Simple Things Festival - Straightforward Musical Enjoyment

Multi-venue UK festival Simple Things showcased an eclectic mix of talent
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Multi-venue UK festival Simple Things showcased an eclectic mix of talent
Shapes Courtyard © Cameron Sweeny

Shapes Courtyard © Cameron Sweeny

I consider myself a fairly seasoned traveler, but it’s sacrilegious that I’ve never visited Bristol before. And there could be no better setting for Simple Things to showcase their expertise in festival curation.

An unfortunate thump came with the news that Ron Trent was no longer able to play his slot in the early hours of Sunday morning. The last minute addition of Horse Meat Disco may have softened the blow for numerous guests, but some hopes and dreams were dashed with a flurry of attendees taking to Facebook to voice their disappointment.

Although there was some frustration, this was but the tiniest of hiccups in what would turn out to be a day of incredible music, happy faces and extremely tired feet.

Live Acts

The Island, a converted fire station, was the setting for the first few acts on our agenda. The building housed three of the 14 stages scattered around the city, and played host to Chicago’s DJ Funk. He challenged a 5PM crowd to move to some bouncy house tracks with a revved up edit of ‘Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This’ catching our attention. His chat over the mic got some laughs as he asked us, ‘where the weed at?’ before proclaiming that he ‘needed to get fucked up tonight’. Touché, we were all on that vibe.

After observing many a confused face during Danny L Harle’s set - the music comparable to that of a kid’s pop princess birthday party, if the aforementioned kids were in fact young adults bevved up on red stripe - Romare took to the stage. His sets are a true spectacle - the sheer skill necessary to craft these sounds live is simply admirable. His knack for building layers of sound and texture allowed him to seamlessly create unique cuts of tracks from his debut album Projections. This was a major highlight and we were just getting started.

Now, Lee Scratch Perry - of course this guy stuck out on the roster, a legendary booking amongst the contemporary names. We’d heard some whisperings that day that his live shows were somewhat lacking but all the same we headed for O2 Academy hoping for a lesson in dub. But unfortunately the performance fell somewhat flat, with the band not being able to save Perry’s spiritless attempt at singing. It was one of those times where you just had to step back and say to yourself ‘sure this may be weak, but who cares, its Lee Scratch Perry man’.

Ruff Sqwad hit the stage for 90 minutes of energy and hype, before Skepta and JME took the reins. A chorus of ‘it’s that stormzy track’ was heard when they dropped their own classic instrumental ‘Functions On The Low’, and a rush of people swarmed the steps to hit the dance floor.

From one bunch of grime veterans to another, Skepta and JME commandeered the stage with ease, opening with ‘That’s Not Me’ before launching into a fast paced set littered with solo tracks and infamous grime instrumentals. It was JME who really stole the show, his authority and charisma on stage hitting new levels of greatness.

JME © Gray Brame

JME © Gray Brame

DJs

After watching Avalon Emerson’s superb Boiler Room set, I was psyched to see her do her thing in the Shapes Courtyard. Arriving at 4:30PM there was only a handful of people bopping around, but come 6PM the place was brimming with heads - a deserved recognition of her mastery behind the decks. There was a resounding applause from the crowd as she ended her three hour set with Sheryl Lee Ralph’s epic 80’s number ‘In The Evening’ before handing over to German powerhouse nd_baumecker.

The majority of the nocturnal proceedings took place at Lakota and the Coroners Court, with five rooms churning out equally gratifying music.

Intoxication teamed with the clocks going back suddenly made everything very confusing in the early hours of the morning. Is it 2am or 3am? Do we have another hour to party? And more importantly will Objekt play a fifth sweaty hour?

Tucked away upstairs in Lakota club, Brooklyn producer Galcher Lustwerk blared out techno and hiphop to a damp but unwavering crowd, whilst Hun Choi aka Hunee spanned genres in Coroners 2. Now I’ve said this before, but Hunee really is a true master. He expertly navigated through disco, electro and dub before swinging it back round to techno – the BPM fluctuating constantly. It’s this skill that had the crowd hooked - his set was thrilling and eclectic, each track supplying you with a little something different. Liem’s recent release ‘If Only’ on German label Lehult didn’t fail to raise a smile and get limbs moving. There’s real courage in the way Hunee selects records and a sure conviction that the audience will enter into the dance with him.

We finished our evening at The Lakota 1 stage and with Objekt, whose set went on for four hypnotic hours – it was an immersive experience to say the least. He blasted out straight forward no frills techno that sucked you in from the off, draining the last ounce of energy that I had.

I’d always heard Bristol was held in such high regard when it came to music and now I know why. What is exciting about Simple Things is that the atmosphere is constantly changing. From a vast stair cased entrance hall to the courtyard of an old fire station, from a silent swaying crowd to a room full of sweaty thriving bodies - there was a little bit of everything to satisfy your cravings.