post-punk. The only thing as menacing as the local quintet’s incessant chord hammering and candid screams, was the barrage of politically attuned lyrical gripes.
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Soon after dropping into the SWX to enjoy Jessy Lanza’s ethereal set and utilising Bobby’s for a bite to eat, it was back to Colston Hall to embrace the thick end of the line up. Makeness provided light and danceable entertainment in The Foyer whilst making the journey up to Main Hall – which offered perfect acoustics for Warpaint’s 9pm set. Latest album 'Heads Up' went down a treat, with its self-titled track being the most impressive alongside older bangers such as 'Keep It Healthy'.
Though the performance had to be abandoned to reach Metronomy’s Summer 08 DJ set. Joe Mount lit up The Foyer with a party-ready collection of tracks from his latest album and sophomore release 'Nights Out', amongst a handful of remixes and unreleased gems. Much to the delight of a handful of super-fans opposite the decks, who eventually were rewarded for their fervent appreciation with cups of Gordon’s and orange juice from the Devon-born pioneer.
Then at the stroke of midnight came the completely exhilarating and no less exhausting Death Grips set, which was as hard and as savage as you will ever get from any electro-fuelled hip-hop outfit. Monstrous tracks such as Guillotine were even more gut-wrenchingly abrasive in their live format, and fully justified the Californian three-piece’s stark upward momentum.
In presenting a solid line-up of emerging artists, by integrating local culture and hosting an array of well-organised off-kilter venues (all within a 10 minute walk vicinity), Bristol showed punters exactly how to put on a thriving urban festival. The Simple Things in life are often the best.
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Words: Jordan Foster