Bristol event overhauls its approach and deepens its reputation...

Now in its ninth year, the Bristol festival continues to maintain its reputation as a dependable tastemaker, playing host to some of the best alternative musical talent from the UK and beyond...

As Bristol’s ever changing music scene continues to change apace - and not always for the better, with the likes of beloved venues such as Thekla and Motion seemingly under continual threat from developers - it’s heartening to see a swell of support for the alternative musical stylings that the city has always sought to cultivate.

It’s also a testament to the creative spirit behind Simple Things that the last few years have seen proceedings continue to stay innovative and fresh in the face of such challenges. While the usual home of the festival’s main stage, Colston Hall, remains closed for vital redevelopment work for the second year running, the festival’s programme continues to turn its attention to other spaces, pioneering an eclectic line-up of musical acts, speakers and technical showcases across twelve of the city’s venues.

2019 saw the festival continuing to do what it does best, showcasing a line-up of over 50 artists straddling multiple genres, utilising the likes of the city’s IMAX and art centre We The Curious as unlikely backdrops. This year saw the festival branching out even further, with a series of audio-visual performances and talks that complimented the festival's usual roster of live shows and DJ sets to great effect.

And with a line-up boasting the likes of Holly Herndon, Ata Kak, A Certain Ration, Nilüfer Yanya and Hyperdub founder Kode9, 2019’s iteration sought to keep proceedings as varied as ever.

With its main stage out of action, Colston Hall’s foyer played host to several of the day’s highlights. First among them, Manchester post-punk rockers W. H. Lung who set the tone with one of the day’s best sets - a brash offering of tunes from their stellar debut, 'Incidental Music', released earlier this year.

Regular UNKLE collaborator MIINK followed suit with a suitably downtempo performance showcasing his stark blend of experimental R&B, which continues to mark him out as one of the UK’s most formidable talents. The Foyer would later play host to London collective Snapped Ankles who whipped the crowd into a frenzy, followed by belter of a set from A Certain Ratio, who delivered a trip down memory lane with a celebration of over 40 years of post-punk eclecticism.

Over at SWX, brasher delights were to be found in the form of Bristol’s very own SCALPING, who delivered one of the day’s most euphoric highs. Playing to a packed out room, the three-piece showcased nearly an hours worth of confrontational and downright sensational techno. Their show-stopping mid-afternoon slot stood out as a firm festival highlight and solidly marked their place as one of the most exciting live talents currently playing in the UK.

Hyperdub founder and electronic pioneer Kode 9 rounded off the day’s proceedings in more subdued fashion with a unique collaboration with anime legend Kōji Morimoto, brought to life on the IMAX’s 15m screen. With an original score and a compelling blend of strangely familiar, yet carefully repurposed anime visuals, it was quite unlike any closing act the festival has seen in recent years.

For those still standing come midnight, proceedings carried on over at Lakota, where the likes of Avalon Emerson, Jayda G, Andrew Weatherall and Dave Harvey dropped a dependable selection of techno, house and disco well into the small hours - once again proving that Simple Things is effortlessly capable of catering to a wildly varied audience.

As the festival gears up for its tenth iteration next year, it’s plain to see why Simple Things remains the jewel in Bristol’s festival crown. Bolstered by a forward-thinking line-up that prioritises talent, big tunes, innovation and forward-thinking over A-list names, it’s difficult not to be excited about where it might take us next.

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Words: Paul Weedon

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