Simple Things is a multi-venue festival that’s been running in the rainy centre of Bristol for three years now – basically the west coast of the UK’s answer to Brighton’s The Great Escape. Managing to luckily avoid the majority of the steep hills that surround the area, all the venues are easy to navigate within a 5-10 minute radius. That is, apart from the club where their opening party is being hosted, Motion. Touring around the UK recently as a double bill, Caribou and Jessy Lanza are gracing the stage tonight to see in the festival. People are nonchalantly milling about before Lanza takes to the stage, but when the floor-shattering bass kicks in, everyone does a double-take in disbelief. It’s a beautiful contrast to Lanza’s breathy, wide-ranged vocals, circling around hard-to-reach notes with ease. Shouting out one of her Hyperdub associates, she plays Ikonika’s Beach Mode (Keep It Simple) towards the end. As the space readies for Caribou, the technicolour blotches that adorn his latest album 'Our Love' provide the backdrop.
Meandering onto stage with grins on their faces, Jean Michel-Jarre blips float into the atmosphere as Dan Snaith and co. get ready to play to the incredibly energised crowd, one that Caribou deserves, but, evidently shown by how unbelievably happy and grateful he is throughout, doesn’t always receive. Title track Our Love works wonders here as a song that’s split into two very different sections – the soft, melodic, and heartfelt opening giving way to an audience-pleasing bassline throb that could fit cosily at home on his Daphni project. Effortlessly cruising through some of the album’s tracks, it’s a stretched version of 'Swim's Sun that leaves everyone enthralled.
Starting off on Saturday for the main festival, the atmosphere is a lot more mellow as Colston Hall packs in to watch How To Dress Well. The material from 'What Is This Heart?' still sounds shaky, with Tom Krell forgetting a lyric at one point, but he just admits defeat and laughs to himself. It’s Cold Nites and Set It Right that peak, and it’s the refrain on the latter where he lists the names of the people that he misses that there’s a palpable emotional atmosphere. Krell seems completely vulnerable, but the crowd aren’t completely helping him out, rarely engaging him properly when he calls out for conversation. He's always been conversational in a live setting, but here – in a setting that's far from intimacy – it unfortunately doesn’t work.
Next, it’s over to the most idyllic and unusual of settings – a fire station converted into a venue with a gigantic glitter ball glimmering beaming flecks of light across the room. First up is Irish rapper Rejjie Snow, who impresses with his charming stage presence and aggressive yet controlled flow playing against each other, giving his freestyle with King Krule an outing.
Who really makes the most out of the space, however, is SOPHIE. He walks seamlessly onto the stage without a word, deadpanning the audience, some of whom are endlessly talking. As if to usher out anyone who decided to check out why there’s been so much hype around him, he starts with five minutes of squealing noise interrupted with the occasional 'gunplay' echoed sample. The casual bystanders start to file out quickly. All the while, SOPHIE never cracks a smile or lets his face show any hint of the intention behind it. Backed by whirring visuals of mirrored aerosol cans, beer bottles, and mixing desks among other things, this setting was clearly made for someone like SOPHIE. It’s his remix of GFOTY’s Friday Night and latest single Lemonade that get the hugest reaction, people shouting luh-luh-lemonade in unison at each other.
At only six in the evening, it’s hard to recollect after such a day-making set, and this is the only problem with the festival – the timings sometimes make little sense for the artists who’re playing, but it does fortunately mean that clashes are few and far between. Back at Colston Hall, unpredictable outsiders Liars equally confuse and excite. Frontman Angus Andrew sings through a veil of his own hair and the hood of a high-vis parka as psychedelic visuals pulse and rotate above the trio. Getting deeper into the night, in a small room tucked away in Colston Hall called The Lantern, an eerily empty room is being set up for The Haxan Cloak. However, as Bobby Krlic’s pummelling noise envelops the room, a large crowd gathers to be half-blinded by the flickering strobe lights that make it incredibly hard to find your bearings.
On the other side of the city, nightclub Lakota plays host to an incredible line up including the ever-elusive Zomby, who finally shows up to something he’s meant to be playing. The club is a maze of rooms that feels at times like navigating through a Hall of Mirrors at a funfair, each with their own different atmosphere. Walking through the main room, Kode9 shows how much of a force he is, the audience relentlessly attempting to create a stage invasion – much to the dismay of security. The most intimate room is a sweatbox full of wide-eyed, swaying bodies in unison to the four-to-the-floor set that Actress is playing – a deep concentration shown in Darren Cunningham’s presence.
Running from 12pm to 5am, Simple Things can be a draining experience if you make the most of the variety of everyone that’s playing – Bristol is primed for making these events more regular boasting some really interesting venues, clubs and cafes (The Old Fire Station, Start The Bus and Lakota to name a few) that are increasingly putting on more nights to rival those in the capital.