With a line-up that was as diverse as it was refined, the fourth edition of Simple Things – a multi-venue festival curated by Crack Magazine, took Bristol by storm last month. Reflecting on the weekend’s happenings a couple of weeks later, it’s clear that there was something for everyone – whether you were there to party all night long, stroke your chin to abstract noise in a strobe lit room or simply appreciate some great live music on a Saturday afternoon. Following the magazine’s varying editorial interests, there was a mixed bag of artists, bands and DJs varying between SOPHIE to Mogwai, The Haxan Cloak to Nightmare On Wax performing at ten venues spread across the portal city.
Caribou and Jessy Lanza kicked the weekend off with a bang at Motion – a hybrid venue that functions as both a skate park and a concert space. The recently renovated Firehouse venue proved to be an excellent events space and one to remember for future visits – literally an old Firestation which has been converted into an space for music and arts space, adhering to the industrial red decor of it’s previous occupation. It boasted a large walled courtyard which was nice for daytime and outdoor area where local promoters Shapes threw down for the whole mid section of the day with a wealth of talent including local hero Dj October and Techno titan DVS1 who kept bodies moving until after dark underneath swathes of smoke, sparkling mannequins and potted plants hanging from strings above.
We eased into the afternoon with Redhinho’s live set – a vibrant performance full of playful basslines, neon keytar riffs and his trademark poppy vocals run through a talkbox. Following this we bore witness to the stage presence of Rejjie Snow. Pacing back and fourth, the Dublin via L.A. rapper took his time warming up to the crowd before assaulting the room with some new material and popular tracks in ‘Lost In Empathy’ ‘USSR’ and stream of profanities on ‘Loveleen’: “Money, bitches, hoes, weed, pussy, lord knows…” Snow’s beats resemble those of DOOM and his drizzly dulcet tones have unapologetic similarities to his peers in King Krule, Joey Badass and most strikingly Tyler The Creator except with an Irish twist. Having spent most of his recent years stateside, Snow has done an impressive job at masking a Dublin accent which unavoidably rings through on certain words when he slips in and out of verse. It was refreshing to spend an afternoon listening to a good standard of Hip Hop from somebody who has developed credible showmanship, waxing lyrical through the mic with clarity and swagger at the age of twenty-one.
The room filled in for SOPHIE’s set – following the recent surge of interest and publicity around AG Cook’s PC Music movement. This emergent style isn’t for everyone, seemingly drawing a love/hate relationship everytime from experience – the crowd was divided between people losing their shit to ‘Lemonade’ and others standing around trying to ‘get’ something that doesn’t want to be got. We departed midway through Dark Sky’s set to gather our thoughts, refuel and explore the other venues after what had already been a long day of music.
The multi-functional Colston Hall is the perfect venue for a large scale event of this nature, angular and aesthetically pleasing in it’s modern disposition. Nightmares On Wax was by long and far the best big performance on the night. George Evelyn danced, sang and played keys with his band while reminiscing on humble beginnings in Leeds and celebrating 25 years as Warp’s longest standing artist. A highly-animated Onra had the foyer and the balconies of multiple surrounding floors gyrating in unison as he weaved improvised beats into crowd-pleasers such as ‘Long Distance’ and ‘The Anthem’ with a live set-up including two MPCs and a Kaoss Pad. Moving out onto the rooftop terrace, Terre Thaemlitz was doing a secret set overlooking the city. Not as concerned with music as she is context and gender politics, she appeared visibly disinterested to begin, but a couple of tracks in became fully immersed in the deep and soulful politically charged House music that the name DJ Sprinkles is known for. At this point people were becoming both visibly sloppy and/or exhausted, although having paid attention to the main piece of advice given at the press desk earlier – “take it easy, it’s a long day of music” we did just that. Event’s such as this one require proper pacing, especially when the unfamiliar hills of a different city require navigation between venues.
The adjoined Lakota and Coroners Court venue boasted amazing DJ programming across five big rooms, although despite the space’s reputation for being gritty one couldn’t be prepared for the intense odours of mould we were greeted by. Laurel Halo was on good form and it was warming to step into the murky of the Coroner’s Court and witness a troupe of diehard Dubstep heads throwing down to Impey’s Wavey tones gunfingers blazing. This writer would admittedly liked to have remained for Actress, Damiano Von Erckert b2b with Max Graef and a L.I.E.S. showcase all happening in close proximity, but sacrifices had to be made and following a general vibe of weirdness at the venue, it was decided to returned to the Firehouse to investigate what Dj Nature is all about before fully embracing the cosmic-Balearic Disco odyssey that is a five hour marathon set from Harvey Bassett. It goes without saying that any opportunity to catch DJ Harvey should be seized without question. Simple Things is a showcase for Bristol and the city’s treasure trove of creative spaces, but more than anything it’s reason to escape the invisible captivity of London for a weekend. Just be sure to pace yourself to make the most of it…
Words: Conor McTernan
Photography: Rachel Walsh